IT’S CUSTOMARY at national day celebrations hosted by the heads of foreign
missions for a cabinet minister to bring greetings. Environmental Protection
Minister Gilad Erdan was scheduled to attend the Czech National Day reception
hosted by Ambassador Tomas Pojar, but had a pressing reason for backing out at
almost the last minute.
Failure to send a representative would have been
a great embarrassment for the government, bearing in mind that some of the
pilots who fought in the War of Independence received their training in the
former Czechoslovakia, which also supplied Israel with arms.
representation is arranged by the Foreign Ministry, which looked inward rather
than outward, with the result that the Czechs ended up with two instead of one.
The reception was attended by both Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Lieberman preferred to leave the talking to
Ayalon, who recalled that both president Tomas Masaryk and his son, president
Jan Masaryk, had been well disposed toward the creation of a Jewish state and
both actively opposed anti-Semitism. Ayalon also recalled that Pojar’s father
Milos Pojar had been the first Czech ambassador after the long 23-year hiatus,
serving from 1990 to 1994.
Tomas Pojar, who was still in his teens at the
time, recalled that the family lived in the Czech Embassy in Tel Aviv. It was
his father’s successor, Jiri Schneider, who purchased the house in Herzliya
Pituah which is now the Czech residence. Pojar noted that it was the 92nd
anniversary of the first republic of the former Czechoslovakia, which he
described as “an island of democracy before World War II.” Israel, he said, has
also learned to be an island of democracy in a hostile environment.
was proud of the fact that his father had hosted the first reception here of the
free and democratic Czechoslovakia.
■ ARGUABLY ONE of the most colorful,
flamboyant and gregarious chiefs of protocol in the history of the Foreign
Ministry, Yitzhak Eldan retired last week after a seven-year stint at the post
and 41 years of commitment to the foreign service.
Ministry veterans who
came to bid him farewell last Thursday expected the usual reception, with a few
nibbles and soft drinks, a little mingling and back to work. But instead they
found the hall set up with tables and chairs, a lavish buffet prepared by the
ministry’s in-house caterers, plus an amazing array of desserts which were a
gift from the King David Hotel, whose deputy general manager Sheldon Ritz was
one of several representatives of major hotels who joined diplomats and various
other high ranking state employees in giving Eldan a VIP
Eldan’s good friend, lyricist and former television host of
This Is Your Life Amos Ettinger, told the story of the Casablanca-born
adolescent, who with an older brother ran away from home because he wanted to
serve the State of Israel. His parents and other siblings were most unhappy that
he had left Morocco, but they missed him so much that after a year-and-a-half
they decided to join him. They were given a tiny house with almost no facilities
other than an outdoor toilet.
Eldan, who had lived with a Polish family
on a religious kibbutz, went to the army and was assigned to the Golani Brigade.
Following his discharge, he put himself through university and joined the
Of 350 applicants, he was one of three who were
accepted. Over the years in service abroad, he was a spokesman, a consul-general
and eventually an ambassador in several countries. The proudest moment in his
career was when his parents came to the Foreign Ministry to see then foreign
minister Shimon Peres present him with a citation naming him the ministry’s most
Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon, who attended the
farewell party, observed that there are some people one is happy to say good-bye
to – but not Eldan, who is part of the fabric of the Foreign Ministry. “I
thought this would be a sad affair,” said Ayalon, “but I can see by the huge
turn-out the affection and esteem in which Yitzhak is held. It’s a sure sign of
his popularity. It’s only a formal farewell, because we can’t imagine the
Foreign Ministry without him.”
Ayalon noted that Eldan had authored the
ministry’s code of ethics and had also trained many young diplomats at its
School of Diplomacy. Although Eldan is leaving the ministry, he continued, he is
not leaving his diplomatic calling.
He has established the Ambassadors’
Club of Israel which will provide a variety of services to foreign
Nitza Raz-Silbiger, director of the Protocol Department, who
has worked closer with Eldan than has anyone else, described him as “dynamic,
motivated and full of energy – a person for whom nothing is
Eldan is being succeeded by Talya Lador-Fresher.
love Israel. I would give my soul for the country. I have always dreamed to
serve,” Eldan said. “I never saw the Foreign Ministry as just a job, but as a
place in which to serve, from which to carry out a mission.” He made a similar
comment later in the day at a reception cohosted in his honor by Cameroon
Ambassador Henri Etoundi Essomba, dean of the diplomatic corps; Korean
Ambassador Yong-sam Ma and Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner. The evening
reception at the Korean residence was held two days before Eldan’s 67th
birthday, but the cake had only 45 candles, which Eldan blew out in one
When asked why only 45 candles, Ma said, “because mentally, he’s
only 45 years old.”
■ THERE IS an increasing trend to perpetuate the
memories of deceased loved ones by donating Torah scrolls. The thought of doing
this came naturally to the family of the late Lord Leonard Steinberg, who had
been a staunch supporter of the Nehar Deiah Hesder Yeshiva in Nahariya. Lord
Steinberg died in London in November 2009, while preparing for a meeting at the
House of Lords. His widow, Lady Beryl Steinberg, and members of her family were
joined by hundreds of youngsters and adults in a joyous procession through the
streets of Nahariya to the yeshiva. The last two letters of the scroll were
filled in by her grandson Joshua, just before the commencement of the
Even without the Torah scroll, Lord Steinberg, who was 73 at
the time of his death, was remembered with affection and appreciation at the
yeshiva. It was his generosity that enabled the construction of a new campus.
Founded in 1996, the yeshiva is headed by Nahariya Chief Rabbi Yeshayahu Meitlis
and Rabbi Eliahu Blum, who every Rosh Hashana lead hundreds of residents and
tourists to the Tashlich ceremony on the shores of the
Nehar Deiah staff and students are active in the Nahariya
Belfast-born Lord Steinberg was a Conservative life peer and
president of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel. He moved to England in 1977
after being shot by the IRA for refusing to pay protection money.
president of the Manchester Jewish Federation and the Manchester branch of the
UJIA. He was also chairman of his synagogue in Hale.
AMBASSADOR Michael Rendi and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon vied
with each other in singing “Hatikva” at the Austrian National Day celebrations
at the Austrian residence.
Among the guests was Dr. Joanna Nittenberg,
the editor-in-chief of Neue Welt, the successor to the publication founded by
Theodor Herzl in 1897. Rendi illustrated the strength of Austria-Israel
relations by noting the number of high level bilateral visits. He also
complimented his opposite number Ambassador to Austria Aviv-Shir-On, who he said
was doing a great job. Despite a shameful past for which Austria has accepted
and is accepting full responsibility, Jewish life there is flourishing, said
Rendi. The embassy maintains close contact with Austrian Holocaust survivors who
number around 5,500. Rendi takes pains to visit Austrian expatriates at homes
and clubs for the elderly. But he is equally interested in the younger
generation of Israelis with Austrian roots, and has organized club nights for
them at the residence with attendances of up to 400. He encourages them to visit
Austria and to study in Austria.
Rendi and his wife Pamela will always
have Israel as part of their lives. Their second daughter is a sabra who was
born here last January.
Ya’alon endorsed what Rendi had said about
Austria taking responsibility for its part in the Holocaust and noted that more
than 400 Austrian teachers have engaged in Holocaust studies at Yad Vashem and
are in the forefront of the battle against anti-Semitism. Relations between
Austria and Israel today, he said, are based on stronger foundations than the
memories of the past and are evidenced in a myriad of areas. He also underscored
that Austria as a temporary member of the UN Security Council has supported
sanctions against Iran.
■ IN OTHER news about Austria, the 2010 Austrian
Holocaust Memorial Award has gone to Eva Marks, the first woman and the first
Australian to receive it. The award was presented to her last week by Austria’s
Ambassador to Australia Hannes Porias. The award is given annually by the
Austrian Service Abroad to a person who has made an outstanding effort to combat
racism and to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.
Marks, who lives in
Melbourne, was born in Vienna, and from the age of nine spent six years in
Russian and Siberian gulags. She was released in 1947 and settled in Australia
in 1949. Sixty-three members of her family died in the Holocaust.
been active at home and abroad in combating racism, hatred, prejudice, genocide,
ethnic cleansing and fostering understanding.
She is assistant curator of
the Melbourne Holocaust Center and is involved in many of its
■ WHEN PLANNING last Monday’s concert by the Jerusalem
Cantors Choir, conductor and music director Binyamin Glickman had no inkling
that he would be competing with 10,000 university students, who marched along
the capital’s King George Avenue, banging loudly on drums as they passed Heichal
Shlomo, the venue of the concert. Fortunately, the only disturbance they caused
was a delay in starting time, because so many ticket holders had trouble getting
through the crowd.
One of the soloists, Cantor Moshe Muller, whose wife
was due to give birth at any moment, demonstrated true professional control and
received enthusiastic applause not only for the beauty of his voice and the
quality of his performance, but also as a premature mazal tov.
TRI-NATIONAL business tycoon Richard Parasol, who was born in Poland, served in
the IDF, then moved to the US where he became a millionaire several times over,
decided to celebrate his 75th birthday in Caesarea. Dozens of his friends came
to join him as did his three daughters and his grandchildren.
Czestochowa in 1935, Parasol lost all his family in the Holocaust. He was saved
by a non- Jewish couple who had no children of their own. They treated him as if
he was their son. Concerned that they might not be safe in Czestochowa and
fearful of betrayal, they fled to Warsaw where no one knew them. During the
Warsaw Uprising, in the summer of 1944, the family hid in a cellar. Food was
extremely scarce and they were close to starvation.
Yet whatever little
food they had, his adoptive parents gave to him.
After the war, Parasol
came to Israel on board the Exodus, went to live on a kibbutz and joined the
After completing his army service, he realized that it would be very
difficult to make ends meet here, and so went to the US to seek his fortune –
and found it. One of his daughters, Ruth, who lives in Gibraltar, is also a
The family, separately and together, support a
number of charities including the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is
under construction in Warsaw. Parasol and his daughters all hold Polish
Among the many guests were people from different phases of
Parasol’s life, including some who sailed with him on the Exodus. Also present
were Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Shudrich and Polish Ambassador Agnieszka
■ NEXT WEEK Shudrich, in his capacity as head of the
Polish Rabbinical Commission on Cemeteries, will attend the unveiling on
November 8 of a monument in the Jewish cemetery in Radom, which has been
constructed within the framework of an agreement, between Poland’s and Israel’s
prison services and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage.
Under the terms of the agreement Poland’s prison inmates will help to renew
Jewish historical sites and cemeteries throughout the country as part of a
Holocaust education project that will help change their attitudes before
In addition to Shudrich, the ceremony will be
attended by Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner (who was here this week for the wedding of
his son), Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, Radom Mayor Andrej
Kosztowniak, FPJH director Monika Krawczyk, representatives of the European
Union, members of the 1000 Club-UK and other dignitaries. A men’s club, the
1000-Club UK, currently chaired by Brian Anderson, was founded less than a
decade ago, and today has about 40 members, all Jewish and residents of London
and affiliated with synagogues in their respective areas. The club was formed to
bring people who had never previously been to Israel or who had not visited for
many years to see the country and gain a deeper insight into Israeli politics,
the difficulties faced in and by the army, and the economic situation. Most
members have second homes here and visit frequently and contribute to many
■ MANY DIPLOMATS who have served here are keen to return –
and some like Wieslaw Kucel, deputy head of mission at the Polish Embassy, are
able to realize that wish. Until this year, Polish embassies did not have deputy
heads of mission. Now there are nine, serving in countries which Poland deems to
be the most important. Kucel served as first secretary of the Polish Embassy
from 2001-2005. At that time he was also the Polish liaison to the Palestinian
Authority. After returning to Warsaw he worked briefly in the political section
of the ministry focusing on Israel and the PA. He then spent three years in
Lebanon, working in the Polish Embassy’s political-economic section, and
returned two months ago. He speaks fluent Hebrew which he learned in
■ IT IS difficult to believe that nearly 20 years have passed
since Alexander Bovin, clad in a Soviet naval uniform, presented his credentials
to president Chaim Herzog. Bovin was the last ambassador of the Soviet Union,
which the day after renewing the diplomatic ties severed in 1967, lost its
identity, and Bovin automatically became the ambassador of the Russian
Federation. Enormously popular here, he remained Russia’s ambassador until March
To celebrate the start of the 20th anniversary year of
Russian-Israeli relations, the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University is
hosting a conference on Monday at which speakers will include Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman, Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Federation Council of the
upper house of the Russian parliament; Ambassador Moshe Arad, Russian Ambassador
Piotr Stegny, National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and Minister for
Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’firstname.lastname@example.org