THE NATIONAL Library announced last week that it had acquired the Valmadonna Trust Library, the largest private and most valuable collection of Judaica in the world. The collection was assembled over a period of six decades by London-based diamond dealer and miner Jack Lunzer, whose sister Joan Lau-Lavie, and daughter Caroline Landau reside in Jerusalem. Lau-Lavie is the mother of Rabbi Benny Lau.
The collection comprises a wide ranging group of more than 10,000 works that chart the history and geography of Hebrew printing, and the global dissemination of Jewish culture. National Library chairman David Blumberg says that the Valmadonna Library represents an historic addition to the National Library’s collection of Jewish manuscripts, prints and books. National Library Director Oren Weinberg says that the acquisition presents a tremendous opportunity for the National Library to further realize its ambition of renewal. Jack Lunzer died in London last month at age 92, and his five daughters Margaret Rothem, Myra Weiman, Fiona Scharf, Alison Goldberg and Caroline Landau became the beneficiaries of the Valmadonna Trust.
The breaking up of the collection began more than a year before Lunzer’s death, and the most valuable work, the 16th-century Daniel Bomberg Babylonian Talmud was sold by Sotheby’s New York for $9.3 million.
■ MEMBERS OF the business delegation that is scheduled to accompany Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Singapore and Australia next month are going ahead with their plans despite the police investigation into the primer minister’s conduct. Australian ambassador Dave Sharma –who is supposed to accompany Netanyahu on part of the grueling trip which involves several radical changes of time zones in a period of less than a week – is hopeful that nothing will interfere with the prime minister’s itinerary, but is not counting his chickens before they are hatched. It’s just a shame that the whole journey is a series of lightning visits, which will offer minimal opportunities to the prime minister and his entourage to appreciate the beauty of Singapore and of Australia. Both countries have much to offer the visitor, and Singapore particularly, as one of the cleanest countries in the world with the most wonderful public gardens and superb floral décor almost everywhere, not to mention the magnificent shopping centers, is truly a delight. It also offers Israelis the opportunity to experience superb luxury hotels, one of the most impressive of which is the Marina Bay Sands hotel designed by Moshe Safdie and owned by Sheldon Adelson.
In Australia, the Israelis will not be staying overnight in Melbourne, which is a pity, not only because it is a beautiful city, but because Melbourne has one of the most outstanding Zionist Jewish communities in the world.
Sydney too, is known for its beauty and its breathtaking views, which extend way beyond the famed Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, known to be a great supporter of Israel, and these days considerably less pressured than Netanyahu, will have the chance to see much more of Sydney when he arrives there in March to address the annual gala breakfast of the Women’s Division of the United Israel Appeal. The breakfast is one of the social highlights of the year, and an important fund-raising event.
Another former prime minister and great supporter of Israel will address the annual UIA Gala Dinner three weeks after Harper’s address to the Women’s Division.
The dinner is Sydney Jewry’s largest fund-raising event, and is expected to draw the largest crowd ever this year to hear former Australian prime minister John Howard, a passionate orator who time and again publicly expressed his support for Israel and the Jewish people during his 1996-2007 period in office.
Howard, a lawyer by profession, launched his career in a legal firm that was owned by Jews. His first visit to Israel was in 1962. While still prime minister he came to Israel in 2000, and after leaving office, he came again in 2011 and told a group of Australian expatriates who met with him in Tel Aviv: “I am an unapologetic friend of Israel.” That was his fourth visit to Israel.
Howard has frequently been quoted as saying: “The personal affection I have for the State of Israel, the personal regard I have for the Jewish people of the world, will never be diminished. It is something I hold dearly, something I value as part of my being and as part of what I have tried to do with my life.”
Joining Howard at the dinner will be Keren Hayesod-UIA World Chairman Eliezer Sandberg, who is a former member of Knesset who was minister of Science and Technology and later held the National Infrastructure portfolio.
■ NEWLY APPOINTED Minister without Portfolio Ayoob Kara has all but realized his life’s dream.
Kara is not the first member of the Druse community to be appointed as a minister, but he is arguably the most ardently Zionist of Druse ministers. A few years back, he was among the guest speakers at a huge event in one of the West Bank communities, and told his audience that out of all the people present, no one was a bigger Zionist than him. Kara has been angling for years for a ministry portfolio, and his ambition will not be complete until he is given one.
Meanwhile, it will be a lot easier for the Protocol Department of the Foreign Ministry to placate ambassadors who want a minister to represent the government at their national day receptions.
Most ministers try to back out of what is really a very pleasant duty, because the ministers are given the red carpet treatment in the full sense of the concept. It’s not just a hit and run affair where they show up, make a speech and disappear.
The ambassador gives them every courtesy, introduces them to influential expatriates of his or her country who are living in Israel, provides them with a banquet, and escorts them when they are leaving.
Kara simply loves these events, and is willing to come whenever asked – even on very short notice.
When he was a deputy minister, he was well received as a matter of courtesy, but ambassadors were not very pleased to make do with a deputy. They wanted a proper minister, and now, Kara can finally fill the bill.
■ ALTHOUGH THERE are some exceptions, in haredi circles anything to do with service in the Israel Defense Force is taboo. Violent anti-recruitment demonstrations are held every few months in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. It’s bad enough when male members of the haredi community are called to serve, but when females are called, and are even arrested for failure to respond to the call-up notice, the riots get completely out of hand. It is therefore understandable that the haredi community is furious that Emunah, a national religious women’s organization, has a program called Mechinat Lapidot, which is an innovative preparatory program for religiously observant girls who are planning to do military service rather than civilian National Service. Both are equally important in that they represent a contribution to the state, but there are some Orthodox young women who believe that they can be more effective in the army, and who derive greater satisfaction from being in a security related operation than in a social services environment. Mechnat Lapidot is one of only two programs in Israel providing solutions for a rapidly growing need for emotional support, physical training and preparation, and spiritual reinforcement to young Orthodox women who have chosen this path to serve their country.
Mechinat Lapidot, located in Ma’aleh Michmash, a National Religious community township in the Binyamin region a 15-minute drive from the Jerusalem outer suburb of Pisgat Ze’ev, was recently asked to move after most of the town’s population voted against the program on religious grounds.
Realizing that increasing numbers of young Orthodox women wanted to serve in the army without compromising their religious values, Emunah decided to continue with the program. Mechinat Lapidot will soon be relocated to a site near Ma’aleh Ephraim. The whole issue of religious women serving in the IDF will be one of the subjects for discussion at the 10th World Emunah Convention and Leadership Mission taking place in many parts of Israel from January 24 to February 1.
Emunah projects and programs are mostly of a national nature, with branches all over the country.
Convention participants will visit Mechinat Lapidot in Ma’aleh Michmash before the move to Ma’aleh Ephraim, and will talk to some of the young women who have chosen to enlist.
■ AS A member of the cast of the Israeli version of Golden Girls, comedienne Hana Laszlo has gotten into quite a few scrapes but nothing that quite equals her experience when returning from Los Angeles via Heathrow in London, from where she had a connecting flight to Israel. She was approached by a security officer who told her that her suitcase had burst open to reveal a large, suspicious looking, oval shaped metal container. It was a pot that was perfect for cooking cholent, but Laszlo couldn’t get the security officer to understand this even after she explained that cholent was a special, slow-cooking, Jewish Sabbath delicacy. He just couldn’t fathom why she would buy a pot to take from one continent to another.
Laszlo told him that such pots were not available in Israel, but he remained unconvinced. Only after she told him that it was just like the pot used by her grandmother did he finally relent and accept her explanation.