■ During the first year or two that Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping hosted her
country’s National Day receptions in Israel, security was overly tight and
aggressive attitudes on the part of some of her staff caused guests to feel
unwelcome. But all that has changed.
Few things could have been more
welcoming than the reception she hosted last week in celebration of the 64th
anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Beautiful, smiling young Chinese
women clad in traditional garb stood in the lobby of Tel Aviv’s Dan Hotel to
welcome the guests.
The lobby area surrounding the reception room was
decorated with gold-trimmed red Chinese lanterns, and there was lots of
literature in book, magazine and pamphlet form about various aspects of China.
There was also a book about Tibet.
A row of senior embassy staff greeted
the guests, but Gao was not among them. She was waiting for the arrival of
President Shimon Peres, who she admires greatly – as evinced in the address she
delivered later in the evening.
The Chinese National Day receptions
invariably include a sampling of Chinese culture.
Gao had chefs flown in
from Chengdu in Sichuan Province to prepare authentic cuisine, which the
ambassador charmingly assured her guests was very delicious. Indeed it
Gao also flew in performing artists from Chengdu, who kept the
guests entertained prior to the formal part of the ceremony, and who after the
speeches performed for Peres.
The president was absolutely entranced by
the varied talents of daring acrobats, superbly synchronized dancers, exponents
of traditional Chinese musical instruments playing Chinese folk music, and the
intriguing face-changing act of Zhao Jianrong of the Sichuan Opera Art Research
Among the guests was former foreign minister and defense
minister Moshe Arens, who as defense minister paid a secret visit to China well
before the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Arens at 87 is only three years younger than Peres, but just as spry – if not
Also present were Eugene Kandel, the senior economic adviser to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and head of the inter-ministerial committee to
promote economic relations between Israel and China; ambassadors of nearly all
the Asian countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations; and Ambassador
Lars Faaborg-Anderson, the new head of the EU Delegation to Israel, who will
have to wait until mid-December or so before he can present his credentials to
Netanyahu, who attended last year’s celebration, did not attend
this year, but only because it was the anniversary of the passing of his
father-inlaw, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, and he had to give priority to family
commitments. He explained this in a video, saying the Chinese, like the Jews,
honor their parents and ancestors.
The prime minister spoke warmly of his
recent visit to China, where he had been deeply impressed by the “stunning
development” that he saw there. He was also encouraged by the tremendous
hospitality and friendship that had been extended to him and his
Both Netanyahu and Peres noted that China has lifted millions of
people out of poverty, and Netanyahu saw Israel as a perfect partner for China
as it continues its economic growth.
The prime minister said that both
his sons were enthused about their visit to China – so much so that one is
studying Chinese. “Perhaps the other one will too,” he said.
Gao, in her
address, declared how honored she and her staff were by Peres’s presence, which
she said was of great significance to Chinese-Israeli friendship and relations.
“You are not only the well-respected leader of the Israeli people, but also an
old and good friend of the Chinese people,” she told him.
address, Gao made frequent reference to China’s love of peace and harmony,
saying, “China is committed to the path of peaceful development, and the
independent foreign policy of peace.”
With regard to China’s rapid
economic growth, Gao spoke of the renewal of the Chinese nation and the great
Chinese dream for 1.3 billion citizens – to build a society of initial
prosperity by 2020, and to transform China into a modern socialist country by
the mid- 21st century. “We will continue to grow the economy, improve people’s
living standards, uphold social justice and stay firm on the path of reform and
the opening-up of China,” said Gao, adding that if this dream comes true, it
will benefit the whole world and the State of Israel in
Outlining China’s long-term economic policy, Gao noted that
the Chinese government has taken on a macroeconomic policy that addresses both
immediate and long-term needs, and has adopted a series of innovative policy
This is with a view toward ensuring steady growth, adjusting
economic structure and promoting reforms, which will ensure sustained and
healthy growth of the Chinese economy.
Indeed, in the coming five years,
China’s commodities imports will exceed $10 trillion, its overseas investment
will reach $500 billion, and Chinese tourists will make over 400 million
This will more strongly promote the world economy and
bring more tangible benefits to other countries, Gao said.
stated that China will play a more proactive and constructive role in addressing
international and regional hotspot issues, and promote peace and dialogue,
defuse conflicts, and uphold peace and stability.
Recalling China as it
once was, Peres marveled: “Whoever thought it would become the second-greatest
economy in the world? It’s unprecedented!” He also said that Chinese leaders
were welcome to take part in peacemaking in the Middle East. To achieve peace,
you have to escape poverty, he said, emphasizing that “China is the greatest
example of how to escape poverty.”
Referring to the ongoing enhancement
of the relationship between the Jewish state and China, Peres listed
developments such as China’s venture capital investment and joint ventures in
Israeli hi-tech, with two Chinese research centers in Israel; joint academic
programs with the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and the Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology; and the recent massive donation of $130 million by the
Chinese Li Ka Shing Foundation to the Technion.
Peres echoed the belief
of both Netanyahu and Gao that Israel and China can work well together, for the
benefit of all.
Meanwhile, Israel is in the process of opening a
consulategeneral in Chengdu, which will further strengthen the relationship
between the two nations.
To demonstrate the warmth of their friendship
for Israel, the Chinese gave each guest a souvenir toy panda, which says “I love
you” when its belly is pressed.
■ IT SEEMS hard to believe that only a
few ago, less than a handful of Japanese restaurants were operating in Israel –
when compared to the plethora of sushi bars now opening up all over the country
and serving many kinds of Japanese cuisine, in addition to
Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato, emphasizing that there are now
more than 400 restaurants in Israel serving sushi, attributes this culinary
revolution to Dr. Roni Bornstein, the chairman of the Israel-Japan Chamber of
Commerce, to whom he awarded the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation at a
reception at the Japanese residence last week.
Bornstein is the founder
of Rakuto Kasei Israel, which he established in 1990 as a joint venture with
Rakuto Kasei Japan. It is one of the few Israeli companies with Japanese
shareholders. The company deals with exports, and imports enzymes for the
textile and food industries and raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry.
Bornstein’s company also imports food products from Japan such as Kikkoman soy
sauce, sushi rice, Sapporo beer, and other food and beverages.
Bornstein initiated what is believed to be the first and only kosher sushi
competition in the world. Since then there have been three such events, which
received wide media coverage and contributed to greater awareness in Israel of
Japanese culinary traditions.
This awareness will be enhanced during
Japanese Food Week in mid-November, beginning with a gala dinner on November
Sato commented dryly that the Japanese chefs participating in
Japanese Food Week would be coming not from Tokyo but from San
An award was also presented to architect and town planner Arie
Kutz, chairman of the Japan-Israel Friendship Society, who received a MEXT
scholarship from the Japanese government that enabled him to continue with his
architectural studies in Japan. MEXT is a Japanese acronym for Monbukagakusho,
which translates as the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Kutz studied at the Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1981,
receiving his Master’s in 1984. He will be working with the Tokyo-headquartered
Japanese architectural firm SANAA to design the new Bezalel campus in downtown
Kutz, who speaks fluent Japanese and has even adopted Japanese
mannerisms such as bowing when greeting someone, has an abiding passion for
Japan, and has worked closely with the Japanese Embassy to develop its Friday
lecture series on the myriad aspects of Japanese life and culture. Hato credited
Kutz with being a driving force in last year’s celebrations of the 60th
anniversary of diplomatic ties between Japan and Israel.
that in his 25 years of association with Japan, he had learned much from the
Japanese people. He observed that one of the commonalities between Israel and
Japan was that both were highly dependent on human resources – namely the brain.
He was convinced that there is great potential for Japanese companies to
contribute to the Jewish state’s technological and R&D growth.
said that his first encounter with Japanese culture was in Haifa, when he was
still a student. He fell in love with the Tikotin Japanese Museum, which was
managed by Eli Lancman, who is also a former chairman of the Japan- Israel
Friendship Society. Kutz was later instrumental in getting the Technion to
recognize a course that Lancman gave at the University of Haifa.
welcoming his guests, Sato said he was particularly glad to see former
ambassador to Japan Nissim Ben-Shitreet, who is now a deputy director-general at
the Foreign Ministry heading the Asia and Pacific department.
“I feel so
comfortable and fortunate being in the hands of a good friend of Japan,” said
Sato, who began his address in fluent and accentless Hebrew, but switched to
English so that his staff could understand.
Needless to say, following
the presentation of the awards, guests were invited to a sumptuous Japanese
feast in the ambassador’s dining room.
■ CULTURAL OUTREACH via culinary
delights has become a trendy concept among diplomatic and other representatives
of foreign countries in Israel. In addition to the Japanese Embassy’s sushi
festival next month, the Polish Institute together with the Polish Embassy and a
number of Israeli and Polish chefs will be holding a Polish culinary festival
from November 2-11.
Polish Ambassador Jacek Chodorowicz and Polish
Institute director Krzysztof Kopytko will be very busy traveling between Tel
Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem to attend some of the many festival events, which
include a young Polish chef cooking with an 85-year-old Polish-born Holocaust
survivor; and Polish and Israeli chefs cooking together to produce the cuisine
of the traditional Polish kitchen, the authentic Jewish-Polish kitchen and the
modern Polish kitchen. There will also be workshops, lectures, photo exhibitions
of Polish and Israeli dishes, films about food and an evening of wine and vodka
songs, with a little food thrown in for good measure.
Nothing is more
nostalgic than the nostalgia of the palate; because so many Polish Jews migrated
to Israel, there has been a strong Polish influence on Israeli cuisine. The
Jewish cuisine of any country is influenced by the culinary traditions of that
country, and adapted with regard to kashrut.
Unfortunately, the majority
of restaurant events that are part of the Polish Food Festival are not kosher,
but there are enough to ensure that observers of Jewish dietary laws will be
able to join in.
■ SOME OF the people who were rooting for Karnit Flug to
be appointed Israel’s first female governor of the Bank of Israel argued that a
woman is suited for the job, because balancing a household budget is a microcosm
of a national budget.
Actually the household budget is more difficult,
since so many items on it require cash in hand.
Can we say that Flug has
well and truly broken the glass ceiling? Not really. Yes, Israel has had women
who served in posts such as: prime minister – Golda Meir; two foreign ministers
– Meir and Tzipi Livni; one deputy defense minister – Dalia Rabin-Pelossof; one
Knesset speaker – Dalia Itzik; one Supreme Court president – Dorit Beinisch; one
National Labor Court president – Nili Arad; and one head of a credit card
company – Irit Isaacson, who chairs the board of Isracard, the largest credit
card company in Israel.
The list also includes five women heads of
commercial banks – First International Bank of Israel CEO Smadar Barber-Zadik;
Rakefet Russak- Aminach, who succeeded Galia Maor as CEO of Bank Leumi; Etti
Langerman, CEO of Discount Mortgage Bank; and Lilach Asher-Topilsky, CEO of
Israel Discount Bank; as well as one woman CEO of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange –
Ester Levanon; and two female university presidents – Rivka Carmi of Ben-Gurion
University and the Open University’s Hagit Messer-Yaron.
The list goes
on, with women occupying important roles in politics, scientific organizations,
industry and academia, but too often they were or are the first and only women
in these positions. Until it becomes normal for women to be judged solely for
their merits for the job at-hand, and not on the basis of gender, the glass
ceiling may have many cracks – but it will not be broken.
is heartening that three of the political parties in the Knesset are led by
women, and that several women are heads of departments in the Finance
What is perhaps most heartening from a gender perspective is
that while the Israeli media was digging for dirt on other candidates for the
position of Bank of Israel governor – causing them great embarrassment and in
some cases to withdraw from the race – Flug received unbridled media support.
Everyone seemed to be in her corner.
Few Israeli public figures can boast
of such popularity.
■ WHEN HE decided to celebrate his 60th anniversary
in show business with a one-man show in Israel, Mike Burstyn figured that age
68, it was time to look back on a professional career that started when he was
eight years old.
Actually, his first stage appearance was when he was
three, but he waited five years to make his professional debut.
on stage and screen ever since, performing in Hebrew, English, Yiddish and
Dutch. His current show, Shuv Itchem (With You Again), is a one-man Hebrew
performance – though he sings in five languages.
It is essentially a
review of the best of Burstyn over the past six decades.
to being surprised at how well the show has been received. Change in everything
is so rapid these days, he was not sure how much appeal the show would have. But
he’s been getting good baby boom audiences around the country, a fact that
gladdens his heart.
On November 3, he’ll be doing a benefit show for Beit
Halochem, which had offered to buy out the show for the evening. But Burstyn
said he wanted to do something for disabled soldiers whose disability resulted
from their service to the nation, and decided that this would be a pro bono
After that he’ll take a short break and return to the US,
where he lives, but will be back in Israel very soon after to continue his
■ CONTRARY TO the old adage that a prophet has no honor
in his own country, Amos Oz, one of Israel’s bestknown authors at home and
abroad, is heard more in his own city than in Stockholm.
In fact, when it
was being debated a couple of weeks back whether there would be any Israelis
among this year’s crop of Nobel Prize laureates, one radio wag said that all we
can sure of is that Oz will not receive the Nobel Prize for
For years on end, it has been thought in Israel and elsewhere
that Oz is more than deserving of a Nobel Prize, but somehow it has eluded him –
just as the Israel Prize eluded Ephram Kishon, who finally received it in 2002,
and not for literature.
He was given a lifetime achievement award for his
special contribution to society and the State of Israel.
Kishon, who was 77 at the time, and whose prolific writings had been translated
into more than 30 languages, said in response, “I’ve won the Israel Prize, even
though I’m pro-Israel. It’s almost like a state pardon. They usually give it to
one of those liberals who love the Palestinians and hate the
In that respect, Oz, who has received many prestigious prizes,
most recently the Franz Kafka Prize in May, received the Israel Prize for
Literature in 1998, when he was not yet 60.
This was in addition to
several other prizes awarded in Israel, France, Germany, Romania, Spain, Italy
Among his Israeli prizes is the Dan David Prize, which he
received in 2008 – a very good year for him as far as prizes go.
night, Oz added yet another prize to his collection, which was something in the
nature of a homecoming. The Jerusalem-born Oz is a philosophy and Hebrew
literature graduate of the Hebrew University.
Last night, in a ceremony
at his alma mater, he received the I and B Neuman Prize for Hebrew Literature,
which was first presented to S.Y. Agnon at the Hebrew University seven years
prior to his becoming Israel’s first Nobel Prize laureate – so there is still
hope for Oz in that direction.
As it happens, one of the many prizes Oz
has won is the Agnon Prize, which he received in 2006.
was special, in that it marked the 50th anniversary of its
Curiously, the year in which Oz received the Israel Prize
was likewise the jubilee year of the state.
In addition to numerous
essays, Oz has so far written 35 books. His works have been translated into 42
languages, and he is a much sought-after lecturer in many parts of the
■ WITH HIS own political future hanging precariously in the
balance, and with cause to worry about some of the candidates he was fielding in
municipal elections, Yisrael Beytenu leader and Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman continues to play it
Liberman, looking as cheerful and unconcerned as ever, was one of
the speakers at the opening dinner of the World Jewish Congress, which he
categorized as Israel’s “second Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
to the turmoil in the region, Liberman said: “In the past year since the Arab
Spring started, it is clear that there are no links between the conflict and the
real problems in the Middle East. For years, we have dealt with
misrepresentation of the conflict. Today, it is clear from what is happening in
Syria and Egypt that the problem is primarily internal and domestic. It is not
the conflict, or the Jews – it is the radical Islamic wing in the Arab
Moving closer to home, Liberman said: “It is impossible to
impose peace. It is possible to work for peace – and today it is being imposed.
The problem with the Palestinians is not a political one. It is not the
settlements or the refugees; it is the economy. To first bring a political
solution without resolving economic and security issues is a mistake and
misunderstanding of our situation.”
Among the other dignitaries attending
the dinner were Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is in
Israel to sign a bilateral memorandum of understanding for the creation of a
University of Texas campus in Nazareth. The signing ceremony is scheduled to
take place today, Wednesday, at the President’s Residence, in the presence of
Peres; Education Minister Shai Piron; Council for Higher Education chairman
Manuel Trajtenberg; Knesset Education Committee chairman Amram Mitzna; the mayor
of Nazareth (whose identity was uncertain at presstime); Nazareth Academic
College representatives; and University of Texas president Bill