DESPITE THE fact that Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, trade, cultural and political affiliations are strong. Thus there was a fairly large turnout at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv for the 95th National Day of the Republic of China. The National Day celebrations in Israel are hosted annually by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, which this year brought in the Ars Trio Taipeialong with soprano Zoe Huangto perform for Israeli audiences, first at the National Day festivities and then at the Hebrew University and the David Yellin College in Jerusalem.
The Ars Trio Taipei is led by violin professor Cheng Fang-liuand includes cellist Jessica Chen, a former child prodigy who now teaches students from all over the world including Israel, and pianist He Xiu-xian, a multi-talented musician. The ensemble, which has performed in more than 350 concerts in Taiwan and around the world, presented five pieces: three chamber music works by Mendelssohn, Handel and Haydn and two Taiwanese folk songs. However, the Israeli audience seemed to prefer its own voice over that of soprano Zoe Huang: With the exception of a small semicircle of music lovers and polite people who stood and listened, their delightful playing and singing went unappreciated.
Prior to the performance, Ray Chao, the acting representative of the TECO, welcomed the guests and said that the 95th anniversary marked the birth of the first republic and free democratic society in Asia. Taiwan, which has undergone a metamorphosis from an agricultural economy to one that is based on hi-tech, is now the third-largest trading country in the world, he said.
Trade with Israel in 2005 came to $1.2 billion, $100 million in excess of the previous year - and in both instances, the balance of trade was in Israel's favor. Chao mentioned an agricultural cooperation memorandum, a hi-tech cooperation agreement and the Taiwan Scholarship Program that annually enables ten Israelis to study in Taiwan.
MK Michael Eitan,who heads the Taiwan Friendship Group in the Knesset, noted that in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Taiwan, the Friendship Group was doing its best to promote the Israel-Taiwan relationship. Political delegations from Israel and Taiwan have visited each other's countries and such visits have been instrumental in strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Traditionally, Foreign Ministry or other government representatives absent themselves from formal Taiwanese events. However, once they are out of office - it's a different story. The guests who would not have attended when they were in office included former director-general of the Foreign Ministry Eitan Bentzur, former deputy director of the Foreign Ministry with responsibility for East Asia and the Pacific Zvi Gabay, and former director of the Government Press Office Meron Medzini. Also present was former MK Shaul Yahalom, who would have come even if he was still in the Knesset.
THE FIRST time Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberghosted a reception in honor of an Israeli Nobel Prize laureate, he said that he hoped to be able to do so on an annual basis. And indeed, he had the opportunity to do so again the following year.
Surprisingly, Rydberg was not present last Sunday at the reception hosted by the Hebrew University in honor of American scientist Roger Kornberg, who has strong personal and professional Israel ties, and who in December will receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Kornberg has a 20-year relationship with the Hebrew University, and although everyone present acknowledged Kornberg as an American, and not an Israeli, all the speakers at the event made specific mention of his connections with the Hebrew University, where he teaches for four months out of every year.
IT'S NOT every day that the Hebrew University can host a Nobel Prize laureate, "especially one of our own," said moderator Ioav Cabantchik, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, noting that Kornberg's father, also a Nobel Prize winner, was likewise a frequent visitor to the Hebrew University.
"We wanted to raise a glass to say, Roger we're proud of you," said Cabantchik, emphasizing that Kornberg had represented the Hebrew University at many international forums.
"When a dear friend gets the most important scientific recognition, we're all pleased and proud," said HU President Prof. Menachem Magidor, the former dean of the Science Faculty. "As Israelis we're all pleased and proud when someone considered to be partially Israeli is the winner of the Nobel Prize."
RESPONDINGto all the adulation Kornberg said: "The Hebrew University has for a long time been part of the fabric of my life. My association with the Hebrew University has been crucial to the success for which the prize was given."
Kornberg regretted that the Nobel awards ceremony does not include speeches by the laureates. Only afterwards are they given two minutes each to talk. He will use that two minutes, he said, to pay tribute to his colleagues at Stanford and the Hebrew University, without whom his achievements would not have been possible.