PERUVIAN AMBASSADOR Luis Mendivil Canales recently hosted a birthday luncheon for Yona Bartal, the deputy director-general of the office of Vice Premier Shimon Peres.
Among the guests were businessman Yossi Maiman, chairman of the Merhav Group and honorary consul for Peru, former MK Rafi Elul, Rodney Sanders, general manager of the Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem, Jacob Sudri, general manager of the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv, and Itzhak Eldan, chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Peres was in excellent form and betrayed no sign of anxiety over the outcome of today's presidential vote.
Maiman had just come back from Egypt where he had been negotiating for supplies of Egyptian gas for Israel, and Peres was particularly interested in what he had to say.
Although the luncheon was in Bartal's honor, Canales could not resist reserving a few remarks about her boss.
Full of admiration for Peres's wide-ranging knowledge on so many subjects, Canales noted the frequency with which Peres accepts invitations to diplomatic receptions and the ease with which he talks about the country whose ambassador is hosting the reception.
Canales also marveled at the fact that Peres speaks without notes, is extraordinarily well informed about each country, and always comes up with some specific gem of knowledge related to the country that he is talking about at any given time.
NOTWITHSTANDING HIS presidential campaign, Peres has still found time to attend his busy rounds of social engagements.
In fact, those who are demanding to see Peres's medical reports to determine whether he has the stamina to take on a new responsibility should just try to keep up with his schedule for a week. They might be very surprised to discover just how much stamina he has.
One of his engagements last week was to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Israel Museum's campus renewal project in the presence of the donors, the museum's International Council and museum staff.
Director James Snyder hosted the ceremony at which Peres was one of the speakers along with Judy and Michael Steinhardt, and Israel Museum chairman, Isaac Molho.
"The founding of the Israel Museum was one of the most important events following the founding of the State of Israel," said Peres. "Its renewal is tied to the destiny of Jerusalem. While politics is for the common part of life, the Israel Museum is for the inspiration of life."
Judy Steinhardt spoke of her childhood friend, the late and dynamic Shula Eisner Navon, who had introduced the Steinhardts to the Museum through former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.
Since then, the Steinhardts have been closely connected to the museum, not only as an important institution but also because of the warm group of international friends they have acquired through annual participation in the international council.
Michael Steinhardt, whose activities on behalf of education and culture in Israel are guided by an eye to the future, declared: "Even tonight, I am worried.... Will there be a new generation of Diaspora Jews to take over responsibility for the museum? Will Israelis take a greater interest and responsibility in their country's greatest and largest cultural institution? My hope is that those of us here will be able to transmit our pride to the next generation."
The renewal project is headed by American architect James Carpenter and Israeli architects Zvi Efrat and Meira Kowalsky.
Director James Snyder placed a scroll recording the day's event into a pit marking the foundation of the Museum's new entrance gallery. Afterwards donors, led by Michael and Judy Steinhardt, each participated in the groundbreaking by placing a spadeful of cement into the pit, so that they could say that not only had they written a check for a substantial amount of money, but that they had literally contributed to the actual construction.
PHILIPPINES CHARGE D'Affaires Gilberto Asuque and his wife hosted a reception to mark the 109th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the 50th years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Israel.
Asuque has headed the Philippines Embassy since last February, when ambassador Antonio Modena, a journalist turned diplomat, passed away. In fact, Asuque was in charge for a longer period because Modena had returned home on what was supposed to be a visit several weeks earlier. Asuque is continuing Modena's work for the establishment of a Philippines monument in Rishon Lezion as a symbol and permanent reminder of the Philippines' open door policy for Jews seeking a haven from the Nazis in 1939, and he is also emulating Modena in championing the rights of Filipino workers, several of whom attended the reception at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Asuque noted their presence in his speech, saying that some of them had accompanied their employers who had also been invited to the event. Asuque also spoke of the visas issued to Jews who had escaped from Europe in 1938-39, and in this context mentioned the book, Escape to Manila, which was written by Frank Ephraim, who was one of the refugees and who in addition to paying tribute to the humanity of president Manuel Quezon chronicled the experience of the small Jewish community that escaped from Nazi tyranny to Japanese terror.
Moving forward in time, Asuque referred to the cooperation between Israel and the Philippines especially in the field of agriculture, and thanked Israel for opening its doors to so many Filipino workers.
Although it is believed that some of the Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition found their way to the Philippines an official Jewish community as such has existed there only since 1873 according to Asuque, who noted that Temple Emanuel, the oldest existing synagogue, was built in 1924.
An Independence Day message from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo underscored the historical links between the Philippines and Israel.
Romulo also reaffirmed the commitment of the Department of Foreign Affairs to promote and safeguard the global overseas Filipino workers, who he said, contribute to the country's stability and progress. He called on Filipinos in every corner of the globe to work hand in hand for the sake of peace and economic freedom.
Giora Bachar, director of the Asia Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, recalled that the Philippines was the only Asian Nation that voted in favor of the United Nations partition plan in 1947.
He also referred to the generosity of Quezon, who authorized some 10,000 visas, but said that only 1,200 people had actually used them.
Bachar also acknowledged the enormous services provided by Filipinos to Israel's sick, elderly and handicapped citizens, and expressed the hope that in addition to this representation from the Philippines there would be more bona fide tourists for whom the Christian holy places would hold great meaning.
PORTUGAL'S AMBASSADOR Josefina Reis Carvalho is not a pomp-and-ceremony diplomat.
She prefers things to be laid back, pleasant and comfortable. So when she hosted Portugal Day at her residence in Kfar Shmaryahu, there were no speeches, no playing of national anthems and no government representatives.
However, three new members of Israel's international community, Ambassadors Sam Azubuike Doda Olisa of Nigeria, Zhao Jun of China and Federico Salas Lotfe of Mexico who had presented their credentials earlier in the day, were in attendance.
Actually, the Foreign Ministry's Protocol Department is finding it increasingly difficult to persuade government ministers to attend such events.
These difficulties have been exacerbated in recent weeks by preoccupation with the Labor Party and presidential elections.
Even though Carvalho may be inclined towards informality, she may have to suffer quite a lot of formality in the months ahead as Portugal is next in line for the rotating presidency of the European Union, a factor that will reflect on Portuguese diplomats around the globe.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates is due to visit Israel in the near future, and that will mean even more formality for Carvalho.
ACCORDING TO the old adage, it's out of sight, out of mind. But there's always the exception to the rule, and that exception was very evident last Friday when the cream of the crop of Israel's entertainment community along with members of the Ramat Hasharon Municipal Council, and Labor MK and former culture minister Matan Vilnai came together for a street-naming ceremony in memory of Dudu Dotan, the writer and performing artist who died of a heart attack while vacationing in Turkey in 2001.
At the time of his death, Dotan was the extremely active and influential chairman of EMI, the Hebrew acronym for the Israel Union of Performing Artists.
His widow Miri recalled that for more than half his life, Dotan had lived in Ramat Hasharon where their children were raised.
"He loved this town," she said, "and now it has reciprocated that love by naming a street for him."
The decision by the municipal names committee headed by Israel Tal was unanimous, and approval by Ramat Hasharon Mayor Itzik Rochberger and the Ramat Hasharon Council was equally unanimous.
Dotan is the first performing artist to have a street named after him in Ramat Hasharon.
"This is a modest way to recognize the imprint that he left on Israeli society in general and Ramat Hasharon in particular," said Rochberger.
Among the celebrities who gathered at the new Dudu Dotan exit road from the eastern part of Ramat Hasharon were Gadi Sukenik, Sivan Rahav, Zvika Pik, Tzipi Shavit, Dudu Topaz, Sassi Keshet, Pnina Rosenbulm, Tuvia Tsafir, Hani Nachmias, Eli Gorlitzki, Shula Chen, Yaffa Yarkoni, Gabi Berlin, and Ran Rahav.
NONE OF the guests was surprised when Mikey Leibowitz, son of Steve and the late Drora Leibowitz, chose to celebrate his bar mitzva at Jerusalem's Kraft Stadium, where members of the Leibowitz family spend so much of their time playing, promoting and watching American football.
In fact, there's a plaque in the stadium that attests to the fact that American Football in Jerusalem was founded in 1989 by Leibowitz Sr. and Danny Gewirtz.
A few years back, when Leibowitz celebrated his 50th birthday, it was also at the Kraft Stadium, so it was obvious that the apple had not fallen far from the tree - though Mikey has not yet learned his father's gift for diplomacy.
Leibowitz told the story of once having taken Mikey on a trip to Massachusetts where Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and donor of the Kraft Stadium gave them the red-carpet tour and later took them to his office, where he packed a huge bag of Patriots paraphernalia.
"So who do you root for?" he asked as he presented the bag to Mikey. Unimpressed and unabashed, the youngster replied: "The Giants."
Mikey's great dream, his father revealed, is to be the first Jewish Israeli player in the NFL.
Considering the frequency with which he travels to America, that could very well happen.
Undeterred by Mikey's team preference, Kraft sent him a bar mitzva gift of a Patriots jersey emblazoned with his name and the number 13.
Although Mikey's mother, Drora, died three-and-a-half years ago, he and his father have remained close with his mother's side of the family and to her many friends, who came from as far afield as Amsterdam and New York to join in the celebration.
Several family members and friends participated in the candle-lighting ceremony and spoke emotionally of their love for both Drora and Mikey and their admiration and great affection for Steve.
Guests who missed out on being present when Mikey was called to the Torah were treated to a two-minute documentary prepared by Steve Leibowitz's IBA News colleague, Dennis Zinn, and to a seven-minute documentary on Mikey's life prepared by Leah Stern, one of the presenters on IBA News, whose true calling is making films.
Some of the other broadcasting people present included Shlomo Ganor, and IBA News broadcasters Sheila Zucker, Leah Zinder, Yochanan Elrom, and Elli Wohlgelernter.
Among the other guests were Bobby and Linda Brown, and Israel and Beth Medad, who kicked up a storm during the dancing to sixties rock music - which was far from easy on the artificial turf.
On the other side of the football field, Mikey and his friends were playing American football, which led some the guests to remark that the ideal venue for a tri-generational celebration is a football field.
IT'S NOT only the best laid plans of mice and men that often go awry, but also those of women. When Sally Tokayer and her committee were preparing a spring fashion show luncheon under the auspices of Emunah Jerusalem's Chug Na'avah Tehilla, they planned to have some Emunah members from Sderot in come to spend the afternoon with them at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
However, on the morning of the event, there was another Kassam rocket attack on Sderot and the women in question, instead of heading for Jerusalem, headed for the bomb shelters from where they telephoned to apologize for their absence.
When their Jerusalem colleagues asked if there was anything they could do, the Sderot women replied that because children cannot go to their regular kindergartens and nursery schools for fear that they might be attacked, impromptu activities were being organized for them in the shelters. But there was an acute need for toys, games and equipment such as mini-trampolines to keep the youngsters amused and busy.
Myrna Cohen, a member of Emunah Jerusalem, reminded some 100 women present of how forthcoming they had been on behalf of the children from Gush Katif, and said that the focus was now on the children of Sderot. Although each of the women had already shelled out NIS 150 to attend the luncheon, there was a spontaneous collection of NIS 2,230, which was a reasonable start for buying toys and games.
As for the fashion show, instead of using professional models, the organizers used eight of their members aged from 50-something to 70- something - with some a little more amply proportioned than others, thus giving the fashions displayed a greater degree of authenticity in that it could be seen that they were created for real people and not matchstick models.
THE ASPER Institute for New Media Diplomacy at the new Sammy Ofer School of Communications at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya was inaugurated last week by Gail Asper, managing director of the Asper Foundation, together with Moe Levy, the foundation's executive director, and IDC president, Prof. Uriel Reichman.
The institute is dedicated to the use of new media as an Israel advocacy tool and focuses on the study and use of new media technologies in telling Israel's story to the world.
The unique capabilities of these technologies allow innovative depiction of Israel from new and different perspectives.
The Asper Institute also provides workshops on creating effective new media advocacy campaigns and works with students in producing video, audio and written content about various aspects of life in Israel for use in new media channels such as the blogosphere, virtual worlds, social networks, computer games and more.
Established in 1983 by Dr. Israel Asper in Winnipeg, Canada, the Asper Foundation undertakes and develops major initiatives in the areas of culture, education, community development and human rights - locally, nationally and internationally.
Gail Asper noted the IDC's instrumental role in key areas that relate to public advocacy and diplomacy. Reichman lauded the Asper family's resolve to ensure that Israel's true voice is heard around the world, saying that it was very much in synch with the goals of the IDC.
UNABLE TO stay away from the action and excitement, Isi Leibler, a former senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress and a columnist with The Jerusalem Post flew to New York on Saturday night to be present for the election of a new WJC president.
Leibler publicly supported Ron Lauder, who emerged the victor in the presidential race, and was thrilled by the result especially in light of the fact that Leibler had paid a very heavy personal price for the instrumental role he played in toppling the previous regime and in exposing its irregularities.
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