Grapevine: A further sign of warmth from Turkey

The charge d’affaires holds a new year reception, Kenya & Kazakhstan celebrate independence days, New Yorkers donate a Torah to the IDF and the US Army’s role in founding Sheba Medical Center is revealed.

December 15, 2010 00:28
SHEBA HOSPITAL director Prof. Ze’ev Rotstein

Sheba Hospital ceremony. (photo credit: Sheba Hospital)

FOR THOSE who keep looking for signs of rapprochement with Turkey, one indication might be the invitation sent out by Turkish Charge d’Affaires Tolga Uncu to a reception he is hosting next week to mark the New Year. Turkey’s national day falls at the end of October, and in past years has been marked by a huge reception at the Turkish residence.

This year there was no reception, although there was a low-key celebration for Turks living here, but next week’s affair represents another goodwill gesture following Turkey’s aid to fight the Mount Carmel fires.

■ UNCU WAS one of several diplomats invited to the annual Hanukka party hosted by Tel Aviv social activist Alice Krieger, but sent his apologies because he was too busy looking after the contingent of Turkish firefighters who had come to help.

Among the diplomats who did attend, Indian Ambassador Navtej Singh Sarna was inundated by those guests who had some knowledge of Devali, the Indian festival of lights, immediately after Rabbi Ori Einhorn of Kfar Shmaryahu had made the blessing over the Hanukka candles.

Einhorn led a chorus of “Maoz Tzur” and wished Jews, Muslims and Christians season’s greetings. Though Devali is primarily a holiday for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, it is now celebrated by all Indians, according to Sarna.

■ THE MINISTERIAL Committee for State Symbols and Ceremonies, headed by Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, convened to bid farewell to former Foreign Ministry chief of protocol Yitzhak Eldan and to welcome his successor Talya Lador-Fresher, but she was unable to attend because she was busy attending to the foreign fire-fighting teams.

The meeting went ahead nonetheless, with Meseznikov presenting a review of Eldan’s 40-year career as a diplomat.

He noted Eldan’s contribution to new norms related to visits of prime ministers and heads of state, such as visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl.

He also praised Eldan for introducing a code of ethics to the ministry.

Adding to the accolades were ministers Isaac Herzog, Bennie Begin, Daniel Herschkowitz and Gideon Sa’ar.

■ MAN PROPOSES, God disposes.

That is more or less the story of the Kenyan Independence Day reception which had been planned so carefully by Ambassador Augustino Njoroge, his wife Margaret and staffers at the Kenyan Embassy. They could not foresee the storms that swept the country on the night of the celebrations or the flooding and closure of some of the streets of Tel Aviv. Several guests who had intended to come simply turned back. Representing her husband the Cameroon ambassador, who is dean of the diplomatic corps but who happened to be out of the country, Esther Etoundi spent two frustrating hours getting to the Dan Panorama Hotel.

Mindful that rain is a blessing, Njoroge cast his mind and those of his guests back to the Carmel Forest tragedy and called for a minute’s silence to honor the memories of those who lost their lives. Turning to Kenya-Israel relations, he spoke warmly of the diplomatic ties forged in December 1963, when Golda Meir met Jomo Kenyatta, and the benefits that Kenya has reaped through the participation of many of its people in the Mashav training programs.

Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman, representing the government, said that Israel has a special relationship with Kenya.

■ WEATHER CONDITIONS had improved somewhat by the following evening when Kazakhstan Ambassador Galym Orazbakov hosted his country’s 19th Independence Day celebrations at the same venue. One of the standard features of the Kazakh celebrations is to put up a tent in which there are traditional household items, plus various items of gold embroidered clothing. Standing opposite the reception line were five beautiful young Kazakh women attired in white gowns with tall, pointed, fur-trimmed silver hats finished off with a fur pom-pom at the peak. On stage, at the other end of the room, musicians wearing highly embroidered colorful jackets played on traditional stringed instruments.

Orazbakov illustrated the importance of relations with Israel by listing some of the high-ranking Israelis who have visited over the past year or so.

Among them were President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Science and Technology Minister Herschkowitz, Religious Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was effusively greeted by Orazbakov and subsequently interviewed by Kazakhstan Television. Representing the government was Minister without Portfolio Yossi Peled, who noted that Kazakhstan had been the first Central Asian nation to appoint an ambassador to Israel.

■ AS RESEARCHERS and authors, Prof. David Golinkin, president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and Dr. Rafael Medoff, founder and director of the David S.

Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, were unprepared on the launch night of their book The Student Struggle Against the Holocaust that highlights the efforts of three young rabbinical students – Noah Golinkin, Jerry Lipnick and Buddy Sachs – to mobilize America into action against what was happening to the Jews of Europe. When they and former minister Moshe Arens, who was also a student in New York during that period, were discussing that era with the audience at AACI headquarters in Jerusalem, they also mentioned on several occasions a play We Will Never Die by Ben Hecht, which told the story of the plight of Europe’s Jews, and was taken on tour across America.

In the audience were Rabbi Mordecai Chertoff, who had seen the production at Madison Square Gardens, and Miriam Bobrow, who had been an extra in the production when it played in New York, and her sister Chaviva Wiener, who had demonstrated outside the German Consulate and had been arrested because minors were not allowed to participate in political demonstrations.

Medoff was so excited that he could barely wait to interview the two sisters after the official proceedings were over.

■ SOME TIME ago, New Yorker Maureen Kushner, during a visit, attended a Young Israel Torah dedication ceremony in an army base and was so impressed that she decided to spread the idea among her friends, two of whom, philanthropists Micha Taubman and Lenny Sanders, are ailing.

Kushner spoke to their wives Yael Taubman and photographer Joan Roth about donating a Torah scroll in the name of both men. They were delighted with the idea and so were the husbands. On the eighth night of Hanukka, a busload of their friends left Jerusalem for Ofra, where a group of beacon-bearing soldiers from the 93rd infantry battalion and a bridal canopy awaited Micha Taubman, 92, who could not travel by bus because he is confined to a wheelchair, and therefore travelled in a station wagon.

Unfortunately Sanders was too ill to fly in from New York, and was undergoing surgery at the very moment of the Torah dedication.

The soldiers danced around Taubman, passed the Torah from hand to hand, and then gave it back to Taubman, moving his wheelchair around in time to the music. It was the best medicine he could have had.

Also in attendance were Rabbi Yedidya Atlas of the IDF Chaplaincy Corps and Maj. Lior Bardea, the IDF rabbi of the Judea and Samaria Division.

Daniel Meyer, executive director of the Israel Division of Young Israel, announced that this was the 188th Torah dedication ceremony in an army base over the past decade.

The Torah scrolls, usually damaged, come from American congregations, and are repaired and distributed here.

Young Israel has acquired the rights to 90 additional Torah scrolls that once served pre-Holocaust congregations in Romania and Lithuania. They will be repaired as donors materialize.

■ NO ONE could be better informed about the architectural plans for the Israel Museum of the late Israel Prize laureate Alfred Mansfeld than his son Michael, also an architect and a partner in the firm founded by his father.

He and his wife Shuli were among scores of architects who spent last weekend in Jerusalem and whose tour of the capital naturally included a visit to the museum, where Mansfeld discussed the original design and showed the models created by his father, while Efrat Kowalski talked about the design for the recently refurbished museum campus.

While in Jerusalem, the Mansfelds went hunting for the autobiography of Teddy Kollek, which the capital’s legendary mayor and museum founder had written around 30 years ago. They eventually tracked down a copy in a second-hand bookstore.

Sure enough, there were several pages devoted to the museum with one particular gem of information: the reason that the word “national” was not incorporated into the title, even though it is generally acknowledged that it is the country’s national museum. It was to ensure that donations would keep coming. Apparently in some countries, donations to institutions are tax deductible only if the institution is not under the aegis of the state.

Mansfeld read excerpts from the book to an audience that included a few non-architects or their spouses, among them Hayuta Dvir, the mainstay of Israel Radio’s Voice of Music, and Sar-Shalom Shiran, a former chief economist at the Finance Ministry and a former chairman of Mekorot.

■ WHILE THE name of Harry Wall, former director of the Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League, is known to many, that of his father, Dr. Norman Wall, 96, who lives in Orlando Florida, and who came to Tel Aviv several years before the establishment of the state, is well known to the medical profession but not to the wider public.

Thanks to veteran Florida journalist Mark Pinsky, Dr. Wall’s connection with the country is now appreciated by many more than were aware of it only a month ago. Early this month, representatives of our medical community traveled to Florida Hospital in Orlando, to join national, state and local dignitaries in honoring the US Army and Wall for their participation in the establishment of a military field hospital in Tel Aviv during World War II. That hospital later became the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

Wall was a medical officer with the US Army in World War II when he was dispatched with the 24th Field Station Hospital to establish medical facilities in Tel Aviv, which was under threat of invasion from German and Vichy forces. The Americans stayed for approximately a year, and then handed the hospital, known as Tel Litwinsky, named for the hill overlooking Tel Aviv, over to the British command.

Before leaving, Wall, on behalf of the army, donated surplus medical equipment and supplies to the Hagana and to legendary physician Dr. Haim Sheba, who was treating patients in a crumbling Ottoman-era facility in Tel Aviv.

In 1948, Tel Litwinsky became an IDF hospital, headed by Sheba, who was chief medical officer of the fledgling defense forces. “Few people, in Israel or the US, are aware that there were US military forces in pre-state Israel,” said Sheba CEO Ze’ev Rotstein, when presenting the award to Wall.

“With this honor, my professional life comes full circle,” said Wall. “It was my good fortune that the US Army decided to send our medical unit to Tel Aviv, and that I could be helpful to my Jewish colleagues in the Yishuv. It was the beginning of my life’s passion for Israel, its security and medical advancement.”

■ BUSY AS he is campaigning for the leadership of the Labor Party, Welfare and Social Services Minister Herzog is a contemporary incarnation of the Scarlet Pimpernel – you see him here, you see him there, you see him everywhere.

Last Friday, for instance, he was among some 600 people who crowded into Maya Joya at Kibbutz Nahshonim, where seven of the country’s top chefs, including recently crowned master chef Ina Kravetzky, voluntarily cooked up a storm in aid of Alut – the Israel Society for Autistic Children, chaired by Izzy Borovich.

Also present were Alut CEO Einat Cassutto Shef, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and his wife Yael, several MKs, many business leaders and celebrities from the entertainment and fashion industries, among them Dov Kotler, Sami Sagol, Yohanan Tsangan, Zvulun Orlev, Rachel Adato and Tal Berkowitz. The other chefs who donated their services were Ya’acov Turgeman, Hagai Lerner, Avi Biton, Assaf Granit, Ron Biala and Gil Gurvitz.

■ ONE DOESN’T usually celebrate the anniversary of a bank account, but in the case of Tel Aviv-based lawyer Daniel Jacobson, there was a very special reason. Jacobson is the grandson of Zalman David Levontin, the first general manager of the Anglo- Palestine Bank which eventually became Bank Leumi. The account opened for him 80 years ago is now the bank’s oldest operating account.

To celebrate the anniversary, CEO Galia Maor, chairman David Brodet, Zvi Itzkovich, head of the private banking division, and other senior bank officers toasted Jacobson and his account. This time around, Jacobson didn’t receive the usual interest; instead he was presented with a Menashe Kadishman painting of Theodor Herzl, who founded the Jewish Colonial Trust, which in turn founded the Anglo-Palestine Company in London in February 1902.

■ IT WAS a long wait for a religious young woman, whose girl friends and female relatives usually got married between 18 and 22, but Margalit Har Shefi, 35, who was imprisoned for failure to prevent Yigal Amir’s plan to assassinate Yitzhak Rabin, finally tied the knot last week when she married Mordechai Dahan, who lectures in economics in Beersheba and studies at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. Among the 700 guests who came to Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue to wish them well were Rabbis Elyakim Levanon, Benny Elon, Daniel Shilo, Shlomo Aviner and Mordechai Alon, who blessed the couple under the bridal canopy, and as a relative of bride, wholeheartedly sang her praise; Moshe Feiglin, MK Uri Ariel, Lior Katsav (whose brother, then-president Moshe Katsav had pardoned Har Shefi), Hagai Ben-Artzi, the brother-in-law of the prime minister, and former MK Yosef Ba-Gad.

■ IT’S NOT exactly a confirmed statistic, but a career in the foreign service apparently adds to one’s life span – at least if one looks at Foreign Ministry retirees, who last week celebrated the 80th birthdays of no less than 20 of their 560 members, among them former ambassadors David Torgeman, Aryeh Levin and Ephraim Dubek, who each received a watch.

■ YOU DON’T necessarily have to buy real estate to put down roots in Israel, say New Yorkers Fern and Leslie Penn, who operate Rosebud, an Israeli concept store located at 131 Thompson Street in the Soho district. It’s enough to buy a tree, they say. Firmly committed Zionists who are always looking for ways and means to promote and contribute to Israel, they have designated January 13 as a date for helping to restore the Carmel forests. They’re having an Israeli party with late night shopping, Israeli wines and foods, and will also give their guests and customers the opportunity to buy a tree or even several trees for that matter. But it doesn’t stop there.

A percentage of the sales they make on merchandise on that date will be ear-marked for Mount Carmel.

Among their regular clientele are Israeli commuters, who long ago learned that you can’t necessarily buy at home what you can find abroad under a Made in Israel label.

■ THERE ARE many ways in which to celebrate a milestone birthday, and launching a book is one of the more original. Baruch Meiri, who used to be the Jerusalem bureau chief for Ma’ariv and who currently is a member of the executive board of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, is celebrating his 70th by launching Watermelon Seeds, an anthology of stories about his experiences here and in Iraq. The December 29 event at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda will be co-hosted by the Academic Association of Iraqi Jews in Israel, with Yossi Alfi of storyteller fame as moderator. Israel Prize laureate, former minister and former MK Mordechai Ben-Porat, who was a leading figure in organizing the mass immigration of Iraqi Jews and is the founder and chairman of the Heritage Center, will be among the speakers. Other speakers will include AAIJI chairman Shmuel Moreh, playwright and author Ephraim Sidon and Danny Zaken, chairman of the Jerusalem Journalists Association.

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