Grapevine: A royal encounter

By
July 7, 2016 21:27

For the Belgian ambassador and his wife, who are leaving to take up a posting at the Holy See in Rome, the visit by members of the de Ligne family is arguably the crowning event of their stay.




BELGIAN AMBASSADOR John Cornet d’Elzius

BELGIAN AMBASSADOR John Cornet d’Elzius. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The invitation to a reception at the Belgian ambassador’s residence was intriguing in its wording, which began: “On the occasion of the visit to Israel of the descendants of their Highnesses Prince and Princess Eugène de Ligne, The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium and Countess John Cornet d’Elzius request the pleasure of your company.”

It is most unusual for an invitation of this kind not to mention the names of the guests of honor. But there was a reason for that. Of the descendants of Prince and Princess Eugène de Ligne, 35 of them will arrive in Israel next week, coming from Belgium, France, the UK, Spain and Austria. It will be much more than a family reunion. It will also be a meeting between the descendants and the now elderly individuals who as children were given shelter by Prince and Princess Eugène de Ligne during the Nazi occupation.

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Altogether, the Belgian royals saved the lives of more than 300 Jewish children in the family castle of Beloeil, which has been a property of the de Ligne family for more than a thousand years.

Members of the family have continued to maintain contact with some of the children who were saved. After the war, 13 of these children settled in Israel. The others went to America or remained in Belgium. Those in Israel, together with the de Ligne family group, will meet with President Reuven Rivlin next Wednesday.

Leading the family to Israel is Prince Michel, the 14th and current prince de Ligne, who is married to Eleanora of Orléans-Braganza of the imperial family of Brazil. Their daughter Alix, who last month married Earl Guillaume de Dampierre, is a frequent visitor to Israel in her capacity as director of marketing for H.

Stern jewelry, which is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro. Michel de Ligne’s mother, Alix of Luxembourg, is the sister of the former grand duke of Luxembourg, and his aunt, Princess Yolande de Ligne was married to the late Archduke of Austria, who was the brother of Archduke Otto of Habsburg. Archduke Christian of Austria, the son of Princess Yolande de Ligne, will be in Jerusalem with his wife Marie-Alix of Luxembourg, who is the sister of the current grand duke of Luxembourg.

The only higher-ranking European royals to come to Israel were King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Juliana of the Netherlands after her abdication, as well as her daughter Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Felipe when he was still crown prince of Spain, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Prince Charles of the UK, who came for the funeral of assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

At the beginning of World War II, Prince Eugène de Ligne, who was a career diplomat, and his wife, Philippine de Noailles, who was a French national, decided to open a network of institutions for persons living under extreme hardship and danger.

This network was similar to Foyers Leopold III which was initially established to house poor Catholic children, but during the war also took in Jewish children as did several other mansions belonging to Belgian nobility. This network was placed under the patronage of the Belgian Red Cross, whose president at the time was Prince Eugène de Ligne’s brother. Altogether a total of total 68 such institutions were active during the war.

The one located in the de Lignes’s own castle, Beloeil, provided a haven at various stages for 3,000 children throughout the war.

In 1942, contact was made with the Jewish resistance in Belgium headed by engineer Ghert Jospa, a Communist, and his wife, Yvonne Groisman. The intermediary was Prof. Benedykt Grynpas, a friend of the de Linge family, who had a Polish-born Jewish wife and who was actively involved in rescue efforts. It was decided to hide Jewish children among the groups of Catholic children, not only in Beloeil but in other institutions as well.

Of the Jewish children who were hidden in Beloeil, Belgian historian Hélène Rustin was able to trace and contact 44. In 1975, Prince Eugène and his wife, Philippine, were named by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.

In December 2010, the Forum of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, at a special ceremony in Antwerp, honored Belgians who rescued Jews during the Nazi occupation.

The rescuers or their descendants received medals from the mayor of Antwerp.

Among the many guests present was the daughter-in-law of Yvonne Nèvejean who, as head of the National Agency for Children during the war, created an immense network of hiding places for Jewish children. It is estimated that she helped save more than 4,000 children.

She was named Righteous among the Nations in 1965. The event in Antwerp included a film about the noble work of Prince Eugène de Ligne. The Bishop of Antwerp received a medal on behalf of all the Belgian priests and nuns who helped and hid Jews.

In addition to their meeting with Rivlin, the descendants of Prince and Princess Eugène de Ligne, together with Rabbi Avraham Gigi, chief rabbi of Brussels, will plant a tree in the Belgian Forest in Neveh Ilan, and naturally there will also be a visit to Yad Vashem.

For the Belgian ambassador and his wife, who are leaving at the end of this month to take up a posting at the Holy See in Rome, the visit by members of the de Ligne family is arguably the crowning event of their stay in Israel, even though as nobles themselves they are no strangers to royalty.

■ IT’S NOT only the law and that goes out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. If the Prophet Isaiah were alive today, he would perhaps add a sentence about venture capital and crowdfunding. Jerusalem has been and is home to some of Israel’s most successful venture capital companies. Among the best known is OurCrowd, which is doing so well locally and globally that it has opened a branch office in Herzliya, which is rapidly becoming Israel’s Silicone Valley.

OurCrowd now has a presence in Herzliya’s exciting hi-tech and start-up cluster. The 15-member team that is based in Herzliya includes 15 employees who are responsible for the firm’s engineering and product development.

The offices will also house several OurCrowd fund management teams, which will host weekly presentations for foreign delegations and international firms seeking a closer look at the innovation and investment activity in Start-up Nation. Since its founding in Jerusalem in 2013, OurCrowd, has enjoyed exponential growth and now has over 100 employees worldwide, nearly 100 portfolio companies with over $230 million invested, and several successful exits.

“Our team was excited to be opening up in Herzliya, one of the most active hotbeds for innovative enterprises,” commented OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved. “We have grown so fast in the three years since opening our doors, and I am proud to have a second campus in Israel. Being in Herzliya means we will be even closer to many of our finest local portfolio companies, and even better placed to seek out exciting investment opportunities.”

The Herzliya launch reception was attended by nearly 200 people from the tech, VC and investment community, including friends and partners of OurCrowd from companies such as Battery Ventures, GE, Canaan Partners and Microsoft, as well companies including Nanorep, Pixie, and Splacer, which made short presentations during the event.

■ IT’S NOT the oldest national or regional press club in the world, but the National Press Club in Washington is certainly the one most universally publicized, primarily because it has been addressed by every president of the United States since Theodore Roosevelt.

However, it is mind-boggling to learn that for decades since its founding in 1908, neither women nor African-Americans were accepted as members. It was not until 1955 that the first African-American was accepted as a member, and it was only at the beginning of 1970 that women were accepted as members.

In Israel, the National Union of Israel Journalists and its individual, autonomous branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as well as the Foreign Press Association in Israel have never restricted membership on the basis of color, creed or gender. Neither has the more recently established Jerusalem Press Club, founded in 2013.

The JPC brings groups of special-interest journalists to Israel to cover major events such as the current Jerusalem Film Festival, to which it has brought film critics from Argentina, China, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and the USA. JPC director-general Uri Dromi says that this is yet another project that aims to expose Israel’s accomplishments in different areas to the world.

In November 2015 JPC hosted a group of science journalists, and in May 2016, a group of literary critics, who covered the Jerusalem Writers Festival. In September, JPC will bring leading classical music critics to Israel to cover the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival.

According to Dromi future plans include groups of food critics, hi-tech and agrotech journalists.

greerfc@gmail.com Summer tears, fears and rays of light It’s summertime and the livin’ should be easy.

The kids are on vacation and talk shows and magazines are full of tips on how to keep them amused – and safe: safe at the beach and pool; safe from sunstroke and skin cancer; safe crossing the road and playing in the park; safe from disease-carrying mosquitoes.

That a 13-year-old girl could be stabbed to death by a terrorist as she slept in her bed is so unthinkable that it’s not on the very long list of things to worry about.

The way Hallel Yaffa Ariel was murdered in her home in Kiryat Arba on June 30 is beyond a parent’s worst nightmares.

“If in your mind you can justify the murder of a sleeping child, of any religion, in any country, you are no longer human,” stated The Israel Project’s meme that I shared on Facebook.

I knew Hallel, or Halleli, as she was often fondly called by her mother, Rena, in her earliest years. Rena and I were part of a group of mothers with children of similar ages born in similar circumstances. We often shared Shabbat meals together and picnics in the park.

We also shared information and dilemmas in conversations aimed, of course, at helping our children grow up physically and emotionally safe and healthy.

The bond between Rena and Hallel was almost palpable, as if at some mystical level the umbilical cord still connected them.

We lost touch years ago when Rena, by then the mother of two beautiful girls, moved to her current home, where she gave birth to another daughter.

I wasn’t surprised to see from interviews with her family that Hallel had grown into a smart, accomplished, affectionate young lady: a dancer, an artist, a lover of nature. I learned that for her bat-mitzva project, not that long ago, she interviewed women from the Gush Etzion community who had made an impression on her and wrote about what she had learned from them.

At Hallel’s funeral, Rena called out to the mother of the 17-year-old murderer Muhammad Tarayrah: “I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab. I raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught him to hate. Go, put your house in order.”

The following day, as we prepared for Shabbat, we heard the news of another awful attack. Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, a father of 10, and the director of the Otniel Yeshiva, was killed in a drive-by terrorist shooting near Hebron, in front of his wife and several of his children.

Out of the darkness, however, shone a ray of light.

Channel 1 later interviewed the first people who stopped to help the Mark family. Islam Albid and his wife, a nurse, rescued the children from the overturned vehicle and called for an ambulance, and then Dr. Ali Abu Shruch, on his way to Jerusalem for prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan, stopped and saved the wife, Chava, trapped in the car with a serious head injury.

The gratitude at this simple act of humanity – a reminder that there are good people out there – was immense. I was particularly impressed that the two Palestinians were willing to talk openly about the need to try to save lives, all lives.

At a time when so many Palestinians and Muslims fear violent retribution if their contacts with Jews are discovered, it stood out as an act of bravery – more courageous than their own leaders.

Just days before, in a story picked up by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), in answer to a question about possible normalization of relations with Israel, Sultan Abu al-Einein, a Fatah Central Committee member and an adviser to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas on civil society, told the Palestinian news site Donia al-Watan: “Wherever you find an Israeli, slit his throat.”

Abbas stayed quiet on the killing of Hallel and Mark, afraid or unwilling to go through the motions of condemning the murder of “settlers.”

For that’s part of the problem: the dehumanization that sees settlers as some subhuman species, worth even less than ordinary Jews, Israelis and infidels.

In the wake of the latest fatal attacks, and several non-fatal ones that took place throughout the week, many Israelis pointed an accusatory finger at the incitement that exists on the social media, and Facebook in particular.

Certainly, the hatred and demonization that can be found there add fuel to the fire, but while Facebook and other platforms need to take greater measures to ensure such material is speedily removed (and reported to the relevant authorities), the fault lies with those who post it – those who make jihad the mainstay of their religion.

The long-awaited Quartet report on the Middle East diplomatic process, released last Friday, while seriously criticizing Israel for settlement construction, also blasted the Palestinians for incitement and violence.

This should be good news, although, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “It is troubling that the Quartet appears to have adopted the position that the presence of Jews living in the West Bank somehow prevents reaching a two-state solution. The presence of nearly 1.8 million Arabs in Israel isn’t a barrier to peace; it is a testament to our pluralism and commitment to equality.”

By separating the settlers from other Israelis, the Quartet – the EU, US, UN and Russia – are part of the demonization process.

Hallel Yaffa Ariel was cut down before she had a chance to truly flower, and Rabbi Mark’s life was extinguished when the remarkable father and educator still had so much more to give. They weren’t the victims of Palestinian frustration and poverty. The hate and indoctrination that led to their deaths is the same as that which has recently taken lives in France, Belgium, the US and elsewhere in Israel. Just this summer, yet another summer in the post-Arab Spring, hundreds of lives have been lost in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Mali, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, among other places.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims everywhere. In the words of the traditional phrase of consolation, may the families of Hallel Yaffa Ariel and Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark “be comforted among the mourners of Zion.”

And may we all find a way to nurture our children and not our fears.

liat@jpost.com


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