THERE IS no rest for President Reuven Rivlin, who after the strenuous round of Remembrance Day and Independence Day ceremonies, will this morning attend the ANZAC Day ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli.
He may get a little rest over the Sabbath, but on Sunday he’ll be back in harness for the Jerusalem Conference on Education – something that is very dear to his heart.
■ AMONG THE traditional Independence Day activities in Tel Aviv is the ceremony for distinguished residents in which the title Worthy of Tel Aviv (Yakir Tel Aviv) is bestowed on a group of individual Tel Avivians who have contributed to the image and development of the city through their professional and/or community and volunteer activities. This year the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality decided to honor 14 of the city’s residents – and they were all women whose qualities were publicly recognized on Thursday morning at a gala event at the Opera House in the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. The honorees included lawyer and former deputy mayor Haviva Avi-Gai; actress, former city council member and Israel Prize laureate Gila Almagor-Agmon, composer and arranger Nurit Hirsh; lawyer and former national president of Na’amat Talia Livni; expert on Hebrew and Sephardi literature Prof. Aviva Doron; food expert and cookbook author Ruth Sirkis; environmentalist Dalia Be’eri, along with Haya Boker, Tirza Borenstein, Rachel Bliman, Nechama Basok, Madeleine Sahlia-Azar, Rina Kazdan and Prof. Rina Shapira.
■ THE STATE visit to Mexico 18 months ago by then-president Shimon Peres spurred a surge in economic relations between Mexico and Israel. During the visit Peres met with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim who soon afterwards sent a business delegation to Israel to look at potential investments. The Mexican administration is no less interested in boosting Israeli investments in Mexico and towards that end is dangling the incentive of Mexico being the gateway to the Pacific Alliance – the Latin American trade bloc that includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica. An all-day conference on doing business in Mexico that is taking place Monday, April 27, at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv is deemed so important in Israel that the sponsors include the Prime Minister’s Office, with Harel Locker, the outgoing director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office listed as one of the opening speakers.
Jonathan Peled, Israel’s ambassador-designate to Mexico will also be among the speakers, and among the Mexican speakers will be Jordy Herrera, the former secretary of energy and former CEO and chairman of PEMEX Gas, Dr. Rafael Gamboa Gonzalez, the director-general of Mexico’s Development Bank FIA, and Jorge Perez, former commercial director of Mexican Telecom.
■ APROPOS PERES, certain Knesset members as well as members of the fourth estate raised a hue and cry over the fact that Peres is receiving NIS30,000 per month from Bank Hapoalim for acting as a consultant to the bank in relation to the bank’s overseas interests.
In the course of his career Peres made many important contacts some of which may be helpful to the bank in one way or another.
But connections are what success is all about.
Peres earned more in his role as president, and the retainer he gets from Bank Hapoalim is being channeled into the work of the Peres Center for Peace. Soon after leaving office Peres announced that he and his son Chemi Peres, a highly successful venture capitalist would be starting a business with the goal of advising and investing in companies in the Middle East. Called Amalia, which is Arabic for hope, the company founded in October last year donates all of his profits to the Peres Center. Nobody made a fuss about that, and since Shimon Peres is not benefiting personally from the entirely transparent deal with Bank Hapoalim, no one should make a fuss about that either. Meanwhile, Peres has decided to sever his relationship with Bank Hapoalim.
■ DIFFERENT PEOPLE view the same subject differently, especially when they have to use their imagination no less than their eyes. In a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, and as a fund-raiser for the Jordan River Project, Fattal Hotels is sponsoring a Leonardo- inspired exhibition of works by numerous Israeli artists at the Leonardo Hotels in Jerusalem’s St. George and King George streets.
The St. George exhibition will officially open Wednesday, April 29, at 5 p.m. and the King George exhibition at the Leonardo Plaza at 7 p.m. in the presence of David Fattal, the founder of Fattal Hotel Chain which now manages and owns more than 60 hotels in Israel and Europe, Chaim Topol and several of the other artists whose works are on display will be in attendance. Among them are Beverley Barkat, the wife of the mayor of Jerusalem, Yigal Tamarkin and Menashe Kadishman. The exhibition will be on view till May 29. All the works are for sale and part of the proceeds will go to the Jordan River Village, a place where seriously ill Jewish and Arab children from throughout the region can temporarily forget about hospital environments and have a free holiday camp where they can have a fun time under full medical supervision. Topol is chairman of the Jordan Village Board, and one of the founders of the village, which he visits frequently.
■ QUALITY OF the environment has increasingly become a global concern with many environmental special interest movements springing up around the world and various days on the calendar devoted to environmental issues, the most universal of which is arguably Earth Day, which originated in the United States on April 22, 1970, but has spread in all directions beyond America’s shores as people strive for green areas, clean air and clean water and also battle to save endangered species. Israel is no exception.
Among the people celebrating Earth Day in Israel this year was US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who combined business with pleasure when he went to inspect the work being done to rehabilitate and preserve the Jordan River and its ecosystem for future generations.
Dressed in casual-down-on-the-farm attire, Shapiro had a great time joining students from the Jordan Valley Regional Council schools in cleaning up the area. He also had fun paddling along the river in a canoe.
The students explained to him how he could join them as a shomer nahal – guardian of the river. Shapiro was proud of the fact that this is one of the projects supported by the US Embassy, USAID and ECOpeace. He was pleased to see the significant progress that had been made with an increased flow of clean water. He shared his enthusiasm with his host Yossi Vardi, who though primarily known as Israel’s hi-tech guru is also the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council. Vardi explained to Shapiro what has been done to date with regard to rehabilitating the river and what still remains to be done.
■ SPEAKING AT the Jerusalem Press Club last Tuesday, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy prefaced some of his statements with something to the effect of “I can tell you this now because it’s already been published...”
At one point he disclosed something that he said he had received from a very intelligent source, and in doing so stressed the difference between intelligent information and intelligence information. Sometimes information from intelligent sources is better than that from intelligence sources, he said. An intelligence officer for 40 years, Halevy when asked to list his greatest accomplishments, was unable to do so because that information is still classified but when pressed about which of his achievements gives him the most pride, he was able to name two. One was the role he played in precipitating the peace treaty with Jordan and the other was bringing Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel.
He was the commander of that operation for five years. “Nothing is more spiritually satisfying and rewarding than saving Jewish lives.”
■ BEFORE THE advent of sound and visual recording, there was no way of preserving the movements and voices of people who left their mark on the history of the world or the history of a particular place. Thus though we accept Josephus almost as gospel, the truth is that the legacy he bequeathed us is merely from his perspective, and probably carries a lot of bias. But now things are different, and even mundane events peopled with characters that few people outside their families have ever heard of are uploaded on YouTube for the world to see and hear. But more important is the fact that historical figures and events are also uploaded on youtube, including the reminiscences of people who helped to found the State of Israel.
Eric Weisberg, known these days as Aryeh Halivni, was conscious of the fact that most Jewish people have the opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor and to hear a personal story. For those who haven’t done that, Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and Yad Vashem have made survivor videos accessible to anyone who wants to hear and see them.
There are also other foundations and institutions that have done similar work though not on so monumental a level. But the personal stories of people who founded and built the state were not so easy to come by a decade ago and Halivni thought that it was of major significance to find these people while there was still a chance so that their voices and their likenesses could be passed on to future historians and anyone interested in the past.
Born in Cleveland in the US, Halivni worked for Jewish and Israel-related organizations for several years, including Bnei Akiva of the US and Canada, the Consulate General of Israel in New York and Edah.
After making aliya in 2002, he worked as director of external relations at Gesher, which is dedicated to bridging the gap between religious and secular in Israel. After five years he left to found Toldot Yisrael, which has become the guardian and the repository of the living history of modern Israel. Based in Jerusalem, Toldot Yisrael, is a nonprofit enterprise dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the men and women who helped found the state. More than 750 video interviews have been conducted so far and are housed in Israel’s National Library, the official library of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Halivni’s aim is to conduct hundreds more interviews in the immediate future – while it is still possible. Michael Oren, Amnon Rubinstein, Isaac Herzog, and Daniel Gordis are among the many fans of the project, because they see the historical value of the testimonies, as well as the significance of recording these stories in today’s political climate.
Toldot Yisrael has recorded more than 3,000 hours of footage with Israel’s founders, from senior generals to the tailor who designed the first IDF uniform; from a former president to the announcer in the first broadcast of Israel Radio; from a 17th generation Israeli whose family has been here since the Spanish Inquisition to Holocaust survivors who arrived from DP camps just before the founding of the state. This week a new short 15-minute film featuring the stories of seven people involved with the illegal immigration in the 1930s and 1940s – among them Shlomo Hillel and Avnery was uploaded, and Halivni is confident that there will be several others throughout the year. Halivni is so preoccupied with history that when he chose a place to call home it was in Gush Etzion where he lives with his wife and their five children.
■ THE AMERICAN Association for Cancer Research, believed to be the most veteran cancer research organization in the world has named Miri Ziv, the director-general of the Israel Cancer Association, as the recipient of its Public Service Award for 2015. The announcement was made at the AACR’s annual general meeting in Philadelphia on April 19. The AACR was founded in 1907, and today has a membership of 34,000 in 90 countries dealing with every aspect of cancer research and diagnosis. Ziv was recognized for her many years of devoted service to the cause and for promoting interest and activity in the battle against cancer and the effort to find a cure or better still a means of prevention. Ziv has introduced many projects into the work of the Israel Cancer Association and she has also been active in the global body.
■ A CENTER for the bridging and settling of community disputes among individuals and organizations in Modi’in-Maccabim- Reut has been established in memory of Uri Orbach, minister for senior citizens who passed away last month. The inauguration was attended by Orbach’s widow, Michal, Mayor of Modi’in Haim Bibas, and Rabbi Reuven Kruger, the center’s founder and CEO. The reason given for naming the center in Orbach’s memory was that he had been deeply interested in dialogue as a means of settling disputes.
Michal Orbach said that this was a most appropriate way in which to honor her husband’s memory.
■ AN INNOVATIVE retelling of the story of Zionism was launched this week with an animated video chronicling the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in its historic homeland through Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
The project, titled “Zionism in Animation,” aims to tell the story of Zionism in a series of 100 short animated clips, and is the brainchild of Shlomo Blass, head of Rogatka, a small studio which has released some of the most viral political and hasbara videos in recent years.
“We hope to tell the story of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland in an attention-grabbing way, and inform and educate Jews around the world, especially young audiences,” said Blass. “By doing so we hope to strengthen their sense of belonging to the Jewish people and to the land of Israel.”
“Sadly, many Jews, don’t know enough about one of the most miraculous chapters in world history: the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. We believe that knowing our history is fundamental to strengthening our sense of solidarity and commitment to our people and land.”
The first video, “How Israel Was Born,” was released in partnership with the Israel Video Network to coincide with Israel’s 67th Independence Day and was meant to inform Israelis and people around the world about the story of Israel’s founding. A few years ago, a survey of Israeli students found that 60% of respondents didn’t know the name of Israel’s first prime minister.
It can be seen at this link: http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/israels-miraculous- story-as-never-seen-before/.