Grapevine: More than just an olive branch

"Although the name of Jerusalem means peace, it is in fact a city of conflict."

September 26, 2006 23:18
Grapevine: More than just an olive branch

grapes 88. (photo credit: )


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ALTHOUGH THE Museum of Tolerance is encountering difficulties with regard to its building site in Jerusalem which has become a source of controversy over Muslim graves there, another tolerance monument in the capital may fare better because its site is less problematic, and because the donor has the support and approval of not only the Jerusalem Municipality, but also the Peres Peace Center where he is a member of the international board of governors. Polish businessman Aleksander Gudzowaty, the director of Bartimpex, a foreign trade enterprise that does business in Israel, is a frequent visitor to the country. Born in Lodz, but now living near Warsaw, Gudzowaty grew up in a religious home in which tolerance for others was a byword. His family was on excellent terms with their Jewish neighbors, and in the post-war years when his mother visited Israel to meet up with old friends, she felt perfectly at home, because Polish was the native tongue of so many Israeli citizens. Although the name of Jerusalem means peace, it is in fact a city of conflict, he says, which is why he decided to put up a tolerance monument in Armon Hanatziv, opposite the United Nations headquarters at the top of a hill that separates Armon Hanatziv from the Arab village of Jabal Mukaber. The monument, which is several meters tall, was designed by Polish artist Czeslaw Dzwigaj in collaboration in the initial stages with sculptor Michal Kubiak. The concept is the split column of a nameless temple reaching to the sky. In its split state the column resembles a tree trunk torn asunder by lightning. In between the two sections is an olive tree whose branches reach up over the top of both parts of the column, with a small grain surrounded by a halo at the top. The grain says Gudzowaty, is "a golden grain of tolerance." Gudzowaty was in Jerusalem this week to participate in the ceremonial signing of an agreement with representatives of the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Peres Peace Center. He hopes to host a festive unveiling of the tolerance monument in June, 2007. WHILE SOME members of the government, the Jewish Agency and the general public rediscovered their Zionist idealism during the week in which the remains of the offspring of Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl were brought to Israel for reburial on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, at least one resident of the capital was cheesed off. It wasn't that she objected to all the hype related to the fulfillment of Herzl's last will and testament. She was all for the Herzl family being united in death if not in life, but she was angry that organizers of the ceremony had not invited her to the reinterment. Not that artist, poet and translator Nomi Zuckerman would have been able to attend. In her late eighties and in poor health, she would have had to reluctantly decline the invitation had it come her way - but there is no one of her generation left at the Jewish Agency to remember that it was Zuckerman who in 1949 arranged and oversaw the transfer of Herzl's coffin from Austria to Israel. Born in the United States to prominent Zionist activists Baruch and Nina Zuckerman, she came in 1925 with her parents and older sister Avivah to Palestine, arriving just in time to witness the laying of the cornerstone for the Hebrew University. While still in high school in Jerusalem's Gymnasia Rehavia, she served as a member of the communications division of the Hagana, which in 1947,sent her to Austria, supposedly as a member of the Jewish Agency's education committee which was running a variety of educational programs for refugee children. What she was doing in fact, was rounding up adult refugees to bring them illegally to Palestine. Zuckerman could move around freely because she had a US passport. After the creation of the State, she was given quasi-diplomatic status authorizing her to stamp the first Israeli passports - including her own - of the Israeli group in Austria. She also issued travel documents to refugees and was closely involved in negotiations to transfer Herzl's remains to Jerusalem. Together with Kurt Levin, the Israeli consul in Salzburg, she attended the transfer ceremony on August 16, 1949. It was a special occasion in more ways than one. Almost 46 years earlier her father had heard Herzl speak in Vilna, and now she had played a part in ensuring that Herzl's final resting place should be in the Jewish homeland. FOUR GENERATIONS of the Jaglom family gathered in the Tel Aviv penthouse apartment of philanthropists Yosef and Raya Jaglom over Rosh Hashana, not only to celebrate the New Year, but also to celebrate Josef Jaglom's 103rd birthday, replete with birthday cake. Festivities continued well into the night with the man of the hour enjoying every moment and showing no signs of fatigue. Jaglom continued to run his Geneva-based business until he was well into his nineties, and was at work bright and early each morning. Reluctant to retire, he finally acceded to the persuasions of his family, but continues to take a keen and opinionated interest in world affairs. DIPLOMATS AND others are going to miss the gracious hospitality of Adina Gottesman, who has just retired from the position of honorary consul general for Nepal, a post she filled for 12 years. Gottesman hosted Nepal's national holidays in her charming orchid garden in Herzliya Pituah, issued visas to Nepal, took care of Nepalese citizens who were studying or working in Israel, promoted tourism to Nepal and represented Nepal at numerous official events. But after twelve years, she felt that she was entitled to a private life. Her successor, Ilan Nir, will be working out of an office on Rehov HaBarzel in Tel Aviv. AMERICAN-BORN David Baker, the foreign media liaison in the Prime Minister's Office, spent Rosh Hashana in the United States, where a four-city lecture tour took him to California, Texas, Virginia and New Jersey, but not to his native Queens in New York. He has been speaking to Jewish groups as well as to university students on campus, and was tremendously encouraged by the intense interest in Israel, which he said, was "the strongest I have ever seen." Baker frequently travels abroad on the lecture circuit, telling the story of Israel as it is and fielding questions from both friends and foes. IT'S ALL a question of timing. In mid-2005, when DJ (David) Schneeweiss was named deputy head of mission at the Israel Embassy in London, it raised a hue and cry that echoed all the way to the Jerusalem Labor Court, which cancelled his appointment on the grounds that then foreign minister Silvan Shalom had exerted undue influence on the selection committee. For the record, Schneeweiss was not a political appointee. A career diplomat, he had previously served as a policy adviser to foreign minister David Levy, and had been press secretary of the Israel Embassy to the Court of St. James, where he acquitted himself extremely well. However, considering that he was policy adviser to Shalom at the time of his promotion, Shalom's interference proved to be a hindrance rather than a help. In England, where Schneeweiss was extremely popular, leaders of the Jewish community were outraged by the court's ruling. They had been embarrassed by a series of Israel ambassadors such as Dror Zeigerman, Zvi Shtauber and Zvi Hefetz whose command of the language of the host country was a long way from the Queen's English. The Australian-born Schneeweiss is erudite, presentable and polite, but perhaps more important is capable of credibly presenting Israel's case to the world and of holding his own in a debate. A year later, when Schneeweiss - now 41 and the father of infant twins - was again named a deputy head of mission, there was no appeal to the Labor Court - perhaps because current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to whom he also acted as political adviser, steered clear of the selection committee - or possibly because the destination was Beijing and not London, or simply because he was deserving of the position. Though relatives and friends of his British-born wife Joanne would have obviously preferred to see the couple and their twins Ben and Tali in England, as would some of his own relatives who live there, China is closer than Israel to Australia, which may enable more frequent visits from the babies' paternal grandparents who reside in Sydney. Schneeweiss's father Joachim, a well-known physician, is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Schneeweiss, who is distantly related to MK Benny Elon, made aliya in 1987, and has a master's degree in political science from the Hebrew University. Considering that China has veto power in the UN Security Council, and thus has a major role to play on the development of Iranian nuclear capability, Schneeweiss is going to have his work cut out. TWO DAYS prior to Rosh Hashana, a steady stream of cars with white CD license plates drove through the double gates of Beit Hanassi to deposit heads and deputy heads of some 80 foreign missions at the edge of the red carpet that led from the grounds to the interior of the building. The leaders of Israel's diplomatic community had come to convey New Year greetings to President Moshe Katsav and his wife Gila. Standing with the Katsavs in the receiving line was Foreign Ministry director- general Aharon Abramovich, in lieu of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was attending the annual general assembly of the United Nations. Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Cameroon Henri Etoundi Essomba, voiced the solidarity of the diplomatic community with Israel and expressed condolences to all the families who lost loved ones in the recent war in Lebanon. Essomba termed the prolonged hostage situation with regard to the three abducted Israeli soldiers as "an issue of worry for all of us." The diplomatic community considers Hizbullah's aggression against Israel on July 12, 2006, after previously unprovoked attacks "as the main cause of the harsh confrontation we have all witnessed," said Essomba, adding: "We condemn the Hizbullah aggression." The diplomatic corps joined the international community in demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted soldiers and the enabling of their safe return to their families, he said. In Essomba's view, the lesson to be learned from recent events was the degree of responsibility required from political leaders "in a region that can inflame so easily." Essomba emphasized the importance of having the international community as a stabilizing power on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Turning to Iran, Essomba declared that the international community's efforts to pressure Iran to put a halt to its nuclear program deserved the support of all nations. "We strongly oppose and condemn the Iranian president's call for the destruction of the State of Israel," he said. "Nevertheless, we remain faithful to the ongoing tripartite negotiations involving the European Union, the United Nations and Iran hoping that they could contribute to successfully defuse the existing tensions in the region." The diplomatic corps welcomed the decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, said Essomba. He also advised the Palestinian leadership to devote their energy and efforts towards alleviating economic distress and the suffering of the population; and to maintain a permanent and open channel of communication "in order to give peace a chance." Essomba suggested that the Palestinians embrace a more realistic policy which would entail accepting the three conditions of the international community, which he said would certainly help in the resumption of foreign financial assistance to the Palestinians and the peace process. Katsav, in response, voiced the appreciation of the Jewish people and the State of Israel for the solidarity demonstrated by the diplomatic corps and said that Israel was facing "new questions, new difficulties and new challenges that we did not know a year ago." He had been much more optimistic about the future a year ago, Katsav said. "I wonder if we have a serious and true partner who knows that this is a golden opportunity to bring about an historic change of peace and security in the Middle East." The real conflict in the Middle East, he said, is not between Israel and the Palestinians, but with extremists who want to control Muslim society and fight the free world. Commenting that there were many Muslims who support the concept of universal values and the free world, Katsav numbered amongst them "constructive elements" among the Palestinians. It was the extremists who refuse to accept the conditions specified by the Quartet and prevent any progress towards peace, he said. It was impossible to speak of political negotiations with the Hamas government while it refused to support commitments given to Israel by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, and while it refused to recognize the State of Israel's right to exist, Katsav said. With regard to the war in Lebanon, Israel had asked the international community many times to use its influence to persuade Beirut to take full responsibility for its sovereign territory and not to allow terrorist groups to take over, Katsav reminded his guests. If Hizbullah had been universally recognized as a terrorist organization, the war might not have happened, he said. After calling a toast to the New Year and raising his glass in the direction of his guests, Katsav turned to his wife and clinked glasses with her. Small, personal gestures between the two have become more evident as trouble swirls increasingly around Katsav's head. What is interesting is that ever since word leaked out of the possibility that A., his former secretary who alleges that he coerced her into granting him sexual favors, may be charged with extortion, both the print and electronic media have reduced the blur on her face to the extent that she is almost recognizable. APROPOS 'A,' Yehoram Gaon, in his weekly radio show last Friday, held an imaginary while-you-were-sleeping conversation with former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who remains in a coma. "You wouldn't believe it. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik was president for a day and she swore in Dorit Beinisch as president of the Supreme Court. Yes, Dalia Itzik. And Haim Ramon - he was the justice minister - got himself into trouble over a kiss. And A and B and C and N are accusing President Katsav of sexual coercion. Do you remember, Arik, when initials were reserved for anonymous heroes whose names remained classified for security reasons? Well now we're allowed to reveal their names but the names of women who claim to have been sexually harassed and abused by the president. They are the ones whose identities are now protected by alphabetic anonymity." ANY EXCUSE is a good excuse for a party. Thus, even though her daughter Lital chose to marry Itamar Shamshons within the small confines of the family circle, Michal Isaacs, who with her late husband Israel, established the Jerusalem Economic Forum, decided to throw a party for the newlyweds, to which she invited close friends and clients. Isaacs runs a highly successful insurance agency, a public relations office and a Jerusalem franchise for the Mausner fashion chain. She also writes a regular business-cum-social column for a weekly Jerusalem publication, so her circle of friends and acquaintances is quite large. Among those who attended the dinner dance in the courtyard of Beit Shmuel were Yair and Dassi Stern, Yehuda and Tammy Raveh, Mati and Sarah Davidovich, Uri Halfon, Nitza Ben Elissar, Ilan and Tzipi Roman, Shimon and Miri Sheetrit, Yoel and Batya Rekem, Yechiel and Tammy Gutman, Nir Barkat, Yechiel and Ruthie Leket, Mimi Knafu, and several other well-known Jerusalem personalities. A three-piece band played golden oldies including tangos, sambas, twist and rock 'n' roll loud enough for everyone to hear, but sufficiently toned down so as not to disrupt conversation. PATRIOTISM MAY be considered pass by some, but at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, it is both encouraged and appreciated, so much so that IDC President Prof. Amnon Rubinstein and founding president Uriel Reichman hosted a dinner enhanced by top-line entertainers in honor of the IDC students who were called to serve in the recent war in Lebanon. More than 250 of the IDC's 3,000 students who had responded to the call-up, happily exchanged their army fatigues for the more festive garb appropriate for the dinner. Both Rubinstein and Reichman praised the reservists for their readiness to serve. "The young generation's burden is a great one," said Rubinstein, "one that can easily be escaped by getting on a plane and leaving the country. But that doesn't happen here, and the reason is, I think, because we have no other Jewish state."

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