"THERE'S NO coordination," complained Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eihenbaums, one of the early arrivals at the Nigerian Independence Day celebrations in Tel Aviv. Unfortunately for the Nigerians, the date on which they chose to have their celebrations was October 4, the same date selected by the Germans to hold their Unity Day festivities at the residence of German Ambassador Dr. Harald Kindermann and his wife Ingrid in Herzliya Pituah.
Moreover, both receptions were at exactly the same time. Eihenbaums was one of the few European diplomats who went to both events. The lack of coordination between ambassadors from different continents was bad enough, said Eihenbaums, but inexcusable when it came to member countries of the European Union whose representatives meet at least twice a week, beyond any mutual social engagements.
ONE OF the features of Nigerian Independence Day receptions is that many of the guests from Nigeria and other African countries come in their colorful traditional costumes, replete with striking headgear. Many of the fabrics are simply breathtaking and the display of national pride in an era that is characterized by globalization is more than heartwarming. Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, who represented the government, was thrilled during the playing of the national anthems to hear a recording of Barbra Streisand singing "Hatikva." "I've never heard this version of 'Hatikva.' It's awesome - great," Herzog enthused.
Israel owes much gratitude to Nigeria, he said, because it is one of the few countries actively supporting pilgrimage to Israel. Friendship between the two countries goes back a long way, he said, "because we are from the same generation of nations that became states."
He was proud of the fact that more than 50 Israeli companies have invested in Nigeria, and noted that Israel was looking forward to the official visit of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Nigerian Ambassador Manzo George Anthony, wearing the traditional agbada, which could best be compared to an oversized caftan, said that he feels among friends and brothers.
Describing Nigeria as a peaceful country with a strong desire to see peace in Israel, Anthony said: "We believe that a peaceful Israel would benefit the African economy."
Some time after the conclusion of the official proceedings, some of the women present began to demonstrate their native African dance prowess. They were joined by the ambassador who danced in the center of a small circle, while the women danced around him with a natural expression of joy.
OVER IN Herzliya Pituah, hundreds of people mingled in the back garden of the German residence. This was the first time that Ambassador Kindermann, who arrived only a few months ago, had hosted a German Unity Day celebration in Israel, and he made a point of saying how happy he was to be here.
In the past, such festivities have been heavily patronized by major German companies. This year Kindermann asked them to redirect their funding to support community rehabilitation projects in the north of Israel. He also mentioned that if any of his guests wanted to support northern renewal, there was a box at the exit where they could leave donations.
"What can I say after such a gesture?" asked Culture, Science and Sport Minister Ophir Pines-Paz. With regard to the special relationship between Germany and Israel, he noted that Germany is Israel's number-one trading partner in Europe. He was also appreciative of the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel chose Israel as the destination for her first post-election visit outside Europe. Merkel visited Israel in January of this year.
US AMBASSADOR Richard Jones did not attend either the German or the Nigerian festivities. He was in Jerusalem dining with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Others present at the dinner included Olmert's Chief-of-Staff Yoram Turbovitz, outgoing Israel Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon, the PM's diplomatic adviser Shalom Turgeman, military ADC Maj-Gen Gadi Shamni and media adviser Asaf Shariv. In addition to Jones, the Americans present included US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, US State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow, and US National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs Michael Doran.
SOME OF the guests who popped in briefly to the very crowded German National Day reception, did so en route to the wedding of international business magnate and majority shareholder in Channel 10 Yossi Maiman, 60, to his long-time companion, lawyer Halit Ben-Israel, 36, an attorney in the office of Avi Pelosoff, the former husband of Dalia Rabin. Maiman, in addition to his manifold business interests, also has a firm footing in the diplomatic community through his service as Honorary Consul of Peru and Consul of Turkmenistan in Israel.
ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR designate to the United States, Sallai Meridor, is not the first person whose curriculum vitae mentions this position as well as that of chairman of the Jewish Agency. The late Simcha Dinitz, a long-time career diplomat, did it the other way around. Dinitz, a close confidant of Golda Meir, was ambassador to the US from 1973 to 1978, and after a five-year stint as vice president of the Hebrew University, and an uncompleted term in the Knesset, he was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive in 1987. Dinitz held the post until 1994, when he stepped down in response to the scandal over his alleged misuse of a Jewish Agency credit card. One of the people who came to his defense was then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin