WHEN KOREAN ambassador Kak-Soo Shin and his wife Sosan sent out invitations for Korea's National and Armed Forces Day, they could not know that highways around the country would be so heavily congested that many of their guests would arrive late.
Aware of the traffic problem, Saeng Kim, First Secretary and Cultural Attache at the Korean Embassy, thanked the large crowd for making the effort to attend. He also announced that all the Korean culinary delicacies had been prepared by Sosan Shin together with other embassy wives and female staff, who were all dressed in traditional Korean costume.
Before the customary speeches, guests were treated to a comprehensive video presentation that showed many facets of life in the republic of Korea, with particular attention to the country's natural beauty. Noting the commonalities between Korea and Israel, Ambassador Shin spoke of two ancient peoples, pointing out that this week Korea marked the 4337th anniversary of its existence and the 58th anniversary of its independence. Other similarities include "a stable economy and a vibrant democracy."
Increased tourism would serve as a catalyst for better understanding, he observed. Each year at least 30,000 Koreans come to Israel. He would like to see the same number of Israelis come to Korea.
Minister without Portfolio Yaacov Edri represented the government, and read his speech in Hebrew. Expressing great satisfaction at the volume of bilateral trade, Edri also noted the growing number of visits to Israel by high-level members of the Korean government. He said he knew of several high-ranking Israeli officials who were planning to travel to Korea in the coming year, in addition to which Israel Nobel laureates Robert Aumann and Aaron Ciechanover had recently toured Korean universities to meet with department heads and students. A translation of the speech was subsequently read by Nitza Raz, the Foreign Ministry's deputy chief of protocol and director of the protocol office.
ONE OF the reasons that it was difficult for the Foreign Ministry to recruit an English-speaking minister was that so many, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, were at the Ronit Farm near Shfayim to attend the wedding of Noa Ben Artzi to Eldad Rotman.
For those who may not remember Noa Ben Artzi's pedigree, she is the granddaughter of murdered prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the daughter of former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin. In those days the mother of the bride still carried the hyphenated name of Rabin-Pelosoff, but dropped it after her divorce from prominent lawyer Avi Pelosoff, whose name incidentally was included in the invitation, along with that of the biological father of the bride, whom Rabin divorced when their children were tiny tots.
Politicians, leaders of the business community (especially those who have contributed to the Rabin Center) and showbiz personalities were among the hundreds of guests. Olmert was invited from both sides. The groom was formerly one of his aides, and the groom's father, Shlomo Rotman, is a former chairman of the Board of Directors of the Israel Electric Corporation.
For Baha'i deputy secretary Murray Smith, who has enjoyed quasi diplomatic status in Israel for the past 13 years, the party is almost over.
Smith, a former politician whose name is on almost every diplomatic guest list, will be returning to his native New Zealand in January - not because he wants to but at the urging of his wife, who wants to be around to watch their grandchildren grow up. However, Smith promises to commute frequently between New Zealand and Israel. Meanwhile his replacement Anthony Vance, formerly with USAID, has arrived in Haifa and is learning the ropes.
USUALLY THE most sparkling personality at Russian cultural events, Elena Tarasova, wife of the Russian ambassador, is more than a little upset that she will be missing the performances of the famed Moiseyev Dance Company, due to arrive in Israel later this month, because she has to accompany her husband to Moscow for the visit there by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was invited by President Vladimir Putin to come and celebrate the 15th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Russia and Israel.
ISRAEL'S NEW Ambassador to Russia, Anna Azari, who is due to take up her post soon, may encounter a few problems with the religious Jewish establishment in Moscow. The reason? Her husband, Rabbi Meir Azari, is a Reform rabbi who is currently spiritual leader of Beit Daniel congregation in Tel Aviv.
The squabbles between different streams of Judaism are no less prevalent in Russia than they are in other parts of the Jewish world. Chabad, which was active in Russia even under the Communists, and even more so after the fall of Communism, may be unhappy. Other orthodox religious movements, also opposed to Reform Judaism, will also probably not be delighted that the new ambassador for Israel is the wife of a prominent leader of the Reform Movement.
Azari, who is a fluent Russian speaker, was born in Lithuania and came with her family to Israel in 1972. She has previously served as ambassador to the Ukraine and Moldova, and is no stranger to Moscow, where she served as first secretary in the Israel Embassy from 1995-1997.