You can take the man out of America, but you can’t take America out of the man. Case in point is former Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman who had to give up his American citizenship when he became a legislator. Lipman is an avid baseball fan, as is his son, Shlomo, a starting pitcher for Israel’s national baseball team.
During a trip to New York a year-and-ahalf ago, Lipman met Mariano Rivera, the Panamanian former New York Yankees baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. Lipman – who says that Rivera is the best relief pitcher in baseball history – enthuses that Rivera played for the Yankees from 1995 to 2013, when he retired.
At that time, “every single team honored him at the last game he played in their stadiums.”
Lipman developed a close relationship with Rivera when he became involved in the arrangements being planned and assisted by the New York Board of Rabbis for Rivera to visit Israel.
Last summer, when Lipman was in New York with his son, Rivera hosted them in his home.
When Rivera came to Israel last week, he brought his wife, his sons, his parents, in-laws, and others. Tracked down by the media, he said that coming to Israel was a dream that he could not fulfill while playing ball and that it had to be the right time so he could bring his children.
He said that he wanted to be in the place where the Bible comes to life and to visit Christian holy sites so that he and his family could have a trip they would always remember.
Naturally, the Lipmans, father and son, were on hand to greet him, as was Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who met the group at the Tower of David, where each member was presented with a plaque designating them as official pilgrims to Israel.
Lipman presented the ball player with an Israel baseball sweatshirt with Rivera’s name and number and said: “Mariano, you are getting to see ancient Israel, as you said – connecting to our roots – but Israel is also modern. And as a modern state, of course we have to have baseball. The Israel Association of Baseball is honored that you have come to Israel and we look forward to a relationship with you. On behalf of the Israel Baseball Association I am honored to give you this sweatshirt, on condition that you wear it proudly in the streets of New York.”
Rivera answered he looks forward to doing so.
■ PROTOCOL IS often a time-consuming nuisance. In many countries, including Israel, it is customary for the head of state to greet a visiting dignitary in the language of the host country and for the dignitary to respond in his or her own language.
One can understand this when the two people concerned have no common language between them, but most of the dignitaries who come to Israel speak English fluently, as does President Reuven Rivlin – who momentarily forgot himself this week and began his welcome remarks to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in English before switching to Hebrew.
Halfway through the conversation, Fabius wanted to make a specific point that he did not want to have translated but which he wanted Rivlin to get from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and reverted from French to English.
Both men were quite happy to have talented interpreter Gisele Abazon on hand to do the job for them. The very theatrical, multilingual Abazon, with her excellent diction and powerful voice that can project itself across a crowd without benefit of a microphone, is a favorite of local and visiting statesmen, diplomats and politicians.
She got a big kiss from Ambassador to France Yossi Gal who was present at the meeting, as was his French counterpart, Patrick Maisonnave.
Abazon explains Israel’s case so well, that former president Shimon Peres has said of her on more than one occasion that she interprets what he says better than the manner in which he said it. Rivlin said more or less the same, and beamed with pleasure, nodding his head in agreement as she elaborated on what he had said, infusing her own sense of drama into every phrase and sentence.
Watching him, Fabius said, “You do understand French.” It was more a statement than a question, but Rivlin, still smiling, responded “Un peu.”
■ ON FRIDAY of this week, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and his wife, Celia, who have endeared themselves to so many people in Israel and have personally worked for so many causes, will bid their last farewell to Israel in their present capacities.
They will head for home in London, where the ambassador will become director of cyber security at the Cabinet Office and his wife, who has set up two design-related companies, will do business, but will maintain contact with some of the Israeli organizations for which she has worked.
In his new role, Gould will be commuting between London and Tel Aviv because of the UK’s very strong relations with Israel on cyber matters. The outgoing ambassador can also take a not-insignificant amount of credit for close collaboration in other areas of science and technology.
Among the many organizations and institutions with which the Goulds have been associated during their almost five years in Israel is Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, the country’s leading innovative facility for treating children with disabilities, changing attitudes of society toward people with disabilities, and creating an atmosphere of social inclusiveness.
Beit Issie Shapiro executive director Jean Judes and international resource development director Benjy Maor wanted to host a farewell luncheon for the Goulds, who in recent weeks have been feted left, right and center. Celia Gould was able to attend, but her husband still had business in Jerusalem and couldn’t make it. Almost every minute before their departure is accounted for, said the ambassador’s wife.
Among the people attending the luncheon was volunteer Dalia Pazi of the International Women’s Club, who was lauded by Judes as being the person who introduced the diplomatic community to Beit Issie Shapiro.
Some of the diplomats have become involved, but none to the extent of Celia Gould, who was also the contact person between the organization and China, where Beit Issie Shapiro international collaboration officer Sharon Yehezkel-Oron signed a cooperation agreement in Beijing with Wenqing Zhu, CEO of Suzhou Yuanmeng Accessibility Technology, which employs disabled people to make products for disabled people .
The Chinese connection resulted from a Facebook posting by Andrea Yip, a dynamic China-Israel cooperation investment consultant who moved to Israel from Hong Kong a little over five years ago, and was looking for a cooperative venture with focus on the disabled.
Celia Gould saw the post, got in touch, introduced Beit Issie Shapiro to Yip, who in turn introduced it to Zhu, and the result was another triumph for people-to-people diplomacy.
Yip was at the luncheon together with her brother, Frank, who is currently visiting Israel.
Other people sitting at the table included lawyer Sima Perry, who is a member of the Ra’anana City Council and who will soon become deputy mayor. She noted that Ra’anana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski is so committed to Beit Issie Shapiro that he not only arranged for the land to be allocated for its premises but made sure that a member of the council should serve on the organization’s board of directors, of which by coincidence his wife, Caron, a personality in her own right, is the chairwoman.
Celia Gould came to the luncheon with mixed feelings. On the one hand, she was glad to be going home, but on the other, she said that she had realized while driving to Ra’anana that this was the last time that she would be doing so. She also mentioned that people keep asking her daughters Rachel, four, and Emily, two, whether they were excited about going home, not realizing that Israel was home to them as they were both born here.
Aside from the impressive work that it does in Ra’anana, Beit Issie Shapiro provides training for people working with other organizations for the disabled and constantly shares its knowledge and experience. Gould was particularly impressed with the work done in Kalansuwa, where in 2000 the organization established the first early intervention center for the Arab sector. The center provides rehabilitative day care, family support and a home-treatment program.
Gould was interested to hear about an upcoming Beit Issie Shapiro collaboration with Flowers of Hope, a Palestinian organization in Bethlehem that seeks to improve services for the disabled. Toward this end, the two organizations together received a joint grant from the European Union.
Gould was also keen to hear about the Beit Issie Shapiro International Conference on Disabilities, which will open at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on July 6 and continue at the Dan Panorama, and regretted that she would not be in Israel to attend it.
She said that Beit Issie Shapiro is a unique organization and that more people should know about it and that she certainly intends to do something about that in London. She had found her relationship with Beit Issie Shapiro to be ”hugely fulfilling,” she added.
In the spectrum of NGOs and institutions all over the country with which she and her husband have had relationships, she said, “Beit Issie Shapiro stands out as a model.” She did not know of any organization that shares its knowledge, learning and experience locally and internationally as effectively as Beit Issie Shapiro does, she said, adding that it is an example of best practices.
“You never rest on your laurels,” she continued, commenting that she and her husband were also a bit like that and were constantly looking for new ways to be of service to society. There were lessons to be learned from their Israel experience, she said, and they would be taking these back to London.
“You judge a society by the way it treats its less fortunate. Israel can hold its head up high,” she concluded.
■ ON A somewhat different level of bilateral relations between Israel and the UK, in June, 2008, when Tzipi Livni was foreign minister and Sir Tom Phillips was the British ambassador, Livni, as guest of honor at a Queen’s Birthday reception hosted by Phillips, said that her parents had met while robbing a British train during the Mandate period.
Were it not for the Mandate, she said, she might never have been born.
During her recent visit to London, Livni was asked in the course of an interview with the BBC whether she believed that her parents, who fought in the Irgun against the British, were terrorists. Livni did not lose her cool. She said “No” and simply explained the difference between fighting an army and the terrorist organizations in the Middle East that are killing civilians.
■ IN BRITAIN, it is customary for Queen Elizabeth to send congratulatory letters to her subjects celebrating their 100th birthday.
A similar custom exists in Israel. In the case of Esther Porath of Jerusalem, it was more than a pro forma act.
President Reuven Rivlin’s father, Prof. Yoel Rivlin, and Porath’s father-in-law, Rabbi Israel Porath, were contemporaries who grew up in the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem. Both their families had come to the Holy Land from Lithuania in the early 19th century and were disciples of the Gaon of Vilna.
Rabbi Israel Porath, along with other family members, subsequently migrated to the United States and settled in Cleveland, but some of the future generations of the Porath family returned to Jerusalem.
Esther Porath, the daughter of Rabbi S. I.
Levin, from Minneapolis, was married to the late Rabbi Tzvi H. Porath from Washington and Jerusalem.
Last Friday, she celebrated her 100th birthday at the home of her children, Rabbi Jonathan and Deena Porath, in Rehavia, the Jerusalem neighborhood in which Rivlin spent his youth. All of the honoree’s progeny attended the celebration – her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, from Israel and America, each of whom gave her a personal blessing.
When asked to what she attributes reaching such an advanced age, she replied that “it all depends on the people you surround yourself with; they can make a huge difference in your quality of life and future direction.”
The youngest great grandchildren led the singing of Porath’s favorite songs, which naturally included “Jerusalem of Gold” as well as her old favorite “You Are My Sunshine.”
Rabbi Jonathan Porath said that his mother’s 100th birthday marked a milestone not only for her, but for everyone in attendance, no matter how old, and “once again made us aware of how precious life is and how much we acknowledge the blessings of the Almighty.”
Throughout the years, the Porath and the Rivlin families maintained contact, and Rabbi Jonathan Porath still has the bar mitzva present that he received from Prof. Yoel Rivlin – One Thousand and One Nights, which Rivlin translated from Arabic to Hebrew.
■ DURING HIS first two months in office, President Reuven Rivlin traveled throughout the country paying condolence calls to the families of soldiers who died during Operation Protective Edge.
This week, on completing a year in office, Rivlin was again paying a condolence call, this time to the family of Danny Gonen, the Israeli who was shot at point-blank range by a Palestinian terrorist last Friday, after he and his friend, Netanel Hadad, left a spring near Dolev in the West Bank. As they were driving away, a Palestinian called to them in a pleasant manner, asked about water in the spring, thanked them and turned to move away. He then called them back, and when they stopped again, he began shooting at them. Gonen was critically wounded and died of his injuries.
Rivlin went to the Gonen family home in Lod on Monday to offer his condolences. He embraced each of the mourners, including Gonen’s mother, Devora, and expressed his deep sorrow that such a tragedy had overtaken the family. Devora Gonen told Rivlin how much Danny had loved the land, and how at every opportunity he loved to go hiking and to explore all the highways, byways and hidden trails.
She also spoke of her son as being a kind and generous person who gave of himself to others. ”He was one of the good sons of this country,” she said. “His loss is almost unbearable.”
After listening intently to what the family had to say, Rivlin voiced his confidence that security forces will track down the assailant and bring him to justice.
On Tuesday evening, Rivlin attended a memorial ceremony marking the 39th anniversary of the death of Yoni Netanyahu, the older brother of the prime minister, who on July 4, 1976, was killed in action while leading a daring rescue operation in Entebbe to free Israeli and other Jewish hostages captured by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The prime minister’s younger brother, Ido Netanyahu, a radiologist and author and playwright, has donated Yoni’s flak jacket to an exhibition titled “Operation Yonatan” that will open at the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv on July 10 and is being curated by Avner Abraham. The exhibition, which till now has been stored with the Mossad, will feature previously classified documents, photographs, film footage and personal effects related to the mission. The center has been busy trying to locate everyone who was involved in the planning of the rescue operation or who was a hostage, with the aim of inviting them to the opening of the exhibition that will eventually be transferred to the new wing of the nearby Eretz Israel Museum for permanent display.
■ SINCE OPENING their first Cinema City complex at Glilot junction in 2002, brothers Moshe and Leon Edery have continued to build and open similar enterprises around the country. This week they opened their newest Cinema City in the Kfar Saba G Mall in the presence of Kfar Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben Hamo.
The new venture covers an area of 5,000 sq.m. and has 11 cinema halls and a theater auditorium. Unlike Jerusalem, where the brothers have been fighting a losing battle to be open seven days a week, there is no such problem where the Kfar Saba Cinema City is concerned.
All Cinema Cities incorporate additional attractions, and the one in Kfar Saba will eventually include a musical park that is being constructed in partnership with the Kfar Saba Municipality. Leon Edery, who is the president of the Edery Group, said that he was proud to add yet another member to the Cinema City family that will enable the residents of Kfar Saba and surrounds to enjoy more entertainment close to home.
Moshe Edery, who is strongly identified with the revolutionary advances in cinema in Israel, said that he was very proud of the contribution that Cinema Cities have made to Israeli culture and the enjoyment of watching movies. In addition to building movie houses, the Edery brothers are bigtime investors in Israeli movie productions and in this way have encouraged the country’s movie industry.
Cinema Cities in Kfar Saba and Rishon Lezion are cooperative ventures between the Edery Group and Gazit Globe Israel, whose CEO Ronen Ashkenazi said that their work together over the past five years had been very fruitful.
Ben Hamo said that Cinema City was an important addition to Kfar Saba’s leisure time options.
■ NEW BEGINNINGS always carry great hope, and there was ample representation from the Irani Corporation and Ofer Brothers Properties at the opening this week at the Ramat Aviv Mall by Roni and Yossi Irani of their flagship Michael Kors concept store, which was designed by Michael Kors’s own interior decorators.
For those who may not be au fait with who’s who in the international fashion design business, Michael Kors is a New York based fashion designer who is the son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father.
The opening of the first Michael Kors store in Israel included a mezuza affixing ceremony, which seems to be mandatory at all such openings in Israel, regardless of the extent or absence of religiosity of the owners. Among those present were Yafit Irani; Liora Ofer, who chairs the Melisron Group of property developers; Melisron CEO Avi Levy; Ofer Malls CEO Moshe Rosenblum; Ramat Aviv Mall CEO David Ben Moshe and many others. Most of the men in attendance made a beeline for the distinctive Michael Kors shoulder bags.
■ BOYCOTT NOTWITHSTANDING, Israel is not without friends in the world. The Israel- Brazil Parliamentary Friendship Group, headed by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu), was launched at the Knesset a week ago.
MKs Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid), Yoav Kisch (Likud), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) and Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas) participated in the event, as did a number of officials from the Brazilian Embassy, including Minister-Counselor Alexandre Campello De Siqueira, Counselor Paulo Gustavo Santana, First Secretary Adriana Sader Tescari, Secretary Eduardo Florencio and Vice-Consul Jose Ernando Das Neves.
Two weeks prior to the launch, Eduardo Cunha, the president of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, visited the Knesset along with a large delegation of Brazilian Members of Congress and senior government officials to discuss cooperation on economic, political and parliamentary issues.