As part of the Battle of Beersheba centenary celebrations at the end of October, Danny Hakim, the founder of Budo for Peace and chairman of Kids Kicking Cancer, Israel – both of which are based on skills in the martial arts – has organized an Anzac Trail bike ride, with proceeds going to Kids Kicking Cancer.
So far, more than 120 bike enthusiasts have signed up, and former Australian ambassador to Israel James Larsen has indicated that he plans to participate. Dave Sharma, the immediate past ambassador, who will also be coming to the centenary celebration, is likewise a keen bike rider, but has not yet said whether he will be riding. Present Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan wouldn’t mind joining the bikies, but he will be too busy taking care of the large contingent of Australian political and business dignitaries. It is not yet known whether former Australian ambassador Andrea Faulkner will be attending.
Cannan is hoping that she will, because all four had their first ambassadorial postings in Israel. As far as Faulkner is concerned, she, like Cannan, was born in South Australia, which is another reason for him wanting her to be here.
Hakim is appalled that so little is known in Israel about the Anzacs, considering that Australia has such a long, ongoing history with this country – more so than most of the other countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Cannan says that current relations are at the best ever.
■ LOVERS OF cantorial music had a special treat at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue this past Sabbath when the congregation’s regular cantor, Chaim Adler
, who enjoys international fame, was joined by Cantor Zvi Weiss
and the 70-member cantorial Kolot Israel choir conducted by Yankele Rotter
. Although other synagogues in the capital have admirable choral events on Sabbath and religious Jewish festivals, none can beat the Great Synagogue in scope and variety.
■ AMERICAN PEACE envoy Jason Greenblatt
, during his recent visit to Israel, took the opportunity to see the work being done with Syrian patients at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. He and his entourage were hosted and briefed by Ziv director-general Dr. Salman Zarka
. This was the second visit within the space of a month by representatives of the US administration.
Zarka said that it was very important that the Americans, who are trying to revive the peace process, should be aware and see for themselves the humanitarian care that is being given to Syrians from both sides who have been wounded in the Syrian civil war. Zarka emphasized that the Syrians are being treated in accordance with the highest Israeli standards.
Greenblatt is no stranger to high medical standards. His wife is a physician, and their home conforms to the highest medical standards, he said.
Zarka presented Greenblatt with the English edition of Prof. Alexander Lerner’s new book on the complex treatment of patients wounded in war.
■ ALTHOUGH IT is well known that Druse soldiers of Israeli nationality have distinguished themselves on the battlefield and too often have paid the supreme sacrifice, there hadn’t seemed to be any specific Druse-consciousness on the part of the general public, until the mid-July terrorist attack at the Lions’ Gate, perpetrated with weapons that had been smuggled onto the Temple Mount, which claimed the lives of two Druse border policemen Haiel Stawi and Kamil Shnaan. That Ayoub Kara
, a prominent member of Israel’s Druse community, is now communications minister may also have contributed to a greater awareness of the Druse sector of the population.
Such awareness is not in Israel alone. American-based Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is sponsoring a portion of the cost for IDF soldiers to run a race this month in memory of the IDF’s fallen Druse soldiers.
Thousands of runners and cyclists, families of fallen heroes, and active-duty IDF soldiers will participate in the September 15 race, hosted by Bishvil Habanim HaDrusim, which will be opened by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
The route in the Lower Galilee will include running, walking and cycling. The race’s closing ceremony will be held at the most sacred Druse site, the tomb of Nabi Shu’ayb, near Kfar Zeitim.
The race is dedicated to the memories of Stawi and Shnaan as well as to other fallen Druse members of Israel’s military and security forces. Distinguished guests at the closing event will include Eisenkot; Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif,
the spiritual leader of the Druse community in Israel; Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked
; Kara; Border Police commander Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Shabtai;
and other members of Knesset and community leaders.
The Druse population is somewhere in the range of 130,000, with a high ratio of IDF casualties.
■ URBAN RENEWAL is the name of the game in cities and towns across Israel as well as in countries around the world, several of which are this year and next hosting international urban renewal conferences.
The world as we know it is being transformed before our very eyes. Familiar landmarks are disappearing and giving way to new streets or parks. Three- and four-story buildings are either having additional floors built on top or are being torn down so that developers can put up 50-story and even higher structures in their stead.
This is also affecting Jerusalem.
The capital is rapidly becoming unrecognizable. This week Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau
, in the presence of many notables from within and beyond Jerusalem, affixed the mezuza to the building of the Company for the Renewal of Jerusalem, a private enterprise owned by Levi Kushnir, Akiva Zurabin, Shalom Griba, Danny Shapira, Tal Goldstein and Ami Kahlon.
Lau said that he usually refrains from attending events of this kind, but in view of the fact that the company is dedicated to building up Jerusalem, he accepted the invitation.
■ FASHION, BEAUTY, cosmetics and culinary art fused to create a memorable Israel launch of Yves Rocher Eco Gel – a botanic liquid soap in a surprisingly economical concentrated formula.
The launch was a combined effort by Ron Rotter, Deputy CFO of Castro and the Yves Rocher representative in Israel, Orit Malovenzik, manager of Yves Rocher Israel, Galia Toren Hen, the senior beauty consultant at Yves Rocher, as well as chef Yaron Shalev, who oversees the culinary quality of the Toto Restaurant in Tel Aviv.
The decor of the restaurant was in the brand’s botanic spirit, with the addition of plants and flowers inspired by the new product.
■ IT WAS previously mentioned in this column that, in view of the fact that Israel will for the first time be among the hosts of the European Basketball Championship – FIBA EuroBasket 2017, the Hilton Tel Aviv, which was nominated to host all teams, players and delegations, had extended 80 beds to ensure that the hoopsters, who are generally taller than average, would be comfortable.
A special sunset reception and a toast of good luck to the Israeli national team was held on the hotel’s Mediterranean terrace. Israel’s team captain Omri Casspi
, who also plays for the NBA Golden State Warriors, thanked general manager Ronnie Fortis for the great hospitality and led the team in signing one of the 80 oversized bedsheets that will be given to charity in the near future to raise money for a worthy cause.
■ A NEW immigrant to Israel who plans to set up a branch of her international organization Meeting of the Minds, Maria Halphen, originally from Sweden and an international collaborator on stigma research, wants to change biased perceptions of people with mental illness.
While living in Australia, she was inspired by the harrowing experiences of her friend Susie Hincks, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
What Hincks had to endure prompted Halphen to discuss mental illness in general with the wider mental health community, which enabled her to gain valuable insights into issues confronting individuals living with mental illness. Hoping to help them, Halphen devoted much time and energy to the creation of a foundation for encouraging and coordinating research at an international level, with the aim of reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness through communication and education.
She is also the President of the Philippe and Maria Halphen Foundation, which since 2010 has been under the auspices of the French Academy of Science in Paris. The purpose of Meeting of the Minds is to have mentally ill people speak to scientists who are engaged in brain research and, through these conversations, to foster an innovative approach to diagnosing and treating mental illness.
Halphen hopes that her foundation, which is also named in memory of her late husband, will be able to persuade scientists to form an international consortium of research partners to implement a multidisciplinary research strategy, ranging from molecular genetics to behavior, through the exploration of cellular development and organization.[email protected]