ONE OF the prestige events of the annual meeting of the International Council of the Israel Museum is the awarding of annual fellowships. This year's recipients were art collectors Susanne and Rene Braginsky of Switzerland, Co-Presidents of the French Friends of the Israel Museum Minette Drommelschlager Klugman (who introduced Christian Lacroix to Israel) and Dr. Philippe Cohen; Internationally recognized prize-winning artist Suzanne Perlman who was born in Budapest, is a Dutch national who lives in London and who supported the Museum's initiative to bring the 18th century Suriname Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue to Jerusalem and made a significant gift to enable its reconstruction and reinstallation; Sabra art trader and collector Estee Pilkington, who has lived in London for more than three decades since her marriage to Brian Pilkington; Sotheby's Israel Chairman and Senior Director for Europe Rivka Saker and Wall Street investment banker Uzi Zucker, who has been a generous supporter of the Museum. Perlman was accompanied by her three sons, each of whom read a section of the citation. Louis, the last, a real estate developer who though raised in London lives in New York, announced that he was breaking away from the scripted text, saying that he had attended several such meetings and each time someone tried to marry him off, most notably Michael Steinhardt, who was always introducing him to eligible ladies. But no one, he said, had gone to as much trouble as his mother, who had brought a whole synagogue to Jerusalem for him to get married in. He also noted that he was not exactly a bachelor. He had been married once (to fashion designer Rebecca Moses). Later, at the Council's gala open sky dinner around the rectangular pool at the Rockefeller Museum, Israel Museum director James Snyder observed that this too was an ideal setting for a wedding. Aside from the 180 Israel Museum supporters from twelve countries, some of whom had never been to the magnificent Rockefeller before, guests included Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon and his wife Miri, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his wife Beverly, US Ambassador James Cunningham and his wife Leslie and Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan and his wife Talia. The wives of both ambassadors were wearing eye catching jewelery which excited attention. Leslie Cunningham had an exotic pendant, set in a circle which she had bought in Hong Kong and Talia Tan had a richly hued small opal hamsa on a delicate gold chain.
n THE CEREMONY had taken place and the main course of the meal had been served. Philanthropists Ingeborg and Ira Rennert, who hosted the event - the annual Guardian of Zion award, presented this year to Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick - presumably had another engagement, because they departed before the evening was over, leaving their guests to schmooze. Ingeborg Rennert, elegant as ever in a salmon-colored suit with the most gorgeous matching stiletto-heeled sandals, was the center of attention at the pre-ceremony reception at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, but the person who commanded the most attention after she left was Benzion Netanyahu, 99, internationally recognized scholar and right-wing activist and father of the prime minister. The nattily dressed Netanyahu Sr., who was surrounded by people eager to engage him in conversation, displayed remarkable stamina for a man his age, spending a good deal of the time on his feet as he chatted with staff and supporters of Bar Ilan University, as well as someone whose name is Bar-Illan - Beverly Bar-Illan, the widow of the late David Bar-Illan, an internationally acclaimed pianist and writer, who at one stage in his distinguished career was the Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post, and who later became head of information and policy planning in the first Netanyahu administration. Following his death almost six years ago, Beverly Bar-Illan returned to the United States at the behest of her children, but her heart remained in Jerusalem. She came back a few months ago and welcomed the Guardian of Zion event as an opportunity to catch up with old friends whom she hadn't seen in a long time. The first recipient of the Guardian of Zion award in 1997 was Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who together with his wife Marion, has unfailingly come to every award ceremony ever since, as has prize-winning filmmaker Arthur Cohn, who received the award in 2004. Cohn was also in Israel for the 20th anniversary of the Maaleh Film School, which was celebrated at the Jerusalem Cinematheque with the Israeli premiere of his film The Children of the Silk Road. Cohn, who is generous in sharing his creativity with Israeli institutions, has previously shown his films to supporters of Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
n FUN LOVING Avner Netanyahu, the youngest of the Prime Minister's three children, also has a serious side to him. He showed up at the Western Wall on Shavuot to participate in the morning services. Not every teenager is accompanied by two bodyguards - but when you're the son of the head of government, you're not quite as free as other kids. Avner, his older brother Yair (who is due to go into the army next year) and their mother Sarah were among the 1,500 guests who showed up on Sunday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds for the Bar Mitzvah of Saar Mena, the son of real estate broker Roni Mena and his ex-wife, former beauty queen ï¿½Nicole Halperin. The PM, who was supposed to have been the guest of honor, did not attend because his security team was nervous about all that mingling. Shari Arison showed up with her son Daniel and avoided contact with Mickey Dorsman and Ofer Glaser, two of her three ex-husbands. Several government ministers also attended, as did the creme de la creme of the business community whose collective wealth could have easily taken care of the national deficit.
n ACADEMICS WHO devote their lives to a certain field of research are often afraid that after their deaths the work they have started may not be continued by future researchers. Thus it is a tribute to the late Dr. Yaacov Eshel that Ariel University is continuing with a project that he founded. Eshel consistently organized the annual Judea, Samaria and Jordan Valley Research and Development Conference, until he passed away on the eve of Succot last year. This year's conference, which is the 19th annual conference, takes place on Thursday, June 11, and now has the sub-title of the Yaacov Eshel Memorial Conference. There will be 13 sessions in which more than 60 papers on the Biblical era of the area, history, archaeology, geology, water crises, the environment, education, et al will be presented in tandem with discussions on settlement, security, the military presence, religious Zionism and the relevance or otherwise of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Participants will include Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Science Minister Rabbi Professor Daniel Herschkowitz, Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Keren Kayemet L'Israel Avraham Duvdevani, as well as members of Eshel's family and numerous academics from Israel's institutes of higher education as well as R&D institutes. There will also be organized tours of the area and transport to and from Ariel from various parts of the country. Full details are available at http://www.ariel.ac.il/management/research/rd/forms/event.pdf
n BEIT HANASSI has denied a claim by the Municipality of Lodz, Poland, that President Shimon Peres will visit Lodz during the last week of August.
A full-page advertisement that appeared last Monday in a Tel Aviv 100 supplement published by Haaretz stated that Peres along with Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk would be attending the ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, or as it was known in German, the Litzmannstadt Ghetto.
The three day commemoration, which will primarily be devoted to survivors and the Righteous among the Nations, is under the patronage of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, and will conclude with a gala concert, "Seven Gates of Jerusalem."
A more comprehensive announcement in Polish has been published on the Lodz Municipality's web site and here again it states that Peres has confirmed his participation.
Peres was in Poland last year for the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but senior members of his staff told this columnist that they had no knowledge whatsoever of any proposed visit to Poland this year.
Claims are always being made about the president's participation in this event or that event said a staff member who is frequently responsible for arrangements related to official visits by the president, and more often than not such claims are without foundation, as is the claim by Lodz, he said.
Beit Hanassi staff did acknowledge that Peres, in the company of several government ministers and a large business delegation, will be visiting parts of the Commonwealth of Independent States at the end of June.
This was confirmed on the Azerbaijan BayBak web site which on May 12 published that a meeting between Peres and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had been agreed upon by Aliyev and Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman when the two met in Prague on May 6.
According to IzRus Internet portal, "Azerbaijan is ready to receive Israeli President Shimon Peres at the highest level and with all honors."
The report also stated that Peres is expected to visit other Muslim Republics in the CIS.
Turkish Weekly on its Internet site published a report about the extension of the arrest of Israeli businessman and arms agent Boris Sheinkman, 62, who is implicated in an arms scandal and a series of crimes including bribing of Kazakhstan Defense Ministry officials. The scandal derives from the supply of upgraded Israeli weapons to Kazakhstan. The report says that journalists are being hindered in their efforts to publish independent investigations of the case. The report concludes: '"Representatives of Israeli Soltam systems recently flew to Astana to fix Kazakhstan's claim to functionality of the weapons. It was expected that this issue will be addressed during the planned June visit by President Shimon Peres of Israel to Kazakhstan."
n FILMMAKER, writer and public relations consultant Vered Kollek-Meisel, who was born and raised in Jerusalem but who now lives in California with her husband Farrell Meisel, an international media executive, accepted an interesting challenge in June last year when a New Production company that was interested in making a documentary about the people who initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the peace accord between Israel and Egypt, asked her to join the team as chief liaison officer. No slouch, even though the challenge seems daunting, Kollek-Meisel, who has the collective contacts of the whole Kollek family, immediately got to work and began placing phone calls to potential interviewees and to people who could direct her toward others, or better still help her make the necessary connections. Within three weeks, she and the producers traveled to Israel and interviewed Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Prof. Arye Naor, who was cabinet secretary during the Begin administration, Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Gazit, who had been head of IDF Intelligence, Dan Pattir, who had been Begin's media advisor, Dr. Meir Rosenne, who had helped to draft the documents of agreement, Yehiel Kadishai, Begin's bureau chief and closest confidante, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avraham (Abrasha) Tamir, who had been involved in the details of the peace accord, Yael Dayan, the daughter of the late Foreign Minister and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and a public figure in her own right, and journalists Smadar Peri and David Landau.
While the film crew was in Jerusalem, Kollek-Meisel was asked by one of the Executive Producers whether she could arrange a red carpet premiere for the film. She suggested having the first public screening at the 49th Monte Carlo Television Festival. Her husband contacted Festival Director David Tomatis and then flew to Monte Carlo to present the idea in person. Tomatis was enthusiastic as a result of which for the first time ever a documentary will open the Monte Carlo TV Festival. The title of the documentary, made by Channel Production Films (winner of 33 Emmy awards) is Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace. The Festival, which is under the Honorary Presidency of Prince Albert II of Monaco, will be held from June 7-11. Aside from the interviews they conducted in Israel, the producers also interviewed former US President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders. Principal photography was conducted in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Paris, Vienna, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Cairo and in the Sinai, providing a rich and riveting visual backdrop to this epic story which may have a few surprises for political historians. The film takes its name from back channels of communication which seldom receive the recognition they deserve and whose roles are not always understood. "This is a story that would make for gripping fiction if only it was not true," said Tomatis.
n NOT SO long ago, former diplomat Alan Baker was representing Israel in Canada, and retired from government service after completing his four-year term as ambassador. Now he'll be presenting Israel to Canadians in a somewhat but not entirely different capacity as the newly elected President of the Israel-Canada Chamber of Commerce, replacing Jerusalem attorney Yehuda Raveh, who held the post for many years. Baker's career with Israel's Foreign Ministry included a long stint as legal advisor as well as having been a member of many negotiating teams that met with with neighboring delegations in numerous stages of the peace process. He also held legal positions in the United Nations and the Israel Defense Forces, and is currently a partner in the Tel Aviv law firm of Moshe, Gicelter & Co., heading up its International Division. While ambassador, he worked closely with Israel's economic representatives in Canada towards enhancing commercial relations between Canada and Israel and initiated the revitalization of the Toronto-based Canada-Israel Chamber of Commerce, which is now a flourishing body with representations in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, headed by Leslie Dan and David Rubin, of the Gowlings law firm. Baker has an advantage over other Israelis who might seek to be President of the Israel-Canada Chamber of Commerce in that he is completely familiar with the diplomatic, political, economic and legal aspects of Canada, in addition to which he has traveled the length and breadth of the country where he has not only become aware of business potential but has made numerous important contacts. What the Chamber may not know is that Baker was once part of a jazz band whose leader is seriously thinking in terms of revival. If Bill Clinton could play the saxophone when he was President, there's no reason for Baker to desist from jazz at the chamber's gala functions.
n FRENCH AMBASSADOR Jean Michel-Casa is beginning to make his farewells following his promotion to the directorship of the Political and Security Committee of the European Union, in which context he will also have close relations with the General Affairs and Foreign Relations Council in helping to define EU policies and will of course be engaged in enhancing bilateral relations between France and each of the member states of the EU. According to the French media, the new French ambassador designate to Israel is Christophe Bigot, but his appointment has yet to be approved by Israel's Foreign Ministry.
n PERU'S AFFABLE Charge d'Affaires Gonzalo Voto Benales, who at one stage was doing a diplomatic balancing act performing the tasks of at least three people due to lack of instant replacements for the ambassador and the defense attache, usually has a happy face, and these days his smile is broader than ever. The reason: his 16 year-old daughter Anahi has come to live with him.
n FORMER PRIME Minister Ehud Olmert, a soccer player in his youth and a lifelong avid soccer fan and sports fan in general, was in Rome last week to cheer on his favorite team Manchester United which lost to Barcelona in the final match in the UEFA Champions League. Olmert will be in New York this week, leaving June 4 to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. Olmert, 63, made his condition public in October 2007, notifying President Shimon Peres, before he told the nation.
There has been wide interest in Olmert's health in the international media, and not just because he decided not to be operated on in Israel, but opted instead to go to America for a non-invasive robotic assisted lapaoascopic prostatectomy, which is called the da Vinci system, and reduces blood loss, pain, recovery time and various side effects. His wife and children will accompany him, and it remains to be seen whether Israel's legal authorities will take his health into consideration when determining the date of his trial. Meanwhile, he has been the recipient of numerous good wishes from many quarters for a complete and speedy recovery.
n MILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN Jean Friedman and his wife Daniela hosted a benefit evening for 'Make a Wish,' an organization dedicated to turning the dreams of sick children into realities. The Friedmans' daughter Elisa is a student at the American International School in Israel, as is Gil Ofer, the son of businessman and philanthropist Idan Ofer. Students at the school have previously participated in "Make a Wish" events. Following in the tradition of his family which gives generously to countless causes, Gil Ofer, who came with his father to the stunning Friedman mansion in Savyon, told the story of fulfilling the wish of a six year-old boy who asked for a bed in the shape of a car. When the young Ofer saw the smile on the child's face, his heart melted, and he became totally enamored with and active in the "Make a Wish" organization. Among those who came to help make dreams come true were Benny Steinmetz, Nava Barak and Shalom Zinger, Dov Tadmor, Meir Shamir and his wife, Greek Ambassador Nicholas Zafiropoulas and his wife Lynne, Sherry Tavori, Yoav Bruk, Asaf Barnea and many more. The American International School involves its students in philanthropic projects so that they will develop of sense of community responsibility at an early age.