WHEN AMBASSADOR Ramiro Cibrian Uzal took up his duties as head of the Delegation of the European Commission, he introduced a more uplifting manner in which to celebrate Europe Day. Instead of the usual poolside reception at the official residence, Uzal decided to mark the occasion with a concert at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv to be followed by a reception in the lobby.
The first concert was so well received that Uzal's way of doing things may well become a tradition. This year's Europe Day Concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will feature works by Ludwig van Beethoven, which is only natural considering that the European Union anthem, or the anthem of Europe as they like to call it, is taken from his Ninth Symphony, the final movement of which is set to Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy," a poem expressing an idealistic view of the human race. In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted the "Ode to Joy" theme replete with Beethoven's music as its anthem.
THE OVERWHELMING majority of guests at the reception hosted by Russian Ambassador Petr Stegniy and his wife, Margarita, in honor of Igor Ivanov, the head of Russia's National Security Council, were Russian speakers, though not all were Russian nationals. Ivanov mingled easily and seemed to have a pleasant word for everyone. One of the highlights of the evening was a recital by the black-cassocked choir of the Theological Seminary of Moscow, which was touring Jordan and Israel during the Easter period of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The choir was introduced by the ambassador's wife, who in turn was introduced by the ambassador who also introduced himself. The Stegniys have been here for just over a month and are not yet well known. Some of the guests had not met their hosts prior to coming to the residence. Aside from a broad representation of the Russian community, there were also several diplomats, including the ambassadors of Spain, Jordan, Moldova, Germany and Belgium.
CZECH AMBASSADOR Michael Zantovsky made the Czech Embassy available for "To remain a human being," an exhibition featuring the works of Czech high school students. The exhibition is part of an ongoing project devised by Czech-born Terezin and Auschwitz survivor Hana Greenfield in conjunction with the educational department of the Terezin Museum. Greenfield, whose family had a 300-year history in Czechoslovakia, returned there after the war, remembering that she had been raised there "in freedom and democracy." But she realized that it could no longer be home to her and has been living here for close to six decades.
After the Velvet Revolution, she returned to the Czech Republic and became aware that two generations knew nothing of the 380,000 Czech Jews who had been murdered by the Nazis. She instituted an educational project, which she said was initially accepted with fear and reluctance, but which proved to be so successful that it has now become part of the compulsory education curriculum. Each year thousands of Czech high schoolers embark on a special course of Holocaust studies, after which they participate in a Holocaust-themed art and essay competition. Some of the entries in the art competition were exhibited at the embassy and were seen by a number of Terezin survivors living here.
What was not initially intended for the program was a string recital of the Terezin Collection, composed and originally performed in Terezin between 1942 and 1944. Just four hours before the opening, Czech cultural and press attache Robert Rehak received an excited phone call from violinist Abraham Dotan, who told him that he is part of a string trio that meets each week to play and that they had just learned a piece by Czech composer, violist and flutist Viktor Kohn. Kohn perished in Auschwitz in October 1944, but his composition "Praeludium," which is part of the Terezin Collection, survived. It is the only composition in his repertoire that remains. Dotan said that the trio, which includes Nat Spindle, wanted to play the composition at the opening of the exhibition. Czech-born Spindle was a child prodigy, whose talent as a violinist so impressed the British consul in Czechoslovakia that he sent him to England to further his studies and to give recitals. Spindle's parents perished, but Spindle was saved.
CURRENTLY VISITING are former US ambassador Sam Lewis and his wife, Sallie, who were here during the Begin administration and who keep coming back to catch up with old friends and occasionally to lecture. Lewis is not the only former US ambassador to make frequent return trips to Israel. Others include Martin Indyk and Dan Kurtzer - and they're certainly not the only ones. They just happen to come more often than their predecessors. Aside from coming on business and to say hello to good friends, Kurtzer has a brother here, which gives him a little added incentive.