There are generally no rules about sensitivities, and what pushes one person’s
buttons may be water off a duck’s back for someone else. The proverbial straw
that broke the camel’s back for Aryeh Shumer, who was director general of the
President’s Bureau under Ezer Weizman, was the announcement in Yediot Aharonot
on Thursday that yet another Hollywood celebrity –Robert De Niro– was coming to
Israel to join President Shimon Peres in celebrating his 90th birthday at the
fifth Presidential Conference, which opens at the Jerusalem International
Convention Center on June 18.
Speaking to Ayala Hasson and Hanan Kristal
on Israel Radio’s It’s all Talk, Shumer – while expressing the greatest
admiration and respect for Peres, and wishing him many more years of life –
called on him to cancel the conference in deference to the number of Israelis
living below the poverty line or barely making ends meet. Such an extravaganza
with thousands of people was not appropriate under the present economic climate,
said Shumer, adding that someone had to be paying the expenses and appearance
fees of the celebrities. He recalled that in Weizman’s first year as president,
there had been a large solidarity conference aimed at strengthening
Israel-Diaspora relations that had been attended by 1,500 people – and it had
been held in the garden of the President’s Residence.
Shumer most was the financing of the conference under the Basic Law. The
president, he said, is not allowed in any way to be involved with fund-raising.
Linking the name of Peres to the conference as well as to the official opening
of the Peres College in Rehovot – where former US president Bill Clinton will
deliver the keynote address – smacks of his participation in raising funds to
finance the conference, Shumer said.
Former cabinet secretary Israel
Maimon, who has been chairman of the Presidential Conference since its inception
in 2008, was flabbergasted.
The Presidential Conference and the
President’s Bureau are two totally separate entities, he said, but admitted that
the conference organizers had exploited the president’s 90th birthday to attract
some 2,000 overseas participants from among the 4,000 plus people attending the
conference. Unlike the conference hosted by Weizman, said Maimon, none of the
funding was at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer, but came from individuals
and organizations – which are all listed with full transparency on the
conference website. Moreover, he insisted, many of the celebrities are paying
their own expenses, and contrary to practice abroad, none of the 200 or so
speakers is being paid a speaker’s fee. The fact that someone of the stature of
Peres can attract so many great minds, topnotch business people, academics and
giants in other fields is a blessing for Israel, Maimon declared.
the conference will be broadcast in real time all over the world – a factor that
Maimon believes will counter much of the negative publicity Israel has received
in recent months. Shumer remained unconvinced.
■ IT’S FORTUITOUS when two
international conferences to which a leader in his field has been invited take
place in the same country – albeit not in the same city. At the beginning of
this week, world renowned architect and designer Daniel Libeskind was in Haifa to
participate in the Haifa Waterfront Conference, which was hosted by Mayor Yona
Yahav at the Dan Carmel Hotel and the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology.
Libeskind and three colleagues – Martha Schwartz, Gregg Pasquarelli and Vanessa
Kassabian – broke away from the conference, and accompanied by several Israeli
colleagues, traveled to Jerusalem to meet with Peres, who indicated that he was
familiar with their work.
The purpose of the Waterfront Conference was to
broaden the debate on the rehabilitation and revitalization of the waterfront,
with a view to making Haifa one of the most beautiful and economically lucrative
port cities in the world.
Libeskind is due to attend another
international conference next week in Jerusalem, where according to the program
of the Second Jerusalem International Tourism Summit, he is scheduled to speak
at two of the sessions.
Some really big names in the global tourist
industry and its sideline industries, such as the design and construction of
tourist facilities and attractions, will spend two days in the capital
discussing myriad tourism-related issues. Among the participants from the US
will be Sheldon Adelson, one of the most generous of Jewish philanthropists, who
has donated tens of millions of dollars to Israeli projects, primarily Yad
Vashem – to which he and his wife, Miriam, have given more than any other
private donor. Adelson is the founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a leading global
developer of integrated resorts combining vacation destinations with
mega-convention facilities, entertainment and casinos; he is also the founder of
Comdex, the world’s largest trade show with a presence in several countries. He
will receive a special JITS honor in recognition of his ongoing contribution to
the development of Jerusalem.
Appearing on the program just ahead of
Adelson is Michael Leven, president of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., who travels
frequently to Asia to check the progress of the company’s investments in
Singapore and Macao. Leven is also a philanthropist, who inter alia has provided
many scholarships for students at Hadassah College. Among the speakers towards
the end of the conference will be architect Michael Arad, the designer of the
National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. Arad is the son of
veteran diplomat Moshe Arad, who is a former ambassador to the US.
seems that prophets are heard best when outside their own cities.
design by an Israeli was selected to memorialize the victims of the World Trade
Center tragedy, it stands to reason that an internationally celebrated,
Polish-born architect in the person of Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum
in Berlin and museums in other parts of the world, would lose out to a Finnish
company in the contest for Poland’s Museum of History of Polish Jews.
IT WAS a hectic week for Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner, who was saying
her final goodbyes – or as she put it, “lehitraots” – before leaving Thursday
after concluding her period of tenure.
Faulkner just missed out on an
upcoming Australian Trade Mission, which her successor Dave Sharma may miss by a
whisker – or may welcome before he even unpacks his suitcases. Sharma’s
appointment was announced only as recently as May 16 by Australian Foreign
Minister Bob Carr.
A senior career officer with Australia’s Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sharma was most recently assistant secretary in the
Africa branch and previously acting first assistant secretary of the
international division in department of prime minister and cabinet. This will be
his first posting with the rank of ambassador. It seems that in recent years,
Australia has developed a keenness for its diplomats to cut their ambassadorial
teeth on Israel.
Faulkner’s first ambassadorial posting was to Israel, as
was that of her predecessor James Larsen. Sharma, his wife, Rachel, and their
three daughters are due to arrive here some time within the new two to three
weeks. The high-level Australian Trade Delegation is due to arrive on June 10,
so time will tell whether Sharma will be on hand to greet them. Faulkner
welcomed a trade delegation very soon after her own arrival in Israel, as did
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry hosted a farewell luncheon for
Faulkner in the presidential suite of the Mount Zion Hotel in
That day, Faulkner dealt with packing in the morning, and in
the evening hosted her own farewell, which was attended by several ambassadors
from Pacific Rim countries, plus other ambassadors who are also leaving this
summer. They included Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly; Brazilian Ambassador
Maria Elisa Berenguer; and head of EU Delegation Andrew Standley, who with his
wife, Judith, will be taking up a posting in Mexico, where they are unlikely to
have the same freedom of movement they have enjoyed in Israel.
also considerable Australian representation, which included embassy personnel,
and all were able to relax – with the exception of Faulkner’s unflappable and
eversmiling personal assistant Esti Sherbelis.
Among the other
Australians were Danny Hakim; Jack and Selina Beris; Harvey Belik; Ann and
George Fink; Nathan Cherny; Amiel Gurt; and several others. In her farewell
speech, Faulkner said that she loved parties but she wasn’t happy to be having
this one, because she was leaving Israel. It had been a privilege for her to
represent Australia in Israel, she said, noting the strong bilateral
relationship between the two countries that goes back to the early 20th
Looking around at her guests, who included diplomatic
colleagues, academics, and representatives of the science, media, arts, sport
and business communities, she attributed the rich relationship between Israel
and Australia to all of them in different ways. She thanked the diplomats for
their camaraderie, and so many of the people present for opening their projects,
organizations and homes to her, “so that every day, I found something new in
Also present were representatives of the Israel Postal Company,
who together with Faulkner and Israel’s ambassador designate to Australia Shmuel
Ben-Shmuel, had a few days earlier participated in the Israel launch of a series
of stamps marking the charge of the Australian Light Horse Brigade in Beersheba
in October 1917.
The stamp was initially released earlier in the month at
a ceremony in Australia in conjunction with a World Stamp Exhibition in
The Australian release in the office of Broadband,
Communications and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy was attended by
Israel’s outgoing Ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem. One of the stamps
features the statue of an Australian Light Horseman in the Park of the
Australian Soldier in Beersheba, a gift of the Australianheadquartered Pratt
Foundation, which supports numerous social welfare and environmental projects in
Faulkner was wary of mentioning names of people in case she left
someone out, but felt the need to express appreciation to Paul Israel, executive
director of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce, with which the embassy
works very closely, and to Michael Ronen, who heads the Foreign Ministry’s
■ JOURNALISTS ARE also guilty sins of omission.
Apologies are extended to Ami Bergman, the representative of the Joint
Distribution Committee who not only was one of the speakers at this week’s
memorial ceremony in Jerusalem for Carmen Weinstein, the late president of the
Cairo’s Jewish community, but was also mentioned by other speakers as
Weinstein’s salvation when she needed kosher food and ritual objects for
communal Jewish celebrations.
Unfortunately, it was overlooked in the
item about Weinstein in Wednesday’s “Grapevine,” but not forgotten.
MORE THAN 100 Friends of WIZO, an organization created in 2004 as distinct from
WIZO itself and comprising mainly English speakers, attended the annual Sponsor
a Child fund-raising luncheon and fashion show in the Rosmarine Court Gardens in
Herzliya Pituah, and were treated to a closeup view of the 2013 Gottex swim and
Several Gottex representatives were present, among
them creative designer Molli Gradand sales director Gila Erlich, who worked in
close cooperation with Sylvia Milrod, a longtime member of Friends of WIZO, to
ensure the success of the event.
Others present included World WIZO
president Tova Ben-Dov; Prof. Rivka Lazofsky, chairwoman of the World WIZO
Executive; Janice Gillerman, wife of former ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman;
Linda Sagol of Keter Plastic; Faigie Zimmerman, chairwoman of the Israeli Opera
Friends Association; Dame Shirley Porter, a longstanding WIZO supporter; and
wellknown Israeli anchorwoman Dalia Mazor. Also spotted in the crowd were
several leading businesswomen and diplomats.
In the course of the event,
Friends of WIZO co-chairwoman Betty Crystal launched a 10th-anniversary Friends
of WIZO campaign, with a NIS 1 million goal. Campaign funds will go toward the
renovation of the WIZO Biranit Day Care Center, located in a low-income
neighborhood in south Tel Aviv.
■ CANCER, ONE of the most dreaded of
often fatal diseases, has claimed yet another Israeli fashion icon – supermodel
Penina “Pinchi” Mor. Known for having the longest and most beautiful legs of all
of the nation’s fashion models throughout Israel’s 65 years of statehood, Mor,
unlike some of her colleagues, maintained a youthful face and figure until the
very end, and even in her 50s could strut her stuff in a bikini. She succumbed
to cancer on Tuesday and was buried on Wednesday in the Even Yehuda
Mor was 62, but looked more like 42. Like the sensuous Tami
Ben- Ami, who was the seductive focus of the international paparazzi and who
died of cancer at age 40 in 1995, Mor was a top Gottex model, helping to put
Israel’s No. 1 swimwear brand on the world map.
Mor battled cancer for
two years, and in the early period of her illness continued working.
began her modeling career in the 1970s, and for more than a decade lived up to
the nickname of “the gams of the state.” When she posed on a runway she was
absolutely statuesque, but she had a playfully aggressive streak in her nature –
and when she paraded along the catwalk, it was with an audacious spring in her
In addition to modeling, Mor also helped produce fashion shows,
ranging from simple productions with only two or three models to major
extravaganzas with as many as 30 models. When producing these shows, she worked
closely with gala events producer Moti Reif and fellow model Hani
Mor was the darling of the gossip columnists and her name appeared
in gossip columns in all of Israel’s major publications for close to three
decades. In 2003, Judith Gottfried, the daughter of Gottex founder Lea Gottlieb,
who was a designer in her own right and helped to create many of the Gottex
collections, also died of cancer.
A couple of years back, Rojy
Ben-Joseph, another well-known designer who designed swimwear under the Rikma
label, but who was best known for adapting traditional Middle Eastern fabrics
into striking East-West caftans, trousers and other creations, also died of
cancer; and last December, Nurit Bat-Yaar, a former model who became the
longtime fashion editor of Yediot Aharonot and also produced the marvelously
illustrated Israel Fashion Art 1948-2008, also died of cancer.
was one of Israel’s most venerable fashion experts. There have been other
top-ranking fashion models who were diagnosed with cancer, but in their cases,
the disease was detected before it could do much