Diplomacy is definitely in the air.
Aside from visits this week by Czech
President Milos Zeman and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, there were
visits by several senior ministers from the governments of various
In addition, President Shimon Peres on Thursday morning
accepted the credentials of five new envoys: Eamonn McKee of Ireland; Patrick
Maisonnave of France; Max Haber-Neumann of Paraguay; Henrique da Silveira
Sardinha Pinto of Brazil; and Bulgaa Altangerel of Mongolia.
this was happening, Italian Ambassador Francesco Maria Talo was at Yad Vashem
attending a ceremony in memory of Gino Bartali, who has been recognized as
Righteous Among the Nations.
In the evening, Spanish Ambassador Fernando
Carderera Soler hosted a National Day reception at his residence in Herzliya
Pituah; while Ambassador Liang-jen Chang celebrated the National Day of the
Republic of China (Taiwan) at Tel Aviv’s Sheraton Hotel.
Nigerian Ambassador David Oladipo Obasa, Cypriot Ambassador Dimitris
Hatziargyrou and Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping will be hosting their respective
National Day receptions.
Then on Monday, October 21, the World Jewish
Congress will open its annual conference in Jerusalem, with a symposium
moderated by Avi Primor, a retired ambassador who is now president of the Israel
Council on Foreign Relations and director of the Trilateral Center for European
Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Panelists will include WJC
president Ronald S. Lauder, who is a former US ambassador to Austria; US
Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who will talk about the view from Washington; Russian
Ambassador Sergey Yakovlev, who will discuss Moscow; and German Ambassador
Andreas Michaelis, who will cover Berlin.
The next day, Canadian Chargé
d’Affaires James A. Fox will host a reception in honor of former Canadian prime
minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila.
On Thursday, October 24, The
Jerusalem Post will host its second annual Diplomatic Conference at the Daniel
Hotel in Herzliya, with the participation of Peres, Finance Minister Yair Lapid,
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and British Ambassador Matthew Gould.
that evening, Austrian Ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch will host his country’s
National Day reception at his residence in Herzliya Pituah.
Uruguay’s Ambassador Bernardo Griever is getting ready for a hectic five days
starting October 27, when his country’s Vice President Danilo Astori begins an
official visit to Israel.
Lastly, this month, the Australian Embassy in
conjunction with the Australian-headquartered Pratt Foundation and the Beersheba
Municipality will on Thursday, October 31, hold the annual commemoration service
to mark the 96th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba. In this battle, Ottoman
forces were defeated by members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
serving in the Light Horse Brigade, together with British troops.
just a short list. There are many other diplomatic events taking place during
the remainder of this month.
■ MEMBERS OF Israel’s Lithuanian community
came together twice this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the
liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto. On Monday they attended a special memorial
ceremony at Yad Vashem, and on Tuesday they congregated again at Beit Hatfutsot,
which Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Degutis characterized as a place where
Litvaks feel at home.
Before Degutis addressed the crowd, Dan Tadmor head
of Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, spoke of one of the most
famous of Holocaust-era Litvaks, who as a leader of the resistance fighters
against the Nazis issued a manifesto to the residents of the Vilna Ghetto, in
which he wrote: “Let us not go like lambs to the slaughter.”
resistance leader was renowned partisan and Hebrew poet Abba Kovner. He survived
the war and came to Israel, where he became an influential figure, and it was he
who conceived the continuing research monument to the past, present and future
of the Jewish people that is known as Beit Hatfutsot. This is one of the reasons
for the unbreakable relationship between Beit Hatfutsot, the Lithuanian
community in Israel and the Lithuanian Embassy.
Degutis, who has been in
Israel for a little over four years, said this was somewhere in the vicinity of
the 20th event he had attended at Beit Hatfutsot. When he first came to Israel,
he said, he made it his business to quickly meet up with Lithuania’s three
honorary consuls, Haim Ariel, Amos Eiran and Amnon Dotan, who were present at
the event, along with Joseph A.
Melamed, chairman of the Association off
Lithuanian Jews in Israel; Michael Schemiavitz, chairman of the Association of
Jews from Vilna and Vicinity in Israel; and Mickey Kantor, deputy chairman of
the Vilna Association.
Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Culture Darius
MaÏintas, who is also an internationally acclaimed young pianist, told
Lithuanian expats and Israeli Friends of Lithuania both at Yad Vashem and Beit
Hatfutsot that the Lithuanian government is trying to make amends for a painful
past, by preserving the memory of the Holocaust, teaching its history and
promoting the Jewish cultural heritage that once flourished in
Lithuanian opera singer Rafailas Karpis, who has a magnificent
voice and also happens to be Jewish, has collected an extensive repertoire of
Yiddish songs – more than a dozen of which he sang in superbly enunciated
Lithuanian Yiddish to the piano accompaniment by MaÏintas. The two presented
encore after encore, and the crowd could have happily listened to them all
The audience also heard from Julija Sukys, the author of the
award-winning, bestselling book Epistolophilia, which through the letters she
wrote and received, tells the life story of Ona Simaite, a Lithuanian gentile
who managed to get into the Vilna Ghetto on the pretext that she was collecting
unreturned library books. Simaite smuggled food and medicines into the ghetto,
and smuggled children out.
Sukys, who lives in Canada but was born in
Lithuania, was doing some research work in Lithuania when she accidentally came
across a pile of letters written by Simaite – who has been honored by Yad Vashem
as Righteous Among the Nations. Delving through them, she was astonished by the
details. This led her on a quest from Vilnius to Paris to Israel, to learn what
she could about Simaite, who had lived in all these places. The end result was a
Degutis acknowledged that up until recent years,
relations between the Lithuanian authorities and the country’s Jewish community
left something to be desired, but over the past decade there has been
considerable improvement in terms of building trust and creating bridges. He
credited much of this to his immediate predecessor, Asta
■ AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Dave Sharma, who is the
father of three very young daughters, has a soft spot in his heart for children.
When he read of nine-year-old Noam Glick of Psagot being attacked by a
terrorist, he decided to do something to cheer her up. On Monday he sent a
driver with a gift to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where Noam was
The driver was transporting a stuffed kangaroo, a bouquet
of flowers and a personal letter to Glick, in which Sharma wrote how sad he had
been to hear about the shooting that took place in her home last Friday night
and of the injury she had suffered. He told her she was a brave, courageous
girl, expressing the wish she would make a full recovery and the hope she would
be cheered up by the flowers and the little kangaroo from Australia, which would
remind her that people in other parts of the world were thinking of
Neither Sharma nor his driver were aware, when the car set out for
Jerusalem, that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had passed away.
The driver, who
frequently travels to the capital, had a terrible time reaching his destination,
because so many roads were closed or blocked. It was only later that he
Thankfully, Glick has since been released from
■ ALTHOUGH HE has been in Israel for four months, it was not
until Monday night that Sharma and his wife, Rachel, were given an official
welcome by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, which works very closely
with the Australian Embassy and always welcomes new ambassadors with a gala
dinner. Jewish holidays and the ambassador’s busy schedule got in the way of an
Monday night’s event at the Azrieli Center Circular
Tower in Tel Aviv was sponsored by James Richardson Duty-Free enterprises, which
are represented in Israel by chairman Gary Stock. He was present along with
other Australian expats and Australians who commute regularly to Israel, as well
as Israelis who do business in or with the country, and representatives of
institutions that receive support from Australian friends.
were Anne and George Fink, who commute back and forth; Simon Fisher of Save a
Child’s Heart, which counts the Finks among its supporters; Uri Aldubi, chairman
of the Association of Oil and Gas Industry Exploration in Israel; Isaac Shariv
of the Weizmann Institute of Science; Ze’ev Slonim, general manager of Desert
Cube; Andy Michelson of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund; and Danny
Catarivas of the Israel Manufacturers Association.
There were also
members of the embassy, among them Second Secretary Alex McCauley; Third
Secretary Ben Rhee; immigration officer Abdullah Azar, who has served under a
series of Australian ambassadors; and Esti Sherbelis, the evercheerful and
highly efficient personal assistant to the ambassador.
In welcoming the
guests, AICC executive director Paul Israel spoke of the constant stream of
visitors from Australia who are hosted by the organization. Coming up in less
than two weeks is a delegation headed by the Victorian minister for resources
and energy, and next month there will be another trade delegation from Western
Israel also spoke of the activities of the sister organization
in Australia, and highlighted some of the events conducted by branches in
Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. He also reviewed the AICC’s
manifold activities over the past year, and the diversity of members of trade
and academic delegations from Australia.
Sharma observed that one of
Australia’s longest-standing and multifaceted bilateral relationships is with
Israel. He also talked about the tremendous contribution that members of
Australia’s Jewish community have made to business, civil society and academia,
and through these activities to the bilateral relationship.
Yet for all
that, he noted, there is still immense potential for greater collaboration in
hi-tech, oil, gas, agriculture and water.
“We have a new government in
Australia keen to do more with Israel, so if we – government and business – work
together, we will be pushing on an open door,” said Sharma.
ambassador also credit to his wife, Rachel – who is accomplished in her own
right, having advised a federal cabinet minister and most recently, having
spearheaded Australia’s successful campaign to be elected to the UN Security
Council. Their three daughters, he said, already consider themselves to be a
little Israeli – judging by the smattering of Hebrew now heard throughout the
house, plus their embrace of Jewish festivals and holidays such as Succot and
Yom Kippur, and love of felafel, humous and Israeli breakfast.
Australia’s youngest ambassador anywhere in the world, and people in Israel
often look for someone more senior in age when they shake his hand at a
reception, and then “wait to meet the ambassador” – not realizing they’ve
already met him.
AICC chairwoman Dr. Orna Berry said she could relate to
this very well, because during her period as chief scientist, people tended to
look past her simply because she was a woman – and they expected a
Just as a matter of interest, the combined achievements of women
scientists in Israel are nothing short of amazing.
■ THE FIRST official
function for Bar-Ilan University’s new president Daniel Herschkowitz last Sunday
was to welcome Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was making his fourth
appearance there, delivering an address only a few days after speaking to the UN
In congratulating Herschkowitz on his appointment,
Netanyahu referred to him as a Renaissance man, and said he had been an
excellent science and technology minister in Netanyahu’s previous
He was confident Herschkowitz would know how to balance
budgets and solve problems related to the new issues he will be
Herschkowitz, who has a PhD. in math, recalled that during his
term as science and technology minister, Netanyahu more than once requested he
challenge him with a mathematical problem. “The prime minister was always able
to hold his own,” quipped Herschkowitz.
Now, in his new role, he noted a
number of important contributions that Bar-Ilan University has made to the
advancement of the State of Israel, including the development of an engine which
runs on water, medical drug delivery robots, bringing top Israeli scientists
home from abroad, developing the periphery with regional colleges throughout the
country, improving medical care at regional hospitals in the North via the
establishment of the university’s Faculty of Medicine in the Galilee, and
“I envision Bar-Ilan University as a beacon of light not only in
the State of Israel, but throughout the world – in science, ethics and values,”
Prior to becoming a politician and preceding Naftali Bennett as
chairman of Bayit Yehudi, Herschkowitz was dean of the Faculty of Mathematics at
the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology. He also served as dean of
continued education and external studies and chairman of the Academic Faculty
On November 3, his installation as university president will be
celebrated at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, where he will deliver the Shabbat