Grapevine: A past that continues to haunt

German Foreign Ministry revelations, Romania & Thailand mark national days, ‘What Not to Wear’ pays a visit and BGU wins 3 design awards.

December 7, 2010 23:59
Felice Friedson.

felice friedson 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

DURING THE period in which he was Germany’s foreign minister, Yoschke Fischer endeared himself greatly to Israel.

His popularity is bound to grow even more once there is a Hebrew translation of the study he commissioned from five historians – three Germans, one American and one Israeli – to delve into the role of Germany’s Foreign Ministry during the Third Reich. The study produced a book, Secrets and Revelations: The Wartime History of the German Foreign Ministry, which has become a bestseller in Germany.

Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, the Israeli on the team, in an address to the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, whose members are largely retired diplomats, said he hoped that the book would be translated into several languages. Zimmermann described the research that went into the 900-page volume, which proves beyond a doubt that far from having a peripheral involvement in the criminal activities of the Third Reich, the Foreign Ministry was actively engaged in the extermination of Jews.

German Charge d’Affaires Peter Prugel noted that the huge interest in the book in Germany confirmed that it should have been written.

ICFR president Avi Primor announced that Fischer will be coming in March, and he hoped Zimmermann would appear with him at an ICFR event in Tel Aviv.

Coincidentally, Zimmermann’s lecture coincided with the revelation that senior Himmler aide Dr.

Bernard Frank, 97, who signed the original orders for the extermination of Jews, is still alive and unprosecuted in Germany. Mark Gold, a young American Jew, posing as a neo-Nazi, was able to pry the truth from Frank.

■ IN A previous era, marriageable young women were taught that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. These days it could be said that the way to peace is paved with culinary cooperation. After all, no gourmet dish depends on only one ingredient. All good recipes call for several ingredients which are sometimes so diverse in flavor and effect that one wonders how their combination could possibly bode well for the palate. With that in mind, the mix in the team representing Israel at Expogast, the Culinary World Cup contest in Luxembourg, comprised a smorgasbord of its population mix and came home with three gold medals. It included veteran Armenian chef Sarkis Yacoubian, Charlie Fadida, the Jewish executive chef at the Sheraton Tel Aviv, Imad Shourbagi, a Muslim who works with Fadida, and Johnny Goric, a Christian who has cooked for King Abdullah II of Jordan, Yasser Arafat and former French president Jacques Chirac.

Yacoubian, a member of the Israeli Chefs Association, is also a member of Chefs for Peace.

Although the four get along famously, they almost dropped out of the race, because they were not given a kitchen in which to prepare their entries. After wandering around Luxembourg, they came across an Italian chef who worked in a somewhat nondescript hotel restaurant, but who was happy to let them use his kitchen. The facilities were far from ideal, a factor that spurred the four Israelis and the four honor students from the Notre Dame Culinary Institute in east Jerusalem, of which Yacoubian is a graduate, to be even more creative than usual. The four chefs and their helpers don’t understand why the harmony that exists among them is so difficult to achieve at political levels.

■ NOTRE DAME, like the American Colony Hotel, further into east Jerusalem, has long been considered neutral territory in the capital. It’s a place where Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians, Muslims and others mingle easily, free of political, religious and ethnic barriers.

It was where the Mideast Press Club, founded by Felice Friedson, the founder and president of The Media Line, an American news agency that gathers and relays news from across the Middle East, decided to once again bring together Palestinian and Israeli journalists as well as foreign correspondents stationed here to hear the views of Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Palestinian Authority National Economy Minister Hassan Abu-Libdeh. It took four months to get the event together, said Friedson. Each minister changed the date twice, and also changed the time, but she acknowledged that “both ministers moved mountains to make this event possible.”

At previous Mideast Press Club events, Israelis have tended to outnumber Palestinians. This time it was the other way around. At question time, the Palestinians fired searching questions at both ministers, yet almost without the accusatory tones that figure so prominently in the speech of their politicians. Part of the reason for the low key accusations may be the obvious chemistry, affection and mutual respect that exist between the two ministers, coupled with Abu-Libdeh’s public acknowledgement that Ben-Eliezer is genuinely interested in peace.

■ GUESTS ATTENDING the Romanian National Day celebrations, hosted by Ambassador Edward Iosiper and his wife Tatania at the Romanian residence, were charmed by the couple’s two young daughters Sarah and Hannah, who could barely wait for their Hanukka gelt which their mother gave them only after the lighting of the first candle.

What was in some respects a family event became even more so with the arrival here 10 days earlier of Romania’s new defense, military, air and naval attaché Col. Liviu Bogdan Cracium, who together with political affairs counselor Doru Gheorghui served with the Iosipers in Washington. Tatiana Iosiper is a diplomat in her own right and serves as diplomatic counselor in the embassy.

In his address, the first part of which he delivered in flawless Hebrew, Iosiper noted that there have been continuous relations between his country and Israel since June 1948. Michael Eitan, the minister responsible for the improvement of government services, confessed that he too had wanted to speak in Hebrew to honor the language of his country, but had been told by the Foreign Ministry that he had to speak in English. He was glad therefore that Iosiper had done honor to Hebrew.

Eitan also referred to the diplomatic relationship that has existed almost from the very beginning of statehood, and noted that Romania, during the communist era, was the only Soviet bloc country that did not sever relations.

Among the guests were former ambassadors to Romania Yosef Govrin and Zvi Mazel.

■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould is not seen with the same degree of frequency as his predecessors at the national day receptions of his colleagues. The reason is that he and his wife Celia are too busy hosting receptions of their own. On the night of the Romanian National Day, they hosted British fashion mavens Trinny and Susannah of What Not to Wear fame. The duo came here to film a series for Channel 10, and mingled on the lawn of the British residence with designer Galit Levy, singer/composer/reality show adjudicator Zvika Pik, model Galit Guttman, soccer player Itzik Zohar and other Tel Aviv glitterati.

Local men have never been known for their sartorial splendor, something that was confirmed by Trinny and Susannah who said they need lots of work.

■ MANY BUSINESS enterprises here are engaged in giving something back to the community. Among them is the Tel Aviv Hilton, which in addition to its years of support for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, whose director Zubin Mehta has a permanent suite with his name on it, also operates a cinema club in conjunction with the country’s original Cinema City. On the first night of Hanukka, general manager Ronnie Fortis, dressed in jeans instead of his customary suit, hosted members of the Cinema Club to a sumptuous supper, replete with candlelighting and the communal singing of “Maoz Tsur” led by Menashe Fettman, plus a movie, Trust, which warns of the dangers to which children who participate in chat rooms without parental supervision are subject.

Doron Buzaglo, of the computer division of the Tel Aviv police, which deals with criminal cases in which minors have been lured and sexually assaulted by predatory pedophiles posing as adolescents in Internet chat rooms, warned parents that as important as it is to give their children a sense of privacy and their own space, it was even more important to protect them from perverts.

■ MANY GUESTS attending the Thai National Day ceremony hosted last Thursday at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv by Thai Charge d’Affaires Pornpop Uampidhaya, were unaware of the enormity of the tragedy of the Mount Carmel fire. For all that, there was a certain somber atmosphere in the banquet hall, where only a few days earlier at the Polish National Day reception, the noise level had been unbearable. This time, the crowd was silent, and the speeches could be easily heard.

Thai National Day coincides with the birthday of the Thais’ beloved King Bhumibol, whose birthday was actually on December 5, the same day as that of former president Moshe Katsav. Bhumibol, 83, is now the longest reigning monarch in the world. Next year, Bhumibol, who was born in the US while his father was studying there, will celebrate the 65th anniversary of his reign.

Uampidhaya spoke warmly of the king’s concern for the welfare of his people, initiating and implementing numerous projects that benefitted the nation and helped toward the development of its economy. He also noted that Thailand was one of the first countries in Asia to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and is engaged in many cooperative projects, among them stem cell research.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau, who was born and raised in Haifa, said that it was in grief that he was representing the government that night. “We are stunned by the tragedy that has fallen upon us,” he said, adding that nonetheless he felt privileged to convey congratulations to the king on his birthday. The friendship between the two countries is evidenced by the popularity of Thailand as a destination for some 115,000 Israeli tourists each year, said Landau, who also noted the presence of some 26,000 Thais here. He also mentioned that some 3,000 Thais have participated in the Mashav international cooperation programs that operate via the Foreign Ministry.

■ NUMEROUS PLANNED events were canceled, deferred or toned down as the nation became increasingly consumed by the catastrophe in the North. Bank Leumi CEO Galia Maor did not cancel the bank’s fifth Secret Art exhibition and sale, but she turned the event into a more low-key affair. The exhibition, which included 214 unsigned works by known and unknown artists, is popular because many art collectors pride themselves on owning early works by artists who later become famous. Seen in the crowd were many members of the banking community, including former Leumi chairman Eitan Raff and current chairman David Brodet.

■ PEOPLE WHO at the beginning of last week found it difficult to contact Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, may not be aware that he was occupied with something more personal. As father of the bride, his head and his heart were temporarily somewhere else.

In fact, they were not in Jerusalem at all but in the Keter Harimon banquet halls in Bnei Brak where his daughter Ruth was married to Israel Fisher, the son and heir of real estate millionaire David Fisher.

Eminent rabbis, politicians, leading lights of the business community and even Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi and his former deputy Benny Ganz featured prominently among the guests, who also included Elimelech Firer, Aryeh Deri, Eli Yishai, Ariel Atias, Isaac Herzog, Avishay Braverman, Yitzhak Tshuva, Stanley Fischer, Yehuda Raveh and Zion Kenan.

Among the female guests were Shula Zaken, Helena Beilin and Liora Ofer.

■ WHEN FORMER Floridians Judy and Mort Zemel, who now live in Jerusalem, took a tour of the Aish Hatorah World Center that faces the Western Wall, they were enormously impressed, but when telling their friends about their experience discovered that hardly any of them had been there since the official opening a year ago.

Among the friends who were thoroughly familiar with Aish Hatorah and with the magnificent building were Dorraine and Barry Weiss. Dorraine Weiss is the mother of Rabbi Aaron Neckemayer, an administrator and lecturer at Aish, and says that she owes her seven grandchildren to the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg, its founder, who introduced Neckemayer, then a young tourist from Los Angeles with a minimal background in Judaism, to the joys of his heritage. The two women, who have a close relationship, decided to host a reception at Aish, to show the beauty of the building to some of their friends.

The most memorable aspect of the event was on the rooftop, where there is a glass encased model of the Second Temple.

Also impressive is the building’s Kirk Douglas Theater, donated by the famous actor who returned to Judaism via Aish and of course the Dale Chihuly “Fire and Water” chandelier in the atrium.

Members of the Aish HaTorah board were hoping to have Chihuly come visit them next week. Chihuly is due to come this week for the opening of an exhibition of his glass art works at the Litvak Gallery in Tel Aviv. Chihuly previously exhibited here in 2000, when a large number of his pieces were shown in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, but his connections with the country, even though he is not Jewish, go back nearly half a century to the time that he worked as a volunteer at Kibbutz Lahav.

■ LOCAL INDIVIDUALS and institutions are reaping awards abroad, despite all the publicity about academic boycotts. Last month, for instance, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev won three QS-APPLE Creative Awards for the Best International Educational Promotional Designs at the QS-APPLE conference in Singapore. Open to the 190 participating institutions from 42 countries, the entries were judged by a team from SAE Institute, Australia – the largest creative media technology institute in the world. BGU received a silver award for the Most Creative Corporate Institution Video for its 40th anniversary movie From Vision to Reality; a silver award for the brochures of the Ginsburg- Ingerman Overseas Student Program and a bronze for the coordinating Web site, both created and produced by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“Winning one prize was amazing, but three. It created a mild sensation in the hall,” declared BGU’s director of publications and media relations Faye Bittker (a former magazine editor at The Jerusalem Post), who received the awards on behalf of BGU. “It was all the more meaningful as there were many representatives from universities in countries that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel.”

The QS-APPLE Awards were created in 2008 to recognize “the importance of creative and compelling designs in effective communication and brand building.”

■ FOR DECADES, the leading lights of the entertainment community used to gather during the last week of December in the Tel Aviv apartment of singer Yaffa Yarkoni to celebrate her birthday. In recent years, there have been no celebrations because of her health. But the songs she made popular are still being sung. Yarkoni is best known for entertaining the troops, traveling across the country to army bases or to isolated units, often under the most dangerous of circumstances.

She also traveled around the world as the country’s ambassador of song, usually appearing on stage in a dramatic evening gown with kimono-style sleeves in which she hid the lyrics of the songs she sang, just in case she forgot the words.

This month Yarkoni turns 85 and Maya Abraham, Meital Trabelsi, Israel Utzhaki, Yeremi Kaplan, Ben Artzi and others will present a musical tribute by performing her bestloved songs at Tzavta on Wednesday evening December 29.

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