Grapevine: Honorary citizens

"American philanthropist,business tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife are to be conferred with honorary citizenship of Jerusalem."

By
April 30, 2013 22:26
PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, Ram Caspi (left) and Shlomo Hillel

PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, Ram Caspiand Shlomo Hillel 370. (photo credit: Yosef Avi Yair Engel)

 
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American philanthropist and business tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his Israeli-born wife Dr. Miriam Adelson are to be conferred with honorary citizenship of Jerusalem. The Adelsons have donated millions of dollars to projects in the city, most notably to Yad Vashem, to which they have given two separate $25 million donations – making the sum total the largest-ever donation from a private donor. The gift was earmarked for educational seminars and teacher training programs.

The Adelsons have donated generously to other educational programs and projects, including higher education, medical research and tourism. They have also underwritten a large part of the cost of the Presidential Facing Tomorrow international conferences that brings global personalities to the capital.

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On May 28-29, Sheldon Adelson, who is chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and has made tremendous inroads into the tourist industries of Singapore and Macau, will be among the speakers at the second Jerusalem International Tourism Summit to be held at the city’s International Convention Center. Adelson is one of several luminaries who will be addressing summit participants from around the world. Chances are high that he will also be in Jerusalem next month for the Facing Tomorrow conference, at which President Shimon Peres will prematurely celebrate his 90th birthday.

However, if Adelson hangs around for the actual date of the president’s birthday or returns in time, they can celebrate together.

Peres turns 90 on August 2, and Adelson turns 80 on August 4. A party or at least a toast on August 3 would not be out of place.

■ ALL ROADS will lead to Jerusalem this coming weekend, as preparations get underway for next week’s marathon of Jerusalem Day celebrations. On Saturday, Mayor Nir Barkat will attend services at the city’s Great Synagogue, where much of the singing by cantor Chaim Adler and the choir conducted by Elie Jaffe will be devoted to the capital. Rumor has it that Bayit Yehudi leader and Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett will not be attending services at his regular synagogue in Ra’anana, but will spend the Shabbat at the Great Synagogue, as will several other MKs.

■ FOR THOSE who may have forgotten, or for that matter never knew that Israel was once a Socialist enclave, today – May 1 – is May Day, which continues to be a holiday in some 80 countries. Whether there will be May Day parades in Tel Aviv and Haifa, as there used to be in days of yore, remains to be seen.



Haifa, which is still known as a “red city,” will celebrate May Day with the opening of a film festival at the Haifa Cinematheque, as part of a Global Labor Festival, in which all the films focus on work and workers.

The opening film tonight at the Haifa festival will be Sharqiya, written and directed by Ami Livne – his first feature film.

Sharqiya tells the story of Beduin living in a village at the edge of the Negev, on land that has been in their family since the rule of the Ottoman Empire. As they have no documents to prove ownership of the land, their claim to it is disputed by the Israeli government, and eventually an order is issued for all shacks on the land to be demolished. One of the brothers in the family works as a security guard in the central bus station, and another brother resents this. He sees it as playing into the hands of the enemy that is trying to evict the family, but the money brought in by the security guard is vital to the family’s existence.

Meanwhile, both brothers try to stave off the implementation of the bitter edict, and the one who is the security guard comes up with an interesting plan.

■ THE LOBBY of St. Andrew’s Scottish Guesthouse in Jerusalem was packed to capacity, as had been the patio a little earlier that afternoon. Most of the voices engaged in conversation were colored by British accents. The event was actually so British, it was a wonder it was not taking place in the city’s British Consulate-General – other than the fact that it was designed as an Israeli event, and the consulate general is in Sheikh Jarrah.

This neighborhood is in the predominantly Arab sector of the city, and the consulate- general is situated there to develop and maintain relations with the Palestinian Authority. Some of those attending may have felt a little uncomfortable about that, but most of them probably did not.

Be that as it may, St. Andrew’s was as British a venue as it could be under the circumstances.

The occasion was a multiple book launch by three British-born authors: Diane Greenberg, who wrote Binding Memories; Brenda Naomi Herzberg, who wrote Relatives Once Removed; and Cassandra Melnik, who wrote I Want to Grow Backwards.

The three are good friends who trust each other, and each let the other two read their works in progress – accepting sometimes painful feedback, which included the demise of carefully crafted characters that the other writers thought had no place in the book. Sometimes one or all of them had writer’s block, and to quote Herzberg, they “held each other’s hands during creative angst.”

All three novels were self-published by their authors. They went that route, explained Herzberg, “because the traditional publishing industry is imploding.” While all three authors write very differently, they produced and published their books together – and remained firm friends when it was all over.

To whet the intellectual appetites of the audience, all three read excerpts from their own books. Greenberg is a well-known poet whose love of language shines through in her first novel, which is about the psychologically damaged daughter of Holocaust survivors living in Manchester who are incapable of giving love. Searching for herself and links to her parents’ past, she travels first to Jerusalem and then to Prague, and discovers that she herself is surprisingly capable of love.

Hertzberg, a retired child psychiatrist, has produced an anthology of short stories based on the sweet and sour relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, and the geographic and emotional distance between them.

“Cassandra Melnik” is the pseudonym for a well-known veteran Jerusalemite, who for many years worked as a journalist and then became a copy editor, and got fed up with correcting bad writing. Deciding that she could do better herself, she wrote her book – which to some extent is a memoir of Jerusalem in the 1960s and 1970s, but also contains powerful elements of a mother-child relationship, in which the child becomes mentally disturbed.

Although most of the people present knew Melnik’s true identity, she insisted on being called by her pen name, and proved during her reading that she is just as good an actress as a writer. Melnik has the remarkable gift of packing a whole chapter into a long paragraph while painting the funny side of a tragic picture. The book is a definite page-turner and perhaps because it is written in a slightly extended sound-byte style, it can be read in a single sitting.

When asked why she is not writing under her own name, Melnik replied that she always wanted another identity and that the name Cassandra really appeals to her.

■ WHETHER THE timing was by accident or design, the celebration at the Tel Aviv Hilton last week of the 60th anniversary of the mass immigration from Iraq more or less coincided with the 90th birthday of Shlomo Hillel – who together with Mordechai Ben-Porat, was one of the key architects of Operation Ezra and Nehemia.

Hillel, who was born in Baghdad on April 23, 1923, and Ben-Porat, was also born in Baghdad in September 1923, had both settled in the land of Israel during the British Mandate period. Hillel came with his family in 1934 and Ben Porat came in 1945.

Both joined the Hagana and returned to Baghdad to organize the mass airlift of between 120,000 and 130,000 Iraqi Jews, at a time when the nascent State of Israel had far fewer resources than it did in later years, when it organized mass airlifts of Ethiopian Jews. It should be remembered that between June 1949 and September 1950, the state – still in its swaddling clothes – airlifted close to 50,000 Yemenite Jews.

Both Hillel and Ben-Porat were MKs and government ministers. Hillel was also a diplomat and world chairman of Keren Hayesod; while an MK, he also served as Knesset speaker. Both men are Israel Prize laureates and received the awards in recognition of their special contributions to society and the state. Ben-Porat founded the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center and Museum in Or Yehuda – and the city, in which he headed the first council, named the street on which the Heritage Center is located Ben-Porat Avenue.

At the anniversary celebration attended by approximately 1,000 people, Peres – who has worked closely with a large number of Iraqi-born Israelis who have reached prominence in different fields – said he saluted the Iraqi community and Operation Ezra and Nehemia, which brought the most veteran Diaspora Jewish community in the world back to its ancient homeland.

He also spoke of the rich history of Iraqi Jews and how the offspring of Iraqi immigrants – who came to Israel 60 years ago and overcame many obstacles – have also won distinction.

Among the well-known members of Israel’s Iraqi community, including those born in Israel to Iraqi parents, are: MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and former MK Yitzhak Mordechai, each of whom had a distinguished military career and later served as defense minister; former MKs Ran Cohen and Ra’anan Cohen; former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik; former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz;lawyer Ram Caspi; writers Sami Michael and Eli Amir; poet Ronny Somek; artist and sculptor Yitzhak Yamin; award-winning actor Sasson Gabay; singers Dudu Tassa and Roni Dalumi; comedian Eli Yatzpan; cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum; electric car pioneer Shai Agassi; broadcasters Carmella Menashe and Nissim Mishal; football coach Avram Grant, whose mother was Iraqi; bankers Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Yair Seroussi, Eitan Raff and Zadik Bino; and many more household names, most of whom joined in the festivities.

■ SOME PEOPLE who may have unsuccessfully sought a meeting last week with French Ambassador Christophe Bigot missed out, because he happened to be in Paris. There, together with Ambassador to France Yossi Gal, he attended the annual dinner of the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce, presided over by the chamber’s president Henri Cukierman. Bigot and Gal know each other from way back. Before his appointment to his current post, Gal was director-general of the Foreign Ministry.

Guest of honor at the dinner at Le Pavillon Dauphine was France’s Minister for Economics and Finance Pierre Moscovici, who also happens to be a member of the tribe. This week Gal was in Israel to testify at the trial of former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, but it seemed to be a pointless exercise since he couldn’t remember much.

■ AUSTRALIAN PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will next Monday, May 6, officially recognize Raoul Wallenberg as an Honorary Australian Citizen. Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest who during World War II saved thousands of Jews from certain death, was subsequently arrested by the Soviets and disappeared into a Soviet prison, after which his fate remains a mystery. In announcing the decision in mid-April, Gillard – who visited Israel in a previous capacity and has close ties with the Australian Jewish community, which once had the highest ratio of Holocaust survivors outside Israel – said it was the first time that Australia had bestowed such an honor. Wallenberg’s extraordinary rescue operation in issuing protective passports and providing shelter in diplomatic buildings saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, said Gillard.

Wallenberg has previously been recognized as an honorary citizen of the United States, Canada, Hungary and Israel, and monuments, buildings, streets, schools and other institutions around the world bear his name, she said.

He has also been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous among the Nations. The prime minister added that Australia was honored to have survivors that Wallenberg had rescued among its citizens.

The lives of those he rescued are his greatest monument, Gillard noted. The ceremony honoring Wallenberg in the centenary year of his birth will be hosted by Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce, at Government House in Canberra.

■ IN AN altogether different development involving Australians, the South African Zionist Federation in Israel (Telfed) and the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) this week issued a joint statement saying that following an agreement that became effective at the end of April, all new immigrants from Australia will be supported by Telfed from the moment they step off the plane and for the first full year of their new lives in Israel. This will involve meeting them at the airport, advising them in their first weeks and months in the country, and helping them to integrate within local communities.

“We are delighted with this new agreement and very excited to be working with Telfed to provide improved reception and support for Australian olim,” said ZFA executive director Ginette Searle.

“Telfed is honored and delighted to be able to extend its longstanding experience and highly respected reputation of klita [immigrant absorption] services in Israel to the Zionist Federation of Australia. We look forward to welcoming their olim and to a mutually beneficial partnership,” added Telfed chairman Dave Bloom.

Though already in operation, the project will officially be launched at the Telfed offices in Ra’anana in June, when Searle and ZFA president Philip Chester are due to visit Israel.

■ THE INTERNATIONAL Council of Jewish Women, which is holding its executive meeting in Jerusalem from May 2-4, followed by its quadrennial seminar on Jewish education from May 5-8, will mount a silent vigil outside the Knesset on Sunday, May 5, to demand equal rights for women in Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.

Representing members and affiliates from 43 countries, they will be dressed in white and will be carrying signs that call for equality in marriage; freedom of expression at the Western Wall and other public places; greater representation of women in leadership positions in Jewish community organizations worldwide, and in Israeli public and state-owned companies; more sensitivity from the rabbinical courts in matters of divorce – so that women will not have to spend years as agunot (chained in marriage), and be denied the right to create and build a new family; and an end to the exclusion and marginalization of women at Jewish community events, and in public places including buses, public sidewalks and billboards in Israel.

“We felt that Jerusalem was the obvious place for the women of ICJW to raise their concerns,” explained ICJW president Sharon Gustafson, who will lead the vigil outside the Knesset. “Our executive is holding its biannual meeting at the focal point of the Jewish world, at a time when women’s rights are high on both local and international agendas. ICJW represents the major Jewish women’s organizations around the world, and our campaign for women’s equality in each of these communities resonates most strongly here in Israel.”

Established in 1912, ICJW is an umbrella organization representing Jewish women’s organizations and individual members around the globe. ICJW has consultative status at the United Nations as an NGO with the Economic and Social Council, and maintains permanent delegations in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Paris. The organization is also represented at the Council of Europe, the European Women’s Lobby, the International Council of Women, the World Jewish Congress, and many other international and regional organizations, which makes it quite a formidable body. It has been extremely active in fighting for the rights of Jewish women in matters of divorce, where the rabbinate in all countries traditionally tends to side with the husband rather than to deal fairly with both parties.

■ CYPRIOT PRESIDENT Dimitrus Christofias, who is due to visit Israel next month, will presumably arrive on a Cyprus Airways plane. Following rumors and media reports that Cyprus Airways was on the verge of bankruptcy, the Cyprus Embassy last week issued a statement notifying the Israeli public that following an April 13 agreement between the government of Cyprus, the management of Cyprus Airways and the employee’s unions, the company will continue its normal operations without disruption, while taking immediate restructuring measures to move the company toward a viable future. Flights between Larnaca and Tel Aviv will continue based on the existing schedule.

■ ISRAEL AND people outside of Israel who identify as Zionists this week celebrated the 153rd anniversary of the birth of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, who is credited with promoting the global concept of bringing the Jewish people back to its ancient homeland to establish a modern state. However, Herzl had a Zionist forerunner in the person of Sir Moses Montefiore, who was acknowledged by Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, for his efforts to get Jews to work the land.

Between 1827 and 1875, Montefiore visited Israel seven times. In Jerusalem, he was responsible for setting up the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of the Old City. The area in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood now known as Mishkenot Sha’ananim was originally named for Montefiore and his wife, Judith, and was called Kerem Moshe V’Yehudit – which translates as the vineyard of Moses and Judith.

Montefiore was very fond of wine and consumed a bottle each day, a factor that may have contributed to his longevity – given that he lived to the age of 101. Although Montefiore’s Windmill has become a Jerusalem landmark, what was perhaps more significant was that the residents of Kerem Moshe V’Yehudit were encouraged to plant vineyards and olive trees. Montefiore had no children, and as a result his nephew, Joseph Sebag-Montefiore, became his heir.

Some 150 years after Sir Moses had first come to the land of Israel, Sebag-Montefiore’s great-great-grandson, Adam Montefiore, who has considerable experience in Britain’s wine industry, decided that he wanted to live in Israel. So he and his wife, Jill, and their three children, Liam, David and Rachel, packed up and moved to Israel, where Adam began working for major Israeli wineries, also writing about wine for The Jerusalem Post. Now, two of his children, David and Rachel, have returned to Yemin Moshe as partners with Arnon Geva in a boutique winery called Kerem Montefiore.

Geva, the company’s CEO, has been in the wine business for more than 20 years and has founded other wine companies. He grew up in Yemin Moshe, and is very excited about this new project.

David Montefiore has worked as both a wines and spirits manager and sommelier for leading restaurants in Israel, and has worked abroad for Rocland Estate Wines, Capçanes in Montsant, Spain, and in Australia’s Barossa Valley. He studied wine at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London, and has written for Wine & Gourmet magazine and the Bakbuk website.

Rachel Montefiore, who deals with the company’s marketing and sales, also has previous experience in the wine trade and has worked at leading wine stores, been a sommelier in top restaurants and worked for a distributor marketing Austrian, Sicilian and Israeli wines. She is a graduate of the Ramat Gan College Wine Academy and has also written for Wine & Gourmetmagazine, as well as the Wines-Israel website.

Sir Moses, who was known to be a great connoisseur of wines, would be most pleased to know that his family is carrying on the tradition that he started in Jerusalem. The company’s wine consultant is Canadian-born Sam Soroka, who has had extensive experience in winemaking in the US, Australia, Canada and Israel.

■ FAMILIAR TO Jerusalem Post readers through his op-ed columns, Prof. David Newman, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has been elected for a second term for the period 2013-2016. The faculty is believed to be the single largest in Israel, comprising 21 academic departments, 250 tenured lecturers and professors, and more than 5,000 students.

Newman’s career at BGU took off in 1988 when he arrived as a faculty member in the Department of Geography. He was subsequently the founder and first chairman of the Department of Politics and Government, directed the Humphrey Center for Social Research, and together with Prof.

Joel Peters, founded BGU’s Center for the Study of European Politics and Society. A British-trained geography and political science academic, Newman has for the past 10 years been the chief editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics, in addition to which he has published widely on issues related to territory, borders and academic freedoms and politics. He has been active in representing Israel’s universities against boycott attempts and has played a significant role in strengthening academic and scientific cooperation between the UK and Israel. Locally, Newman has been active in combating right-wing attacks against Israeli universities and attempts at political intervention in university curricula.

■ AT A time when relations between Poland and Israel are arguably at their best, the Polish authorities get very upset when journalists make the common error of describing concentration camps and death camps on Polish soil as Polish camps, when they were in fact Nazi camps that had been established by soldiers serving the German regime. For some reason, the error occurs most frequently in Israel, and the person who gets rapped on the knuckles by Poland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs is First Secretary at the Polish Embassy Jacek Olejnik – who painstakingly tells editors and journalists that Auschwitz, Treblinka and other death camps were created by Nazi Germany and not by the Polish authorities.

The message is still not getting through, because the mistake is still being made.

Olejnik understands that sometimes the mistake is based on ignorance or is simply a grammatical shortcut – but either way, it is wrong. He wants to set the record straight, especially because so many of the Jews murdered in these camps were Polish citizens, and there were other Polish citizens who were not Jewish who were also murdered in the camps. Aside from creating the wrong impression, Olejnik believes, it also dishonors the memories of the victims who were not targeted by their own authorities but by a foreign power.

■ ORIGINALLY FOUNDED in 1927, Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in the Judean Hills between Jerusalem and Hebron has had a checkered history, having suffered attacks during the Arab Uprising of 1936 and by the Arab Legion in 1948. The kibbutz has been reestablished three times, most recently in 1967. One of the people most closely identified with Kfar Etzion was the late Hanan Porat.

Porat was evacuated from there as a child in 1948, and he fought in the Six Day War and was with the paratroopers who recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem.

He later returned to Kfar Etzion to build it anew and remained there with his family.

Among those who fought against the Arab Legion in 1948 were Holocaust survivors who had barely arrived in the country, and whose names in some cases were not registered in IDF records or salvaged kibbutz documents. Yaron Rosenthal, head of the Gush Etzion Field School, is using all the resources at his disposal to try to discover the identities of such soldiers, believing they may have been the sole survivors of families wiped out in Nazi Europe. He hopes that by next year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, he will have succeeded in his quest, so that these names can be read out at “for everyone there is a name” ceremonies. In this way, these valiant defenders will stop being statistics and will once again be people whose names can be recalled year after year.

greerfc@gmail.com

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