Grapevine: A Sultan from Egypt

The Arab Spring, particularly in relation to Egypt, propelled retired diplomat and former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel into the media spotlight.

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November 15, 2011 22:07
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The Arab Spring, particularly in relation to Egypt, propelled retired diplomat and former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel into the media spotlight. He was avidly pursued by radio and television stations for comments on what was happening, why it was happening and what could be expected in the future. The print media was equally eager to have him write op-ed pieces and analyses. It's not as though they hadn't done the same during the regime of Hosni Mubarak but, with so many changes taking place, Mazel was in demand with far greater frequency this time. For some reason, it was generally forgotten that he was not the sole former Israel Ambassador to Egypt. Ten Israeli diplomats, including present incumbent Yitzhak Levanon (who is presently not in Egypt due to the unrest and the attack on the Israeli embassy), have served as ambassadors to Egypt. Some are deceased, but several are still living. Mazel may have an advantage over some of his colleagues in that he served in Egypt twice. In 1980, he was a member of the first diplomatic mission, headed by the late Eliyahu Ben-Elissar. He returned as ambassador in 1997 and completed his tour of duty in 2001. Mazel's immediate predecessor, David Sultan, who was born and raised in Egypt, served from 1992-1996 and acceded to a request from Tel Aviv University's S. Daniel Abraham Center for International and Regional Studies, the Institute for Studies in Diplomacy and the Friends of Tel Aviv University to talk about Egypt after Mubarak. He will deliver the lecture this evening, Wednesday, November 16 at 6 p.m. in the Webb Building on the TAU campus. The lecture will be in Hebrew.

■ In years gone by, the Israel Export Institute's Fashion and Textile division used to organize the glamorous Israel Fashion Weeks twice year, with buyers coming from many parts of the world to hotels in Tel Aviv, Eilat and Jerusalem where various Israeli fashion companies turned hotel rooms into showrooms. Gottex used to take the presidential suite, where it not only entertained potential buyers and displayed racks of the latest designs by Hungarian-born Leah Gottlieb, but also hosted small fashion shows in the suite in comparison to the Las Vegas-style stage shows for which Gottex was famous. Fellow Hungarian Leslie Fulop, who created Beged Or, also hosted sophisticated fashion shows, as did his son Guy Fulop after him. There were other good producers of leatherwear, but overseas buyers were more interested in Israeli swimwear, which had a phenomenal reputation abroad. In addition to Gottex, buyers made a beeline for Gideon Oberson and for Rojy Ben-Joseph, who designed under the Rikma label. Wars and economic crises got in the way of these fashion weeks, and they ceased to be held.

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Now, 25 years later, despite the fact that another global economic crisis is upon us, Fashion Week is being revived – albeit not on the same scale as in the past and with a somewhat different format. Tel Aviv Fashion Week opens this coming Monday, November 21, at the Tahana (formerly the Jaffa railway station). For three consecutive days, there will be continuous fashion shows running from 10 a.m. till late at night. Gate-crashing will be well nigh impossible because of the large number of visitors expected from abroad and the fact that entry is by invitation only. It is anticipated that some 600 people will attend each show. One of the highlights will not be a blue-and-white offering, but a guest showing by Italian fashion guru Roberto Cavalli.

Another highlight will be a competition for upcoming designers for the title of Choice Young Designer. Separate from that will be a show by Shenkar students who do not have the same commercial considerations as fashion companies with mass production lines, so they can really let themselves go creatively. Among the participating designers are Yaniv Parsi, Sasson Kedem, Yusef, Dorit Bar-Or, Dorin Frankfurt, Tovele, Galit Levi, Gideon and Karen Oberson, Mira Zwillinger, Natanel Zikri, Ishtar, Alembka and Alon Livni. Some of the veterans among them participated in the gala fashion weeks of yore – but make no mistake, their ideas are not old-fashioned. They're as modern as tomorrow, – though it wouldn't matter if they were, since one of the major fashion trends this season is vintage.

■ It's amazing how many children from all over the world come to Israel with broken hearts and go home with hearts that have been mended, enabling them to live a normal life style. They are Israel's best indirect exports. Some come from countries with which Israel not only does not have diplomatic relations, but which are declared enemies of Israel. But when a child's heart and life are at stake, the barriers of animosity come down – at least on Israel's side of the fence. They will come down even more in the future as a result of the new Legacy Heritage Children’s Home that was launched this month in Holon with the participation of Holon Mayor Motti Sasson and several diplomats including Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulker, Swiss Ambassador Walter Hafner, Ghanan Ambassador Henry Hanson Hall, Angolan Ambassador Jose Joao Manuel, El Salvador Ambassador Suzana Hasenson and Honorary Consul of Tanzania Kasbian Nuriel Chirich. Other diplomats in attendance included Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy Thomas Goldberger and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Canadian Embassy Katherine Verrier Frechette as well as representatives from the embassies of the UK, Holland, Kenya and the Philippines. Sasson was delighted to note the cooperation between Save a Child’s Heart and the city of Holon, and voiced the hope that there would be more collaborative efforts in the future. The new children’s home will provide Save a Child’s Heart with much-needed space for the growing number of children participating in the program and it will be perfectly tailored for the program’s needs. Up to 250 children a year can be accommodated in the new 900 sq.m. facility which will include a playground, a separate indoor playroom for the children and a room for movement and dance therapy. Geographically, its site is situated in reasonably close proximity to the Wolfson Medical Center where broken hearts are mended, ensuring easy transit back and forth from the hospital.

■ They may be passé and no longer as representative of their legacy as they used to be, but the Likud princes, or at least the image they convey, still have a magnetic effect on Likudniks of the old school, who flocked to the Jabotinsky Institute for the launch of Gil Samsonov's book The Likud Princes. Among those present was Likud diehard Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who said that the generation of revolt that brought in two prime ministers, numerous government ministers and people holding important positions had an undoubted impact on the development of the nation. But that generation has faded out, and the generation of the princes of Likud has dispersed. The new Likud is not committed to the ethos of Herut, Jabotinsky and Begin. Also present were Yehiel Kadishai, the longtime confidant and bureau chief of Menachem Begin; Arye Naor, who served as Begin's cabinet secretary; Eitan Haber, who was Yitzhak Rabin's bureau chief and other prominent figures. Samsonov said that there never was and never will be a generation more committed to the Zionist vision than that of the generation of revolt.

■ It's uncertain whether it was art appreciation or patriotism that drew such a large crowd from as far afield as Haifa - or Holland for that matter - to the Israel Museum last Friday for the official opening of Jewish Avant-Garde artists from Romania. In addition to the regular Jerusalemite museum patrons, people of Romanian background – the majority of them senior citizens – flocked from many parts of the country to take pride in the works of Tristan Tzara, Victor Brauner, Maximillian Herman Maxy, Arthur Segal, Jules Perahim, Paul Paun and Marcel Janco.  Not only were all these artists Jewish, but their fearless experimentation in the 1920s and 1930s had taken the art world by storm. Janco later settled in Israel and in 1953 was one of the founders of the Ein Hod Artists’ Colony, which unfortunately suffered severe damage in last year’s Carmel Forest fire. Prior to the opening, Israel Museum director James Snyder told people in his buoyant fashion just how much he loved the exhibition. At the actual opening he spoke of the Dada surrealist heritage and said that the Israel Museum’s holdings in Dada and surrealism are known worldwide, specifically its collection of works by Marce Janco.

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The idea for the exhibition came from the Jewish Historical Museum of Amsterdam, whose director Joel Cahan had been friends with Snyder since long before Snyder’s arrival in Jerusalem. Cahan had approached Snyder for a loan of paintings for the exhibition in Amsterdam, after which Snyder asked Cahan to bring the exhibition to Jerusalem. Cahan admitted that he hadn’t really planned to have the exhibition. A collector that he had approached for some of his works as the Jewish Historical Museum’s “chief schnorrer” actually put the idea in his head. Cahan said that he sometimes feels his museum is a branch of the Israel Museum because it currently has 100 of the Israel Museum’s works on loan. The Jewish Avant-Garde exhibition, he said, will next be shown in the United States. When Snyder took his place in front of the microphone, he said to Cahan: “Joel you'll have to teach me exactly what a schnorrer is.” The crowd chuckled. Someone familiar with Snyder's own admirable talents in this field remarked: “He could teach everyone here a thing or two about schnorring.”

Romanian Ambassador Edward Iosiper, who happens to be Jewish, said that the Israel Museum was a “perfect venue” for such an exhibition, and yet another model of the cultural cooperation between Israel and Romania. Several of the works on display come from Romanian museums and Romanian private collectors. Speaking as a Romanian, Iosiper said “this exhibition shows part of both our culture and our history.’ He noted that it also shows the Jewish Renaissance, particularly in light of the political problems that affected the Jewish community of Romania, such as race legislation followed by the Holocaust. It was important to see that historical dimension in the exhibition, he said. To complement the exhibition, the crowd assembled in one of the museum’s foyers was treated to an unusual phonetic performance by Dada and surrealist vocalist Anat Pick.

■ The annual Shlomo Carlebach memorial concert in Jerusalem brought people from far and wide. Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who at Carlebach's funeral at Har Hamenuchot 17 years ago asked his forgiveness for all the wrongs that had been done to him by people who did not approve of his method of bringing estranged Jews back into the fold, eulogized him yet again on the stage of the Binyanei Ha’uma (the International Convention Center). Addressing Carlebach personally, and calling him Shloimele even though Carlebach was 12 years his senior, Lau said, “Look, Shloimele; Even 17 years after you left us, you can still fill Binyanei Ha’uma.”

Describing Carlebach as the living symbol of love for the Jewish people, Lau spoke of how Carlebach went to the most far-flung reaches of Poland and Russia to sing to Jews who had all but forgotten what it meant to be Jewish. He taught them to sing “Am Israel Hai” (the nation of Israel lives), said Lau, who was unable to stay for the concert because he had to go to his granddaughter's engagement party. Many of Carlebach's followers who now lead observant Jewish lifestyles grew up in homes that were far removed from Jewish tradition. One such person is Chaim Dovid Saracik, the first singer on the program and a leading exponent of Carlebach's compositions. Saracik, who now lives in the Old City of Jerusalem and practices outreach to those Jews who are still finding their way, came from a very assimilated background. While traipsing around the world, he came across a Carlebach concert in Amsterdam and was impressed by Carlebach's one-on-one relationships with people in the crowd and the manner in which he exchanged greetings with them. He bought a Carlebach recording and learned every song without really knowing their meanings. That was the beginning of his journey home to Judaism. Since then, he's a learned a lot and imparted this knowledge to others.

Another popular Carlebach performer, Benzion Solomon, who was among the pioneers of Moshav Me'or Modi'im (often referred to as the Carlebach moshav), frequently performs with his sons, most of whom were dandled on Carlebach's knee when they were babies and who grew up with his music.

Because the anniversary of Carlebach's death almost coincides with that of Rachel the Matriarch, Solomon, whose sons all play musical instruments in addition to their singing, dedicated the Carlebach melody of “V'shavu Banim L’gvulam” (and the sons will return to their borders), which relates to the assurance given by God to Rachel in the book of Jeremiah when she weeps for the suffering and exile of her children and their descendants. The spirited reaction of the audience was indescribable.

■ Virginia's First Lady Maureen McDonnell was in Israel this week to promote tourism and investment in her home state. A successful businesswoman with a long career in marketing nutritional health care and consumer products, McDonnell once had a somewhat more exciting working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then for the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Department of Defense. She launched her small business soon after leaving government service, and despite being the wife of Governor Bob McDonnell and the mother of their five children including a set of twins, she managed to involve herself in numerous community activities and even found time for hobbies such as cultivating grapes for wine. McDonnell hosted a breakfast at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv this week for journalists, businesswomen and people working in or associated with tourism, wine and the cinema. Among the guests were film producer Katriel Shchory who is executive director of the Israel Film Fund, Judy Nitr Mozes Shalom, who, like McDonnell, is not merely a “wife of” but a vibrant and influential personality in her own right, Tammy Mozes, Janice Gillerman, Tzipi Carmon Irena Shalmor, fashion designers Karen Oberson and Mira Zwillinger, Israela Shtir, Sara Alalouf and Zohar Jacobson who is one of the most important agents in Israel's entertainment industry. According to McDonnell, Virginia is for lovers because everyone who goes there finds someone or something to love – especially the breathtaking landscapes.

■ ONLY WEEKS after receiving a lifetime achievement award for journalism from the Bnei Brith World Center, in addition to previous awards from other sources, Holocaust survivor and veteran Yediot Aharonot journalist Noah Klieger will receive yet another lifetime achievement award from the Tel Aviv Journalists’ Association and Ben Gurion University of the Negev at the upcoming annual journalists’ conference in Eilat in early December. Klieger, 85 but still energetic, has spent his whole career creating Holocaust awareness. He is also a sports writer with an international reputation. Carmella Menashe, 62, also received a lifetime achievement award in Eilat. Menashe is Israel Radio's military reporter and unofficial army ombudswoman, who for 23 of her 30 years as a journalist has been reporting on military affairs and has been responsible for exposing many flaws in the way in which individual soldiers have been treated in and by the IDF. Last year she was awarded the prestigious EMET Prize for science, art and culture, and she has previously received the Sokolov Prize, the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Ilan Roe Award, the Ometz Award and an award by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.

■ The many guests who last week flocked to the residence of Cypriot Ambassador Dimitris Hatziargyrou to join him in celebrating the 51st anniversary of his country's independence, congratulated him not only on the occasion but on his beautiful, new home. Hatziargyrou said that he had chosen it because it was perfectly designed for entertaining. He described Cyprus as “a young country with an old and long history that spans close to 12,000 years of continuous civilization on the island.” After a long, turbulent history and a four-year national liberation struggle, Cyprus finally gained independence in 1960. Although the young republic had a problematic constitution, he said that it nonetheless developed rapidly until political events led to the 1974 invasion by Turkey. Then in recent years, against all odds, Cyprus acceded to the European Union and in July 2012 will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Of course, it would be impossible for any ambassador of Cyprus to celebrate his country's independence day in Israel without mention of the fact that 39 boatloads of Holocaust survivors coming from Europe to what was then British Mandate Palestine ended up in internment camps on the island. The Cypriots did their best to assist these people, said Hatziargyrou: “It was one of the defining moments in relatively recent relations between Cyprus and Israel.” Although there was a period in which the relationship had experienced a downturn, there has been “fantastic development” in recent, years he said, “and we are doing our best to elevate this relationship to a higher plane.”

Representing the Israeli government, Minister Yossi Peled had trouble with the microphone and in response to complaints that he could not be heard, said: “I know that there are many people in Israel who dream of not having to hear me.” Peled said that upon entering the reception, he had met a woman from Cyprus whose father had helped hundreds of Jewish refugees. Peled, who was a child Holocaust survivor, expressed appreciation to the people of Cyprus for all they had done for the survivors. He also noted that when the forests of Mount Carmel were struck by fire last year, Cyprus was the first country to come to Israel's assistance to help put out the blaze. The speeches at Independence Day receptions are always the most formal and ceremonial part of the event, but the Cypriots dispensed with ceremony and neither introduced Peled nor produced a tray with wine glasses from which to make the toasts. Peled, who is no stranger to such events, proposed the toast before realizing that there was no wine. “Where's the wine? Who's responsible for the wine?” he asked. When no-one came forward, he descended from the podium and went to look for it himself.

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