EMINENT FRENCH Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who is among the
signatories to JCall, the European Jewish Call for Reason whose stated
aim is to ensure the survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic
state alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state, will be in
the country next week to participate in the Israel-France forum on
“Democracy and Its Challenges.” Levy has come under considerable
criticism since joining the European version of J Street, and will
doubtless subject himself to further criticism while here.
One of several French intellectuals, journalists, filmmakers and
politicians who are participating in the three-day forum which opens at
the Suzanne Dallal Center in Tel Aviv on May 30, he will deliver the
keynote address on the opening night and will participate in other
sessions. He is the only participant who is listed to speak each day.
The conference, touted as the first of its kind here, is an initiative
of the French Embassy and is indicative of the enhanced and
multifaceted role that France wants to play in the region, as well as
the significant increase of French speakers in the country.
FRENCH AMBASSADOR Christophe Bigot, who is naturally involved in the
Israel-France forum, has been busy in recent weeks with conferring
honors or attending events in which his fellow countrymen were honored
by local academic institutions. Last week, on behalf of French
President Nicolas Sarkozy, he conferred the Legion of Honor on
businessman Joseph Ciechanover in the presence of Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, Justice Minister Yaakov
Neeman and Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. A venture capitalist and
entrepreneur, Ciechanover is a former director general of the Foreign
Ministry, a former head of El Al and sits on the boards of directors of
several major enterprises.
Ciechanover and Wiesel have a long-standing relationship, and
Ciechanover is on the Board of Directors of Wiesel’s Foundation for
Humanity. Exactly five years ago, they were among 36 of the world’s
leading thinkers in economics, medicine, physics and literature invited
by King Abdullah II to attend a conference in Jordan. Wiesel also has a
strong French connection in that after the Holocaust he found asylum in
France, studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and later worked in France
as a journalist before moving to the US in the late 1950s. In his early
years in America, he continued to write in French.
Others attending the reception that Bigot hosted at his residence in
Jaffa in honor of Ciechanover included the honoree’s brother, Nobel
Prize laureate Aaron Ciechanover, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir
Lau, retired Supreme Court presidents Meir Shamgar and Aharon Barak and
former governor of the Bank of Israel Jacob Frenkel.
BRITISH CHIEF Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is coming here in mid-June to
launch his new book and to lecture at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. His
predecessor, Immanuel Jakobovits, was also a member of the House of
Lords. British Jews have become somewhat blasé about prominent members
of their community entering the House of Lords or, at the very least,
joining the peerage. But not everyone is aware that the first British
rabbi to receive a knighthood was Sir Hermann Gollancz who will be the
subject of a lecture by Rabbi Raymond Apple to be delivered to the
Jewish Historical Society of England’s Israel Branch at Jerusalem’s
Beit Avi Chai on May 30.
Apple, who has been living in Jerusalem since 2006, is chief rabbi
emeritus of the Great Synagogue of Sydney, former senior Jewish
chaplain to the Australian Defense Forces and president of the
Australian Council of Christians and Jews. He is also an historian and
a past president of the Australian Jewish Historical Society. It is in
this context that he will speak on “Hermann Gollancz and the Title of
Rabbi in British Jewry.”
Non-Brits may not realize that not all Jewish clergy in Britain are
known as rabbi. Many have the title of reverend, which was distinctly
the case during the Adler period (1845-1911). Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus
Adler was succeeded by his son Rabbi Hermann Adler. It was during this
period that Lionel de Rothschild became the first Jewish Member of
Parliament and Nathan Mayer Rothschild in 1858 became the first Jewish
member of the House of Lords. Three years earlier, in 1855, Sir David
Solomons became the first Jewish lord mayor of London. During the Adler
period, Britain had only one rabbi – the Chief Rabbi – while other
Jewish clergy were called reverend.
n APROPOS LORD Sacks, Rambam Medical Center friends from Great Britain
and Israel came together at his home and that of Lady Elaine Sacks in
the week prior to Shavuot and learned that Lord Sacks is the future
patron of the Friends of Rambam in Great Britain. The chief rabbi and
his wife opened their home for a BFR gathering that included Ambassador
to England Ron Prosor, Sir Bernard and Lady Schreier, Dr. Ramy and
Smadar Goldstein, Stanley Brodie, Neville Shulman and many others from
the London Jewish community.
Among the Israeli contingent were chairman of the Rambam Board of
Trustees and Friends of Rambam Eitan Wertheimer, director of Hematology
and Bone Marrow Transplantation at Rambam Jacob Rowe, administrative
director Dr. Esty Golan and her husband Shari Golan and director of
public affairs and resource development Talia Zaks. BFR members who
assisted in organizing the event included Anita Alexander-Passe, Leora
Torn-Hibler, Malka Leon, Lior Hannes, Michael and Noga Komissar and
Amir Levy. Addresses were delivered by Sacks, director of Rambam Health
Care Center Rafi Beyar, Nobel Prize winner and Rambam researcher Aaron
Ciechanover and others.
AFTER AN absence of more than eighteen months, Yehoram Gaon is
finally returning to present his weekly comments on current affairs on
Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet. At the Israel Broadcasting Authority,
they’re so happy to have him back that they’re running an exaggerated
number of promos to announce that his broadcasts will resume at 1 p.m.
THOUGH NOT much in the news these days, former MK and government
minister Rabbi Michael Melchior continues to do much of what he was
doing in those capacities and is considering a return to politics.
However he will not throw in his cap with Labor as he did in the past,
he says, and after a failed alliance with the Green Movement in the
2009 elections is unlikely to turn in that direction again.
he will be the Jewish representative at an Israel Palestine Center for
Research and Information panel discussion on “Bringing Religion to the
Front Lines of Peace” at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem on June 2.
The Christian speaker will be Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. The identity
of the Muslim speaker has yet to be announced
THE ANNUAL Guardian of Zion Award ceremony and gala dinner of
Bar-Ilan university’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies is
always top heavy with dignitaries – and this year was no exception. In
fact there may have even been more than in past years, because this
year’s recipient Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, moves
in so many circles that he knows just about every leading personality
in the Jewish world. Some of the previous recipients were present,
among them Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel and multiple Oscar winning
film producer Arthur Cohn, each of whom always makes a point of
attending the event.
Among the other attendees at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem were
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, former ambassador to the US
Zalman Shoval, Kadima MK Dalia Itzik, Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz, National
Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman,
former justice minister Moshe Nissim, US Ambassador James Cunningham
and Israel Museum director James Snyder. Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu sent videotaped greetings in which he said he had known
Hoenlein for some 30 years and spoke glowingly of him, calling him a
defender of Israel and the Jewish people and an activist on behalf of
Hoenlein began his address with a little light banter before getting
into the serious stuff. He thanked Netanyahu for the commercial, said
it was nice to hear his eulogy and to be able to walk away, and
explained that the difference between a tribute and a eulogy is that in
the case of a tribute there’s at least one person who believes
everything that’s being said.
ONE WOULD think that two major institutes whose curriculum includes
fashion design would coordinate major events so that there would be no
competitive clash for attendance. But the annual gala of Shenkar
College of Engineering and Design, the alma mater of some of the
country’s leading fashion designers, including international prize
winning designer Alber Elbaz, who is the chief designer for Lanvin, is
on the same date as the opening of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and
Design Festival of Film, Fashion and Philosophy that is being conducted
in cooperation with the Goethe Institute of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem
Cinematheque and the Romain Gary French Cultural Center.
Both events are scheduled for tomorrow, though the one in Jerusalem is
a three-day affair in which fashion designers, media theorists,
artists, scholars and style bloggers from here and abroad will examine
the interrelationship between fashion, philosophy and media. The
festival includes a fashion show, fashion oriented films, panel
discussions, lectures, exhibitions and parties. Among the films to be
screened will be Fashion and People dealing with Orthodox apparel, IDF
garb and other facets of Israeli fashion. Ruth Dayan, who founded the
now defunct Maskit, which did so much for Israel’s fashion image, will
receive a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her contribution
to local fashion and the empowerment of women here. Next week, the
Haifa-born Dayan, who has initiated so many social, cultural and
traditional ethnic projects, will also receive an honorary doctorate
from the University of Haifa.
The Shenkar gala will be the swan song for controversial President
Amotz Weinberg, who after 16 years in office is handing over the baton
to former MK and government minister Yuli Tamir.
THANKS TO a collaborative effort by Tishkofet, the Cameri Theater,
the Haifa Municipal Theater and Matar, the local publishers of
celebrated American author Mitch Albom, the wheels were set in motion
for Albom’s visit, where he gave one of his patented talks at a benefit
for the organization at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in
Jerusalem. Tishkofet cofounder Dr. Ben Corn had the opportunity to hear
Albom speak about his new book Have a Little Faith soon after its
release last year in New York City.
“My 82-year-old mother invited me to attend a lecture by Mitch at the
92nd Street Y, and I couldn’t refuse,” said Corn, chairman of Radiation
Oncology at Tel Aviv Medical Center-Ichilov Hospital, and along with
his wife Dvora, codirector of Tishkofet/Life’s Door, a national,
Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization that provides support to
patients with life-threatening illnesses, as well as to their doctors
“At the end of the talk, which was very stimulating, there was a long
line of people with books they were getting Mitch to sign. We were the
last ones and we started talking to him, and I told him about Tishkofet
and our work and I raised the idea of his coming to Israel. He was
helpful from the start.”
Corn added that in his position at Ichilov Hospital, he requires all of
his students and interns to read Albom’s best-seller Tuesdays with
Morrie, just as he would have them read Grey’s Anatomy. “And I test
them on it, as well – not on whether they’ve read it, but to see if
they were able to internalize the principles stated in the book.”
USUALLY HE’S the oldest person in the room or at a particular event,
but President Shimon Peres, who turns 87 in August, found himself to be
a spring chicken in comparison to Lotek Etzion, a member of Kibbutz
Merhavia, when he joined in the celebrations on Monday evening of 100
years of settlement in the Jezreel Valley. Peres was also outranked in
age by Ruth Dayan, 93, and still going strong and driving her own car.
The two spent time together, viewing some of the historic exhibits.
Peres also met with people older than he is when he visited Kibbutz
Deganya when it celebrated its 100th anniversary a month and a half ago.
An ex-kibbutznik himself, Peres always enjoys these confrontations with
his past, even when it’s not his own kibbutz that he's visiting.
Addressing some 2,500 people who had gathered on the lawns of the
kibbutz, Peres said that the celebration was not only that of the
Jezreel Valley, but a milestone in Jewish history. The nostalgia was
enhanced by singer Esther Ofarim, who has been living in Germany for
many years, but who came home to sing some of her best known hits.
THE LONG arm of coincidence can stretch across the years in the
strangest way. Australian expatriates Shmuel and Sara Klein, long
before they actually made aliya 18 years ago, had many years earlier
come here independently of each other and it was here that they decided
that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They
married in 1968. The officiating rabbi was She’ar-Yashuv Cohen, who
later became chief rabbi of Haifa.
A native Jerusalemite who fought in the War of Independence, defending
Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc, Cohen was severely wounded in battle in
the Old City, and was taken captive by the Arab Legion of the Jordanian
army. He was transferred to Amman where he became a leader of the
prisoners of war. Following his repatriation, he continued to serve in
the IDF for seven years, holding senior positions in the Chaplaincy
Corps, including chief rabbi of the air force. Cohen likes to come back
to Jerusalem as often as possible and on the Shabbat prior to Jerusalem
Day, attended services at the Great Synagogue, where at the monthly
Friday night dinner for lone soldiers, he shared some of his
experiences before, during and after the War of Independence. He stayed
on in Jerusalem after Shabbat so that he could be there for Jerusalem
Day, and with his wife Naomi, went to the Tower of David to convey his
greetings to Mayor Nir Barkat.
The Kleins happened to be at the Tower of David at the same time. They
would have been overjoyed to see the Cohens at any time – but
especially on this particular day, because it happened to be their
wedding anniversary according to the Hebrew calendar. According to the
Gregorian calendar, it was last Thursday.
JOURNALISTS WITH a loyal readership are frequently urged to write
books about the people they’ve met and the places they’ve been. Steve
, the Alfei Menashe-based Israel correspondent for the Jewish
Times of South Jersey
, has taken up the challenge not once, but twice.
His first book Meandering through Israel
took readers to places both
familiar and off the beaten track. Now, he’s come up with a more
in-depth sequel Encountering Israel – Geography, History, Culture
Kramer says that his new volume is intended for armchair travelers
including those who live here, but don’t necessarily stray far from
home. It’s also for travelers who have been here and those who intend