Grapevine: Nicer than politics

Michal Herzog and husband Isaac Herzog attend event at residence of Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo in honor of Roberto Cavalli and launch of TA fashion week.

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November 23, 2011 00:06
ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Luigi Mattiolo, Roberto Cavalli

ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Luigi Mattiolo with Roberto Cavalli 311. (photo credit: Aviv Chofi)

 
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‘THIS IS so much nicer than a political event,” commented Michal Herzog, who together with her husband Labor MK and former government minister Isaac Herzog was among the many guests mingling at the residence of Italian Ambassador Luigi Mattiolo and his wife Stefania for a reception in honor of celebrated Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and the launch of Tel Aviv Fashion Week. Most of the female guests wore black, wearing the most elegant of dresses and gorgeous stiletto-heeled black pumps.

Standing out in the crowd were Yona Bartal, the petite deputy director general of the President’s Bureau, who wore a red tailored jacket with a black rosette on the lapel over a slim-fitting, high-necked black dress and Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, who wore a long sleeved, mini-skirted, body-skimming red dress with shoulder epaulettes and pleated peplum. Her husband Silvan Shalom, who is the minister for the development of the Galilee and the Negev, did introduce a political note into the gathering of fashion designers, slinky models, fashion writers and socialites who included Nava Barak, Pnina Ramon, Guy and Michal Baram, Tova Sagol, Georgie Akirov, Noa Tishbi, Gideon Oberson, Ami Orkaby, Shai Shalom, Mickey Boganin, Leon and Shula Recanati, Ettie and Ram Caspi, Leah Peretz, who heads the fashion design school at Shenkar and designer Tamara Yuval Jones, who teaches at Shenkar and who worked for several years with Cavalli when she lived in Italy.

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Shalom spoke of Italy’s commitment to Israel’s safety and security, and in a lighter vein suggested that if any Italian diplomat has ambitions to become foreign minister, he or she should get him or herself appointed ambassador to Israel first. Italy’s newly appointed foreign minister, Giulio Terzi, is a former ambassador to Israel. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told Mattiolo not to aim for the job of foreign minister, but to instead put his sights on being prime minister.

■ ONLY A few short weeks after Spanish Ambassador Alvaro Irenzo Gutierrez was at the Israel Museum for the unveiling of its first showing of an El Greco painting that had been brought on loan to Israel within the framework of the 25th anniversary celebration of diplomatic relations between Spain and Israel, he attended an even more important artistic – this time at the Tel Aviv Museum, which is hosting a Picasso exhibition. According to Victoria Ortega, the head of the cultural and consular section of the Spanish Embassy, this is the most important exhibition that Spain has ever brought to Israel. Rain could not spoil the exhibition’s opening last week. Hundreds of people ignored the inclement weather in order to attend, including Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who spoke of the increasingly warm relations between Spain and Israel, President Shimon Peres’s visit to Spain and the subsequent visit to Israel by the Prince and Princess of Asturias.

Sa’ar, who was in Spain last June, also referred to the visit to Israel by Spain’s foreign minister.

Gutierrez spoke enthusiastically about Picasso’s genius and the theme exhibition’s theme of bullfighting, which Picasso regarded as a metaphor for life. Gutierrez also expressed gratitude to acting museum director Shuli Kislev and paid tribute to the memory of former director Mordechai Omer, who passed away earlier this year. No official visit to the museum would be complete without mentioning the new wing, which he did with great enthusiasm. The exhibition was financed by the Marc Rich Foundation, whose director, Avner Azulay, who is an honorary consul for Spain, was among the many art lovers in attendance, as was Huldai, who is also chairman of the museum’s board of directors.

■ IN POLITICAL circles the emphasis is often more on the present and the future than on the past. But when Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha addressed the Israel Council on Foreign Relations at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel on Monday, he preferred to dwell on the past, while not forgetting the main purpose of his current visit to Israel: to recruit financial investors. Albania may be a small country, he said, but it has great promise and potential – and low taxes.

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It was important for him to convey his country’s moral code.

Although a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority, Albania prides itself on the fact that ordinary individuals as well as high-ranking officials risked their lives in refusing to provide the Nazis with information about Albania’s Jewish population.

Before the Second World War, there were some 200 Jews living in Albania. During the war, Jews from all over Europe sought shelter in Albania and were taken into people’s homes, hidden and provided with false papers. Listing commonalities between Israel and Albania, Berisha characterized both as “survivor nations” and said that Albania’s attitude toward its Jews during the Holocaust was "\”a brilliant chapter of relations between our two nations.”

Albania continues to be hospitable to the minorities in its midst. “We are a nation of religious tolerance par excellence,” Berisha boasted.

Fast-forwarding to current developments in the region, Berisha said that in a nuclear era, Iran represents “the greatest threat to peace and stability in the region and the world.” To illustrate this point, he said of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he “uses the same language against Israel as the Nazis used against the Jews.”

As is usually the case at ICFR affairs, the audience comprised mainly current and retired diplomats, among them Dr. Krinka Vidakovic Petrov, Serbia and Montenegro’s former ambassador to Israel. Petrov is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs which is published by the ICFR. Most heads of foreign missions in Israel promise at the end of their tenure to come back to visit. Petrov is one of the few who not only visit but remain involved with Israel.

■ UNTIL THE report in Haaretz last Sunday that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had been accompanied to meetings with Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by former government minister, former Mossad operative and current businessman Rafi Eitan, hardly any news had been leaked locally about Museveni’s arrival in Israel last week. The visit had originally been scheduled for December, according to The Indian Ocean Newsletter, it had been put forward at the last minute and Israel had accepted the request. Uganda’s daily newspaper, New Vision, quoted a State House statement that Museveni had met with Netanyahu in his residence and had inter alia discussed attracting Israeli investors to Uganda and promoting infrastructure development. The report stated that Museveni had spent four days in Israel. New Vision also reported Peres as having said to his Ugandan counterpart that the future of developing countries lies in investing in hi-tech methods to ensure food, water and security.

Museveni’s visit was described as a working visit and not as a state visit, which may account for the fact that it received minimal coverage by the Israeli media ■ AT LEAST one member of Knesset showed up at the mega meeting of journalists who came together at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque this week to protest proposed changes in the libel laws. Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz is one of several current MKs who came into politics from the media world. Another former MK in attendance was Uri Avneri, whose presence was warmly acknowledged by chairman Moti Kirschenbaum when crediting him with having laid the foundations for freedom of the press in Israel through his weekly (now defunct) magazine Ha’olam Hazeh. Avneri, who continues to write on a regular basis, was not the only octogenarian in the audience. There were several others of his generation who came because they care.

■ ACCORDING TO a report in Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot, Oren Helman, who has served as director of the Government Press Office for just over a year, is aiming for a much highervoltage position. He is going to be the next deputy-manager of the Israel Electric Corporation’s liaison department with the government.

■ WHILE ON the subject of media, veteran political reporter Shmuel Tal has tendered his resignation from Israel Radio and as of December 1 will begin his new job as head of communications and marketing at Keren Hayesod. He’ll probably have a lot to discuss with former minister of infrastructure as well as science and technology, and current Keren Hayesod world chairman, Eliezer Sandberg. Now that Tal is out of the media loop, Reshet Bet will have to find someone else to get those 6 a.m. scoop interviews with Peres.

■ IT’S NOT surprising that former diplomat Mark Sofer was chosen to succeed Ruth Cheshin as president of the Jerusalem Foundation. Anyone in that role must have a cultural background. While it is taken for granted that most diplomats do, Sofer more or less has culture in his genes. He is the son of well-known London international ballet, opera and music impresarios Victor and Lilian Hochhauser, who for half a century brought the world’s best classical performers, especially those from Russia, to Britain.

■ ZIM SHIPPING and the Palestinian Import/Export Association made history last week when, at the invitation of ZIM’s regional head for Israel and the Near East, Shai Babad, members of the PIEA came to Haifa Port and toured the ZIM offices. The group, which included leading Palestinian business executives, was led by chairman Muhammad Abu.

Also on hand was Avi Goldman, CEO of the Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Babad told his guests that it was very important to ZIM to provide the best services for its customers, and that Palestinian customers were entitled to the same standard of service as anyone else.

The Palestinian attendees expressed particular interest in ZIM’s routes to the Far East , Northern Europe and North and South America, which are all existing or potential markets for their products. Both the people at ZIM and the PIEA group were happy to engage in a closer business relationship than they have ever had.

■ BAR ILAN University last week honored four major philanthropic organizations whose joint effort facilitated the opening of the university’s new faculty of medicine in the Galilee in time for the 2011-12 academic year.

The partnership quartet of the United Jewish Israel Appeal (United Kingdom), the United Israel Appeal Canada, the Russell Berrie Foundation (USA) and the Rashi Foundation (Israel) provided much of the funding for the first building of the Bar Ilan faculty, thus enabling the university to implement the Israeli government’s resolution to establish a medical school in Safed. The ceremony was held on the newly inaugurated premises of the Bar Ilan Faculty of Medicine, which had been inaugurated two weeks earlier in the presence of such dignitaries as Peres and Netanyahu, among others.

“The historic opening of this medical school would not have taken place and studies would not have commenced were it not for the innovative and pioneering acts of these four partners,” said BIU president Prof. Moshe Kaveh.

”They understood the importance of the mission and clearly demonstrated their belief in us. Through their gifts, we were able to receive matching funds from the government and, in just seven short months, complete construction of the initial site of the faculty.”

Israel Prize laureate Elie Elalouf, director of the Rashi Foundation, said that an undertaking such as the medical school is “the dream of anyone involved in regional development projects.” He confessed that when Kaveh first approached him about the project he had been doubtful that it could be completed, and he praised Kaveh’s leadership and outstanding accomplishment in obtaining the backing of the entire government for its establishment.

Elalouf pledged to continue to support educational and social welfare programs for the advancement of the entire region.

Mick Davis, director of UJIA, said his organization had decided to make an impact on education in the Galilee because of growing poverty and the diminishing population in the area. But the ability of UJIA to impact an entire region on its own was limited. ”That’s why this joint venture is so fundamentally important.

We see the immediacy of the impact and the hope that it brings,” he explained.

“This medical school is a precedent for how government and philanthropic foundations can cooperate with one another to bring about great things,” said Moshe Shapiro, CEO of Yedidut Toronto and the Friedberg Charitable Foundation. Shapiro, who represented UIA Canada, urged the four partners to continue to work together in order to identify additional projects of national interest and to see to their successful implementation. “The fact that we succeeded with the medical school obligates us to try the miracle again,” he said.

Russell Berrie Foundation trustee Ilan Kaufthal, who accompanied the project from its initial stages and recently affixed a mezuza to one of the classrooms in the faculty, noted that “The four partners have become close friends in this process and I know that friendship will endure beyond this project.

Let’s continue to help build the Galilee for all its residents – rich and poor, secular and religious.”

British Ambassador Matthew Gould characterized the medical school as “a major boost” for the region. ”A medical school is a magnet, a source of pride, a powerhouse for education and a center for innovation,” he said, adding that the four foundations can take pride in the great impact that the faculty will have over the coming decades.

Safed Mayor Ilan Shochat enthused about the projected transformation of Safed and the entire Galilee that will be generated by the medical school.

■ WATER MANAGEMENT and the most cost-efficient and least wasteful means of irrigation are increasingly occupying the attention of governments around the world.

This would account for the large global representation at the WATEC exhibition and conference in Tel Aviv last week. In addition to the networking that took place at the event, a lot of deals were made and memoranda signed. Taiwan’s representative in Israel, Liang-jen Chang, and Israel’s representative in Taiwan, Simona Helperin, signed two Memoranda of Understanding dealing with cooperation in the fields of water technologies and small and medium businesses in both countries. The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Sharon Kedmi, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and Taiwanese Vice Minister of Economy Jung-Chiou Hwang. These two memoranda helped to create a broad platform that will boost business cooperation between the countries by complimenting each other both theoretically and practically. Hwang said that the trade volume between Taiwan and Israel increased in 36 percent between 2009 and 2010 and is now USD 1.22 billion, making Israel Taiwan’s seventh-largest business partner in the Middle East.

■ JERUSALEM’S AMERICAN Colony Hotel, the former local headquarters for Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair, for many years a favorite watering hole for foreign journalists, spies and peace negotiators and an ongoing neutral venue for cultural, interfaith and political meetings between Muslims, Christians and Jews as well as Palestinians and Israelis, is the subject of a book by Norwegian writer Odd Karsten Tveit. The American Colony has been an endless source of fascination for writers from many parts of the world. The book, Anna’s House: The American Colony in Jerusalem focuses on Anna Spafford who, together with her husband and a small group of likeminded American evangelical Christians, came to Jerusalem toward the end of the 19th century to found a utopian colony and to dispense food and medicine to the needy.

Following the death of her husband, Spafford went back to America to drum up further support and succeeded in interesting a large group of pious Swedes living in the US to come and enlarge the American Colony and to help in its benevolent activities on behalf of the local population. The house they lived in had been a Turkish palace, which they had acquired when its original owner died without leaving an heir. The palace became the American Colony Hotel in 1902 when Baron Ustinov, the grandfather of actor Peter Ustinov, was visiting the Holy Land and looking for decent accommodation in Jerusalem.

Though raised in America, Spafford was born in Norway, which is one of the factors that heightened Tveit’s interest. Tveit is currently in Israel and will launch the book at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, November 28 at the Swedish Christian Study Center inside the Jaffa Gate. The launch is jointly sponsored by The Educational Bookshop and the SCSC. Tveit will read excerpts from the book, which has been published in English.

It is interesting to note that neither the land on which the hotel is located nor the building itself have ever belonged to Arabs or Jews but only to American, British and Swedish owners. The descendants of the original owners still have shares in the property, which is now managed by Gauer Hotels of Switzerland. The descendants are represented on the hotel’s board of directors.

■ ANYONE WHO has a gripe about Israel’s public transport system – the changing and cancellation of routes, confusing and wasting the time and money not only of returning tourists but of many locals; passengers being forced to change buses to destinations they previously rode to on one direct bus; taking too long and spending too much money on the construction of nation-wide railway links and light rail systems – may have the opportunity to find out what’s coming next, and even to voice a grievance, sooner than they’d expected.

On November 28, the public can attend the convention on infrastructure and transportation – a national socio-economic mission at the Leonardo City Hotel in Ramat Gan. Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Israel Railways CEO Boaz Tzafrir, the Public Transport Department of the Transportation Ministry’s Yehuda Elbaz, chairman of the board of directors of Superbus Eli Balilius and various other movers and shakers from government ministries, umbrella organizations, public works and private enterprises are on the preliminary list of speakers. The published information does not yet include representatives of Egged or Dan, or a host of others who should be in attendance.

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