BORN AND educated in Melbourne, prime minister’s spokesman and foreign press adviser Mark Regev played hookey to join his Australian cousins Beverley Birnbaum and Leon and Barry Fink, who had come to dedicate the Jack and Sadie Fink Australian Garden in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in honor of their parents, who had been keen financial supporters of Israel.

Leon Fink, who has inherited his mother’s passion for gardening, worked initially with Michael Avishai, the founding head scientist of the JBG, who 13 years ago during a visit to Australia gave such an inspiring talk about the JBG that Fink simply fell in love with the idea of doing something substantial to enhance the JBG.

The Fink Garden will contain 200 Australian plants, most of which do not exist in Israel, and some of which are extremely rare in Australia.

In addition to creating the garden, the Fink family bought all the computer systems that the garden requires, completed the Australian section of the library and each year sponsors a group of 60 Arab and Jewish children who come together to learn and work in the garden and overcome mutual bias and hostilities by working together to help make the garden grow.

Hilik Bar, who heads the Foreign Relations Department of the Jerusalem Municipality, presented Fink and Australian ambassador Andrea Faulkner with Lion of Judah pins, urging them to wear them on their left lapels “close to your heart” because whoever wears one of these pins is designated as an a ambassador for Jerusalem. A large number of Australians attended, some of whom had specially come from Down Under for the occasion.

THERE WAS a little friendly family rivalry at the Book Fair stands in the Liberty Bell Gardens when two ex-Jerusalemites, father and son Uzi and Nir Baram, who were born and raised in Jerusalem but chose to live elsewhere, were back on familiar turf to sign copies of their new novels.

Former minister Uzi Baram signed copies of Ein Ahava Ba’ir (There’s No Love in the City), and Nir Baram was autographing copies of Anashim Tovim (Good People). Father and son were signed up with rival publishers. Writing is apparently in the Baram genes. Uzi Baram’s brother Haim Baram is a well-known, hard-hitting journalist.

RAISED IN the former Soviet Union, Jerusalem-based MK Yuri Shtern had that charming old-world European custom of kissing ladies’ hands. Shtern died in January 2007 after a long battle with cancer. At age 57, he was at the height of his political career. He had been a founder of the Soviet Jewry Information Center and of the Christian Allies Caucus in the Knesset. He was a man of great idealism and enormous integrity, a rare combination in a politician.

After his death, his family and friends established the Yuri Shtern Foundation to carry on his work and to help provide some form of relief for others stricken with cancer through a holistic center which, for a nominal fee, provides non-conventional therapies. The Yuri Shtern Foundation is hosting a fund-raiser for these purposes on Sunday, June 13, at 8 p.m. under the heading Jazz in the Yard. The yard in question is at Rehov Tel Hai 14 in the German Colony, where live jazz, as well as wine and cheese, will be on tap.

THERE ARE many ways to promote a book. Although retired diplomat Yehuda Avner is not exactly a Chabadnik, when he was invited by Chabad-Lubavitch of Orange County to come from Jerusalem to southern California to speak last weekend at the 15th anniversary commemoration of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, his topic was naturally related to the Rebbe’s meetings with president Zalman Shazar and prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, whom Avner escorted.

These and other personalities are featured in Avner’s book The Prime Ministers, which has aroused tremendous interest not only in Israel but throughout the Jewish world as well.

SACHER PARK was alive with the sound of music last week when Moshe Peretz and Mosh Ben-Ari entertained members of the kibbutz movement who had come to celebrate their centenary, to pay tribute to Jerusalem and to call for the release of Gilad Schalit. Also on hand was Mayor Nir Barkat, who did not miss a photo opportunity.
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