Czech President Milos Zeman, who is due to arrive in Israel next week, will be the first representative of the Czech Republic to deliver an address to the Knesset despite Israel’s political disarray.
Zeman is coming to Israel to open the Czech House in Jerusalem, which will be utilized for the purpose of promoting Czech Trade and Czech Tourism. The premises will also be used for Czech cultural events, but are not to be confused with the Czech Embassy, which remains in Tel Aviv.
In addition to the opening, there will be a Czech state reception, which will be the first of its kind, to be held in Israel’s capital. A large business delegation, in addition to several Czech government ministers will accompany Zeman to Israel. The Czech president is scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Zeman, who is extremely well disposed toward Israel, has advocated for the transfer of the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem, but both the prime minister and the foreign minister oppose such a move and are following the line of the European Union.
■ In the course of his visit to the Vatican last week, Rivlin invited Pope Francis to pay a reciprocal visit to Israel, so that Rivlin could host him a second time. The pontiff said that he would like to come, but like everything else, it was in the hands of God. On Friday night, following evening prayers and Kiddush, the president and his wife hosted a Shabbat dinner for Ofer Sachs and Oren David, the Ambassadors to Italy and to the Holy See respectively, along with their diplomatic staffs who are serving in Rome. Rivlin thanked them for preparing this significant visit and for carrying it out with professionalism and ca
■ There’s A changing of the guard at the President’s Residence with Shuli Davidovich replacing David Saranga, Israel’s ambassador designate to Romania, as the president’s senior adviser on foreign affairs. Davidovich who joined the foreign service 23 years ago, has a wealth of experience in Europe and in the UN. Most recently, she served in Brussels as Deputy Ambassador to the European Union and NATO. She previously headed the Department of International Organizations, Special Agencies and Global Issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has also served at the Israeli Mission to the UN in New York, as spokesperson for the embassy in London, as Deputy Ambassador and Consul to Costa Rica and at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem.
■ Though several months have passed since Netanyahu visited Lithuania, the Jewish population of Vilnius is still enthralled. They would have been excited by the visit of any prime minister of Israel, but to have one who is a descendant of the Gaon of Vilna was a real coup, especially in view of his visit to the grave of the Vilna Gaon and to the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, where one of the exhibitions currently on display is entitled “Litvaks on the Streets of Tel Aviv.”
The exhibition, which includes street names of Litvaks and their descendants, was originally shown at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, in October 2015 during the visit to Israel by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. It has been transferred to Vilnius to coincide with the 100th anniversary year of Lithuania’s restoration of statehood and the 70th anniversary year of the State of Israel. The exhibition is also the brainchild of Litvaks and their descendants now living in Israel – photographer Roza Litay and her granddaughter Lia, together with Dr. Carol Hoffman.
Not all personalities immortalized through street names were actually born in Lithuania, though most lived there at one time or another, but they were people who were classified under the broader definition of Litvak, and each directly or indirectly contributed to Jewish pride and/or the establishment and development of contemporary Israel. They include: politician and diplomat Shimshon Rozenbaum; sculptor Mark Antokolsky; editor of Zionist publications, Avram Idelson; pioneer of the modern Hebrew novel, Abraham Mapu; father of the modern Hebrew language Eliezer Ben-Yehuda; sculptor, painter and founder of the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts Boris Schatz; expressionist painter Chaim Soutine; David Wolfsohn, who designed the prototype for the flag of Israel Hagaon Mivilna, (Eliyahu ben-Shlomo Zalman) the great authority an Torah and Talmud who is credited with making Vilnius the center of the spiritual and intellectual life of east European Jewry; world renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz; Leah Goldberg, poet, writer of children’s literature and translator; writer Moshe Leib Lilienblum; composer Naomi Shemer; Rabbi Yitzhak Ya’acov Reines, the founder of the Mizrachi Religious Zionist movement; Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor, the chief rabbi of Kaunus; Hermann Schapira who proposed the establishing of the Jewish National Fund and a university in Israel; and creator of Esperanto Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof. Curiously, the display contains no HaRav Kook Street, even though Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi in British Mandate Palestine, lived in Tel Aviv at one time, and though born in Latvia which borders Lithuania, was the rabbi of Zaumel in Lithuania, where his son Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook was born. The chief rabbi’s father Rabbi Shlomo Zalman HaCohen Kook, was a student at the Volozhin Yeshiva, the most prestigious of all the Lithuanian yeshivot.
This year is a particularly important year in the history of Lithuanian Jewry and Lithuania in general, because it is the 75th anniversary year of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto.
■ When Netanyahu was in Vilnius, he also went to see the Judaica books and manuscripts preserved at the Lithuanian National Martynas Mazvydas Library, where there is currently a Judaica exhibition “Reflections in a shattered mirror,” which is a Jewish cultural mosaic showcasing some precious eloquent fragments of the past that existed before the Nazi jack-boot left its imprint on Lithuanian soil.
The exhibition was prepared by the Judaica Research Center at the Documentary Heritage Research Department of the National Library.
“We’ll never know the full story, we have only the fragments,” says Lara Lempertiene, who heads the Judaica Center at the National Library, where items that have been salvaged include some amazing treasures, such as a book dating back to 1512.
The Nazis who plundered the extensive YIVO archives, as well as those from other organizations and those of private collectors, had intended to create a museum in Germany to tell the story of a people that they had planned to make extinct, says Lempertiene, but they didn’t take all the books and documents, and the reason that they left the antique 1512 book was because it doesn’t have a title page. YIVO, a Yiddish acronym for Yiddisher Visnshaftlekher Institute, which in English is known as the Jewish Scientific Institute, was established in Vilna and Berlin in 1925, and its archives covered every aspect of Jewish life in Europe. The Judaica Research Center at the National Library in Vilnius works in close partnership with YIVO, and its YIVO-Vilnius collections project aims to create the largest digital collection of materials that will serve to preserve the historical memory of East European Jewry.
Lempertiene will be in Israel next month to participate in a December 12 conference in Tel Aviv on “Building a State together: The role of Litvaks in the creation of Independent Lithuania and Israel.”
■ Anyone who happens to be partial to the sound the southern drawl should make it their business to be around when Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, makes his fifth visit to Israel. During his fourth visit this week, as the guest of honor at the third Jerusalem Leaders Summit, Bryant proved that in addition to having worked as a law enforcement officer and a university professor, he was also an eloquent stand-up comedian who knows that the best way to market a product or an idea is to keep your audience laughing, which he did while extolling the virtues of Mississippi.
Strutting up and down stage with a microphone in his hand, Bryant kept tossing out one-liners that had the audience in stitches. A Republican with great affection and admiration for US President Donald Trump, Bryant made Trump sound like Father Christmas. He regretted not having purchased a particular T-shirt that he saw in Jerusalem’s Old City market where the reassuring slogan on the T-shirt read, “Don’t worry America. Israel is behind you.” He said he would have loved to have taken that home, but there just wasn’t sufficient time to stop and haggle with the storekeeper.
In the course of an on-stage interview with Steve Linde, the editor of The Jerusalem Report, Linde mentioned that there was a journalist with a Mississippi background in the room. The journalist in question was radio reporter Arieh O’Sullivan. It just so happened that the governor knew O’Sullivan’s father, Efraim O’Sullivan, who was the first ever Jewish chief of police in the Mississippi coast town of Ocean Springs.
■ Only a few weeks ago, mega philanthropist Morris Kahn was among the recipients of the 2018 Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion prize awarded to Anglo immigrants who have contributed significantly to the State of Israel. This week it was announced that Adams, who is also a mega philanthropist, has joined the SpaceIL project to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. Kahn happens to be the president of SpaceIL, whose funders include other well-known tycoons and philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, Sami Sagol, Lynn Schusterman and Steven Grand, among others.
■ All of the above-mentioned philanthropists donate not in the tens of thousands to the causes they support, but in the millions and in the tens of millions. Last week, one of them, Miriam Adelson, was in the news as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of thousands of victims of drug abuse who have been helped by medical research centers, which she founded together with her husband casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The couple are also among the largest donors to the Republican party, and also remarkably generous supporters of Jewish and specifically Israeli causes such as Yad Vashem, Birthright, IDC Herzliya, Ariel University, Sourasky Medical Center, Hadassah Medical Organization, among others.
Haifa-born Adelson is the third Israeli and first Sabra to receive America’s highest civilian award. The first was Natan Sharansky from President George Bush in December 2006. The second was Shimon Peres from President Barack Obama in June 2012, and now Adelson, from Trump in November 2018. With Peres, it was almost but not quite reciprocal. Peres, who wanted to have something similar to the Medal of Freedom in Israel, had introduced the Presidential Medal of Distinction, which does not bear his name. Obama was one of the people on whom he conferred it, and Obama subsequently returned the compliment.
■ After doing a sterling job as the director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Tel Aviv, Johannes Strasser has completed his tenure and is moving toward new horizons.
A farewell by way of an Austrian Music Night will be held for him this coming Saturday, November 24, at the Drama Bar in Tel Aviv.
■ Violin virtuosos from Russia, Romania and the United States have frequently played to appreciative audiences in Israel, but last week there was one from Montevideo who has achieved international fame.
Federico Nathan was the guest of the B’nai B’rith World Center, in Jerusalem on his first visit to Israel, as winner of the B’nai B’rith Uruguay “Fraternidad Award” – a signature project that has brought Uruguayan artists and scientists to Israel for the past 35 years. During his visit, Nathan conducted master classes at the Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem and at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, but also managed to do some extensive touring around the country. He performed last Thursday at a concert at the Ozen Bar in Tel Aviv. The event was sponsored by the B’nai B’rith World Center and was attended by Uruguayan Ambassador Bernardo Greiver.
■ Foreign embassies in Israel have close relationships with various municipalities, especially when there are several cities in their home countries that have twin city relationships with cities in Israel.
In the case of Poland, there are 17 twin city bonds as well as other relationships. These include: Bielsko-Biala and Acre, Gdansk and Haifa, Katowice and Rehovot, Kutno and Bat Yam, Lublin and Rishon Lezion, Plonsk and Ramat Negev, Sopot and Ashkelon, Warsaw and Tel Aviv, Wroclaw and Ramat Gan, Czestochowa and Nazareth, Goldap and Givat Shmuel, Kolobrzeg and Upper Nazareth, Lodz and Tel Aviv, Novy Sacz and Netanya, Poznan and Ra’anana, Stary Sacz and Ness Ziona and Wisla and Daliat al-Carmel.
There are also individuals who have made significant contributions to relations between Israel and Poland and they were recently honored by the Polish Institute. Their contributions were publicly recognized at an awards evening held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where Polish Institute Director Joanna Hoffman, Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski and Voichech Kozlowski, director of the Pilecki Institute in Warsaw, presented certificates and flowers to artist Adina Bar-On for promoting Polish culture in Israel; Dalit Haramaty for her contribution in the field of education, Ilona Dworack-Cousin and Zvi Kelner for their wide ranging contribution to bilateral relations, Dr. Marcos Zilber for his contribution to the knowledge of Polish history; Gil Faran for contributing to the Israeli-Polish dialogue and Roy Knebel for promoting business and trade between Poland and Israel.
Incidentally, for people traveling to Warsaw next month, the Pilecki Institute will host an international, interdisciplinary conference from December 3 to 5 in memory of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish jurist, an initiator of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations on December 9, 1948. The aim of this conference, which marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the convention, is to foster a broad interdisciplinary reflection on the historical meaning and continued relevance of Lemkin’s concept, its application, legacy and political impact.
In view of the multiple Polish connections with Israel, Magierowski sent congratulatory letters to the mayors of the three main cities – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, with individual messages for each, plus a handwritten Hebrew term. For Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion it was Mazal Tov; for Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai it was Kol Hakavod and for Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem, it was B’Hatzlacha, each written in Hebrew.
To Lion he wrote, “I am not going to extol the virtues of the eternal beauty of the most sacred and enchanting city on Earth. Let me just stress that Jerusalem is particularly dear to all my fellow countrymen.”
To Huldai, he wrote: “There are many things I enjoy in Tel Aviv, but what I value most is its open, vibrant and adventurous spirit, so close to my Polish heart. I presume this is not accidental as Polish roots of many Tel Avivians – including yourself – show how close we are to each other in myriad dimensions.”
To Kalisch Rotem, he wrote: “I personally admire Haifa’s spirit of cohabitation and integration of diverse communities. The city’s impressive achievements in combining educational excellence with scientific innovation are a worldwide source of inspiration.”
■ In other news related to Poland, three London Jewish taxi drivers, Farley Freedman, Asher Moses and Howard Kott, have provided two of their black cab taxis to From the Depths, a Warsaw-based Holocaust remembrance institution run by ex-Londoner Jonny Daniels, who Freedman happened to meet. Daniels wanted to buy two cabs for the convenience of Polish Righteous Among the Nations who are now very advanced in age and mostly feeble. But the three Jewish cabbies decided to donate the cabs instead of selling them, so that some unsung heroes could live out the twilight of their lives in greater comfort.
■ Slovenian Ambassador Barbara Susnik, who, ever since her arrival in Israel, has demonstrated a keen interest in organizations and events that are dedicated to eliminating violence against women and children, this week was a guest speaker at the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality. The meeting was in advance of the November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Participants in the meeting were able to view a Slovenian photographic exhibition, “Violence on Her Skin,” designed to raise awareness about this pertinent issue.
The exhibition was prepared by the Slovenian police and the Slovenian Ministry of Labor, Social and Family Affairs and Equal Opportunities. In coming weeks, the exhibition will be displayed at Kibbutz Tuval in the Galilee on November 28, at a conference in Lod on December 15, at an El HaLev conference in Jerusalem on November 27, and on January 15 in Haifa.
■ It has long been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Thus, the luncheon that was served this week to participants in the Procolombia Forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv was prepared by Colombian Chef Diego Panesso, who is in Israel as part of the hotel’s Colombian Gastronomy Festival. Members of the forum were welcomed by Colombian Ambassador Carlos Arturo Morales, and a presentation on the business environment and investment opportunities in the now peaceful Colombia was made by Juan Esteban Sanchez, the Procolombia representative in Israel.
■ The Colombians are not alone in promoting their traditional cuisine. Within the framework of Italian Cuisine Week in the World, a cooking class with Chef Massimiliano de Matteo, the 2015 winner of the Israel Master Chef contest, will be held today (Wednesday) at 11 a.m. at Moshav Magshimim.
■ And for people flying El Al, there’s a change of menu in the offing with the appointment of prize-winning chef Shahaf Shabtay as head of El Al’s culinary domain. Shabtay will be responsible for menus in all service classes. It’s good news in more ways than one, as so many other airlines are now selling tickets that do not include inflight meals, and what they have for sale by way of food is nothing to write home about.
Prior to his transfer to El Al, Shabtay was head chef of the Nithan Thai Restaurant chain, which has a strong following in Europe and Asia. He also earned a star in the Michelin Bib Guide.
He and his team are currently in the process of creating a new culinary inflight strategy that will make use of high quality ingredients and advanced cooking techniques.
After working abroad for a long time, he’s quite excited as a proud Israeli to be joining the national carrier. He’s also looking forward to the challenge of creating new inflight taste sensations which he hopes will be a pleasant surprise for passengers’ palates.
■ Chairman of the “Movement Equipment” group, Zvi Neta has launched MAN’s new NIS 90 million complex in Israel, in a mammoth event in the presence of some top level representatives of MAN Germany as well as some 1,500 managers of transportation, bus and truck companies and automotive industry heads in Israel. Neta, who heads MAN’s Traffic Equipment division, inaugurated the company’s new complex.
Neta noted that the company’s new service center is one of the largest in the world and is constructed in accordance with green building standards.
The new TGE model commercial van was launched at the inauguration ceremony, which included a festive dinner and entertainment by singer Eden Ben-Zaken.firstname.lastname@example.org
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