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ALTHOUGH THE invitation to the dedication ceremony of the Aura Herzog Tel Aviv Center for Environmental Studies had stated that the event would be held in the presence of President Moshe Katsav, he made a diplomatic exit several hours in advance of the festivities. Katsav telephoned Herzog and asked to be released from the obligation, and she graciously acquiesced.
As it was, there was no paucity of dignitaries. In fact, many of the people who came to pay tribute to Herzog, who was retiring from the leadership of the Council for a Beautiful Israel after 38 years of dedicated service, represented not only the founding generation of the state, but also the leaders of that generation, such as Vice Premier Shimon Peres, former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, Reuma Weizman, widow of Israel's seventh president and a remarkable figure in her own right, and Herzog's sister, the ever-youthful Susie Eban, founder and long-term president of the Israel Cancer Association and widow of Israel's great statesman Abba Eban.
Others who came to honor Aura Herzog, the widow of Israel's sixth president Chaim Herzog, included Nissan Limor, who was director-general of Beit Hanassi during the Herzog years and who today acts as an adviser to Katsav; Gideon Patt, a former government minister and the immediate past president of Israel Bonds who is the incoming president of CBI; Yossi Hadass, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and his wife, Stella; Michael Fox, one of the senior partners in the celebrated law firm founded by Chaim Herzog; Eitan Ben Eliahu, former commander-in-chief of the Air Force and now a frequent military commentator on television, who kept introducing himself to everyone on the strange assumption that they didn't know who he was; Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson; Environment Minister Gideon Ezra; Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog (who was there both as minister and son); former minister of agriculture Avraham Katz-Oz, who is currently CBI chairman; Dame Shirley Porter, one of the most generous contributors to CBI; Michal Moda'i, who heads the Council of Women's Organizations, and many other notables including no fewer than three mayors of Tel Aviv - incumbent Ron Huldai, his immediate predecessor Roni Milo (who is also a former government minister), and his predecessor Shlomo Lahat.
A series of speakers included Sheila Kurtzer, who chairs the American Friends of CBI, and Isaac Herzog, who spoke on his own behalf and that of his family. All called Aura Herzog a woman of vision and a living legend, and recalled that when she started, Israel had no concept of quality of the environment or quality of life.
"We often put aside what is important to deal with that which is urgent," said Hirchson, noting that Herzog had steadfastly dealt with what was important.
"When we created the state, we almost forgot the land," said Peres. "We abandoned nearly all the environmental values. We thought that if there's problem, you enact a law and you solve the problem. Sometimes, by enacting a law, you create a greater problem," he observed.
When she accepted the assignment to head the CBI, said Aura Herzog, words like beauty and Israel didn't go together. Israel was a fighting nation, a developing nation, a pioneer nation, but aesthetics didn't come into the equation. It was important to create awareness and educational tools. Today, she said with satisfaction, "People are much more environmentally conscious and responsible, and know that they can effect change."
LIKE her colleague Noemy Baruch the ambassador of Costa Rica, Suzana Gun de Hasenson, the ambassador of El Salvador is constantly being asked when she is moving. But unlike Baruch, who has let it be known that she will reluctantly be moving the embassy from Jerusalem after the holidays, de Hasenson's reply is: "I'm not moving; the embassy is moving. I've got a son in school and I'm staying in Jerusalem."
As yet, she has not divulged the date of the embassy relocation. However it can safely be said that by some time in November, the only embassy in Jerusalem will be the International Christian Embassy, which was established in 1980, after so many diplomatic missions moved from the capital to the coastal plain.
NOT EVERY expectant father wants his first-born to be a girl, but in the case of Jerusalem Post political correspondent Gil Hoffman, there was really no point in fighting the odds. His mother is one of five sisters, and Hoffman's own siblings are all female. The preponderance of females is also prevalent in other branches of the family. Aside from all that, Hoffman wanted a miniature replica of his wife, Netanya - and that's exactly what he got. The couple's daughter, Eliana Miriam, made her arrival on August 29 - three years, two weeks and two days after the Hoffmans' wedding.
Although she was born in Jerusalem, she was already a seasoned traveler at birth, having made journeys in the womb to the United States and Australia, where her father went on lecture tours and her mother went along for the ride.
During that time, it was fashionable for Hollywood stars to give Hebrew-sounding names or names with biblical connotations to their children. In observing this phenomenon during his speeches, Hoffman told guests at the simhat bat celebration at Jerusalem's Nitzanim Synagogue hall last Friday, that he had told American and Australian audiences that he and Netanya had decided they would deliberately take the opposite track and give their daughter a real American name like Condoleezza Hoffman.
Explaining the final choice of the baby's name as he cradled her in his arms, Hoffman said that shortly before Netanya's 25th birthday, she was feeling despondent because she had not yet become pregnant. As it happened, her Hebrew birthday fell on a Shabbat, so on the Friday the couple went to pray at Rachel's Tomb, then proceeded to spend Shabbat in Hebron, where they prayed again in the Cave of Machpela, and then after Shabbat returned to Jerusalem, where they said yet another prayer at the Western Wall, after which, just for good measure, they went to the movies to see Harry Potter.
Something obviously worked, because shortly thereafter, Netanya was able to tell Gil that he would soon become a father. Eliana means God's gift or God's answer to their prayers. Miriam was the name of Hoffman's grandmother, who had a profound influence on his life and who died recently at age 97.
Eliana Miriam's first party was attended by several of Hoffman's current and past colleagues, and of course by a couple of politicians who also attended their wedding. Likud Knesset member Reuven Rivlin came in to offer congratulations and left soon afterwards, but National Union-National Religious Party Knesset member Zevulun Orlev stayed throughout. Benny Elon would have come, but he was abroad. Elon and Orlev have often told Hoffman that the seeds of their political partnership were planted at his wedding.