GRAPEVINE: Will Beersheba’s loss be London’s gain?

Prince William, the Jerusalem Fund for Alyn and an opera house for Jerusalem

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June 28, 2018 22:21
GRAPEVINE: Will Beersheba’s loss be London’s gain?

Britain's Prince William walks with religious leaders as he arrives for a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, June 28, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

 
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In the course of a lively exchange at the British residence on Tuesday night between the Duke of Cambridge and Prof. Rivka Carmi, the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Prince William learned that Carmi is a pediatrician. After mentioning to her that there is a shortage of pediatricians in the UK, Carmi, who is due to step down as president in December, told the prince without missing a beat, “I’m available as of January 1.”

Does that mean that she’s moving to Harley Street in London? Time will soon tell. Carmi does have a British connection. She was conferred with a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2015. She was one of a small group representing academia and the sciences in Israel who were invited to meet with the Duke of Cambridge during the reception. Among the others was Prof. Ruth Arnon, who was the co-developer of the multiple sclerosis wonder drug Copaxone.

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Earlier in the day, when William came to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, senior members of the president’s staff lined up in a reception line to receive him and shake his hand. Among them were people who in the past were never seen when other important dignitaries came to the residence. There was also someone who is almost always seen, and that was the president’s haredi bureau chief, Rivka Ravitz, who doesn’t shake hands with men. Apparently someone had forgotten to clue up the royal visitor, who put out his hand as he reached her in the line, but she kept her own hands firmly clasped, and the prince moved on to the next person as if nothing was untoward.

William has obviously inherited the charm, brilliant smile and social ease of his late mother, Princess Diana, who was known as the People’s Princess because she was perfectly comfortable in all and any strata of society. Even though he stood head and shoulders taller than almost everyone with whom he met both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the prince, nonetheless, in the spirit of his mother, spoke to everyone – even children – at eye level. Most of the photographs previously seen of the prince showed him from the chest up, so people didn’t realize that in terms of height, he could qualify for an American basketball team.

It was interesting that the prince found something in common with almost everyone he met, including Chemi Peres, who heads the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, which was established by his late father, Shimon Peres, who in November 2008 received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Both Chemi Peres and the Duke of Cambridge served in the air force of their respective countries, and both are seasoned pilots.

■ AT THE King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday the paparazzi were waiting for William to return from Ramallah, but when they realized that they were not about to capture him in the lens of their cameras, they switched their focus to US Ambassador David Friedman and other dignitaries who came to participate in the gala dinner that was being held by the Advanced Security Training Institute (ASTI) in honor of Israeli and American first responders.

Sheldon Ritz, the hotel’s director of operations, took time out from matters related to the royal visit to greet Friedman and other VIPs. For Friedman, the King David is something in the nature of home away from home.

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Of the royal stay in the hotel, Ritz said that it was extremely successful, and that the prince was “a fantastic human being with no ego.” In his beck-and-call profession, Ritz has had to almost completely submerge his own ego, but William, he said, “has even less of an ego than I do.” The prince had initiated friendly conversations without the airs and graces that are so often characteristic of people of his status.

■ AS FOR the ASTI event, it included a large delegation of Americans – many in Israel for the first time – from various police departments, including homeland security, fire departments, emergency managers, plus members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and DC Homeland Security & Emergency Management Agency, who mingled with English-speaking Israeli counterparts. ASTI’s mission is to ensure the safety and security of American citizens. Its Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity Israel Immersion Training Course provides critical training and education for US members of Congress and first responders.

The ASTI philosophy is that, due to their exposure to Israel’s vast experience in dealing with terrorism on a consistent basis, Americans will be better equipped to understand how the United States can improve its terrorist detection, prevention, response and recovery in every US city, county, district, state as well as in the nations America protects from international terrorist activities and cyber attacks.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel told the American visitors that they had come to one of the top digital countries in the world, a country that is a leader in cybersecurity. She emphasized that 20% of global investment in cybersecurity is in Israel, adding that Israel and the US are natural allies in cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism.

Michael Oren, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that although Israel enjoys significant relationships with a number of countries, none is as special as the relationship with the United States.

In addition to the “deepest multifaceted strategic relationship” that includes intelligence sharing, Oren also referred to the spiritual connection, saying that more Americans read the Bible than any other industrial nation, and that in the Bible they are told of God’s design for His chosen people.

Oren listed a number of Israeli defense systems that are being used or will be used by American security forces, not the least of which is the tunnel detection technology whose inventors were honored this week with the Defense Prize at a ceremony at the President’s Residence. “We are standing together, defending the same civilization,” said Oren. “We share the same beliefs. We are you and you are us. We are fighting for the same cause. We appreciate all you do to make America safe, because when America is safe, the world is safe.”

Friedman had to change much of what he had planned to say, because, he explained, Oren had made nearly all the points that he had wanted to make. Calling the first responders “truly selfless heroes,” Friedman said that they are the representatives of hessed, a Hebrew word for which, he said, there is no single translation. “It means charity, righteousness, kindness and justice.” First responders, he continued, “are engaged in incredible acts of hessed every day.” He lauded them for engaging “in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice for people whom they don’t know and may never see again.”

■ EVERY NOW and again, on occasions when new ambassadors present their credentials, there may be one, at the most two, in an average group of five, who is non-resident. But this time three of the five who, on July 2, will present their credentials to President Reuven Rivlin are nonresident. The two resident ambassadors are from Colombia and Russia, and the nonresident ambassadors are from Grenada, Armenia and New Zealand. Although New Zealand recognized the State of Israel in 1949, it has never had a resident ambassador. The ambassador resides in Turkey.

Well-known businessman Gad Propper has been the honorary consul of New Zealand for close to quarter of a century, and is the main link between Israel and the embassy in Ankara, and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Wellington.

Israel and Armenia have had diplomatic relations since 1991, when Armenia became independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tsolak Momijan, a Jerusalem-born Armenian jewelry manufacturer, was appointed honorary consul of Armenia in 1996, but the Armenian ambassador resides in Cairo.

Israel and Grenada established diplomatic relations in January 1975, but until now Grenada has never had an ambassador to Israel. Its first-ever ambassador to Israel, Dr. Alvin Schonfeld, is not even a native of Grenada. He’s an American pulmonologist from Chicago, who for several years has been Grenada’s honorary consul there. Schonfeld has a very unique relationship with Grenada and, though nonresident, will be instrumental in enhancing bilateral ties, especially because he happens to be Jewish.

Grenada did not have a full-time rabbi before December 2013, when Chabad Rabbi Boruch Rozmarin and his wife, Chaya, took up permanent residence. Although the history of Jews in Grenada goes back for more than a thousand years, they were massacred in various conquests, so there was no community to speak of until the second half of the last century. The Jews who lived in Grenada had the services of roving rabbis, but until four-and-a-half years ago never had a resident rabbi. Most of Grenada’s Jewish community comprises the 500 Jewish students, mostly from the United States, who are enrolled at St. George’s University.

Refusal by many countries, including Grenada, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital does not mean that they don’t recognize Israel per se. Of the 192 member states of the UN, only 29 do not recognize Israel, but 161 do recognize Israel – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and antisemitism notwithstanding.

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