THE ANNUAL Partners for Democracy Award dinner hosted last week in New York by the America-Israel Friendship League honored two of Israel's leading businessmen, Yitzhak Tshuva, the president of the El Ad Group, and Itzhak Forer, chairman of Ernst & Young Israel. Both men flew from Israel to the Big Apple to receive their awards at the glittering event held at the luxurious Pierre Hotel overlooking Central Park and across the street from the historic landmark Plaza Hotel, which was purchased amid great controversy by Tshuva who is refurbishing it and turning it into condominiums.
The gala affair was graced by diplomats, politicians, business leaders and well known fashion models.
The AIFL is a non-sectarian organization that brings together people of all faiths in the US and Israel to strengthen the ties between the two countries and support democratic values. It is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the US and sponsors a wide variety of programs to achieve its goals. Its activities include US and Israeli student exchanges and youth leadership development, sports programs, an Israeli film festival in the US and its highly successful mission program, which brings diverse groups of Americans - jurists, politicians, journalists, Christian religious leaders and businessmen - to experience Israel first hand. The AIFL was also actively involved in bringing the attention of Americans at large to the plight of Israelis in the North of the country during the recent conflict with Hizbullah.
Joining the two Israeli honorees were two Americans, each with close connections to Israel. Jack Kemp, a long time supporter of Israel when he served as a Congressman in the 1970s and then as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was most recently in Israel last February leading an AIFL-sponsored mission of Wall Street financial executives to explore investment opportunities. Also honored was Elliot Broidy, the chairman of Markstone Capital, an $800 million private equity fund dedicated to investing in Israeli companies.
Broidy who was in Israel a week earlier to receive a prize from the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, said at the AIFL dinner: "The ongoing development of strong and substantive ties between the United States and Israel is a cause I hold very dear. Though I was born after the Second World War and after the establishment of the State of Israel, my proud American-born parents led me to understand that a strong, vibrant and secure Israel was and is a necessity for all Jewish people. It is a source of great pride for me that supporting this goal of a strong thriving Israel has been an integral part of American foreign policy since Israel's inception in 1948. My political and investment activities in Israel are an outgrowth of my own country's long standing and well-documented pro-Israel stance and also of my own personal conviction that economic development and stability leads to physical security. I believe that a strong and secure Israel is necessary to ensure that our children will be free to grow, develop and prosper in a peaceful world.
"I have been deeply awed by the heroism and resilience of the Israeli people, the Israeli Defense Forces and security teams. However, I am truly amazed at the incredible achievements of the Israeli business sector and industry during 58 years of fighting and defending the country against the worst possible odds.
"Their ability to build an economic and industrial infrastructure on a par with the best in the world is a remarkable achievement. I believe I can safely say that I speak for the entire American Jewish Community when I say how very proud we are of what the Israeli people and the Israeli business community have accomplished. The economy has bounced back to remarkable levels of growth, the shekel remained strong and stable throughout the hostilities and the stock market is as robust as ever before. Exports are growing and have reached 40% of GDP and your balance of payments and current and capital accounts are in excellent shape."
AIFL recognizes the professional and personal contributions made by the honorees to advance and strengthen US- Israel relations, said Ruby Shamir, executive director of the AIFL's Israel branch. "We also celebrate accomplishments that create successful economic ties between the two countries, including investments by Israeli and American businesses that grow each other's economies." The AIFL also acknowledges contributions that promote the cause of peace, and the support of democratic values, in the Middle East."
Past AIFL honorees include, Eli Hurvitz, chairman of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., George P. Shultz, former US Secretary of State, and Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of Boston Properties, and editor and publisher of "US News and World Report."
MOST OF the heavyweights in Israel's health and beauty products and the cosmetics industry got together recently for the annual SuperPharm purchasing fair at which they displayed the latest range of locally produced and imported products to buyers representing all SuperPharm branches throughout the country. Murray Koffler, the Canadian founder of the chain and his wife Marvelle, specially came to Israel for the occasion and were the guests of honor of the fair during which Koffler handed out citations to some 20 veteran SuperPharm employees. Heads or top level representatives of supply companies attending the event included Yoni Schestowitz, Noam Waiman, Herbert Gernirer, Bruno Landsberg, the founder of Sano, Nitza Bilet, Sofi Blum, Pnina Rosenblum and a host of others representing 80 companies in all.
At the Biotherm booth, buyers got a chance not only to see and learn about new products but also got a free facial if they so desired. Towards the end of the event SuperPharm CEO Lior Reitblatt and head of marketing Yair Assael did the rounds of all the booths dispensing ice creams and soft drinks to workers and guests.
ISRAEL AND Jordan have undertaken to cooperate on water issues. A memorandum of understanding to cooperate on shared water issues was signed recently in Jordan by the Jordanian Governor of North Shuna, Isam Shar'a, the Mayor of Pella in Jordan Mahmud Allownah and the Mayors of Beit She'an Jacky Levy and Beit She'an Valley Regional Council Dani Tamari. The signing ceremony took place alongside the ruins of the magnificent Roman city of Pella near the banks of the Jordan River. Streams that once flowed through these communities on both sides of the Jordan are now either dry or polluted due to short-sighted development plans. Sewage and litter have overtaken the area from where fresh water once flowed to replenish the Jordan River. "The Mayors are committed to the rehabilitation of their streams and the River Jordan understanding that the cultural landscape of the Jordan Valley is an untapped treasure that could attract tens of thousands of tourists," said Munqeth Mehyar Jordanian chair of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), a cross border NGO that organized the meeting. "FoEME has been campaigning for over two years, with the support of the EU Partnership for Peace program, on the need to rehabilitate the Jordan River," said Gidon Bromberg Israeli director of FoEME. "The meeting between representatives of both sides is the product of community support and understanding by municipal leaders that their residents can not wait for central government and an end of conflict in the region. A master plan will now be developed for the side streams of the River Jordan Wadi Ziglab in Jordan and Harod Stream in Israel based on the tourism potential of this historic area.