Grapevine: Balfour Day at Middle East Mean Time

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August 15, 2017 21:14

Yediot Aharanot’s and Ynet’s investigative team spent months tracking Yosefi, and eventually sent him an undercover reporter who told him that she was pregnant by a married man.




La déclaration Balfour et son signataire

La déclaration Balfour et son signataire. (photo credit:WIKIPEDIA)

FEW PEOPLE in Israel are unaware that the centenary of the Balfour Declaration is on November 2 – but the major Balfour Day celebrations in Israel will be on November 7 and 8. The reason that the main festivities are being held at Middle East Mean Time is because the British keynote speaker, Lord Jacob Rothschild, will be in London, where British Zionists will celebrate on the actual anniversary.

It is most fitting that a member of the Rothschild family, which has given so much to Israel and continues to give, should be in Israel for this very special milestone anniversary considering that Arthur Balfour’s letter, which later became known as the Balfour Declaration was delivered to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild. It’s also an interesting coincidence that the annual Balfour Dinner in Tel Aviv will be held on the night prior to the 65th anniversary of the death of Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, who died on November 9, 1952. Weizmann was also born in November, on November 27, 1874 to be precise, and the best birthday present he ever had was on November 29, 1947, when the United Nations passed the resolution for the partition of Palestine.

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November 9 and 10 also signify the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of the broken glass, which was the prelude to World War II and the Holocaust. November 11, 1918, widely remembered as Armistice Day, marked the end of the First World War. And November 19, the date of the 40th anniversary of the historic arrival in Jerusalem of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who on November 20 addressed the Knesset, must likewise not be overlooked.

An international conference initiated by the Balfour Centenary Committee in association with the B’nai B’rith World Center will take place under the auspices of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in the Knesset Auditorium on Tuesday, November 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the participation of British and Israeli parliamentarians, diplomats including British Ambassador David Quarrey and experts who will discuss the “Historical Context and Contemporary Implications of the Balfour Declaration.” The conference will be followed by a special plenary session of the Knesset beginning at 4 p.m.

The Balfour Dinner, hosted annually by the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, will this year be hosted in conjunction with the Balfour Centenary Committee and will take place at the Tel Aviv Hilton on Wednesday November 8 with Lord Rothschild and Yuli Edelstein as guest speakers.

On November 2, there will be a somewhat more modest Balfour event co-sponsored by Europeans for Israel, The Balfour 100 Committee, Bet Avi Chai, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Zionist Council of Israel for which Lord Turnberg, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians and a founder patron of the Jewish Medical Association (UK), is specially coming to Israel. His talk will be held in the Weizmann Hall of the Jewish Agency complex in Jerusalem. In that manner, Weizmann can be honored for his contribution to the Balfour Declaration and he can also be honored on the anniversary of his passing.

Lord Turnberg won’t have to work very hard on his speech, as the Balfour Declaration was his topic in March of this year at the annual dinner of the Jewish Medical Association at St John’s Wood Synagogue Hall. 2017 is a special year in Lord Turnberg’s life. It is the year in which he and Lady Turnberg celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and the 70th anniversary of his bar mitzva.

BUT BEFORE all that, popular columnist Melanie Phillips in a conversation with Herb Keinon, the diplomatic correspondent of The Jerusalem Post will explain how the Balfour Declaration influenced, and is still affecting, events today.

This event, which like that featuring Lord Turnberg, is co-sponsored by Europeans for Israel, The Balfour 100 Committee, Bet Avi Chai, the Jewish Historical Society of England and the Zionist Council of Israel, will be held on Wednesday, September 6, at 8 p.m. at Beit Avi Chai.

ALTHOUGH HE died in April, 1997, the Prime Minister’s Office, together with the Council for the Commemoration of the Presidents of Israel and Yad Chaim Herzog, are marking the 20th anniversary year of the death of Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, with a symposium on “Israel Past Present and Future” to be held on Thursday, September 7, at 5.30 p.m. at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.

Here too, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will have something to say, but the keynote speaker will be Hebrew University historian Prof.

Yuval Noah Harari, who authored the best selling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which was published in 2014 and subsequently recommended by US president Barack Obama, who in an interview with CNN in September, 2016 was asked to recommend some of his recent reading material, and enthusiastically included Harari’s book.

DEPUTY CHIEF of Mission at the Russian Embassy Alexey Drobinin returned to Moscow on Saturday armed with several items of silver from Hazorfim, one of Israel’s leading silverware companies. On the previous Thursday, Russian Ambassador Alexander Shein hosted a farewell reception for Drobinin at the elegant Stuko Events center in Tel Aviv, where he surprised some of the guests by delivering a speech in fluent English. At National Day receptions of the Russian Federation, Shein speaks in Russian and a translator supplies the English. On this occasion the majority of guests understood Russian, but Shein opted to speak in English, and called Dobrinin “a dear friend who is completing his mission in Israel.”

Shein said that Dobrinin had been very successful in both his personal and professional connections in terms of promoting bilateral relations between Russia and Israel. Dobrinon had played a pivotal role in this respect the first time he served in Israel, and was even more active the second time, said Shein, adding that in all respects, Dobrinin’s mission had been successful. He also mentioned that Dobrinin was going to a very promising appointment in Moscow. Though most of the guests were aware of what it was, Shein, Dobrinin and others present, refrained from identifying the new position because it has not yet been officially announced. Suffice to say that in public farewell addresses and in private comments there was unanimity in hailing Dobrinin as a top-class professional diplomat, and Shein said that he hoped to meet Dobrinin and his family again in Israel or in some other place.

Some speakers, including Moshe Mano, Russia’s Honorary Consul in Haifa, declared that he hoped Dobrinin would return a third time, and since he’s already been deputy chief of mission, his next posting in Israel must be as ambassador. Veterans of the Red Army, and the Partisans were very lavish in their praise of Drobinin as was Ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi, who heads the Euro-Asian Division at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the guests were Yitzhak Eldan, the president of the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel and a former chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry; Fuad Al Majali, the deputy chief of mission at the Jordanian Embassy; Kazakhstan Ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev; Serbian Ambassador Milutin Stanojevic; director of international relations at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation Nadav Tamir; MK Ksenia Svetlova; and several Russian Orthodox priests.

Although she had already returned to Moscow with their younger daughter Valeria, Shein praised the efficient work in the consular division of Dobrinin’s wife Natalia and congratulated his older daughter, 17-year-old Maria, who was present, on being accepted to Moscow University. Maria will be studying history, after which she may take a course in political science and follow her father into the Foreign Service. But whether or not she becomes a diplomat, she will return to Israel where she has many friends she said, and where she loves swimming in the sea.

Dobrinin himself said how much he had enjoyed working with Foreign Ministry personnel, MKs, the National Security Council, the media, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, leaders of veterans’ organizations, and many of his compatriots whom he met in Israel. He wished them all well in their future undertakings and wished the people of Israel to continue their lives “under sunny and peaceful skies.” The reason that he left Israel on a Saturday morning was because El Al doesn’t fly on Saturday, which means that the airport is less crowded. Dobrinin’s successor at the Russian Embassy is Leonid Frolov.

TIMING IS important, and Dobrinin may not have realized that he was leaving on the very anniversary of the execution in 1952 of 13 Soviet Jews in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka Prison. Although Stalin had succeeded in getting rid of almost all vestiges of Jewish religious practice, he somehow failed to strip Jews of Jewish culture, which no less than religion gave expression to their identity. All 13 were members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and five of them were well-known Yiddish poets.

The first was arrested in 1948, the year in which the Soviet Union appointed its first ambassador to Israel. Notwithstanding persecution and oppression, those Jews, living in largely Jewish enclaves, continued to maintain Jewish culture and to speak Yiddish.

In 1990, a year prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Haim Yavin, Israel’s most celebrated television personality went to Russia to film a documentary.

The result was 'Whispering Embers,' a remarkable eye-opener on Soviet Jewry. In his travels across the country, Yavin explored Birobidzhan, near the Chinese border, which at that time was relatively unknown in the West.

Birobidzhan was designated a Jewish autonomous region by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and was one of the last bastions of Yiddish.

Some even considered Birobidzhan to be an alternative homeland for the Jewish people. It was intended as a Yiddish-speaking utopia, but failed because it had very little by way of Jewish tradition. But to Yavin’s great surprise, the residents conversed amongst themselves in Yiddish.

There were four Soviet ambassadors to Israel before the USSR severed diplomatic relations in 1967. The first was Pavel Yershov, who was appointed in June, 1948. The second was Alexander Abramov, the third Mikhail Bodrov, and the last Dmitry Chuvakhin. Technically the last was Alexander Bovin, who only two days after he presented his credentials to president Chaim Herzog following the resumption of diplomatic ties, was re-accredited as the ambassador of the Russian Federation.

Since then, Russian ambassadors to Israel have included Mikhail Bogdanov, Gennady Tarasov, Piotr Stegniy, Sergey Yakovlev and present incumbent Alexander Shein.

RELATIVES AND friends on Saturday night converged on the home of Israel’s ambassador designate to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff and his wife publicist Laura Kam to say Auf Wiedersehen before they leave for Berlin on August 27. Among those present were several couples in which the wives, like the hostess, retained their maiden names and continue to pursue their own careers. Among them were former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and his wife Julie Fisher; head of the EU delegation to Israel Ambassador Lars Faaborg Andersen and his wife Jean Murphy; journalist and translator Stuart Schoffman and his wife publicist Roberta Fahn; and Hirsh Goodman, author and the founding editor of The Jerusalem Report, which he edited for 10 years, and New York Times correspondent Isabel Kershner. Also present were Harry Wall, a writer and maker of documentaries on contemporary Jewish life around the world, who gravitates between America and Israel; Linda Rivkind, who for 25 years worked at the Government Press Office and more recently helped to found the Jerusalem Press Club; MKs Nachman Shai (who a couple of days later left for South Africa as part of a Knesset delegation) and Mickey Levy; Issa Ben-Rafael, whose first husband David Ben Rafael, the deputy chief of mission at the Israel Embassy in Argentina, was killed in the bomb blast at the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992; Barbara Opall Rome, who writes on defense matters; Issacharoff’s sister Frieda Ross Associate Director of World Emunah, and several other well known figures.

Issacharoff thanked his wife for supporting him in all his diplomatic endeavors for the past 36 years, and for organizing the farewell party, which gave him a chance to say how happy he was to see so many people who had been important in their lives.

Their daughter Ella could not attend. She is currently in Washington as National Leadership Fellow in RespectAbility. However their two sons Dean and David were present.

Issacharoff will hardly have time to unpack his luggage in Berlin and to settle into the ambassador’s residence before he has to go to Munich airport to welcome President Reuven Rivlin, who is scheduled to be in Germany September 5 to 7 on a twofold mission.

The main purpose of his visit is to attend the dedication of the monument to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Black September at the Munich Olympics in 1972, but he will also travel to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he will discuss and try to settle the submarine crisis. He will also raise the issue of the rebirth of violent antisemitism in Germany.

The murdered Israeli athletes were wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, weightlifter Yossef Romano, weightlifter Ze’ev Friedman, weightlifter David Berger, weightlifting judge Yakov Springer, wrestler Eliezer Halfin, wrestling referee Yosef Gutfreund, shooting coach Kehat Shorr, wrestler Mark Slavin, fencing coach Andre Spitzer and track coach Amitzur Shapira.

Israel’s outgoing Ambassador to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, in an interview with Israel Hayom, said that because of its Nazi history, Germany remains committed to Israel in a unique manner, but “the busier Germany becomes in the world, the less attention it has to focus on us.” Diplomatic relations between the two countries are going through a rough patch, he said, adding that changing circumstances have forced Germany to change its foreign policy.

“We are becoming just one part of a combination of interests. When the German government needs to choose where to invest its energy, there are more important things in the German perspective than what Israel wants or what serves Israel best.”

The bottom line is that Issacharoff will certainly have his work cut out for him. It will not be an easy time for his wife, Laura, who runs her own international public relations company – not necessarily because it will be more difficult working out of Berlin than out of Jerusalem, but because she is the daughter and niece of Holocaust survivors. She has paid brief visits to Germany in the past, but was never there long enough to research her family’s history. She now plans to undertake that painful experience.

IN MUNICH, Rivlin, together with German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, and Dr. Ludwig Spaenle Bavaria’s Minister for Art and Culture, will dedicate the monument to Israel’s murdered athletes at the site of the Olympic Village. In addition to members of the athletes’ families, Rivlin’s delegation will include Israel Prize laureate and champion runner Esther Roth-Shahamorov, who was a member of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics, and who also competed in track and field events at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, where she became the first Israeli to reach the finals in any Olympic event.

ALTHOUGH RIVLIN in the days when he was Knesset speaker, demonstrated empathy for the LGBT community, he had never been to their center in Tel Aviv until last Thursday when he went with his wife Nechama and Tel Aviv -Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai and Huldai’s wife Yael. They were all given a very warm welcome.

“The LGBT community is an integral part of Israeli society,” said Rivlin, who expressed the hope that the State of Israel and all its institutions, “will know how to act responsibly in its decision-making, and in a way that does not negate or degrade any population, even in the struggle over disputed issues.” Israelis from diverse sectors are working together, moving society forward as a whole, he underscored, and congratulated Huldai on what he has done for the benefit of the LGBT community.

“A person’s preference is their preference, as they were born unto it. We are all human beings, and we all love as we love,” declared Rivlin.

Huldai said that the LGBT center was established in Tel Aviv-Jaffa as the first urban center of its kind in the world, “and it did not come easily. It is not enough to declare oneself a believer in equal rights or to say that you support LGBT rights; you have to put policy into action and not just talk,” declared Huldai.

“Unfortunately, we are far from saying that there is equality of consciousness and practice.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the first Hebrew city, has a leading role at the social level, serving as a moral beacon for others in Israel and overseas.

When we inaugurated the LGBT center, my hope was that we would reach a day when it would no longer be necessary. I long for the day when this will be the situation in the State of Israel,” he said.

Etai Pinkas Arad, a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipal Council and chairman of the LGBT center, said that in recent weeks, there have been some very challenging moments for the community and its struggle for equal rights. He was grateful to Rivlin “for choosing to honor the community, and for proving that where hatred, prejudice and violence raise their heads, there is a national leadership that stands up to them and promotes respect, acceptance and equality in Israeli society. This is a message that must be shared by all citizens of Israel,” he said.

IT’S INTERESTING to see what is ignored by some publications and regarded as hot news by others. Two inadvertently related stories about the hijacking of infants and newborn babies appeared in Yediot Aharonot this week and last, with other publications taking hardly any notice. Even though Yediot indulges in sensationalism, when it publishes names and photos to support scandalous stories, it would stand to reason that other publications would pick up the ball, but for whatever reason, the stories corroborating the mysterious disappearance of Yemenite, Iraqi and Moroccan infants plus a baby trafficking scam conducted by unscrupulous haredim whose actions have put a blot on the rest of the haredi community, have been kept low key.

Shulamit Malik, 83, was a kindergarten teacher in an immigrant transit camp in Holon. All the children in her care were healthy, but every now and again, one or more disappeared. It was always after a visit by a delegation from Hapoel Hamizrachi. Malik surmises that the children were taken to America and given to childless Holocaust survivors.

The other story concerns Haim Aharon Yosefi, a prominent figure in the haredi community and a member of a baby trafficking network. When young haredi women who are unmarried get involved in romantic alliances, as a result of which they become pregnant, it is apparently known that Yosefi can solve the problem. He takes them to America to give birth. The biological mother receives $50,000, and Yosefi receives $100,000 from the adoptive parents.

Yediot Aharanot’s and Ynet’s investigative team spent months tracking Yosefi, and eventually sent him an undercover reporter who told him that she was pregnant by a married man. Yosefi made the mistake of revealing too much about his modus operandi. According to Yediot and Ynet, he is also involved in other criminal activities. One of the young women who had sought his help said that she had no time to bond with her baby, which was taken away from her immediately after she gave birth, and she was driven away from the hospital by some stranger.

FOR THE first time in its history, Israel will be among the hosts of the European basketball championship. The hoopsters will be playing in Israel in the last week of August and will be staying at the Tel Aviv Hilton. It’s a well-known fact that male basketballers are much taller than men of average height, and in order to make their stay more comfortable, the hotel’s engineering and housekeeping departments took on what for them was a most unusual assignment. They created 80 bed extensions that will add to the length of the standard beds in the rooms and make them each 2.25 meters long. The extensions were stacked at the entrance to the hotel where chief housekeeper Solomon Abraham conducted a final count to ensure that there were indeed 80 extensions – and where Motti Verses, the Hilton head of Public Relations, who happens to be taller than most of the hotel staff, tried them out for comfort.

LAST WEEK, singer and songwriter Arleta, one of the most iconic figures of Greek New Wave music in the 1960s, died at the age of 72, following a long bout of ill health including a stroke and multiple heart attacks. Born in Athens in 1945, her real name was Ariadne Nicoleta Tsapra. Her first album was released in 1960. Early in her career she worked with many well-known Greek composers, such as Giannis Spanos, Manos Hatzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Lakis Papadopoulos. Her sweet voice and clear diction made her an alltime favorite all over Greece.

Israeli fans of Greek music frequently heard or on Fridays on Reshet Bet in the program anchored by Grecophile Yaron Enosh, who makes a point of airing Greek singers on every show, and frequently talks about his adventures in Greece and the interesting people that he meets there. Last Friday, he devoted much of the program to Arleta. He recalled going to one of her concerts in a small out-of-the-way club one winter, when he heard on the car radio that it was snowing heavily and roads would be closed to traffic. So he walked the remaining distance of several kilometers in deep snow. When he reached the club, it was closed. He stood there freezing till eventually someone came and opened the door. By 10:30 p.m., the place was so crowded that there was no room to move. Like Enosh, everyone else had walked in the snow, and Arletta apparently did the same because she came to perform as promised. The warm-up act didn’t make it, so Arletta sang into the wee hours.

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