UNLIKE SOME other countries that were part of the British Empire before attaining independence, New Zealand, which became an independent dominion in September, 1907, does not celebrate Independence Day, but prefers to celebrate Waitangi Day, in deference to the country's native population.
On February 6, 1840, the Maori chiefs agreed to a treaty in which they ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria but retained the rights to the land.
However, Waitangi Day is a comparatively recent national holiday, initially proposed by the Labor Party in 1957. For a long time, the Maoris thought they had been exploited by the British Crown, but over the years many of their grievances have been addressed, and Waitangi Day is now celebrated by all Kiwis, including those who live in Israel who, perhaps influenced by their environment, are holding their celebration almost a week late. Better late than never.
The event, at Yad Lebanim in Ra'anana on February 12, will be addressed by non-resident New Zealand Ambassador Hamish Cooper, and ANZAC historian Kevin Crombie, the author of Kiwis and the Restoration of Israel. In addition, there will be the premiere screening in Israel of New Zealand's recently released highly acclaimed movie Sione's Wedding. But before that, everyone present will be given a reminder of the controversial television program The Ambassador, in which the winner was the beautiful and charismatic Melody Sucharewicz, although the younger, more eloquent Efrat Oppenheimer acquitted herself better when the finalists were called upon to address the United Nations. The local Kiwis have a special interest in Oppenheimer, whose mother made aliya from New Zealand some 36 years ago. As it happens, Sucharewicz did not live up to expectations and was asked to quit after a relatively brief time in the US, while Oppenheimer continues to work for Israel at home and abroad, albeit without the title of "Ambassador." Her address to the UN will be screened at the Waitangi Day festivities.
Anyone wishing to attend must register in advance with firstname.lastname@example.org.
GOOD MANNERS decree that the guests don't start eating until the appearance of the guest of honor. But what happens when the guest of honor shows up more than an hour late? You break with protocol and eat. At least that's what happened in the residence of Kenyan Ambassador Felistas Khayumbi, who waited more than an hour and a quarter for Kenyan Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju and his delegation, who were stuck in traffic while traveling from Jerusalem to Herzliya Pituah, where Khayumbi hosted them at a reception in her gracious home. It wasn't easy for the ambassador, who has a knee problem, to stand for so long, but she remained steadfast at the doorway with a warm greeting for each guest, whose presence she genuinely appreciated in the face of the forbidding weather.
For the sake of the handful of her guests who observe kashrut, Khayumbi ordered not only kosher food, but glatt kosher catering. A tent set up by the swimming pool was instantly accessible from the reception area, so guests had the choice of eating inside the house or in the tent. There were several sumptuous food islands in each. Outside, male staff members waited with large umbrellas to walk guests up the path to the doorway. Richly woven rugs that had been laid on the path enhanced the prestige of the occasion.
When Tuju finally arrived, he entered with a big grin on his face and instantly charmed the crowd with his film-star good looks and relaxed manner, especially when the first word he said was "Shalom," to which all the Israelis in the crowd responded: "Jambo!" - a popular form of greeting in several African countries. Tuju quickly switched from Shalom to "Bonjour" when introduced to Cameroon Ambassador Henri Etoundi Essomba, who happens to be dean of the diplomatic corps. He subsequently exchanged pleasantries with Mauritanian Ambassador Ahmed Ould Teguedi, South African Ambassador Fumanekile Fumie S. Gqiba, who he said he'd like to greet in Swahili, Ivory Coast Ambassador Prof. Raymond Koudou Kessie and various members of the Nigerian and Egyptian embassies.
Tuju worked the room with practiced ease, looking genuinely interested in what people were saying to him, especially those Israelis who were familiar with Kenya and spoke to him of their experiences there. Tuju instantly recognized one of the leaders of the Israeli rescue team which had been sent to Nairobi last year to help find survivors of a huge building collapse. "We don't want to see you again," he quipped, then corrected himself: "We want you to come - but just to visit."
In the course of his own visit, Tuju met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Vice Premier and Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee Shimon Peres, Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai. Like most visiting dignitaries, Tuju also toured Yad Vashem. In his meetings with the Israeli leadership, he stressed Kenya's solidarity with Israel in the fight against terrorism and fundamentalist extremism, and said it was a moral obligation to vote in international forums against those countries that seek to erase Israel from the world map. Tuju asked for Israel's technological help in dealing with crime and terrorism in Kenya, in addition to assistance Kenya already receives from Mashav, the Foreign Ministry's Center for International Development Cooperation.
DESPITE THE fact that he has been named in the electronic and print media as a candidate for justice minister, Prof. Uriel Reichman insists he is not. The Interdisciplinary College, Herzliya of which he is the founder, on Tuesday morning issued a statement noting that Reichman has no intention of leaving the IDC after having once again become its president the previous Thursday. Reichman relinquished the presidency when he ran for the Knesset, under the impression that he was going to be education minister in a Kadima-led government. When that didn't happen, he resigned from his brief tenure as MK and returned to the IDC, but not immediately as president. Prof. Amnon Rubinstein who has also been named as a candidate, completed a year in office as IDC president before handing back the reins.
RELATIVELY SPEAKING, we almost got it right, but made a slight error based on misinformation. Couture designer Bari Mayer, described on this page last week as the grandson of Moshe and Sara Mayer, is in fact their great nephew. He is the grandson of Moshe Mayer's younger brother, Mordechai.
AWARD-WINNING film maker Arthur Cohn, who travels the world from his homes in Switzerland and Jerusalem to make films, and who is the only producer awarded six Oscars, usually allows at least 18 months between one production and the next. But now he's doing almost back-to-back productions. He's just concluded a film in China, and is on the verge of starting another in New Orleans. However, he may take some time out to come to Jerusalem for the annual Ingebord Rennert Guardian of Zion Award, of which he was a recipient last year. This year's awardee will be Norman Podhoretz, who was a long-time Commentary editor. Among the regular guests at the ceremony is Jerusalem Post writer and editor, Ruthie Blum. This year, she will have a special reason for attending. Podhoretz is her father. Previous recipients of the award include Elie Wiesel, Herman Wouk, A.M. Rosenthal, Sir Martin Gilbert, Cynthia Ozick, Charles Krauthammer and Ruth Wisse.
YOU CAN take the Jew out of America, but you can't take America out of the Jew. Case in point, the living room this week of the above mentioned Ruthie Blum. It's 10 minutes before the start of the Super Bowl - way past the witching hour in Israel. Americans, several of whom have lived here for over 25 years, crane forward for the kick-off and let out a roar after the sensational touchdown by Chicago Bears rookie Devin Hester. After that they roar at the moves of amazing Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who almost single handedly won the game. Political and diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon has brought his wife and Israeli-born children, who happen to also have American citizenship. There are several other Israeli-born youngsters in the room with American citizenship. Most of the genuine Americans hail from New York, but others came to Israel from Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and points between.
What unites them for a few hours is their passion for American football - and if they have to lose sleep over it, so be it. Curiously, the only person who went out on Blum's balcony to smoke was the hostess herself.
IT HAS long been a woman's prerogative to keep her age a secret, but when artist Sali Ariel, wife of Jerusalem Post cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, was about to mark her 60th birthday, her husband insisted on a party. "But I feel so old," she protested. To which he replied: "Put it this way: you'll never be this young again."
Since the couple love to give and go to parties, there wasn't too much arm twisting involved in getting the show on the road, though the inclement weather put a slight dent in the festivities; of the 100 people Ariel expected, only 60 braved the heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Some of those who didn't come called to apologize that they were laid up with colds, and others simply didn't want to brave the elements. Most of the guests were neighbors from Herzliya Pituah and Kfar Shmaryahu, and really didn't have far to go. But there were also others from further afield, such as food writer Ann Kleinberg, who drove in from Caesarea, Baha'i representatives Barbara and Kern Wisman, who came in from Haifa and Bridget Silver, who drove from Jerusalem.
Rachel and Derek Pentol, who live in Tel Aviv and are originally from England, admitted that they had almost been deterred by the rain, but then reminded themselves that in England they wouldn't have thought twice about it, so they simply got into the car and headed for Herzliya Pituah. Other guests included artist Rajul Mehta, designer Sylvia Rosenberg, advertising executive Rachel Neiman, Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg and his wife Hai, Naomi Cherpak, the well-known owner and CEO of a public relations agency and her husband Shuki and Hoda El Kouny, wife of the Egyptian charge d'Affaires, In toasting his wife, Kirschen said that in Jewish tradition, it was customary to say 'til 120, which meant that Ariel had just reached middle age. The slim-figured, youthful looking, fashionably attired Ariel, whose key betrayal of age was her silver hair, which lost its original color when she was still in her thirties, was thrilled that unlike last year, the roof wasn't leaking. She expressed her gratitude to all those who had come to join in her milestone celebration, and spoke of the warm friendships she had with people in the room, noting that in the final analysis, few things in life have greater value than good friends.
ON HIS weekly radio program, former justice minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid pondered aloud about whether he would get into trouble for having bestowed a farewell kiss on the cheek of his secretary without first getting her permission to do so. Then, tongue in cheek, Lapid went on to list the various women he'd kissed to make clear his opinion of the ruling against former justice minister Haim Ramon, whose tongue was unfortunately not in his cheek, but in the mouth of a girl soldier. Interviewed on Israel Radio soon after the verdict was handed down, former National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky, who fell from grace and was relieved of his duties for another type of scandal, said Ramon would not only discover that there is life outside government and the Knesset, but that in the final analysis, he might even be grateful for the new opportunities that present themselves. Certainly in Lapid's case, after quitting politics, he went straight back into media, with regular appearances on radio and television and frequent columns in the press - and the fact that he's 75 is no impediment.
THERE IS no doubt, however, that the Ramon case will have serious repercussions on social norms. At a Jerusalem City Hall memorial last Thursday for former long-term mayor Teddy Kollek, who left an indelible imprint on the city, former city council members and city hall workers, some of whom hadn't seen each other in years, opened their arms wide as they moved towards each other to embrace, but in several cases of opposite sex contact, some of the men stopped in their tracks and stepped back, unsure whether even in a public place in full view of dozens of people they could be hauled into court for hugging a woman. Case in point was former spokesman Rafi Davara, who was about to hug former assistant political advisor Libby Bergstein, when he pulled back and said "assur!" (Forbidden). Bergstein laughed, and they did embrace. But some of the other men in the room were a lot more wary. The oldest person present was former deputy mayor, former MK and former deputy minister Rabbi Menachem Porush, who will be 91 in April. He was greeted with enthusiasm, especially by representatives of the religious factions. But what was most interesting were the comments when another former deputy mayor, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik entered the council chamber.
"I never thought I'd see the day when I'd stand up for Dalia Itzik" was the whisper that buzzed through the air. Of course, when they first knew her, it never occurred to any of them that they would have to stand up for her entrances and exits, because none of them envisioned her as the acting president of the State of Israel.
MENACHEM PORUSH, though still active in religious affairs, is no longer independently mobile and has to use a wheelchair. But Ruth Dayan, who is pushing 90, and has been white and silver haired for years, betrays no other sign of age. She came to Jerusalem last Sunday from her home in Tel Aviv to attend the graveside memorial for Kollek. After standing in the rain and the blustering wind, she made her way to East Jerusalem to participate in a lecture and exhibition on traditional arts and crafts presented by the Seeds of Peace at the Seeds Caf in the American Colony Hotel. The Seeds Caf brings together Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims, Christians and Jews, who try to put their political differences aside and instead focus on exploring and understanding each other's cultures and heritages with a view to finding common backgrounds and interests that might bring them closer together. Straight-backed and articulate as ever, with absolutely no hesitations in her speech, Dayan spoke about how she sought out traditional embroiderers, weavers and jewelry makers who work mainly at home, but whose output she has helped introduce to major international fashion designers who incorporate these authentic ethnic pieces in modern clothing and accessory designs. Dayan, who more than half a century ago encouraged immigrants from North Africa, Asia and South America to preserve their traditional crafts, regrets that these have not been passed on to the next generation. She worked with women in Gaza and is now working with Beduin women and other women from desert areas. In fact, the first Beduin woman doctor is the daughter of one of the leading Beduin embroiderers. When Dayan started working with the mother, Beduin girls were not allowed to finish high school, let alone go to university.
Also on the program was Nuha Musleh, a collector of Palestinian dresses, cushion covers and jewelry, who brought several century-old, exquisitely embroidered dresses to explain the different traditions of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron. Although there have been some wonderful exhibitions of Palestinian embroideries in the Israel Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art, she said, she was dreaming of the day when there would be a Palestine Museum to house the heritage of Palestinian arts and crafts.
Stressing the love and labor that Palestinian women put into every stitch, Musleh made the point that for many it was not just a matter of preserving heritage. "It was the only bread-winning activity." Her own mother, she said, had worked for a whole year embroidering her wedding dress, and three days after the wedding sold it for three dinars.
ACCORDING TO former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, it was the first time that the sounds of Moroccan Jewish liturgy had been heard in the corridors of the building. The festive departure from the usual decorum that governs the Supreme Court was the conferring on the Lithuanian-born Barak of honorary membership in the presidium of the World Federation of Moroccan Jews by Federation chairman Sam Ben Chetrit. The ceremony was attended by Barak's wife Elisheva, who has just retired from the bench of the National Labor Court, and 40 prominent members of the Moroccan Jewish community, among them legal expert and former government minister Prof. Shimon Sheetrit; former ambassador and former member of Knesset Yehuda Lancry and MK Moshe Kahalon, who heads the Knesset lobby for Moroccan Jews. Ben Chetrit announced that this year's central Mimouna celebrations immediately after Pessah would be held in Ashdod, where there is a large concentration of people of Moroccan background, and that the theme would be based on the 25th and 37th Psalms - And the meek shall inherit the earth. The idea, he said, was to encourage modesty and humility in the nation's leaders. Barak said he had every intention of attending. Ben Chetrit told Barak that the Federation had decided to honor him in recognition of his significant contribution to law and justice in Israel, and said he regarded him as one the most important Jewish figures of his generation.
TO WHAT extent are politicians influenced by their families when proposing bills? In the case of Likud MK Gideon Saar, it's obvious that his 14-year-old daughter Daniella, an animal rights activist, has a strong influence on Dad, who last week succeeded in getting past the first reading of a bill that will ban experiments on animals for the purpose of developing cosmetic products. Daniella, who had been closely following the progress of the bill, took a day off from school and sat in the Knesset gallery during the vote.