NO SOONER had Israel finished with a series of holidays from Rosh Hashana to Simhat Torah when Hanukka doughnuts began to appear in the windows of pastry shops. But doughnuts were not the only sign that Hanukka is on the horizon. Israel Post and the US Postal Service issued a joint stamp this week with a paper-cut Hanukka Menorah as the central theme.
Tamar Fishman created the original art for the stamp and Ethel Kessler was the stamp designer.
In the US, the Hanukkah stamp has been issued as a “forever stamp,” which makes it forever equal in value to the current first-class stamp.
Ceremonies for the issuing of the stamps were held simultaneously at the American Center in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening and at America’s oldest synagogue, the 254-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, where it was still Tuesday morning. The American ceremony was relayed on social media.
In Jewish tradition, Tuesday is a very lucky day because it was the third day of Creation, and the only day on which God twice saw that what He had done was good.
US Ambassador David Friedman – who earlier in the day had participated in a meeting in Ariel organized by the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which promotes Israeli-Palestinian Arab commercial ventures beyond the Green Line – was in an excellent mood and declared that the stamp ceremony was a great way in which to end the day on a high note.
He mentioned his meeting with Israeli and Palestinian businessmen who want to do business together and subsequently tweeted, “At the invitation of the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce, I met in Ariel with Palestinian and Israeli business leaders ready, willing and able to advance joint opportunity and peaceful coexistence. People want peace and we are ready to help! Is the Palestinian leadership listening?”
Friedman’s visit to Ariel was historic because he was the first sitting US ambassador to cross the Green Line that delineates what was Israel’s pre-1967 border. In a private capacity he had done so many times before, and this had been a contentious issue prior to approval of his appointment.
At the stamp ceremony he reiterated America’s willingness to help, then turning to the business at hand said that sometimes the simplest things are the best.
Even though stamps are no longer a big industry, he acknowledged, they are still in use for mailing greeting cards and parcels.
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said the joint issue not only symbolizes the friendship between Israel and the United States, but also the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. America recognized Israel 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the country’s independence.
“The US is the big brother which has been protecting us for many years in many ways – especially security,” said Kara, adding, “US support has contributed greatly to our security and development.” The issuing of the stamp, he said, was yet another opportunity to express Israel’s appreciation to America.
In relating to the theme of the stamp, Kara said Hanukka has special significance for the Jewish people in that it symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and the few against the many.
Large facsimiles of the stamps were unveiled by Friedman and Kara, who then sat down and post-marked them, after which first day covers were distributed to all present.
In Newport, USPS Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro said: “Starting today, this work of art celebrating the Jewish festival of lights will travel on millions of letters and packages, throughout America and around the world.”
Among the other participants in the ceremony in which Connecticut Valley District Manager David D. Mastroianni, Jr., served as the master of ceremonies, were Touro Synagogue Foundation chair Bea Schlessinger Ross, and Israel Post Philatelic Service director Elhanan Shapira, who said that a stamp is more than something one pastes on an envelope. Like a flag, a stamp is a national symbol.
Schlessinger Ross said how appropriate it was to issue a Hanukka stamp at Touro Synagogue. She noted that it was on Hanukka 1763 that the synagogue had been dedicated, and that in 1983 a Touro Synagogue stamp had been issued in recognition of the synagogue being one of the 10 most distinguished buildings of 18th-century America.
What she did not say was that philanthropist Judah Touro, for whom the synagogue was named and who died in 1854, bequeathed what was then a lot of money for Jewish residential settlement in Palestine. His friend Sir Moses Montefiore had been appointed executor of the will and inter alia in 1855 used the funds to buy land outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The first Jewish homes outside the Old City were later built there, and a street is named in Touro’s memory.
■ THE BEST laid plans of mice and men often go astray, to paraphrase what Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote in 1785.
After all the hype about the guest of honor at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces gala dinner at the New York Hilton Midtown on Wednesday night, the 1,200 business people and philanthropists from across America who attended the event missed out on seeing and hearing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who decided to cut short his visit to the US and return to Israel immediately, following the pre-dawn rocket attack on Beersheba.
Notwithstanding frequent reports of the fall-off in American Jewish philanthropy to Israel, more than $32 million was raised at the dinner for the well-being of, and educational programs for, IDF soldiers, several of whom were among the guests, along with some distinguished IDF veterans. Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN Danny Danon and Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan bump into each other a lot at major Jewish events in the Big Apple, and this was no exception. Also among those present were Israel Defense and Armed Forces Attache to the United States Maj.-Gen. Michael Edelstein; FIDF acting chairman Peter Weintraub; FIDF chairman emeritus Arthur Stark; FIDF acting president Robert Cohen; FIDF national director and CEO Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Meir Klifi-Amir and his wife, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Gila Klifi-Amir; radio personality and voiceover artist Valerie Smaldone, who presided as master of ceremonies; and FIDF tri-state executive director Galit Brichta.
Among the Israelis not stationed in the US but who came for the occasion were 30 IDF soldiers and officers from several military units, including St.-Sgt. Bar, a paramedic who treats wounded Syrian civilians along the border with Israel as part of the IDF’s “Operation Good Neighbor”; and Maj. Or Ben-Yehuda, who served in the co-ed Caracal Battalion,and her mother, Prof. Dina Ben-Yehuda, who shared their story of heroism passing on from generation to generation. Dina Ben-Yehuda served in the IDF during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and Or, in 2014, single-handedly fought off a group of terrorists and won a military award for her courage. IDF combat veterans who are now FIDF IMPACT! scholarship recipients were also present.
Highlighting the unique cooperation between the US and Israel, Brig.-Gen. Tal Kelman, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate and former chief of staff in the Israel Air Force, shared impressions of working together with US Air Force soldiers during the Juniper Cobra joint military exercise earlier this year. He was joined on stage by Cpt. Or, the first female soldier to command a Patriot Battery, who recently employed an advanced air defense system to shoot down a Syrian airplane and a drone that invaded Israeli airspace in July.
Stage and television star Shiri Maimon, who is due to return this month after appearing on Broadway as Roxie in Chicago, sang two solos and also performed together with soldiers of the IDF Musical Ensemble.
■ JEWISH AGENCY Chairman Isaac Herzog, his brother Michael Herzog and their sister Ronit Herzog Bronsky, traveled to Ireland this week to launch the 100th anniversary of the birth of their father and Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog. Although Ireland has had its differences with Israel, the Irish are nonetheless proud of their native son, so much so that the centenary was marked at the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland in Belfast together with Speaker Robin Newton, party leaders and members of the assembly. The Herzog siblings, who also visited the house in Belfast where their father was born, were accompanied by a delegation that included representatives from the Jewish Agency UK, the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland, Limmud JLC, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, members of the Jewish community of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.
■ DEPUTY MINISTER for Diplomacy Michael Oren MK this week welcomed hundreds of new and returning international, immigrant and overseas students at a student orientation marking the opening of the 2018-19 academic year at Bar-Ilan University.
“Israel, like the United States, is a land of opportunity. Anybody can get anywhere here, no matter where you come from,” said Oren, noting that the founder of the Israeli citrus industry and the inventor of the Iron Dome missile defense system were both originally from the United States, that there are two MKs from Argentina, and that one out of every 75 Israelis speaks Russian. “This is an area of great possibilities. There is so much to contribute. Israel is not only a work of progress, but a work in progress. This country is still being formed and you can be part of that formation,” said Oren Regarding American student Lara Alqasem, who was recently detained at Ben-Gurion Airport and denied entry into Israel for her alleged support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that targets the Jewish state, Oren said, “Every sovereign country in the world has the right and obligation to decide who gets into that country and who does not. Israel has precisely that right and precisely that duty.”
More than 800 international and immigrant students from countries such as the United States, UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Turkey, China, Mongolia, Panama, South Korea, Morocco, Singapore and many more are enrolled in the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs this year, and in post-doc programs on the Ramat Gan campus, as well as at the Azrieli School of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University in Safed. They are studying in the English-language International BA programs, international MBA program, physics program and the Shaindy Rudoff graduate program in creative writing, and are also studying in Hebrew in various university departments.
It is not uncommon for Israel’s institutions of higher learning to accept students from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.
■ LIKUD MK Benny Begin continues to allow his conscience to guide him rather than toe the party line on every issue. Begin, who was opposed to the Nation-State Law from its inception, has not changed his mind and voices his opposition at every opportunity. Speaking to members of the law faculty at the University of Haifa this week, Begin declared that the Nation-State Law eschews the principle of equality and the values of the Jewish state. Begin said that if the text had included a phrase stating “to safeguard the equal rights of all her citizens” the problems emanating from this controversial legislation could have been avoided. Begin has already put forward a private members bill for an amendment to the Basic Law whereby equal rights will be included in the Nation-State Law.
■ NEW JERSEY Gov. Phil Murphy begins a four-day mission to Israel on October 20. The focus of the mission is to cultivate international investment opportunities in the Garden State, as well as deepen economic, cultural and political ties between New Jersey and Israel, primarily Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Annual shared economic activity between New Jersey and Israel currently stands at $1 billion. During his visit, Murphy will meet with representatives of the Economy Ministry, the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, the Israel-New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the Israel Innovation Authority, Teva Pharmaceuticals, HaKfar HaYarok, the Sanhedrin Forum and The Peres Center, among others. He will also visit the Western Wall and Yad Vashem and will plant a tree at Yad Kennedy.email@example.com
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