While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night continued his rant against the media and the Left, not to mention the democratic right to demonstrate, President Reuven Rivlin at the educational forum in Holon earlier in the day called for the cessation of incendiary talk by each side against the other. Politics and democracy are important, he said, but “not everything is politics.”
In November last year, Rivlin courageously admitted that even though he had not been on the balcony in Jerusalem’s Zion Square in October 1995, where crowds protesting the Oslo agreement carried placards of Rabin dressed in a Nazi SS uniform, he had been among the demonstrators because he felt it was his democratic right to make his voice heard. But what he witnessed there shocked him and angered him because, he said, the voices he heard were not those of the legitimate opposition.
On Wednesday of this week Rivlin said: “We must understand that we’re all living in this country not for the purpose of hating each other.”
At the beginning of the week, Rivlin, noting that the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashana is a month of compassion and repentance, asked that all those who are responsible for registering criminal charges to bear in mind that it is possible for the perpetrators of a crime, especially soldiers, to turn over a new leaf. He reminded all those found guilty of minor misdemeanors that they could turn to the president for clemency, and thus wipe the slate clean. In recent weeks Rivlin granted appeals for clemency to several soldiers who fulfilled their duties responsibly and professionally, and wiped their crimes off the record, thus enabling them to integrate successfully into the labor force and into society.
■ AT THE start of this week, Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s new ambassador to Germany, arrived in Berlin and two days later presented his credentials to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the presence of his wife, Laura Kam, and two of their three children, David and Ella. David, who is serving in the IDF, got special permission to attend the ceremony.
Issacharoff’s first duty as ambassador was to attend a memorial ceremony at Gleis 17, the railway station from which 50,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and Treblinka.
Of these, only 1,200 survived. For Kam, who accompanied her husband, this was a very difficult experience, as she is the daughter and niece of Holocaust survivors.
Next week, the Issacharoffs will again meet up with Steinmeier, this time in Munich, when they attend the ceremony for the unveiling of a monument to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Black September during the 1972 Munich Olympics.
■ FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, marks the 78th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, which began with the invasion of Poland and was followed by the imprint of the Nazi boot across Europe and part of the Middle East and North Africa. Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and who reported to the Polish government in exile, succeeded in escaping and finding his way to England and the United States, where he told the leadership of both countries of the systematic plan to exterminate the Jews. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was not interested, and even prominent Jewish figures in the US cast doubts on what he reported.
In 1982, Yad Vashem recognized Karski as Righteous among the Nations, and a tree in his name was planted in the Avenue of the Righteous. In 1994, he was made an Honorary Citizen of Israel. An award-winning film, Karski & the Lords of Humanity, made by celebrated filmmaker Slawomir Grunberg and released last year, has already been screened at film festivals in Boston, Sydney, Ann Arbor, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, Rochester, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Stockholm, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Lisbon, Berlin, Jerusalem, Warsaw and elsewhere, and will be shown in Mexico on Friday and Saturday.
Although there was undeniable widespread antisemitism in Poland, it must be acknowledged that, by far, the largest number of Righteous among the Nations were Polish citizens. A lesser-known Polish hero of the Holocaust era was Aleksander Lados, who was Poland’s ambassador to Switzerland from 1938 to 1945, during which time he approved the issuing of thousands of protective Polish passports to Jews who were stranded in Switzerland, which was a supposedly neutral country.
He was aided in this by Dr. Julius Kuhl, the Polish consul in Bern.
■ IT WAS not exactly surprising that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres chose to make his final address at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People, which has documented two millennia of the history and traditions of the Jewish people in the communities of their dispersion. Considering that he is a longtime outspoken critic of all forms of racism and xenophobia, who as prime minister of Portugal made a point of traveling to the fabled Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam to apologize for the heinous 15th century/16th century crime of the expulsion of the Jews, and who is concerned about rising antisemitism in the world today, it was a given that he would want to be at a place that represents the crossroads between the Jewish past and the Jewish future.
Irina Nevzlin, who chairs the board of directors at Beit Hatfutsot, welcomed him not only in his official capacity, but “as a kindred spirit, partner and friend.” Nevzlin went on to commend Guterres on his “deep compassion for humanity.”
Danny Danon, Israel ambassador to the UN, reeled off some of the many things that Guterres had done during his threeday visit to Israel, declaring that the most important thing was that he planted an olive tree in Jerusalem. Danon said that despite all efforts to eradicate antisemitism, it is still alive and well, and can be seen from the smallest towns to the capitals of countries and “in places where we never thought possible,” including the UN. Danon lauded Guterres for having the courage to say that being anti-Israel is the latest form of antisemitism.
Prior to addressing the crowd, which included outgoing Portuguese Ambassador Miguel de Almeida e Sousa, who delayed his departure till September 8, so that he could welcome his illustrious fellow countryman, Guterres toured the museum, especially that section dedicated to Portuguese Jewry, and was later presented with a specially compiled book on the Jews of Portugal.
Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro, who used to invariably have a front-row seat, was sitting in the third row alongside the Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben, who was there in a dual capacity, having served as an interim ambassador to the UN between Gabriela Shalev and Ron Prosor, both of whom were also present, as was Dan Gillerman, yet another former ambassador to the UN.
Colette Avital, a former Israel consul-general in New York, was also among the many past and present dignitaries who had been invited.
■ A WELCOME reception for Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan was held by the Israel-Australia, New Zealand & Oceania Chamber of Commerce at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Among those in attendance were Australian expatriates, Israeli representatives of Australian companies in Israel and representatives of Israeli companies and academic institutions that have interests in Australia. The event was sponsored by David Richardson Duty Free merchandise, which, according to its CEO, Gary Stock, is the largest Australian investor in Israel, and is this year celebrating the 30th anniversary of its presence in Israel.
Among the other Australians present were Paul Israel, the executive director of the chamber; Amanda Joske, one of the project managers at the chamber, and her mother, Karen Joske, a director at Taxigon, who flew in from Australia to join in her daughter’s 30th birthday celebration; Guy Spigelman, of Present Tense, which helps Arab hi-tech people to integrate into Israel’s hi-tech community; John Benporath, of Montrose Securities; Phil Brooks, a retired accountant; Irene Gruber, a former banker, who is now one of the directors of the chamber; Danny Hakim, founder of the Israel branch of Budo for Peace; and Andrew Hamilton, director of Neo Top. Also present were Dr.
Orna Betry, the immediate past chair of the chamber, and present chairman Ido Nechushtan.
Because Australia is now extremely interested in innovation, the number of trade missions from Australia to Israel has increased dramatically, said Paul Israel.
From only three or four a year as recently as a decade ago, there were 22 delegations last year, and 30 are expected by the end of this year. During this weekend the chamber will be hosting a delegation of 40-plus people. All the delegations include high-level participants.
Cannan, who has toured the James Richardson operation, said that he had been “blown away” by it. He acknowledged the “terrific reputation” left by his friend and predecessor Dave Sharma, and said that he intended to build on it. Like his three predecessors, Sharma, Andrea Faulkner and James Larsen, Cannan is a first-time ambassador and is thrilled to have been given his first ambassadorial posting in Israel, even though he has absolutely no Middle East background. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be at this time,” he said.
As the final speaker for the evening, Nechushtan said, “I think you’ll cherish my words, if I’m short.” Then he added: “But once you say you will be short, you can speak as much as you like” – and he did. Of all the speeches for the evening, his was the firstname.lastname@example.org