Regardless of what may transpire in peace talks between Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, several Israeli and
Palestinian NGOS have been meeting for years to try to resolve both human and
political issues and to find a way out of the impasse.
EU-sponsored conference will be held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque under the
title, “Jerusalem: Two Capitals for Two States – From Breakdown to
There will be both Israeli and Palestinian speakers,
including Ron Pundak, Israeli co-chair of the Palestinian- Israeli Peace NGO
Forum; Meir Margalit, who prior to last week’s elections held the East Jerusalem
portfolio on the municipal council; Saman Khoury, secretarygeneral of the
Palestinian Peace NGO Forum; and Rami Nasrallah, chairman of the International
Peace and Cooperation Center.
Hopefully, they and other participants will
not have to experience the thuggery that was wrought upon a similar group, Minds
of Peace, last Friday in downtown Jerusalem. Initiated by Dr. Sapir Handelman,
who wants to establish an Israeli- Palestinian congress, the group meets at
quarterly intervals in the plaza outside Hamashbir with the aim of total
transparency, in that all passersby are welcome to sit and listen to what is
The Israelis in the group include religiously observant
News of last Friday’s meeting provoked reaction from Kahane Tzadak
(Kahane Was Right) followers, who came and surrounded the fenced-off area in
which the speakers had congregated and began booing loudly, blowing whistles and
drowning out all the speeches, even though the speakers were using a microphone.
There was also a large police turnout to prevent violence.
perfectly legitimate for the Kahane people and any other group opposed to peace
or territorial compromise to protest against these issues, but not at the
expense of those who advocate them.
■ MANY WOMEN believe they could do a
better job at peacemaking than men, and will discuss the issue at a conference
to be held tomorrow, October 31, at the Na Laga’at Theater at the Jaffa Port.
The closing session will be addressed by five female MKs: Gila Gamliel, Shuli
Moalem- Refaeli, Merav Michaeli, Adi Kol and Michal Roisin. There will also be
male speakers, including the head of the Delegation of the EU to the State of
Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson, and Robert Serry, the UN special
coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
■ AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR
Franz Josef Kuglitsch surprised and delighted Israeli guests attending the
Austrian National Day celebrations at his residence, when he delivered a welcome
speech in nearly perfect Hebrew (with only one grammatical mistake), without
resorting to notes.
In the past, ambassadors from other countries have
labored to pronounce a couple of transliterated Hebrew sentences, clutching
their notes as if they were lifebelts, but Kuglitsch humorously delivered a
well-received address in Hebrew before switching to English, and again speaking
without notes. Kuglitsch and his charming wife, Maria, it turns out, like to do
their Hebrew homework together.
Deputy Welfare and Social Services
Minister Mickey Levy, who is the former police chief of Jerusalem, did have
notes prepared for him by the Foreign Ministry, but he might have been better
off following his host’s example – because he can speak English much better than
he can read it. He stumbled over words and changed grammar, but to his credit,
confronted the linguistic obstacles and kept going till the end as if there was
The two most fluent Hebrew speakers in the diplomatic
community are US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato. One
might venture to say that Sato, who speaks Hebrew without an accent, has a
slightly better command of the language. He smiled in pleasure while listening
to Kuglitsch, and said it has recently become a trend among ambassadors posted
to Israel to learn to speak Hebrew. “Everyone is speaking Hebrew now,” he
One thing is certain: Israelis should be very careful at diplomatic
functions if they want to badmouth any diplomat in Hebrew, because that person
could very well turn around and respond in kind.
In his address,
Kuglitsch employed a hint of irony when he remarked that “one of the preferred
occupations of Israeli government ministers is to attend National Day events.”
The truth is the Foreign Ministry often has a problem in getting a minister to
agree to do so, which is why the government was represented by a deputy
minister. Kuglitsch took it in stride, but some ambassadors get insulted at the
idea of not only hosting a deputy minister, but also a junior minister – and say
they would rather have no minister at all. Some even dispense with the speeches
Kuglitsch remarked that relations between Austria and Israel
were very good, something that he jokingly attributed to himself, but admitted
it might have something to do with visits to Israel by the Austrian foreign and
defense ministers. “But Austrian troops are no longer on the Golan, and that has
nothing to do with me,” he said.
He spoke quite candidly about how much
he and his wife love Israel – something that many others, not only Austrian
ambassadors, have said before him.
Among the guests that he welcomed by
name were Central Committee of Jews from Austria in Israel president, Gideon
Eckhaus, and new Ambassador to Austria Zvi Heifetz, who took up his post in
Vienna this week.
Kuglitsch also welcomed a group of 20 friends of the
Austrian Hospice, who came to Israel to join in its 150th anniversary
celebrations. The hospice, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is among other
things well-known for its cuisine. Representatives brought cakes from its
kitchen to the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya Pituah. Kuglitsch also
mentioned that many Austrian volunteers were helping out at Yad Vashem, the
Ghetto Fighters’ House and other institutions in Israel.
years, the fare at Austrian National Day receptions was prepared by soldiers
from the Austrian troops on the Golan Heights. “Now I have a new schnitzel
chef,” said Kuglitsch in introducing Peter Humel, who had prepared the
schnitzel, which has become as much of an Israeli staple as an Austrian culinary
Judging by the way people filled their plates and went back
for seconds, Humel was doing a good job.
Complimenting Kuglitsch on his
“excellent Hebrew,” Levy told him that he could come on aliya. For many
Israelis, he said, Vienna is associated with Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the
Zionist movement, who lived and worked there. Vienna was also the home of Jewish
geniuses such as Sigmund Freud, Erwin Schulhoff, Fritz Kreisler, Arthur
Schnitzler and Richard Tauber.
While conscious of the positive
relationship that now exists between Israel and Austria, Levy noted that Jews
cannot forget Austria’s role in the Holocaust. Anyone who visits the Jewish
Museum in Vienna is also reminded of the Holocaust in the permanent Installation
of Memory by the late Nancy Spero, an influential visual artist whose own Jewish
identity was largely influenced by the Holocaust. Daniella Spera, the current
director of the Jewish Museum of Vienna who is a frequent visitor to Israel, was
among the guests at the reception.
The National Days of most countries
are in celebration of independence, either through liberation from foreign or
oppressive rule or through discovery by some ancient explorer. In the case of
Austria, it commemorates the 1955 treaty of neutrality – when the last foreign
soldier from the Allied Powers, which occupied Austria from 1945-1955, left
■ ISRAEL’S FIRST Lady of Cinema is the amazing Lia Van
Leer, who with her late husband ,Wim, launched the Haifa and Jerusalem
Cinematheques – the nucleus of Israel’s cinematheque network and all that
entails, including a series of annual themed festivals like the prestigious
Jerusalem Film Festival – and who established the extensive Israel Film
She is to be honored this coming Friday, November 1 by French
Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave, who will confer on her the title of Officer of
the French Legion of Honor.
The ceremony will take place at the
ambassador’s residence in Jaffa in the presence of Serge Toubiana, president of
the French Cinematheque. The medal is being conferred in the name of the
president of the Republic of France, who will be in Israel himself in
mid-November, but whose crowded itinerary would probably not allow for him to
personally do the honors – though anyone who knows Lia Van Leer would agree she
is deserving of it.
Now 89 years old and walking with difficulty, the
indomitable Van Leer continues to be a constant presence at the Jerusalem
Cinematheque, traveling all over the country to cultural and social events. She
also goes overseas to look at new productions. In 2004, she was awarded the
Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and contribution to society, and she
received previous French honors by way of the Ordre du Mérite from president
Francois Mitterrand, and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from Jack Lang,
French culture minister, followed by the higher honor – the Chevalier de la
She will now receive yet a higher French award, in
appreciation of her services to the film industry.
Van Leer has also
received lifetime achievement awards from the Israeli Academy of Motion Pictures
and the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles, and has served on film juries in
Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Tribeca, Chicago, Edinburgh, Rotterdam and Venice, and
as host at the 2002 Berlinale Campus.
■ AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR Dave Sharma
and his wife, Rachel Lord, are busy involving themselves with charitable causes
in Israel. Last week, they hosted some 70 diplomatic colleagues and other
friends at the Australian residence in Herzliya Pituah, to create greater
awareness of the humanitarian work being done at Safed’s Ziv Medical Center, in
treating Syrian patients injured in the conflict now engulfing their
Ziv director Dr. Oscar Embon was on hand to answer questions and
to state that since February, Sieff has treated 144 Syrian patients, while
others have been treated at Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya and
Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Because the government can’t get its act
together and decide whether the Health or Defense ministries should foot the
bill for treatment, Embon has had to seek funding abroad, and said a Christian
foundation in France had provided a major donation to enable continued
The Sharmas had asked their guests to bring care packages for
distribution to the Syrian patients, to let them know the world does care about
them. The response was very gratifying, and the Sharmas collected a large number
of packages to take to Safed.
Then, that weekend, Sharma, who is very
sports-minded, persuaded two embassy staff members, third secretary Ben Rhee and
consular services manager David Stark, to join him in a 180-km. bike ride on
behalf of Beit Hashanti. The organization caters to at-risk youth, giving them
shelter, food, advice, a sense of purpose and loads of affection. Most of the
youngsters cared for at Beit Hashanti are runaways who were abused at home, and
suffered further abuse on the streets.
During the last five kilometers of
the ride, cyclists were joined by youngsters from Beit Hashanti’s Desert Home
near Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev. All in all, more than 1,000 cyclists took part
in the event, which this year was dedicated to the memory of Shneor Cheshin, the
son of retired Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin and his wife, Ruth, who for
many years presided over the Jerusalem Foundation.
Tomorrow, Sharma is
heading south again, this time to Beersheba, for a distinctly Australian event
in the Park of the Australian Soldier. There, he and other Australians will mark
the 96th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba – in which the Light Horse
regiment of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, together with British
troops, defeated Ottoman forces. The Park of the Australian Soldier was a gift
to the city of Beersheba by the Australian-headquartered Pratt
Sharma will be the third Australian ambassador to conduct a
commemorative ceremony there since the park’s inauguration in April
■ THERE WERE quite a number of prominent figures at the festive
cocktail party hosted at Beit Hatfutsot by Edouard Cukierman, chairman of
Cukierman Investment House and managing partner of the Catalyst Fund, to launch
the annual Go4Europe conference.
One of the conference’s keynote speakers
was Baron David de Rothschild, chairman of the Rothschild Group, who specially
came from France for the occasion. He didn’t make it to Israel in time for the
cocktail party, but did come to grace the podium the following
Coincidentally, one of the exhibitions at Beit Hatfutsot honors the
memory and work of Jehezkiel David Kirszenbaum, whose patron was the baron’s
mother, Alix de Rothschild.
Rothschild was not the only conference
participant to come from Europe for the conference.
Maximo Buch, Valencia’s economy, industry, tourism and employment minister;
David Hatchwell Altaras, vice president of the Federation of Spanish Jews, head
of the Madrid Jewish community and CEO of Excem, which inter alia markets
Israeli technology in Spain and South America; French film director and
scriptwriter Elie Chouraqui; Pierre Lellouche, president of NATO’s Parliamentary
Assembly; Dr. Christopher Proctor, CSO of British American Tobacco; Luc Muller,
CEO of the German Otto Group; Dr. Florent Gros, head of Novartis Venture Funds;
Lorenz Reibling, chairman of Taurus Investment Holdings; and
Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis, the giant Paris-headquartered multinational
advertising and public relations firm.
Also present was Roger Cukierman,
who for 30 years was the CEO of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, is considered
one of the most talented economists in France and in addition to being the
father of Edouard Cukierman, is the chairman of CRIF, the representative
umbrella organization of the French Jewish community – in which capacity he
spoke last week at The Jerusalem Post’s Diplomatic Conference.
AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould was also a speaker at the Post’s Diplomatic Conference.
As Britain’s former deputy chief of mission in Tehran, he based his address on
the Iranian threat.
Gould apologized that he would have to leave early
because he was recording a television segment with British fashion mavens Trinny
Woodall and Susannah Constantine, who for the past three years have been doing
makeovers in Israel, dispensing advice via Channel 10 to Israelis who want a
change of image. Gould, who recently hosted Trinny and Susannah at a reception
at his residence, said that he was more nervous about appearing with them on TV
and talking about fashion than talking about nuclear Iran.
Gould was the
first speaker immediately after the coffee break, where latecomers were still
partaking of the sumptuous Daniel Hotel breakfast. While waiting patiently for
people to return and take their seats, Gould remarked: “It’s very difficult to
separate a Jewish audience from a buffet table.” He can say that without being
accused of being anti- Semitic, because he happens to be a member of the
■ DUTCH AMBASSADOR Caspar Veldkamp, who often rides his bike to
diplomatic events, has found a companion colleague in Belgian Ambassador John
Cornet D’Elzius, also an avid bike rider. The two rode their bicycles to the
Post’s Diplomatic Conference, though members of Veldkamp’s staff came by
■ IF THE definition of democracy is government of the people, for
the people, by the people, there seems to be some kind of anomaly in attempts to
limit the number of terms in which someone can serve as mayor, as well as in
preventing an elected mayor charged with a crime from holding office.
number of mayors returned to office in the last election indicates the public
doesn’t mind if they serve more than two consecutive terms; and the fact that
three mayors facing criminal charges were reelected is perhaps a sign the public
believes that someone is innocent until found guilty. A politician who has to
suspend his or her political career at least until such time as court
proceedings are completed, can very well lose that career because the court case
drags on for so long.
A current example of that is that of former prime
minister Ehud Olmert, who yielding to pressure with regard to allegations of
corruption, stepped down in March 2009 – but was not served with an indictment
until the end of August of that year. The case against him is still dragging on
more than four years later.
Olmert’s record as a prime minister is widely
regarded as a good one, and there has been much speculation about his return to
politics if acquitted. In the meantime, at least five years of his possible
political career will have been put on hold.
The French appear to have a
better sense of national interest and refrain from prosecuting a sitting
president, waiting until that person is out of office in order to press
A more glaring example perhaps than Olmert is that of the late
Simcha Dinitz, a former MK who also served as director-general of the Prime
Minister’s Office, an ambassador to the US, and chairman of the Executive of the
World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Dinitz was publicly hauled
over the coals for allegedly abusing his credit card privileges. He had a Jewish
Agency credit card, which he apparently used for private purchases as well. The
accounts department at the Jewish Agency could easily have deducted these costs
from Dinitz’s salary, as the rules required presentation of receipts for all
purchases made with the credit card. Instead, his reputation was besmirched all
over the media, he was indicted for theft and he was forced to
Yitzhak Rabin publicly spoke out on Dinitz’s behalf, and in the
subsequent drawn-out court case, Dinitz was acquitted of all charges. His
reputation was saved, but his career was ruined and his spirit was
History may recall the significant roles he played in
coordinating weapons supplies from the US to Israel during the Yom Kippur War,
helping to facilitate mass immigration from the Soviet Union and the airlifting
of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Solomon. But all these noteworthy
achievements cannot quite erase the stain on his character, which remained in
people’s memories long after the court had found him not guilty.
VETERAN TELEVISION broadcaster Rafik Halabi is entering into a new
Often a controversial figure, the prize-winning Halabi, instead of
covering politics which he has done for many years, has entered the political
arena – and in last week’s elections was elected mayor of the Daliat al-Carmel
Local Council, defeating incumbent council head Carmel Nasser a-Din.
popular figure in circles way beyond the Druse community, Halabi received
literally thousands of congratulatory messages in Arabic, Hebrew and English.
One woman, who believes he has extraordinary powers, asked him to pray for her
recovery from cancer so she can continue to take care of her nine-year-old twin