(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
CONSIDERING THE extent to which Shimon Peres has been promoting nanotechnology in Israel, it might have been assumed that he would represent the government at the launch of the Nanotechnology Institute at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday. But the minister invited by Bar-Ilan was Deputy Prime Minister and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, with whom the university has an enduring and special relationship.
Mofaz is an alumnus of Bar-Ilan, with a BA in Business Administration. In 2001, when he was chief of general staff, BIU named him alumnus of the year. In 2004, when he was minister of defense, the university conferred an honorary doctorate on him. But Mofaz is not the only BIU alumnus in the government. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was present for the conferment ceremony of this year's honorary doctorates, is also a graduate.
Another minister with a BIU connection who attended a BIU event this week was Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, who was present at the dedication of Beit Harav Jakobovits-Sami Shamoon Center for the Study of Philosophy, Ethics and Jewish Thought. Herzog's grandmother, Rabbanit Sarah Herzog, received an honorary doctorate from BIU in 1975, and two years later, his father, former president Chaim Herzog also received an honorary doctorate. Most of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's predecessors in office, including Ariel Sharon, were also recipients of honorary doctorates, so it's a safe bet that if the government passes its endurance test, Ehud Olmert will become Dr. Olmert within the next year or two.
BRINKMANSHIP IN academia seems to have even greater significance than it does in business. Among the nine who received honorary doctorates this week were two Nobel Prize Laureates, Prof. Alex Muller and Prof. Robert Aumann, and one Israel Prize Laureate, Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman.
A KLEZMER band was playing and balloons, streamers and British and Israeli flags decorated the car park of the capital's King David Hotel, which was the finish line for the Sixth Biennial Jewish National Fund UK London-to-Jerusalem car rally, taking participants to 14 countries in just over two weeks.
Sam Pearlman of Newcastle has participated in all of the JNF UK rallies, which have each taken different routes to the same destination. He said this time the rally was "extra special" because it included Eastern Europe and an unplanned visit to the beautifully restored synagogue in Sziget in Hungary. Pearlman said it was a particularly unique experience to pray in this synagogue that had survived the Nazi occupation and Russian rule.
Israeli-born Raphael Gerstel, who left Israel as a child and lives in Switzerland, journeyed from Zurich to London with his wife, Eva, to take part in the rally. Gerstel's sleek red XK 150 Jaguar attracted all the photographers, who swarmed around it, photographing it from every angle.
Before the cars left for Ashdod to be shipped back to England they visited the Western Wall, which for Gerstel was particularly meaningful. One of the reasons he joined the rally was to take his car to the Kotel. The oldest car in the rally was a 26 HP Rolls Royce in mint condition, and only 10 years younger than its owner Reg Sington, 90, of Salford. The oldest participant was Hilary Clive, 92.
Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky, who came to greet the drivers, got behind the wheel of the Rolls with its UK-2 license plate, but didn't evince any real curiosity about the beautifully preserved antique. He was more interested in a 1958 red Jaguar that belonged to David Steene of London. Addressing the drivers in Hebrew, Lupoliansky, who speaks English quite well, told them they had not only brought color to Jerusalem, but had also continued the tradition of Sir Moses Montefiore, who came to the city by horse and carriage no less than five times. The translation was somewhat embellished by Avraham Kalman, the JNF UK's representative in Israel, prompting Lupoliansky to remark in English: "The translation was better than the original."
HELPING TO organize a major international conference is headache enough, but for Danny Grossman, head of the Israel Office of the American Jewish Congress, this was not the only reason that life last week was busier than usual.
Aside from attending to details related to the 2006 America/Israel Women's Dialogue - Beyond Equality to Empowerment - that was held over a two-day period at Tel Aviv University, Grossman and his wife Lisa were also preoccupied with the marriage of their son Akiva, a former paratrooper, to Einat, a Lt-Col (res).
Among the wedding guests were quite a few people of both the father and son's generations who had earned their wings. Grossman, a former F-4 aviator with the US Air Force, is a decorated Israeli hero, and one of very few immigrants who flew fighter jets abroad before joining the Israel Air Force.
ACTOR, COMEDIAN, film director and writer Idan Alterman has added another string to his bow and has also proved to be an accomplished interviewer, appearing on Channel Two in a no-holds-barred interview with the effervescent Hanna Laszlo. Laszlo, who last year won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Free Zone but who is best known as a stand-up comedienne, had a rough period in her career for some three or four years. She redeemed herself not only with Free Zone, but also in the role of the ruthless and eccentric mother Naomi Shahar in the telenovela Hashir Shelanu (Our Song), as well as in a new one-woman show in which she candidly reviewed the ups and downs of her life. "You have to be relevant," she told Alterman. "Otherwise you're history."
MEMO TO Education Minister Yuli Tamir: The usually cynical Gabi Gazit, who hosts the daily current affairs program It's all Talk on Israel Radio, spent Shavuot at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. There, the festival was celebrated in traditional kibbutz style, with a parade of tractors decorated with flowers and agricultural produce, participants dressed in the embroidered Russian-style shirts worn by kibbutz pioneers, and the singing of songs that were part of the early kibbutz culture.
The head-on confrontation with nostalgia, Gazit confessed, was a totally emotional experience that tugged at his heartstrings. The generation that grew up on the old kibbutz songs is dying out, noted Gazit, and unless a conscientious effort is made to preserve the melodies, they will be forgotten and a valuable legacy will disappear. Gazit suggested that the teaching of these songs be introduced to the informal school curriculum on a weekly basis.
AT THE annual Guardian of Zion Award Ceremony of the Ingebord Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at which the honoree was syndicated columnist Dr. Daniel Pipes, there were no less than five former cabinet ministers - a sort of government in exile. They included Effie Eitam, Uzi Landau, Moshe Nissim, Benny Eilon and Yaakov Neeman.
RUMOR HAS it that Noa Ben Arzi, the talented and charismatic granddaughter of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, has been looking at wedding dresses, and is likely to tie the knot some time this summer.