During the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry last month, readers of this column were introduced to Kaya, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s beautiful dog. It appears that Kaya, who has been part of the Netanyahu household since this past July, is more well disposed to Americans than Israelis, or perhaps to certain Israelis.
Kaya was friendly and well-behaved during Kerry’s visit, but not as welcoming to all the Likud guests who attended a Hanukka candle lighting reception at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Wednesday.
It may have been that there were too many people or that the dog was bothered by the Hanukka lights – but whatever the reason, Kaya decided to take a bite out of two of the guests: MK Sharren Haskel, who is a trained veterinary nurse by profession, and lawyer Or Alon, who is the husband of Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
Haskel had been playing with the dog that suddenly bit her hand and Alon’s hand when he tried to pet her. Netanyahu who was embarrassed by the shenanigans of his four footed friend, apologized profusely and had the two victims attended to by on-site medics. Haskel, for whom a dog bite was no novelty, and who has had previous experiences with snakes, which is somewhat more scary, tweeted that she wasn’t upset by what had happened. Kaya was discovered in a dog pound by Avner Netanyahu, the youngest of the prime minister’s three children. The dog was among ownerless canines that were going to be put down. Avner, who is a very personable and persuasive young man, fell in love with the dog, and got his parents to agree to give her a home and a family.
■ MACEDONIAN PRIME Minister Nikola Gruevski paid a somewhat low-key visit to Israel this week to address a business forum in Jerusalem in the hopes of attracting Israeli investors to Macedonia.
He visited Hadassah University Medical Center, in the capital’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, with the aim of establishing some form of cooperation in health spheres. Gruevski, who met with Netanyahu, was accompanied to Israel by Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, and Foreign Investments Minister Jerry Naumoff. Netanyahu and Gruevski signed a treaty preventing double taxation, and issued a joint statement marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their two countries.
Gruevski invited Netanyahu to visit Macedonia. Cooperation between the two countries is good. Macedonia recently opened a Holocaust museum in Skopje its capital, and has made special efforts to restore the Jewish cemetery in Bitola, which is Macedonia’s second-largest city.
Israel and Macedonia cooperate in the battle against terrorism, as well as in energy, water, agriculture, science, education, technology and defense.
■ BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT and Sanctions advocates, who suffer from melanoma, are going to have a hard time deciding whether to continue the boycott of Israeli products or whether to accept treatment that includes the Israeli wonder drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which is among the new immunotherapy drugs that helps overcome the skin cancer.
Former US president Jimmy Carter, who announced in August that he was suffering from incurable cancer and seemed reconciled to his fate, announced on Sunday to fellow parishioners at the Maranatha Baptist Church and later through an official statement by the Carter Center that his most recent MRI brain scan had shown that there were no signs of the original cancer spots nor were there any new ones. Furthermore, the 91-year-old said that he would continue to receive regular three-week immunotherapy treatments.
Carter who had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma that only three or four years ago was fatal, with patients given only a few months to live, is now curable in approximately 30 percent of cases, and he can be counted among them. Carter said that he would continue to take Keytruda from which he has suffered no side effects. Keytruda bolsters the immune system and helps it identify and destroy tumor cells.
■ HOPEFULLY, THERE is an Israeli cancer drug that can do the same for Dr. Jürgen Bühler, the executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, who was diagnosed two months ago with an aggressive form of cancer, and his absence from the ICEJ’s traditional Hanukka-Christmas party was keenly felt.
He sent greetings via Rev. Juha Ketola, the international director of the Christian Embassy, who told guests that there is a prayer meeting at Bühler’s home every night and that he was convinced that the prayers for Bühler’s recovery would be heard and answered. The only question about his return to ICEJ activities is when, said Ketola.
A prayer for peace in which the light of Hanukka “will shine over Israel and the whole of the Middle East” was recited by Dr. Naim Khoury of Bethlehem, who declared that “violence, killing and bloodshed are not the answer, not the solution to have peace in this land.”
Quite a number of the Jewish guests in attendance wore kippot, and the catering of a lavish buffet was strictly kosher, including super fresh doughnuts as late as 5.30 p.m.
Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset Christian Allied Caucus, and a regular guest at ICEJ events, said the real Hanukka miracle was not so much the one day supply of oil that lasted for eight days, but the fact that the Greek conquerors, who had desecrated the Temple and had sought to impose their culture on the Jews and turn them into idol worshipers, had been vanquished and that the Jews had remained true to one God.
Guest speaker was Likud MK Anat Berko, an academic before she entered politics with suicide bombings as her field of expertise. During her years of research Berko interviewed Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. Her husband Reuven is an expert on Arab affairs. Berko said that she was glad to see the lights of the Hanukka candles and the Christmas tree shining in the face of radical Islam. She noted that it was symbolic to see the two together while all over Europe Muslim radicals were trying to kill Jews. Her own family had fled Iraq because of persecution, she said, “and now Christians are being persecuted.”
“Nothing ends with the Jews,” she asserted. “It starts with Jews but doesn’t end with Jews.”
One of the terrorists she interviewed said to her: “It starts on Shabbat and ends on Sunday.”
For her the meaning was loud and clear, “but it will happen on Friday too,” she warned, noting that proponents of radical Islam are already killing their own Muslim population.
■ CONTESTANTS IN this year’s Master- Chef reality TV contest, Misha Lederman and Lama Shehadi will prove that there is culinary coexistence when they prepare traditional Swedish specialties for the Swedish Embassy’s Lucia celebrations to be hosted next week by Swedish Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser at his residence in Herzliya Pituah.
The menu will include the Swedish mulled wine glogg, ginger bread and saffron buns.
The Lucia Festival in honor of Saint Lucia is a celebration, where children clad in white gowns and carrying candles or torches come in procession out of the darkness, bringing the light and singing, with the sound of their voices increasing as they draw nearer. The Lucia feast coincides with the winter solstice, which in the northern hemisphere has the longest night of the year. Saint Lucia is one of the few saints whose memory is celebrated by Lutherans and people from Nordic countries.
■ IN JUDAISM in general and Israel in particular, tragedy and joy have been intertwined since the days of Abraham the patriarch and continue to this day. At Oz Vegaon Park, some 1,300 meters from the Gush Etzion junction, where Yeshiva student Ezra Schwartz from Boston was shot and murdered by a terrorist, the lighting of the Hanukka candles on the fifth night of the holiday on Thursday was in his memory and of all victims of terrorism.
The invitation to the candle lighting ceremony had a candlelit Hanukkia superimposed over Schwartz’s face. But the sadness was punctuated by the meaning of the Hanukka candles, which is bringing light into the darkness. That was what Schwartz had been doing when he was killed. He was bringing light by way of food to soldiers stationed in the area. The somber mood was lifted by Rabbi Shimshon Nadel who played live music.
■ WHAT EXACTLY is Czech food? This was the question put to Eric Attias, the executive chef of the Daniel Hotel Herzliya, which is part of the international Tamares Hotels chain, at the opening of the hotel’s Czech food week. Beyond saying that it includes a lot of pork, and that in general it tends to be heavy, with thick soups and stews, Attias could not quite say. He spent time in the Czech Republic in an exchange deal promoting Israeli food, while simultaneously exploring the Czech cuisine scene and is now hosting Czech chef Michal Pakand from the Hotel Duo in Prague. Czech Ambassador Ivo Schwarz shed a little light on the subject by explaining the influences of the Czech Republic’s neighboring countries on the Czech palate.
But then he dropped a bombshell by saying that there is a strong belief among Czechs that apple strudel for which the Austrians are so famous, actually originated in Czechoslovakia, and when some of the Czech nobility moved to Vienna, they took the strudel recipe with them.
Whether this happens to be true or not, strudel does figure prominently on the Czech menu. Both Attias and Schwarz noted the popularity of fresh water fish such as salmon and carp, and the marinated salmon with a refreshing shredded cucumber salad proved to be a delightful blend of flavors. Carp is a favorite item on the Christmas menu said Schwarz, adding that one thing that is definitely Czech and not influenced by any neighboring countries is Czech beer, which has been a popular beverage for centuries with a history that goes back more than 1,000 years. Schwarz is particularly partial to Pilsen, whose brewery dates back to the 13th century, but admits that he’s not objective because he was born and raised in Pilsen, and that’s where his permanent home is.
■ JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat whose personal fortune puts him in the major league of Israel’s affluents, was a special guest last week at the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York’s Wall Street Dinner at the Hilton York where a record-breaking $27 million for UJA-Federation’s annual campaign was raised, despite the fact that America has not yet recovered from its economic downturn. The sold-out dinner, which drew an unprecedented turnout of more than 1,900 leaders from the Wall Street community, celebrated its 40th anniversary as one of New York City’s key philanthropic events.
Barkat, thanked UJA-Federation for its continued support in tough times and enthused about the significant cultural renaissance that continues to develop in Jerusalem. Award winners honored for philanthropic leadership were: Steven Tananbaum, managing partner and chief investment officer of GoldenTree; and Andrew Rechtschaffen of Greenlight Capital. Keynote speaker, at the dinner was Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute and co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation. Milken talked about giving back, but paid special attention to the past and future importance of social capital, or the power of community.
“You saw the social capital in the Jewish settlement services as millions of people came to the United States... for religious freedom and opportunity not afforded them in other parts of the world, and you see it today in the Jewish community services of the Federation that occur around this city and around the world,” he said.
■ FANS OF Frank Sinatra know without being told that December 13 marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. In America a tribute to Sinatra will be featured on CBS on Sunday, but in Israel the show will air on Channel 1 HD tonight, Friday, at 9.30 p.m. with some of the greatest contemporary singers performing the songs that continued to keep Sinatra in the limelight, and which remain the legacy he left to the entertainment industry.
Singers participating in the tribute include Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Seth Mac- Farlane, Trisha Yearwood and Juanes. In addition Tony Bennett, who had a close relationship with Sinatra and at 80 is still singing professionally, will also perform.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bennett credited Sinatra with having “created the greatest school of popular singing and made it possible for all of us to have a great living doing this.”
December 19 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary French cabaret singer, song writer and actress Edith Piaf, known in France as “the little sparrow,” and no doubt songs such as “La Vie en rose,” “Milord,” “Sous le ciel de Paris” and “Non, je ne regrette rien” will be played on radio stations and at least one TV channel will run a docufeature on her.
■ THIS COMING Saturday, December 12, to mark the end of the first month of mourning following the death of Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, Channel 1 will screen a documentary, A President at Eye Level, which traces Navon’s long history of public service and some of the people whose lives he affected and influenced. From a historical perspective he was the first non-Ashkenazi member of Mapai to rise to national prominence, though Golda Meir tried to prevent him from becoming president. The documentary also covers Navon’s highly successful visit to Egypt, and his close relationship to ordinary people, especially people in peripheral communities, where he made it possible for a mother of 10 children who had no formal education to study, and he provided her with a private teacher whose monthly salary he paid for four years. The program will be shown at 10 p.m.[email protected]