Grapevine: Livni's Plea to the EU

The foreign minister attends a Europe Day concert, the Knesset celebratesJerusalem Day with poetry and song, Donna Karan unveils an astronaut gown,and Natalie Portman salutes the other Israeli in the 'Time' top 100.

By
May 15, 2007 21:25
Grapevine: Livni's Plea to the EU

livni 88 . (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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IT WOULD have been interesting to see the reaction of Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian Uzal, the head of the delegation of the European Union, if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had chosen to snub last Wednesday's Europe Day celebration in the same way that he and representatives of the member states of the European Union along with some of their cohorts snubbed the Jerusalem Day festivities at the Knesset on Monday. He would certainly not have been a happy camper, especially after going to all the trouble of learning his speech in a remarkably well-pronounced Hebrew. But Livni did show up at the Europe Day concert at the Mann Auditorium even though she did leave early, thus missing out on the incredibly brilliant performance by Turkish-born pianist Fazil Say, who not only delighted the audience, which signified its approval both vocally and by applause, but also won the approbation of the members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and a kiss on the forehead from Lebanese-born, American-bred, flamboyant conductor, George Pehlivanian. IT WOULD have been interesting to see the reaction of Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian Uzal, the head of the delegation of the European Union, if Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had chosen to snub last Wednesday's Europe Day celebration in the same way that he and representatives of the member states of the European Union along with some of their cohorts snubbed the Jerusalem Day festivities at the Knesset on Monday. He would certainly not have been a happy camper, especially after going to all the trouble of learning his speech in a remarkably well-pronounced Hebrew. But Livni did show up at the Europe Day concert at the Mann Auditorium even though she did leave early, thus missing out on the incredibly brilliant performance by Turkish-born pianist Fazil Say, who not only delighted the audience, which signified its approval both vocally and by applause, but also won the approbation of the members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and a kiss on the forehead from Lebanese-born, American-bred, flamboyant conductor, George Pehlivanian. He spoke of the EU's commitment to peace, harmony and stability, and voiced the EU's belief that dialogue and partnership can solve problems. "Today," he declared, "relations between the EU and Israel are stronger than ever" - and this was in large part due to shared values. In a reference to Israel's many difficult days over the past year, Cibrian Uzal said that the latest crisis points to the great urgency in seeking solutions for the region and finding ways to dialogue. In wishing peace, security and stability upon Israel and the whole of the Middle East, Cibrian Uzal borrowed from the prophet Isaiah, saying that he looked forward to the day when nation would not lift up sword against nation, not only in Europe but in the Middle East and the whole world. In her initial remarks, Livni referred to Polish-born violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who, in his efforts to found the IPO (originally the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra), brought 75 Jewish musicians from major European orchestras to Tel Aviv, and thus saved them from almost certain death in Europe. Huberman wrote about a pan-Europe long before the idea of European Union took hold, she said, so in a sense Europe Day, celebrated with the IPO in the Mann Auditorium at No. 1 Huberman Street, symbolized the closing of a circle. Having said all that, Livni stopped with the niceties and spoke of Europe's relations with the Jews, which she said had known days of light and days of darkness. After the Holocaust, she said, the refugees of Europe came to build up the State of Israel, but Israel had been frustrated for a long time by the differences in her values and those of Europe and the way in which Israel was perceived in Europe. While she did not doubt that Europe wants to see Israel live in peace, Livni called on Europe to be true to its own values in its relations with Israel. "What you ask for yourselves in Europe, ask for us here so that we can be free of violence and terror," she said, emphasizing that Israel does not need another intermediary. "I believe in direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and the Arab states."

  • ON THE evening prior to Europe Day, the European Coalition for Israel, which does not believe in boycotting Jerusalem, held its Europe Day reception in the garden courtyard of the King David Hotel, which overlooks the walls of the Old City. Helmut Sprecht, chairman of the European Coalition for Israel, noted the symbolism of May 9 being the date of Europe Day as well as of VE Day. "When Europeans look for corporate identity, we look back at the war," he said. Europeans needed a way to solve conflicts without war, and the Jews needed their own state to prevent further anti-Semitism and bloodshed, Sprecht said. The fate of the Jewish people cannot be dependant on the goodwill of their host nations in Europe, he went on, adding that the Jewish homeland was seen as a place where Jews would live in peace and security. Sprecht was effusive in his admiration for Israel's democracy, saying that it allowed for critical self assessment, such as the Winograd Report, which he personally saw as "a sign of democratic strength." He had come to Israel, he said, with a group of NGOs addressing issues such as growing anti-Semitism in Brussels. In 2006, he said, the ECI organized a large public rally in Finland. "We do make a difference," said Sprecht, adding that his organization's key goals were to promote democracy and human rights to lay the foundations for peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs and to promote better cooperation between Europe and Israel. Cooperation between Europeans was temporarily lacking when Portugal's Ambassador Marina Josefina Fronza dos Reis Carvalho was called to the podium to address the gathering. The announcement surprised her to the point of anger. "It wasn't expected. No one asked me," she protested. "I'm very sorry I don't know anything about this." However, after a few soothing words from Sprecht, the ambassador's ruffled feathers settled back into place, and her opening words when she addressed the crowd were: "It is a pleasure for me to be here, but it's rather a surprise." She would have raised her glass to toast 50 years of the EU and relations between the EU and Israel as well as between Portugal and Israel, now celebrating 30 years of diplomatic ties, she said, "but I don't have a glass."
  • THE CELEBRATION in the Knesset of Jerusalem in poetry and song demonstrated just how strong a common denominator Jerusalem is and was in all the countries of Jewish dispersion. The yearning for Jerusalem was expressed in songs and poems in Ladino, Yiddish, Russian Amharic, Yemenite Hebrew, and regular Hebrew. "No city in the world provokes so broad a range of emotions as Jerusalem - especially among Jews," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a former mayor of the city. But no one, with the possible exception of Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon - a multi-generational native son of Jerusalem - was more suited to talk about Jerusalem than Acting President and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who was born in Jerusalem to a poor family with many children. Yet she and her siblings moved out of that socio-economic morass, acquired university educations and paved their way to success. Itzik, a teacher by training who in the interim also earned a law degree, is a former deputy mayor who held the city's education portfolio. She later became a member of Knesset, a government minister, the Speaker and most recently, acting president. In her address to a packed Chagall Hall, she did not forget to pay tribute to Teddy Kollek, the long-reigning Jerusalem mayor who died earlier this year, or to note the presence of his widow, Tamar Kollek. Nor did she forget to pay tribute to Israel Prize laureate and former MK Geula Cohen, the main mover and shaker behind the event. Away from the microphone, Itzik made a point of personally thanking those few ambassadors who did attend. In addition to dean of the Diplomatic Corps and ambassador of Cameroon, Henri Etoundi Essomba, there were also representatives of other African states and Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania. Some of the people who were pleasantly surprised to see Zhvania enthusiastically join in the singing of Hatikva were obviously unaware of his Jewish genes.
  • KOREAN AMBASSADOR Shin Kak-Soo had a good excuse for not being at the Knesset. He was otherwise engaged at home in Rishpon, hosting a recital by Aeri Ji, one of Korea's most outstanding Gayegeum (traditional stringed instrument) exponents. Among the guests were the ambassador's landlords, Angela and Sami Shamoon, who own the palatial and exquisitely crafted home that has served a series of Korean ambassadors. Also present was Korea's honorary consul for Jerusalem, Aryeh Shumar, along with a large number of Korean nationals who are studying in Israel - mainly in Jerusalem. Ambassador Shin is eager to introduce as much and as varied Korean culture as possible to Israelis, and has hosted several events in concert halls as well as at his residence. A second performance by Aeri Ji was held at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv.
  • BEST-SELLING author Michael Oren was the guest speaker at the annual memorial lecture honoring the late Rabbi David Clayman, who headed the Jerusalem Office of the American Jewish Congress until his untimely passing in 2003. Oren enthralled the crowd that packed the Moreshet Avraham synagogue in Jerusalem, where Clayman and his wife Roz had been congregants. In the audience were prominent figures such as former ambassador to the UN, Dore Gold, and 2007 Israel Prize winner, Prof. Shalom Schwartz. In a tour de force, Oren discussed the underpinnings of US support for Israel presented in his latest work, Power, Faith, and Fantasy, a meticulously researched history of America's military, political, and intellectual involvement in the Middle East from George Washington's administration until today. The book, which Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice reportedly curls up with in her spare time, comprehensively debunks the myths of an amorphous Jewish lobby, promoted by former president Jimmy Carter and Professors Walt and Mearsheimer in their paper released by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government last year. The lecture, moderated by Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, was preceded by moving remarks of tribute to Clayman, sent by newly-elected American Jewish Congress President Richard Gordon from New York, which were read by the organization's current Israel director, Danny Grossman. Gordon characterized Clayman as a man who put into practice Hillel's principles. "David successfully championed Israel's security and right to exist while balancing this approach with a universal call for justice, and did it with a sense of urgenc....As King Solomon wrote in Kohelet, 'A good name is better than good oil.' In his many years of service, Clayman's name became synonymous in Israel with the AJC and his many good deeds brought honor upon David and all those who were associated with him," For Oren, it was a busy day. Only a few hours earlier he had participated in a video conference about his book that had been sponsored by The Israel Project.
  • BIRDS OF a feather flock together. When fashion icon Donna Karan came to Israel last week to be honored by Shenkar College, she had a press conference earlier in the day and met up with fellow New Yorker and veteran fashion writer, Diana Lerner. Karan was thrilled to discover that Lerner is a graduate of Hunter College, Karan's own alma mater. Karan complimented Lerner on her eclectic style of dress, and Lerner, who has been living in Israel for a very long time, presented Karan with a copy of her autobiography, I Must Have Come Out Of An Eggplant, which Karan said she would enjoy reading on the plane on the way home. Karan received her fellowship citation from Friends of Shenkar and Wissotzky Tea chairman Shalom Seidler at a glittering event at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, the highlight of which was a fashion show of bridal gowns that she had brought with her from the US. The gowns ran the gamut from classic to peasant to ethnic, moving right into the 21st century by way of an astronaut in a bubble. Karan's visit to Israel also afforded her the opportunity to catch up with old friends such as fashion designer and fashion writer Noa Arber, artist and fashion designer Ilana Goor and former fashion designer Rojy Ben Yosef. Karan's assistant, Pati Cohen, is friendly with Miriam Gottlieb, the New York-based daughter of Israeli fashion icon, Lea Gottlieb, who was the founder of Gottex. Cohen and Gottlieb kissed and hugged each other as if they were blood relatives. Although she did teach a Master Class during her visit, it's unlikely that Donna Karan will give up her lucrative business in New York to come and teach in Israel, but if she should feel that way inclined, Shenkar, according to its president, Prof. Amotz Weinberg, will give her a full professorship. ISRAEL'S FORMER ambassador to the US, Meir Rosenne, was master of ceremonies at an evening to introduce The Fight for Jerusalem, the latest book produced by Dore Gold, currently president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Rosenne, who is also a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and is thus well aware of the importance of every word, spoke extemporaneously and acknowledged that it is always dangerous to come without notes. Rosenne, who was at Camp David with Menachem Begin in 1978 and who has since read many books on what allegedly transpired at that time, said that he often asks himself (when reading) whether he was actually there. He recalled that president Carter had said to Begin: "We must talk about Jerusalem." To which Begin had replied: "What do you want to talk about?" "We don't recognize Jerusalem as the capital," said Carter. "We don't recognize your non-recognition," retorted Begin, who added: "Mr. President, if Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, will you please tell me where is the capital of Israel?" According to Rosenne there was no answer. By the way, Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of Begin's first triumph at the polls and the turnaround in Israel's political administration. Gold, who chose to introduce his book on the eve of the Jerusalem Day festivities, commented that Jerusalem does not seem to be on the negotiating agenda. But "there are many undercurrents that we don't see," he said. "They're not visible - but the fight for Jerusalem is already underway." Citing UN Security Council Resolution 242, which emphasizes the admissibility of territory acquired by war, Gold pointed out that this is in the preamble to the resolution and not in the resolution itself and that Jerusalem is never once mentioned in the resolution. Moreover, he highlighted a rather complex problem relating to territory acquired by law, because Jordan was the previous "occupier" of Jerusalem, having acquired the territory when it invaded the newly created State of Israel in 1948. "Can you give Jordan [territorial] rights under international law?" Gold asked. IT MIGHT have made a humorous headline if it wasn't so serious. "Anti-Semites are living longer," said Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, at a press briefing on Anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe. It's not because of their anti-Semitism that they're living longer, he clarified, but because life expectancy in general has extended. The breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel on Monday looked almost like the cafeteria of an orthopedic hospital. ADL's Israel spokesman, Arieh O'Sullivan, was all trussed up with a broken collar bone, the result of a paragliding mishap, while Michele Chabin, who writes for the New York Jewish Week, came with a bandaged arm, having had the plaster cast removed the previous day. Chabin broke her arm when playing soccer - with her 4-year-old.
  • THE ISRAELI media was quick to pick up on the fact that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had been included in Time magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people. What it did not mention was that Livni was not the only Israeli on the list. There was also fashion icon and Shenkar College graduate Alber Elbaz, who is the artistic designer for Lanvin. The item about Elbaz - "the Israeli soldier who became a force in fashion" - was penned by another Israeli expatriate, actress Natalie Portman, who is among his regular clients.

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