The annual gala of the Israel Friends of Beit Hatfutsot is always cause for
celebration, and this year’s celebration of the tastes and tunes of Jews in the
lands of their dispersion certainly was a feast for both the palate and
But for Irina Nevzlin Kogan, chairwoman of the Beit Hatfutsot board
of directors, and her father Leonid Nevzlin, who chairs Beit Hatfutsot’s
international board of governors, it was a double celebration – in that a long
struggle had come to an end.
Leonid Nevzlin is the close friend and
partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who a decade ago was the wealthiest man in
Russia, and a staunch opponent of President Vladimir Putin. Khodorkovsky was
released from prison on Friday after 10 years behind bars for tax evasion and
other fiscal violations – offenses to which he never admitted. Had Nevzlin
remained in Russia, he would have also been imprisoned at Putin’s
In fact, according to The Moscow Times, this past June he was
sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.
Fortunately for him and for
Beit Hatfutsot, he had come to Israel, and when it looked as if Beit Hatfutsot
might have to close for lack of funds, Nevzlin came to the rescue at the request
of thenprime minister Ariel Sharon. In the interim, Nevzlin has introduced many
initiatives to Beit Hatfutsot, including the construction of the Museum of the
Jewish People, which his daughter said would get underway in some 18 months’
time. She announced a $5 million contribution to the construction costs, pledged
by American donors during the past month.
Although her father had put on
a happy face for the public, Nevzlin Kogan said, inside he was very sad during
the decade of Khodorkovsky’s incarceration, and had worked tirelessly to try to
secure his freedom. Leonid Nevzlin told the writer of this column that he was
now “very happy,” and yes, had spoken to Khodorkovsky since the latter’s arrival
in Berlin but could not say more, because he had promised Khodorkovsky he would
not say anything about him until given permission.
The gala was largely
organized by Irit Admoni Perlman, executive director of the Friends, with a lot
of help from many sources, which she happily acknowledged. Friends chairman
Gideon Hamburger also thanked a number of people, including his wife Hani, along
with sponsors Lizika and Amy Sagy of the Sagy Group; the Nadav Foundation, which
is headed by Leonid Nevzlin; and Harel Insurance Investments and Financial
Services, of which Hamburger himself happens to be the chairman.
the 300 guests who crowded into the Hilton Ballroom were Science, Technology and
Space Minister Yaakov Perry and his wife, Osnat; Gad and Etti Proper; Jenny and
Hananya Brandeis; Eitan Ben-Eliyahu; Batsheva and Moshe Bublil; Gad Zeevi; Yael
and Rami Ungar; Hedva and Gil Sharon; Shosh and Amos Hadar; Sallai Meridor; Avi
and Marti Pazner; Yehuda Raveh; Tammy and Ori Slonim; Benny Don-Yihye; Ran
Rahav; Dan Tadmor; Nurit Jaglom; Tova and Sami Sagol; Ronit and Dan Lahat;
Shalom and Ziva Zeidler; and Janna Gur, co-editor of gourmet food magazine Al
Hashulchan, who talked about food nostalgia and voiced her yearning to eat the
traditional foods prepared by her grandmothers when she was a child in
Traditional recipes are disappearing, Gur warned, and anyone who
has a grandmother should pry all traditional recipes out of her and write them
down for posterity. Guests were given a souvenir of The Treasure of Jewish
Cooking, a hefty multi-ethnic cookbook that was co-compiled and co-edited by
The old adage that the way to a person’s heart is through their
stomach proved to be true, as guests crowded the buffets of delicacies from
Eastern Europe, Iraq, Morocco, Bukhara, Persia and Turkey. As they moved from
one buffet to the other, guests began to sample what they already had on their
plates. The sighs of contentment and the exclamations of delight said it
For some, it was definitely a reminder of a mother’s or
The authentic dishes were prepared by cooks from
an organization called Women Cooking, who spent several days with Hilton chefs
preparing the food with them in the hotel kitchen. If the food went over well,
the music played with verve by the Street Philharmonic was an even greater
The Street Philharmonic, which was assembled some two years ago by
Jonathan Winkler and his friends, is a ZeZe project. Winkler explained that many
of the street musicians were immigrants from the former Soviet Union, where they
had performed with major orchestras and in some cases had extraordinary solo
Unable to find work in Israel but wanting to support themselves,
they became street musicians. Brought together to create a street orchestra,
they play klezmer music, as well as Balkan, Russian, Greek, Latin American,
Middle Eastern, Indian and Yemenite tunes. Appearing with them was a trio of
Yemenite sisters, who have been singing with them ever since the Street
Philharmonic hit the first note.
While the event per se was a culinary
and musical trip to yesteryear, the attire was not. Once upon a time, people
attending a gala came formally dressed. It seems that wives can no longer tell
their husbands what to wear. Many of the men came in casual outfits, including
jeans, and some of those who wore suits didn’t bother with ties. Most of the
women were dressed up, but preferred pants to skirts or gowns.
SPEAKERS addressing members of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth
Association are usual presented with a book as a token of
Former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens, who spoke
to the IBCA at Herzliya’s Sharon Hotel on Monday, also received a book – but on
top of that a pleasant surprise, when a waiter came bearing a birthday cake and
the crowd began singing Happy Birthday. Arens celebrates his 88th birthday this
week, and the cake was a couple of days premature.
He and his wife Muriel
looked pleased with the gesture, though some of those present were incredulous
when they heard moderator Dr. Alex Deutsch announce the age of the
youthful-looking Arens, whose sharp mind, wit and focused presentation did not
jive with the stereotyped image of a man in his late 80s.
The event had
been listed as an English-style afternoon tea, but there were no scones or thin
cucumbers sandwiches. Although the fare provided was indeed tasty, it was not
The topic of Arens’s address was given as, “Where do we
go from here with the Palestinians?” but Arens, who has a fine sense of humor,
deliberately took a while getting to the crux of the subject.
When he had
received the invitation to speak to the IBCA, he said, he considered speaking
about the relationship between Britain and the Zionist Movement, beginning with
the Balfour Declaration and continuing with the Churchill White Paper of 1922 –
which was the beginning of Britain’s retreat from its commitments, even though
Winston Churchill was a great friend of the Zionist Movement. “But you didn’t
want that,” said Arens to his hosts.
Then Arens thought that he might
talk about the Commonwealth’s contribution to Israel’s War of Independence, in
which he and his American- born wife had fought together with some 3,000 other
volunteers from abroad, including 800 from South Africa. “But you didn’t want
that either,” he said, reflecting on how Israel might look today had there been
10,000 volunteers instead of 3,000.
Eventually he got around to
addressing the Palestinian issue by defining the Palestinians of today, about
whom there is a lot of ignorance, he said, adding that there was no relationship
between today’s Palestinians and those who lived in ancient Judea in Roman
times. The Romans had wanted to erase any sign of a Jewish presence, and
actually renamed Judea after the Philistines.
Today, he said, 20 percent
of the people living in Israel are not Jewish, and the best way to integrate
them into Israeli society is through the army. The best proofs of his theory are
the Druse followed by the Circassians, for whom military service is obligatory.
While it is not compulsory for the Beduin or other Arabs, there is a Beduin
Brigade in the IDF, and Christian and Muslim Arabs are increasingly volunteering
for the IDF and national service, said Arens.
With regard to the Beduin,
Arens was critical of a series of Israeli governments, which had neglected the
community’s problems until the space taken up by Beduin encampments was needed
for Negev development, particularly by the army. A succession of Israeli
governments had mistakenly thought that by denying the unrecognized encampments
community infrastructure and services, the nomadic Beduin would opt to become
urbanized – but this didn’t occur. Rather, the Islamic Movement came down from
the north and stepped in with its anti-Israel doctrines. Before that, said
Arens, the Beduin were not particularly religious, but today there is a mosque
in every village and every encampment.
Arens said he did not particularly
endorse the Prawer-Begin Plan for the Beduin, and thought that not recognizing
the encampments was “terrible.”
The only solution for them, he said, is
education. When the Beduin have professions, they will move into towns and
villages of their own free will, he predicted. But if they are not integrated
into Israeli society, he warned, they will become increasingly hostile and their
numbers will grow.
Following the War of Independence there were 18,000
Beduin in the Negev, and now there are 220,000 – because they practice polygamy.
“If you have four wives, you can have 38 children,” said Arens.
to the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Arens was doubtful they
would bring an end to the conflict, since Mahmoud Abbas does not speak for all
Palestinians, and his mandate as president of the Palestinian Authority has
expired. It is also unlikely that Israel will yield to attempts to return to the
Even if there is another unilateral withdrawal by
Israel, said Arens, it will not bring an end to the conflict, as Abbas cannot
promise an end to terrorist activity if he reaches an agreement with
Arens outlined four alternatives currently facing Israel. One is
Jordan, where 70% of the population is Palestinian – which makes it a
Palestinian state, even though those running the Hashemite Kingdom are not
While Jordan could ultimately be the partner with whom
Israel could settle the conflict, King Abdullah II does not want that, and
Israel is not interested in destabilizing Jordan.
The second alternative
is an agreement which Arens doubted would materialize. The third is annexation
of the West Bank by Israel, and the fourth is to maintain the status quo – which
has proved to be sustainable.
Asked about the pressure the US might put
on Israel if the negotiations fail, Arens said such pressures are greatly
exaggerated, and he doubted that any such effort would be supported by the US
■ IT WAS a long time since she’d been in the presence of so
many presidents, quipped Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
She was speaking
at the farewell for Nili Arad, the outgoing president of the National Labor
Court, and the welcome for her successor, Yigal Flitman, who now serves as the
fifth president of the NLC – following in the footsteps of Zvi Bar-Niv, Menachem
Goldberg, Steve Adler (who was present) and Arad. Also present were President
Shimon Peres and Supreme Court President Asher D.
said that in a sense, the event symbolized the closing of a circle for her,
because 30 years earlier she had clerked for Goldberg – who had left his office
to become president of the NLC.
Later in her legal career, Livni worked
with Arad, and as a lawyer, she had also represented workers who felt their
rights were being abused.
The event at which Livni spoke was
double-barreled, in that in addition to saying farewell to Arad and welcoming
Flitman, it was also a swearing-in ceremony for 25 new judges and four
Livni, Grunis, Arad and Flitman all emphasized that not only
must the new judges constantly be on their best behavior and serve as examples
to the public, but their families were expected to do likewise.
Michael Spitzer, who is director of administration of courts, was the moderator
for the evening, and at the outset asked the families of the incoming judges to
refrain from taking photographs, explaining that they were getting in the way of
professional photographers and that photographs would be made available to them.
He might as well have just saved his breath. If there’s anything definitive
about Israelis, it’s lack of discipline.
People from the most respectable
of families persist in doing their own thing and breaking the rules, regardless
of where they happen to be.
This was also obvious during the snowfall,
when police asked the public not to drive to Jerusalem because the roads were
dangerous and had been closed. The announcements about the danger were on
Facebook, the radio and television, as well as on the police website. But
Israeli perversity being what it is, some 2,000 cars got stuck in the snow and
the ice, and many people, some with infants in their cars, spent long hours in
the freezing cold until suitable transportation was found to take them to an
■ FINANCE MINISTER Yair Lapid last week came out
strongly against the purchase of a plane for the prime minister and the
president for their frequent trips abroad. Actually, such a plane could also
serve senior ministers and Knesset delegations, though Lapid seems to think it
would be more economical to continue to pay for commercial flights rather than
bear the expense of purchasing and maintaining a plane. Considering that both
the president and prime minister often travel with a large entourage (not
counting business delegations that travel with them and pay their own way), it’s
possible Lapid’s arithmetic is faulty.
As for a new residence and office
complex, work on such a project began while Ariel Sharon was still in
Later, Ehud Olmert, who has far-sighted vision and who saw how
inadequate existing premises for both the prime minister and president have
become, realized that much larger premises were required for future needs. He
commissioned the architectural firm of Ram Karmi, which had previously designed
the Supreme Court.
One of the things Olmert had in mind was to save on
the rentals of all government offices, and to concentrate them under one roof.
He also wanted an underground section that would enable the government to
function in safety, in the event of war or a natural disaster. A theater would
be among the many amenities of the complex, thereby saving on security and
travel expenses – because events attended by the Prime Minister would be held in
the theater, thereby obviating the need for a motorcade to transport him (or
her). By the same token, a smaller security detail could protect the prime
The government had already approved the plan when Netanyahu
came into office. At that time the cost of the project, including a residence
for the prime minister, was NIS 650 million; the more recent estimate is NIS 800
million. When Netanyahu came into office in the elections prior to last, he
shelved the plan – possibly because he didn’t want to endorse any of Olmert’s
ideas. But the longer it is delayed, the more expensive it will become, and the
more the prime minister’s neighbors will suffer in the interim – as the area in
which they live becomes uglified and more and more like Fort Knox, with its many
security barriers and members of the prime minister’s security detail trampling
through everyone’s gardens and invading their privacy in other ways. Some of the
things they do actually endanger public safety and they are frequently berated
by one of the neighbors, Varda Borowski, who lives three doors from the prime
■ TODAY, DECEMBER 25, the Israel Philharmonic
Orchestra will pay tribute to the memory of one of its bestloved former members,
Zvi Haftel, who had been a pupil of Bronislaw Huberman, the Polish-born founder
of the IPO. A special concert conducted by Andras Schiff will be held on the
same day that Haftel’s widow, Chaya, celebrates her 100th birthday. She will be
in the audience with her two daughters, Mira and Dalia, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, many of whom have traveled from abroad to be with her on
this special day.
Composer and conductor Noam Sheriff will also be
present to honor the memory of his longtime friend and mentor. A unique
character, Haftel combined the roles of concertmaster, director and impresario,
and traveled the world as the new orchestra’s ambassador. He was instrumental in
bringing Zubin Mehta to the IPO.
An exhibition in the foyer of the
Charles Bronfman Auditorium will include the newly renovated bronze bust of
Haftel, plus aspects of the orchestra’s history.
Bronislaw Huberman was also born in December, six days and 31 years ahead of
■ JANUARY 27 was designated by the UN as International
Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is commemorated at the UN as well as in many of
the UN member states that have established Holocaust studies and memorials, and
have sent teachers to Yad Vashem to participate in courses on how to teach
Next month, there will be an added dimension to the
Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at the UN, with the launch on January 28 of
an exhibition of Holocaust-themed photos, prose and poetry taken not from the
Holocaust era itself, but from the reactions of participants in the March of the
Living. Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and Eli Rubenstein, chairman and education director
respectively of the International March of the Living, have spent the past six
months combing through thousands of examples of photos, prose and poetry culled
from March of the Living archives, in which the impressions of participants
marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau in memory of the victims of Nazism have been
The exhibition, titled “When You Listen to a Witness You
Become a Witness,” is intended to be an educational tool for future generations,
and includes powerful images taken during 25 years of the march.
US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, who has visited Israel several times since
his retirement from the Foreign Service, came to Israel last week in his present
capacity as chairman of Middle East policy studies at the Woodrow Wilson School
of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He brought a dozen
of his students to see the Middle East up close, not just via theoretical
■ THE EARS of one of the young soldiers serving in the Tank Corps
in the Gaza Strip area pricked up when he heard familiar accents emanating from
a group of English-speaking teenagers, who were touring the southern part of the
country with their guides. He asked where they were from and they replied they
were students from Moriah College in Sydney.
This immediately resonated
with the young soldier, who asked whether they had ever heard of Sam
Indeed they had. Before making aliya with his wife Joan in 1991,
Fisher had been a president of both Moriah College and Sydney’s Central
In addition, there is a Sam Fisher Walk on the college grounds
that was dedicated in 2002.
Fisher, joined the board of Moriah in 1952, a
year before the school actually opened, and in subsequent years served as
honorary treasurer, honorary secretary, vice president and trustee of the
college. In 1979 he was elected president, serving until 1984.
the Fisher family are all community-minded, and serve in voluntary capacities in
The Fishers’ daughter and three sons also live in
Israel, having migrated one after the other between 1980 and 1991. Some of the
Fisher grandchildren were born in Australia, and others are Sabras.
young soldier, Bezalel Fisher, is one of the Sabra grandchildren.
was not the only coincidence.
One of the guides of the Australian group
was Zoe Naumberger, whose late grandfather, Max Naumberger, had also been a
prominent activist inside and beyond Sydney’s Jewish community. Max Naumberger
had joined the board of Moriah at the same time as Sam Fisher, so the two
grandchildren had something to talk about. Incidentally, Sam Fisher died in
Jerusalem in April, 2012.
■ INTERNATIONAL MONETARY Fund director Menno
Snel last Wednesday wound up a five-day visit to Israel, following meetings with
Finance Minister Lapid, Bank of Israel Gov. Karnit Flug and other Israeli
dignitaries involved in the nation’s finances and economy. On the eve of his
departure from Israel, Snel and his counselor, Amit Friedman, were hosted by
Netherlands Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp, at a reception that he held in their
honor at his residence in Herzliya Pituah.
Israel is represented by the
Netherlands on the boards of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington. Israel is
part of the Dutch “constituency” at both Bretton Woods institutions, as Israel
does not have sufficient shares to allow for independent
Veldkamp spoke of his country’s pride in representing Israel,
and noted that when Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was in Israel during the
first week of December, he and Netanyahu confirmed the good relations and high
level of cooperation between their two countries.
■ IT WAS almost like a
French invasion when 1,000 high school students from 25 Jewish schools across
France arrived in Israel last week for Bac Bleu Blanc (Seniors in Blue and
White), a week-long program run by the Jewish Agency with the support of Keren
Hayesod. Last Thursday, they gathered for a spirited megaevent at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center, which featured addresses by Jewish Agency
chairman Natan Sharansky and Keren Hayesod France president Richard Prasquier,
along with entertainment by singer Yonatan Razel, IDF chief cantor Lt.-Col. Shai
Abramson, and an IDF singing troupe.
To ensure that the bottom line of
the Zionist message got through, there were also some young immigrants from
France who chose to live in Israel after participating in Bac Bleu Blanc in
previous years. Sharansky told the teens that the French Jewish community is
leading a new wave of aliya. Prasquier noted that although many of the
youngsters had previously visited Israel on vacation, they were now at a
decisive moment in their lives – and must seize the real Israel, and make the
decision that will impact the rest of their lives.