He’s not cutting it quite as fine as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who left for Davos on Tuesday close to the time that US Vice President Mike Pence left Israel to return home, but President Reuven Rivlin will leave Israel Sunday to pay a state visit to Greece, which will continue till January 31. He will be in Greece at the invitation of Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
While in Greece, Rivlin will participate in a Holocaust remembrance event, and is also expected in the course of his visit to raise Israeli concerns about ultrarightwing parties that are gaining momentum in Europe.
■ COMING FROM a family that believes in and practices social justice, it is not at all surprising that Michalya Schonwald Moss has joined scores of other Israeli humanitarian aid volunteers who are working with victims of natural disasters, in refugee camps, and in destitute areas where there is no water, no electricity and no vegetation.
Writing from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya this week, Schonwald Moss, in referring to the refugees encamped in Kakuma wrote: “If they are lucky, the 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers Israel is threatening to send back to Africa will end up at a camp like Kakuma, which means ‘nowhere’ in Swahili. Nowhere as in: nowhere to go, no work to do, no future different than being wholly dependent on under-resourced, cash-strapped NGOs.
“It’s about 37 degrees Celsius here every day of the year. The sun is hot; and without the wind, it is unbearable. Houses are made of mud dug deep into the ground to keep cool. Here, almost 185,000 souls live with a makeup of 21 different nationalities.
“Today I met a Sudanese child wearing a washed-out, faded and ripped adult-size T-shirt with ‘Louis Vitton’ printed across the chest. A young Congolese mother bursting into tears at the clinic, shoving her baby into my arms and begging for help; his intestines were coming out of his tummy. Doctors sharing with us that before they received the medical donation of oxygen concentrators that we brought, they used to have to choose whose life was more important to save in the pediatric ward.
“At the Sudanese border, refugees are never turned away – over 300 a day. Humanitarian workers of all nationalities, working together around the clock, making sure refugees have their basic needs met. Yes – this place is a total s*******.
“But there are diamonds here. I am humbled to my core, broken open, and beyond emotionally stretched by the privilege of visiting this place. Israel, I want you to know that your refugees are your diamonds, that you would be making a huge mistake with even more devastating ramifications deporting them. Don’t send them back to nowhere. They are already home! They are a gift and not a curse, if you could just shift your perspective.”
Her message comes at a time when Holocaust survivors who know what it means to be a persecuted refugee are offering to hide African refugees in their homes; rabbis, physicians and academics are signing open letters protesting the forced African refugee exodus from Israel, and El Al pilots who have seen the ravages of war, when serving in the Israel Air Force, refuse to fly refugees out of the country and have asked colleagues from other countries and other airlines to join them in this refusal.
If the government had distributed the refugees in different parts of the country where they could have been employed in professions that Israelis are reluctant to take on, it could have been a win-win situation, without all the strife, heartache and fear that has been caused by the misguided thinking of the government.
While there is no reason to doubt the stories of veteran residents of south Tel Aviv who have had unpleasant and even frightening experiences at the hands of some of the African asylum-seekers, the writer of this column, who is frequently in south Tel Aviv at night, and has walked through the park close to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, where many of the Africans socialize and where those who are homeless sleep, has never been attacked or accosted.
By the way, some of these refugees are well educated and could have made valuable contributions to Israel’s economy, had they been given the chance.
Jews of all people should be wary of expelling people. Look at what happened historically after Sarah forced Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael.
■ On February 5, 6, 7 and 8, French Food Week, which has become an annual tradition, will be held in 13 Israeli restaurants and pastry shops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberias, Beersheba, Zichron Ya’acov and Nazareth, where 18 French chefs will be working together with their Israeli colleagues to produce culinary delights. As always, French Food Week will operate under the title of “So French So Food.” Heading the delegation of chefs coming to Israel is Guillame Gomez, the executive chef at the Élysée Palace, which since 1848 has been the official residence of the presidents of France.
The group includes Flora Mikula, who is widely regarded as one of the most talented female chefs in France, and Rougui Dia, whose background is from Senegal, although she was raised in France. Her mother taught her the traditional recipes from the old country, which she has reworked into French cuisine. Her culinary talents are considered to be one of the sensations of the French kitchen. She has also won Michelin stars. She’s not the only one in the group to be awarded the prestigious Michelin stars.
Judging by their names, several of the chefs have culinary traditions from other countries, but one who has received very favorable reviews from foreign as well as French food connoisseurs is a member of the tribe. His name is Simon Horwitz.
Full details of French Food Week are available on the website of the French Institute.
■ THE ERETZ Israel Museum in Tel Aviv has a new director-general in the person of Ami Katz, who is succeeding Ilan Cohen. A search committee headed by Zvi Hauser selected Katz from among 107 applicants, who were interviewed over the course of six months.
Katz previously worked for seven years with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Economic Development Authority, during which he initiated a number of successful cultural and educational projects in the fields of dance, theater and music, after having previously held managerial positions in all of these spheres. This made him an ideal candidate for running a museum with diverse activities.
■ MORE THAN 500 people gathered at the Tefen Industrial Park and Museum for the opening of a retrospective exhibition by Dina Recanati that was curated by Ruthie Ofek. The occasion was also used to celebrate the 90th birthday of the artist. The Recanati family, one of the veteran families of Israel, showed up in force, with four generations coming from all over the country as well as from overseas.
Master of ceremonies for the festivities was the artist’s son Udi Recanati, who is a well-known banker and one of the owners of Maccabi Tel Aviv. There was also a concert performed by Chen Zymbalista and musicians from the Upper Galilee conservatorium, at which the moderator was television personality Oded Ben-Ami. Credit for the elegant catering goes to Doron Bar On from Moshav Hayogev.
Seen among the guests, in addition to the large Recanati representation, were former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his wife, Aliza, who is also an artist; Prof. Uriel Reichman, founder and president of Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya; sculptor Dani Karavan; actor Chaim Topol and his wife, Galia; Carmela Rubin, who heads the museum dedicated to her late father, renowned artist Reuven Rubin; and former Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Aulcie Perry.
The exhibition will remain on view for six months. Dina Recanati, like many people her age, represents the walking history of the modern State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people from exile. She did not have so far to go, having been born and raised in Cairo before she came to Jerusalem. The impressive catalogue reflects 70 years of her works as a multidisciplinary artist and also contains the story of her life.
The prominence of the Recanati family can be traced back to Saloniki in Greece, where its members were among the leaders of the Jewish community. With the rise of Nazism in Europe, a large branch of the banking family came to Palestine. Dina Recanati knew all the who’s who in society and in the politics of the Yishuv, and got to know even more such people as the population rapidly increased after the Declaration of Independence. Recanati family members are among Israel’s leading philanthropists and give to many and varied causes.