Since she is an international presenter for Italian fashion icon Armani, the invitation to a “private” cocktail party to celebrate the launch of the Armani Exchange flagship store in Israel at the Gindi TLV Fashion Mall, and to meet Roberta Armani, was issued by supermodel Shlomit Malka, although the real host was the Irani family, which represents Armani in Israel. There are now three Armani stores in Israel.
A private party, one might imagine, would consist of between 50 and 100 guests, but in this instance there were at least 250, cramped like sardines trying to swim in a box in a cordoned-off area outside the Armani Exchange store with its minimalist display of minimalist creations in which the couture cut along with the brand name are the principal selling points. The mall is delightfully air-conditioned, but in the area reserved for the party, the combined body heat of so many people in a confined space, not to mention that of numerous curious bystanders outside but on the edge of the cordoned-off section, served to create the atmosphere of an overcrowded Turkish bath.
It didn’t seem to bother Roberta Armani, the niece of the famous Giorgio, who is the company’s vice president and public relations director, and for whom this was a first-time visit to Israel.
Naturally friendly and knowing exactly what to do in front of the camera, she posed endlessly with fashion models, celebrities and lesser-known people, with a genuine smile that was also reflected in her eyes. Slim-figured but not quite as tall as the Israeli models, who would do well on a basketball team, she was wearing an Armani, gently asymmetric black dress trimmed with white bands at the neck and at the hemline which rested slightly above the knees. She teamed the dress with black tights and intriguing black and white shoes. She chatted with everyone who wanted to chat with her, and in the case of people who were somewhat shorter than she, bent down to eye level.
Asked by yours truly whether she ever wore the creations of other fashion houses, Roberta Armani laughed and said that she wears only Armani. “I’m very loyal.” Beyond loyalty, she explained that Armani’s creative output is such that there is a constant flow of new designs, and as it’s her role to promote the company, she wears them. It was easy to understand why. The same dress that she was wearing was on display in the store, but there’s a significant difference between hanger appeal and seeing the garment on a body. It was as though she had breathed life into it.
Seen mingling in the crowd were: Sandra Ringler, fashion adviser to Sara Netanyahu; top-notch makeup artist Mickey Boganin, along with some of Israel’s leading male and female models, whose presence excited not only the professional paparazzi but also the selfie brigade, who kept popping up and clicking with brashness similar to that of MK Oren Hazan, who took a selfie of himself with US President Donald Trump. Whereas Armani flew in from Italy, there were also British guests who specially flew in from London.
■ CURRENT AND former ambassadors will be among the speakers at a symposium on “The Trump Administration and the US-EU Rupture” which will be hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies on Thursday, July 6. Diplomats will include German Ambassador Dr. Clemens von Goetze; EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen; former US ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro; former ambassador to the EU and Jordan Dr. Oded Eran; and former ambassador to the Ukraine and Russia Zvi Magen.
Curiously, no former Israeli ambassador to the US has been listed among the speakers, but among the non-ambassadorial speakers is Dr. Phillip Gordon, former special assistant to president Barack Obama and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region.
■ THE CONFERENCE comes only a few days after American Independence Day, which this year will be celebrated in Israel on July 3. On the same date, and at the same time, President Reuven Rivlin is to open the Makor Rishon Conference at the Tel Aviv Hilton.
Admittedly, the Tel Aviv Hilton is only a 15-20 minutes’ drive away from Herzliya Pituah, providing that there is no traffic congestion along the route. Although a presidential car gets priority, this happens only when there’s a possibility to pass other vehicles on the road. Unless there’s a change of schedule in the interim, chances are that the formalities at the American reception will start later than initially anticipated.
■ APROPOS AMBASSADORS and America, Zalman Shoval, who has twice been ambassador to the United States, was visibly moved last week when, toward the conclusion of the Herzliya Conference, he was presented with the Herzl Shield, in recognition of his ongoing work in helping to strengthen Israel in many different spheres. The presentation was made by Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya founder and president Prof. Uriel Reichman.
Shoval said that it was a great moment for him to receive a shield that has been named for the visionary of the state Theodor Herzl, who, he emphasized, not only founded the Jewish state but established the Jewish people as a nation. “Herzl, and then Weizmann, Ben-Gurion and, to a certain extent, Jabotinsky understood that in order to advance the Zionist idea, we also have to act on the international front. Otherwise, we would not have been able to reach where we have come to,” said Shoval.
During his two separate stints as ambassador, Shoval served under four Israeli prime ministers – Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu – during the administrations of US presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Shoval is also a former MK and served four terms in the Knesset, where his work was primarily on a diplomatic level. He was active in promoting peace initiatives and participated in the Camp David talks, the peace treaty with Egypt, and the Wye agreement. In 2015, Shoval was honored by the America-Israel Friendship League, which presented him with its highest accolade, the AIFL Partners for Democracy Award, in recognition of his advancement of Israel-US relations.
■ RETIRED JUDGE Yaacov Shimoni, who is chairman of the Labor Party elections committee, has sent out a notice to party members with regard to polling stations in the July 4 primaries. Most polling stations will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., but in certain areas they will be open only from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Jerusalemites who will be voting should not make the mistake of going to local party headquarters on Be’eri Street, where the polling station has been for decades, but should go instead to the WIZO offices at 1 Mapu Street, behind the Dan Panorama Hotel, which was originally called the Moriah Hotel.
Voters anywhere in the country who may have a question or a problem because their names may have been omitted from the voters’ lists should telephone (03) 728-3618 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ FEW THINGS, if any, are more tragic than a parent losing a child. That’s what happened last year to Linor and Shahar Stapenski from Kibbbutz Hulda, when their five-month-old daughter Michal died a cot death. The efforts of Dr. Eilat Gidron to revive the infant were in vain. Their eyes filled with tears of sorrow, the parents tried to comfort each other. Controlling their emotions was extremely difficult but essential because they had two other children, Noa and Talya, and they had to maintain some kind of normalcy for them. What helped was that a month after Michal’s death, Linor had once again conceived, and on Sunday of this week, Linor, 34 and Shahar, 43, had the sadness in their eyes replaced by joy, as they welcomed their twin daughters into the world.
The babies were born by cesarean section at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, and the gynecologist who delivered them was none other than Gidron, whose happiness on this occasion may even have exceeded that of the parents. Gidron happens to be the couple’s neighbor, which is why she was called when they discovered that Michal had died. Linor had gone to check on her baby in the middle of the night and had realized that she wasn’t breathing. Her first thought had been to call her neighbor. Gidron rushed out of bed and came running – but unfortunately could not resuscitate Michal, who had no pulse. But now they all have good reason to smile.
The twins weighed in at 2.820 kg. and 2.896 kg., respectively. When she went to the hospital to give birth, Linor carried with her a photograph of Michal.
■ MUCH HAS been written about the Rothschild dynasty and the manner in which the family spread across Europe, with the main branches now concentrated in France and England. The influence and the generosity of the Rothschilds is legendary, especially where Israel is concerned. Individual members of the Rothschild family have been supporting Israeli causes since long before the founding of the state. Let us not forget that the letter that has become known as the Balfour Declaration was given to a Rothschild to convey to the leaders of the Zionist movement.
But long before that, Baron Edmond de Rothschild was active in the Holy Land, and as early as 1882 prevented the collapse of Rishon Lezion and other settlements. Israel owes the genesis of its wine industry to the Rothschilds. Many moshavim and towns sitting on land purchased by Baron Edmond de Rothschild are named after Rothschild family members. Rothschilds also contributed to culture – for instance, the Israel Museum and the new National Library now under construction, as well the buildings of the Knesset and the Supreme Court, the development of Caesarea and numerous other projects.
One of the greatest experts on the Rothschild dynasty and their achievements is researcher and translator Mordechai Zucker, who spent 20 years translating old family letters of the Rothschilds that had been written in Judeo-German characters. Zucker will lecture on “The House of Rothschild – The Inside Story” at Hanasi Synagogue, 22 Ussishkin Street, Jerusalem, on Sunday, July 9, at 8:30 p.m.
■ AS FAR as is known, political history will be made in Jerusalem this coming Friday, June 30, when what is being touted as “the first international Jewish-Arab race in east Jerusalem” will take place under the auspices of Runners Without Borders. The race, with at least 500 participants, will begin at 8:15 a.m. in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber and will continue through the Peace Forest to the mixed neighborhood of Abu Tor.
Facts on the ground with regard to relations between Arabs and Jews are often different from situations reported by the media. There is a considerable amount of cooperation, collaboration and social networking at nearly all levels.
The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation has for many years encouraged sports, particularly soccer games, in which Palestinian and Israeli youngsters or Arab and Jewish youngsters may find themselves on the same team. The Abraham Fund, named for the common ancestor of Arabs and Jews, introduces formal and informal educational initiatives aimed at educating both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, from school age onward, toward building a shared and inclusive society. Runners Without Borders believes that a shared love of sport helps to build trust between Arabs and Jews and lays the groundwork for renewed dialogue.
There are countless other examples, especially in medical centers and in paramedical organizations. It is not necessarily common knowledge that the first Magen David Adom paramedic to reach Border Police officer Hadas Malka after she was stabbed in a terrorist attack by the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem earlier this month was an Arab. Unfortunately, he was unable to save her – but not for want of trying.
Friday’s run will be cover a distance of 5 km. It follows a successful pilot run of 3 km. through Jebl Mukaber on March 3.
In addition to Runners Without Borders’ own mixed Arab-Jewish running group, dozens of other organized running groups will participate in the race. Notable among them are the running group from Jebl Mukaber and the running group from the bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School for Jewish and Arab children.
Through its weekly professionally run training sessions, Runners Without Borders successfully creates genuine connections among its 60 members, who are drawn from neighborhoods across Jerusalem – Jebl Mukaber, Ras el-Amud, Silwan, Shuafat, Beit Hanina, Sur Bahir, Gilo, Kiryat Menahem, Arnona and Talpiot – and even the settlements of Tekoa and Adam, which are outside the capital.
Runners Without Borders was created by Jerusalemite runners at the end of 2014 as an answer to the wave of violence that erupted in the city.
Members of Runners Without Borders participate regularly in competitions and races in Israel and abroad, including marathons in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Berlin, Milan and the Richmond Race in London. Anyone interested in further information should contact Yisrael Hass (+972 50-581-0690) or access www.runnerswithoutborders.org. The runners can be followed on www.facebook.com/runnerswb.
■ IT’S AMAZING how quickly some concepts take off and become permanent fixtures. The volume and variety of events at Jerusalem’s Beit Avi Chai create the impression that this particular cultural facility has been around for decades. The fact is that it’s only one decade, the celebrations of which begin next week on Monday, July 3, and continue through July 9.
Beit Avi Chai, through its numerous and varied activities, caters to the religious and secular, Sephardim, Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, Hebrew-speakers and English-speakers, young people, including children, and senior citizens – in fact, to almost every taste. It is a crucible of diversity in the people whom it attracts and in what it makes available to them – especially under the leadership of executive director Dr. David Rozenson, who, among other things, has highlighted the cultural traditions of Israel’s immigrant communities, especially in relation to music and the celebration of Jewish holidays.
“Beit Avi Chai seeks to be a contemporary meeting point for Jewish/Israeli culture and ideas,” says Rozenson. “Through Beit Avi Chai’s original and unique programming, we make every attempt for the treasure troves of Jewish thought and heritage to seamlessly unite with contemporary Israeli culture.”
Participants in the 10th anniversary festival program will include: Yoni Rechter; Eviatar Banai and Rabbi Itamar Eldar; Shai Tsabari in a tribute to Ahuva Ozeri – with Margalit Tzan’ani and Ravid Kahalani; Kabbalat Shabbat with the Diwan Project, Yael Dekelbaum, Mark Eliyahu and Hacham David Menachem; Nechi Nech hosting Tuna in a tribute to Ehud Banai; Rona Kenan, Rino Zror, Idan Alterman, Yosi Babliki, Uzi Weil, Shalom Gad, Meir Shalev and Avigdor Shinan, and Micha Shitrit.
When Beit Avi Chai, which was designed by Israel Prize laureate Ada Karmi-Melamede, opened its doors to the public in 2007, many thought it was too big, and that its events would never have a large enough attendance to fill the auditorium and the halls. Now they think it’s too small, because many of the events attract overflow audiences.
For those who can’t make it to an event, Beit Avi Chai’s website broadcasts programs and activities live, houses an extensive video archive alongside a rich platform for original articles penned by noted Israeli/Jewish thinkers and commentators; interactive and creative online projects on a variety of Jewish/Israeli themes; musical and educational clips; cinema and a user-friendly interface enabling readers to stay updated on BAC events, reserve tickets and participate in activities.
■ TAKING ADVANTAGE of the presence in Israel of American movers and shakers representing Jewish Federations in New York, St Louis and Palm Beach, Matrix CFO Moshe Attias hosted a cocktail reception in the garden of his home in Ramat Efal, where invitees, included Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, Benny Laniado, Amos Golan, economist Yoram Bauman and Yoel Kushinski.
The occasion was to celebrate the success of the Project 10 initiative, headed by Nir Lahav. The initiative, a global project of the Jewish Agency, sends young volunteers from Israel and other countries to developing countries to introduce programs in informal education, social initiatives, entrepreneurship, health and the environment.
■ THERE ARE many ways in which to raise money for a good cause, and when Nitza Bilet, Uri Bilet and Yael Tzin Bilet of Lilit Cosmetics wanted to help Kav Lachayim, which serves the interests of children with cancer, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other life-threatening conditions, they hosted a fragrance party for women only at the NYX Hotel in Tel Aviv, where celebrities such as Ori Pfeffer, Michael Lewis, Lior Dayan and Gil Riba auctioned limited-edition bottles of Good Girl perfume by Carolina Herrera. The sales amounted to NIS 25,000, which has been transferred to Kav Lachayim for use in its summer camp for sick children. Among the women in attendance were Batsheva Bublil, Michaela Berko, Rutie Kastiel, Debbie Matzkin and Galit Levy.
■ POLITICAL PUNDITS in countries outside of Russia presume to know what the Russians are thinking and why they are taking certain actions. Nearly all these presumptions are made without any form of discussion with President Vladimir Putin. The attitude is much the same as that of certain Orthodox Jews toward Conservative and Reform Jews, who they say don’t care about, or don’t believe in, Torah or Halacha or Jerusalem. How do they know what anyone believes in, unless that person chooses to make it public?
Anyway, back to the Russians: A more authoritative picture of the Russian perspective on developments in the international arena and the Middle East will be presented on Sunday, July 2, by Dr. Andrey Bystritskiy, chairman of the board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, a research institute of senior Russian officials that includes Putin. Bystritskiy has been tracking Russian policy during the Putin years and will shed light on the Russian perspective on developments in the Middle East.
Bystritskiy is a professor, dean of the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design at the highly regarded Russian National Research University and a member of the Union of Writers. He is a senior communications expert, and has served in several senior positions in Russia and Europe.
He will speak in English at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel Hai Street. The lecture begins at 10 a.m. Advance registration is required.
■ AFTER THE Knessset Christian Allies Caucus comes the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus, which will be launched by the Middle East Forum at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on July 9.
Like the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC), which the forum helped launch in Washington on April 27, KIVC advocates a new approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This strategy is centered on Israel’s defeat of enemies who seek its destruction and ending the emphasis on Israel making painful concessions, instead placing the onus on Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
Whereas CIVC will focus on persuading the White House to give Israel the green light to win its war against the Palestinians, KIVC has the complementary mission of working out the strategy and tactics for Israel to achieve victory. Participants in the local launch will include MK Oded Forer, co-chair of KIVC; Col. Richard Kemp CBE, former commander of British Forces in Afghanistan; Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum; Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum; and former MK Einat Wilf.
A separate, closed event in Hebrew will be held at the Knesset on July 10.