While preparations are under way in Israel to receive the la rgest-ever influx of Australian visitors, Israelis are traveling in the opposite direction, among them Prof. Dina Porat, the chief historian at Yad Vashem and professor in the department of history at Tel Aviv University, who took the long flight down under as the guest of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, the Friends of Tel Aviv University and Gandel Philanthropy. The latter is among the leading Australian Jewish supporters of higher education in Israel.
Porat, whose lecture was titled “Fighting Antisemitism – A Call to Action” attracted a very large audience to the Caulfield Town Hall, which is located in one of the major Jewish neighborhoods of Melbourne. While many Jews in Israel and the Diaspora see rising antisemitism in Europe as a reflection of the situation of the 1930s, Porat rejected this, saying that there is no state-sponsored antisemitism today. Many European leaders speak about tolerance for the other, she said, citing as examples France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Theresa May and Germany’s Angela Merkel.
■ ISRAELIS WHO are on guest lists on the diplomatic circuit will once again have to get used to new faces. President Reuven Rivlin will on Monday receive the credentials of four new ambassadors from Italy, Denmark, the European Union and Nigeria.
■ SOME DIPLOMATIC receptions are just mingling without speeches. Others have mingling plus speeches, and others also include entertainment. Generally speaking, the entertainment relates to the folklore in song and dance of the host’s country, but when the host is the outgoing director-general in Israel of the Multinational Force and Observers, it’s a really tough choice.
The host in question last week was ambassador Gene Cretz, who is a retired American diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to Ghana and Libya. This is his third stint in Israel. He was previously here as deputy chief of mission from 2004 to 2007 and political officer at the US Embassy from 1991 to 1994. He has also served as chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Damascus, and minister- counselor for economic and political affairs at the US Embassy in Cairo. Other cities in which he has been stationed in various diplomatic positions are Beijing, New Delhi and Islamabad as well as several stints in Washington.
After welcoming his successor, Robert Beecroft, who has just concluded his term of duty as US ambassador to Egypt, Cretz said that instead of speeches, soldiers from the MFO’s New Zealand contingent would perform some of their country’s songs and dances. Anyone who expected to see them in uniform was delightfully surprised when they emerged in grass skirts to honor New Zealand’s first nation – the Maoris. Actually, it was time for New Zealand to get a little exposure in advance of the centenary celebrations next week of the Battle of Beersheba. So far, Australia has received most of the publicity.
■ IN THIS context Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan has been rushing backward and forward between his office in Tel Aviv, his residence in Herzliya Pituah, Beersheba, Jerusalem, where Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be staying, and Tzemah in the Galilee, where the Anzac events will kick off on Monday with a memorial ceremony, with the participation of Cannan and the Australian Light Horse Association. More than 600 people are expected to participate in the event, including students and faculty from adjacent Kinneret College, soldiers, members of the regional council, representatives of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, which has been heavily involved in Anzac memorial projects, as well as local residents.
The ceremony, in addition to honoring soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice and died in battle, will also include tree planting and a charge on horseback by association members. Whereas the original Anzacs who fought here in 1917 brought their horses from Australia, the horses being used on this occasion are from Israeli ranches.
■ OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE can live with the slogan “The more there is of me, the more there is to love,” but some overweight individuals don’t love themselves when they look in the mirror. One was actor Dvir Benedek, who used to weigh 145 kilos, and was familiar to audiences through the movie A Matter of Size, in which he is worried about losing his thin wife. It took him more than a year to get down to his present svelte frame, and he looks great.
Television host Rafi Ginat, who has been on numerous diets over the years, found one that really works, and in just over a year, following the guidelines of his nutritionist, shed 32 kilos. But it doesn’t really suit him. His figure looks fine, but his face is gaunt. His former look was part of his authoritative personality, but the new, slim-featured Ginat may not come across in the same way.
■ BASED ON the invitations he receives, it’s fairly easy to guess who the supporters are of former minister Gideon Sa’ar, who is planning to return to politics in the next Knesset election. Sa’ar was the guest of Gideon Hamburger, president of the Israel-Switzerland & Liechtenstein Chamber of Commerce, at an afternoon gathering at the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv, that included Swiss Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch, attorneys Alon Kaplan, Natalie Mishan-Zakai and Tzvi Jakubowitz, businessman and honorary consul of New Zealand Gad Propper, accountant Yitzhak Ravid, senior representatives of Harel Insurance, which is headed by Hamburger, Raymond Sauter of the Zurich Insurance Company, along with several other lawyers, heads of insurance companies and leaders of Israel’s business community. Sa’ar was not only the guest but also the guest speaker, a factor that may presumably add to his following when he throws his cap back into the Knesset ring.
The big question, presuming that Communications Minister Ayoub Kara will not succeed in taking Kan 11 television off the air, is what will be the future of broadcaster Geula Even-Sa’ar in the event that Sa’ar is elected and given a ministerial portfolio? Her presence on screen has already generated considerable controversy, but will she be forced to step down if her husband becomes a minister in the next government? The story in itself would make a great television series.
■ AS ANNIVERSARIES go, 137 is hardly a milestone, except for people who are great admirers of an individual whose birthday is being remembered. Thus, representatives of the Jabotinsky Institute and the Begin Heritage Center called on Rivlin on October 18 to celebrate the 137th anniversary of the birth of the Revisionist leader and to present Rivlin with a new volume of Jabotinsky’s writings.
Jabotinsky Institute chairman Yossi Ahimeir reminded Rivlin that the first president to initiate an event in memory of Jabotinsky was Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who did so in the “hut” that was the President’s Residence prior to the current premises, which were first occupied by president Zalman Shazar. Rivlin, for his part, said that in 1957 his father, Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin, was a candidate for president, but prior to the election he dropped out in favor of Ben-Zvi.
Ahimeir will be presiding at the Jabotinsky Institute at an event on November 2, at what for him may be a more important milestone anniversary, when he honors his late father, noted journalist and ideologist Abba Ahimeir, who was born 120 years ago. In various phases of his career, Yossi Ahimeir was also a journalist. His older brother is well-known broadcasting and print media journalist Yaakov Ahimeir. He (Yossi) mentioned this to Rivlin, who responded by saying that his own father and Ahimeir’s father had been great friends.
■ NONE OF us can bear responsibility for the sins or the suffering of our parents and grandparents – but it’s still fairly unusual for the sons of a Nazi and a Holocaust survivor to be working together on the same project. Unless logic absolutely prevails, there are always undercurrents of resentment, hatred, vengeance and guilt. It would seem that logic has the upper hand in the relationship between Arno Gerlach, the son of a man who drove trains transporting Jews to concentration camps, and Tamir Ginz, the son of a Holocaust survivor. But logic is not the only reason.
Fear sometimes get the better of people with conscience, and although Gerlach’s father was not a Nazi in the full sense, he was a Third Reich driver who transported Jews to concentration camps. He did not do this willingly, and at the end of the war swore his son to devote his life to building a connection between Germans and Jews and atoning for the horrors of the Holocaust. Choreographer Ginz is the son of Holocaust survivors, and has joined forces with Gerlach for the Israeli premier of Matthäus-Passion-2727, inspired by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The production includes more than 100 musicians, dancers, opera singers and choir members on one stage.
The Kamea Dance Company together with Kantorei’s Barmen-Gemark choir and the home band L’arte del Mondo of pharmaceutical giant Bayer will perform on stage, in Beersheba on October 23, and in the Jerusalem Theater on October 24, under the baton of Werner Ehrhardt. Gerlach heads the choir.
The story line for the production deals with the crucifixion of Jesus which generated so much antisemitism throughout the world. For this reason, it was much more difficult to the extent of being painful for Ginz to do the choreography. Gerlach, who happens to be the chairman of the Beersheba-Wafertel Friends Association and chairman of the choir management, with the acquiescence of the directors of the German choir and orchestra, decided to create a bridge of peace between Christians and Jews, working together on a cultural project. The idea of the German partners was to intensify the messages of love and forgiveness in Christianity and to eradicate the hatred that the mythological story had directed against the Jews. This prompted the choice of Bach’s work, the “St Matthew Passion.”[email protected]