Passover has come and gone, and at the time of going to press, the Foreign Ministry had not yet been notified when incoming US ambassador David Friedman would be arriving in Israel. It is presumed that he will come sometime in May, but confirmation to that effect has not been received.
■ MEANWHILE, THAILAND’S new envoy, Penprapa Vongkovit, has arrived and was feted by the Ambassadors’ Club even before presenting her credentials. The next presentation of credentials will be on June 8. For Vongkovit, the dinner in her honor at the Tel Aviv home of artist and businesswoman Rachel Witzman was literally a taste of home. The dinner was prepared by famed Thai chef Sawalee Eldar, who was introducing Israelis to Thai cuisine long before it became fashionable. Vongkovit was welcomed by Ambassadors’ Club president Itzhak Eldan.
Among the guests were Vietnamese Ambassador Cao Tran Quoc Hai, Thailand honorary consul Eran Strod, International Women’s Club chairwoman Tzipi Ben Shefer, honorary consul of Belize Yoram Naor, honorary consul of France Nathalie Mimoun, mentor Alon Ulman and public relations executive Naomi Cherpak.
Vongkovit spoke of the strong ties that members of Thailand’s royal family have with Israel and of the warm relations between Thailand and Israel in general.
■ THE FIRST round of the French presidential election takes place on Sunday. Eran Guterman, the press attaché at the French Embassy, has advised that Israelis with French citizenship can vote at 14 polling booths in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Ashdod, Beersheba, Eilat and Haifa. It is somewhat curious that there is no polling booth in Jerusalem, considering the number of French citizens who live in Israel’s capital. Ah well, it’s all politics. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
AMONG THE people present last Wednesday at the Danielle Prize – Healing with a Heart awards ceremony for doctors and nurses was Patch Adams, the founder of the Gesundheit! Institute, which for 12 years operated as a free community hospital. Through his institute, which fosters compassion and sensitivity, especially through medical clowning, Adams takes physicians, nurses and others on trips around the world to spread the message of loving-kindness and compassion in healthcare.
The very tall Adams, a qualified physician who came to the ceremony in his medical clown gear, which included a very long wig that was a deep blue on one side and white on the other, was presented with a citation attesting to his altruism, humanity and compassionate attitude to patients worldwide. But when he clowned his way onto the stage at the President’s Residence, master of ceremonies Yehoram Gaon remarked spontaneously: “If I saw someone who looked like that coming to operate on me, I would run a mile.”
Adams was very excited because the previous evening he had received the agreement of the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, the king of empathetic comedy, to join the tour that he’s taking to Russia in November.
■ APROPOS GAON, he was warmly embraced by President Reuven Rivlin on being selected to light one of the beacons on Mount Herzl on Independence Day.
One of the other beacon lighters, had he been present, might have received an even warmer embrace. Rivlin, an avid soccer fan and a former manager of the Beitar Football Team, was obviously thrilled when one of its former star players, Uri Malmilian, who like himself and Gaon is a native Jerusalemite, was also selected to light a beacon.
Two other native Jerusalemites among the beacon lighters are Miri Ehrental, the co-founder, with her husband Chaim, of Zichron Menachem, which helps families with children suffering from cancer; and Eli Mizrahi, a restaurateur and a leading figure in Jerusalem’s famous Mahaneh Yehuda market.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who caused a bit of a stir when she announced that this year, a Jewish person from abroad would be among the beacon lighters, ultimately included not one but two. In addition to Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, there will also be hedge fund genius and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, who has been a generous benefactor of the Israel Museum and is a co-founder with Charles Bronfman of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
■ PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has Facebook accounts in his name and also under the Prime Minister of Israel, without his name in the title. Not everything that appears in one of these accounts appears in the other, and the prime minister also differentiates between his private life and his public life, although there is a certain overlap during holiday seasons, when he and members of his family like to explore the country.
Even though this is a private time in which they can relax and be together, the prime minister is conscious of the need to boost both domestic and foreign tourism, and therefore both Facebook accounts have visuals depicting the area in which they are vacationing. But when there are events such as this week’s Mimouna celebrations, the ones that he attends as prime minister appear on Facebook, but the ones he attends as Benjamin Netanyahu, friend and neighbor, do not.
Case in point was on Monday night, when Netanyahu was photographed at the home of the Levy family in Hadera. Photographs of the event appeared soon afterward on Facebook and in various newspapers the following day. But on Monday night Netanyahu also attended the Mimouna celebrations hosted by his friend and holiday home neighbor Leon Edery in Caesarea. This photograph did not appear on either of the prime minister’s Facebook accounts.
Edery and his wife, Solange, host a huge Mimouna celebration every year, and this year was no exception. Frequently seen among the guests are Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, and this year, as in the past, they happily mingled with other friends whom they meet from time to time in Caesarea and elsewhere. As always, Edery’s brother Moshe was also present with his wife, Pnina.
The two brothers have always been close since their childhood in Dimona, where they used to sneak in to the movies, and later worked in the cinema before creating a movie empire of their own. They are the owners of United King and of the Cinema City network. Founded in 1974, United King is responsible for the production, distribution and marketing of both Israeli and international films, and is the largest investor in Israel’s film industry. Without funding from United King, many of Israel’s best films might never have developed beyond a good script. On average, United King produces 10 films each year.
The prime minister, who is trying to cut down on sweets, which are intrinsic to Mimouna celebrations, had to taste the moufletas in Hadera within the framework of noblesse oblige, but refrained in Caesarea.
Among the other guests were Yaakov Cohen, the Edery brothers’ partner in Cinema City, and his wife, Miri; American real estate mogul Joe Moinian; attorney David Efrati and his wife, Orit, who chairs the Friends of Shenkar College; Eurocom CEO Ilan Greenboim and his wife, Vered; celebrated film director Avi Nesher; actor Ze’ev Revach and his wife, Mali; comedian Israel Katorza and his wife, Sorela; actor Lior Halfon and his wife, Revital; and singer Gali Atari.
Interestingly enough, on the following day, the prime minister was celebrating Mimouna in Dimona, where he received a very enthusiastic welcome from Mayor Benny Biton as well as from members of the local Dimona community.
■ IN ADDITION to the numerous round figure anniversaries taking place this year in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, on the domestic scene there are also regular events that take place annually, biennially or at longer intervals, but on a regular basis. One such event is the Israel Festival, which this year will be held for the 56th time. Israel Festival chairman Dan Halperin, CEO Eyal Sher and artistic director Itzik Giuli will next week reveal who the artists performing at this year’s festival will be and how many countries they will represent.
The festival will take place over a three-week period in different venues throughout Jerusalem and will open on May 24 at Safra Square with a salute to the late Shoshana Damari, the first lady of Israeli song. The musical tribute will include performances by Miri Mesika, Karolina, Ravid Kahalani and Shai Zabari.
The venue in this the 50th anniversary year of the reunification of Jerusalem is very significant, because prior to June 1967, it was merely a hop, skip and a jump to no-man’s-land. It was truly on the seam of the city. Today, it is City Hall Plaza and within easy walking distance of the former Fast Hotel, where Theodor Herzl stayed during his visit to Jerusalem in 1898, and Jaffa Gate, through which in the same year Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II made his triumphant entry on horseback. During that visit he inaugurated the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and, despite his great dislike of Jews, provided a very large sum of money for the construction of the enlarged Bikur Cholim Hospital, which was founded in 1826. Though today it is under the aegis of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, it can still be considered the oldest general hospital in Israel.
APROPOS HERZL, this year also marks the 120th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, which was held in Basel, Switzerland, on August 29, 1897. If anything proves that one man can make a difference, it’s the Zionist firstname.lastname@example.org
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