IT'S THAT time of year again when everyone is leafing through cheesecake recipes, and public relations firms are looking for new gimmicks to arouse attention while simultaneously pushing their clients' dairy products.
Taking its cue from Dancing with the Stars, Ma'ariv approached mothers of performing artists to share their favorite cheese cake recipes, and Strauss, whose dairy products were used in the preparations, "purchased" the recipes for NIS 3,000 each.
But the mums didn't pocket the money. Each was asked to recommend a good cause, and three of the four directed the funds to an organization helping youth at risk. The participating mothers were: Ada Boganin, the mother of Mickey; Simone Buskila, the mother of Maya; Haya Levy, the mother of Yehuda; and Yael Attias, the mother of Moran.
Stars are great gimmicks, but Tnuva decided for its contest that it wanted to involve the international community, and therefore held a cheesecake contest among more than a dozen female diplomats and wives of diplomats. Curiously, the winning entry, a pudding cake prepared by Antonia Filipe Cardoso, wife of the Angolan Ambassador Jose Joao Manuel, had no cheese in it at all, but it did have sweetened condensed milk with a cheese-like texture and taste. If you've never tasted Angolan cake, now is the time. It's quick and easy, and here's the recipe:
Ingredients for pudding:
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup water
1 cup milk
Grated rind of an orange
Ingredients for dough:
8 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.
To make the dough: Beat the eggs with the sugar and gradually add the flour.
To make the pudding: Beat the eggs, add the condensed milk and blend. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
Take a greased baking pan, sprinkle lightly with sugar making sure that the sugar is evenly distributed. Pour in the pudding mixture, then the dough mixture and bake for 45 minutes.
NOW IT'S almost official. Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, in an interview with Hatzofeh, said that if he were asked to run for president when Moshe Katsav completes his term, he would seriously consider doing so. He has not hired a PR team to lobby for him, he said, but then again, the people who are interested in having Lau as president have been quietly laying the groundwork for the better part of two years.
One of the much speculated rivals for the post - Supreme Court President Aharon Barak - announced at the Israel Bar Association conference in Eilat last week that he was not a candidate in the race for another presidency, and that after his retirement in September this year, he would not engage in public life. If he sticks with that decision, and if the pundits are right about Shimon Peres not taking a second stab at the presidential elections unless he is the sole contender, the only current competition that Lau would have to overcome would be from National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer and from former foreign minister David Levy. Then again, some dark horse could surface early in 2007, and race out ahead of all the others.
Meanwhile, Lau was last Thursday honored in Jerusalem at the Orthodox Union's Jerusalem World Center Jerusalem Day Dinner with the Keter Torah Award, which is the OU's highest accolade.
BIBLICAL SCHOLAR Uriel Simon, who is a professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University, was invited by Jerusalem's Hazvi Yisrael congregation to deliver a lecture late on Saturday afternoon. There is nothing worse for any lecturer, particularly one of Simon's caliber and reputation, to make the effort on a Sabbath, only to discover that the hall is empty. Simon found it strange that not even a single person had come to listen to him.
He waited for 10 minutes, and still no one arrived. Then he heard some noise from above the synagogue chamber, and since he is a curious fellow, and he was already on the premises, he decided to go and investigate. He found a large room full of people who were eating the third Sabbath meal, and who could not understand why the lecture they had been promised had not started. Whoever it was who had invited Simon had neglected to tell him that he could not be speaking inside the synagogue proper, but in a hall upstairs.
Simon was momentarily annoyed, but the audience who had come to hear him present new insights on the sacrifice of Isaac, through paying strict attention to the language of the Biblical text, and who absorbed the lessons of the art of biblical narrative and biblical psychology, was so audibly appreciative of his wit and wisdom, that he could not remain angry.
n THE INVITATION to the reception being hosted today, Wednesday, by Thai Ambassador Kasivat Paruggamanont stipulates formal attire. The occasion is the celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of the ascent to the throne by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest reigning monarch in Thai history and the longest reigning monarch in today's world, though there have been monarchs in the past who spent a longer period on the throne.
His Majesty, who is also a famed musician, was not actually born on Thai soil. He was born in December, 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Though the Ambassador's reception promises to be an extraordinary cultural event, it cannot quite compete with the glitter of the King's own celebration in Thailand, to which monarchs of 28 countries have been invited.
MOST NATIONAL Day events hosted by heads of foreign diplomatic missions are receptions that are held either in their residences or in a hotel - sometimes with the participation of musicians and dancers who present some of that country's music and dance to the invited guests. There's an address by the ambassador and another by a representative of the government of Israel, and then everyone mingles and indulges in the refreshments. That also used to be the case with Europe Day, with the difference that there was no entertainment. Everyone gathered around the swimming pool in the impressive Herzliya residence. Waiters and waitresses walked around with trays, and there were several buffet tables with platters of meat, cheese and fruit.
Recordings of the anthems would be played. The ambassador would make a speech about the European Union, and the representative of the Israeli government (who more often than not was Shimon Peres) would talk about relations between Israel and Europe. Sometimes, if the ambassador's wife wanted to prove her proficiency in Hebrew, she too made a speech.
This year, Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, the head of the delegation of the EU Commission, decided to do it differently and to infuse the occasion with a large dose of culture. He invited hundreds of people - including President Moshe Katsav and his wife, Gila - to a special Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at the Mann Auditorium, followed by a festive reception afterwards in the upstairs lobby of the building.
The first movement of the symphony was set to Schiller's Ode to Joy, which is the anthem of Europe. Interestingly, the 9th Symphony premiered in May, 1824, and Europe Day comes two weeks after VE Day, both of which are also in May.
Cibrian-Uzal delighted the audience with his address delivered in flawless and almost accentless Hebrew, which he attributed to his ulpan teachers who were also among the guests. After expressing his appreciation to the president for accepting his invitation, Cibrian-Uzal spoke of the shared values of the EU and Israel, including human rights and the rule of law.
While the ambassador's address was fairly succinct, the president's was not. After congratulating the EU for its contribution to stability in the region and its restructuring of human history after the destruction of Europe, Katsav waded into political waters to the annoyance of music lovers in the gallery who were not on the EU guest list. They applauded to signify that they wanted him to stop, but the president persisted. They applauded again - and still he did not take the hint. The orchestra, the Philharmonia singers - standing against the backdrop of the Israeli and EU flags flanked by the flags of all the EU member countries and soloists Xiuwei Sun, Annette Markert, Jorg Schneider and Carlo Striuli - responded brilliantly to the spirited and energetic conducting of Yoel Levi.
At the end of the concert, everyone was in a near euphoric mood. The ambassador and his wife, Maria Eugenia Goni, stood at the top of the stairs receiving congratulatory comments not only for the occasion, and the wonderful concert, but also for the level of his Hebrew. Cibrian-Uzal, who made sure that his teachers were standing nearby to receive the credit, kept introducing them to various dignitaries. If they needed a recommendation, they could not have wished for a better one.
n AFRICA DAY, which was celebrated a day after Europe Day, was also a cultural event, but of a different nature. Ambassadors and heads of mission of Angola, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Congo DRC, Congo Republic, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, all gathered in the spacious grounds of the Kfar Shmaryahu residence of Nigerian Ambassador Dr. Manzo George Anthony, dean of the African Diplomatic Corps.
On stage at the far end of the garden were African singers and musicians who entertained with traditional and modern music from various African countries. On the grounds, many Africans, some of whom normally wear western garb, came dressed in the flowing and colorful robes of their heritage. In some cases, there was a synthesis in styling between Africa and the West, but the fabrics were the real McCoy and simply wonderful.
Particularly eye-catching were the head-dresses of the Nigerian women. Most striking was the ambassador's wife, Mary, who has the height, beauty and figure of a super-model, and who wore her green and gold national costume with sophisticated elegance.
Asked to explain how the magnificent head-gear was tied, Margaret Omisore, another member of the Nigerian Embassy, explained that the fine fabric is starched as stiffly as possible, and is then wound around the head and tied. The starch gives body to the fabric so that it can be shaped around the head once it is tied. No one can ever be sure exactly what the end result will be - but it is always striking.
Some of the non-African women were so entranced by the beauty of the African costumes that they wanted to know if there was anywhere in Israel that they could buy them. As it happens, there are several stores in Israel selling traditional Ethiopian clothing and handcrafts. The market is wide open for anyone who wants to bring in clothes and jewelry from other African countries.
Among the Africa Day guests was the new Korean Ambassador, Shin Kak-Soo, who - together with a large number of other new envoys, including Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco - is due to present his credentials on June 26. Franco's predecessor, the popular Pietro Sambi, is now Papal Nuncio to the United States.
n SOME OF the guests at the Africa Day reception had to leave early for yet another farewell for Chilean Ambassador Sally Bendersky, who returned home this week. But most were headed for the home of US Ambassador Richard Jones and his wife, Joan, for a truly wonderful recital by the International Choir of Israel, which is made up largely of members of the diplomatic community.
The repertoire included Israeli, Slovenian, Finnish, Japanese, Mexican and American folk songs. All the voices were good - but particularly outstanding in its sweetness was that of Akiko Yokota, the wife of Japanese Ambassador Jun Yokota, who sat with a proud grin on his face while she sang a song about flowers.
Spouses and children of other choir members were also present not only to lend moral support, but to swell in pride. Choir director Lynda Kreienheder from the US, though uncompromising in her quest for perfection, won praise all around for the results she had achieved. Joan Jones invited the choir to return after the air-conditioning system, which is on its last legs, is replaced by a new one that will make the atmosphere more comfortable.
IN JEWISH tradition it's not usually the done thing to combine one celebration with another. But timing is not always controllable, and among the many guests at the brit mila of Matan Goldsmith, the son of Ariel and No'a Goldsmith, at Jerusalem's Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue, was a young couple who had been married only three days previously. Thus, the sheva brachot (seven blessings for the bride and groom) were incorporated into the grace after meals following the festive breakfast.
The initiative was that of the baby's father, who went from table to table assigning the different blessings, while musicians played Carlebach melodies. They also played Carlebach melodies earlier in the morning during the circumcision ceremony while still wearing their phylacteries - which was somewhat of an unusual sight.
Both the grandfather, Dr. Michael Goldsmith, and the father of the baby are wandering troubadours in the religious sense of the word. They go from synagogue to synagogue to perform the Torah reading, and sometimes they also lead the prayers. Each has done this on many occasions at Hazvi Yisrael, which was a natural venue to introduce the third generation Goldsmith into the world.
WITH THE huge crowd of celebrities and diplomats who turned up at the official opening in Herzliya Pituah of The Meat & Wine Co. restaurant, it would not have been unusual for the musical entertainment to be hard rock so that it could be heard over the noise. But Laurence Thorpe, the restaurant's International Projects Manager, chose instead to have something a little more classy by way of violinist Sania Kroitor, who goes by the professional name of Sanias. Surprisingly, his haunting playing brought the noise level in the restaurant to something barely audible, so that those people who really wanted to listen to him were able to do so.
Sanias is on his way to the US and is scheduled later this month to play with Symphony Space on Broadway.
DIRECTOR OF the Avi Chai Foundation, Arthur Fried, was listening to his wife and daughter discussing the Time magazine article about the new feather in the cap of internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, who entered into a partnership with Tiffany & Co to create jewelry collections, the first of which was unveiled in April.
The gist of the conversation was that anyone who is a qualified designer and knows all the rules of design can design anything, be it a building, a piece of furniture or an item of jewelry.
Soon after, Fried and his wife, Susan, exchanged wedding anniversary gifts. His gift to her was a finely wrought, but infinitely striking bracelet. Yes, you've guessed it. The box was from Tiffany's and the bracelet was a Gehry creation.
n IN HIS weekly Friday radio show, Yehoram Gaon likes to philosophize about attitudes and events in the country. Last Friday, it bothered him that government ministers taking over new ministries almost invariably find subtle or direct ways of attacking their predecessors by claiming that they received a ministry in some form of disarray. Gaon noted that this kind of denigration does not go on in the IDF where a chief of general staff receives the torch from his predecessor to carry it on to the person who will come after him. Reflecting on the difference, Gaon said: "Perhaps in the army, they still have a sense of purpose."