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UNLIKE HIS predecessor, who used to go home to Kiryat Malachi for the High Holy Days, President Shimon Peres will not be returning to Tel Aviv for Rosh Hashana. Instead, he will pray in three synagogues within walking distance of Beit Hanassi, attending services to usher in the holiday at Hazvi Yisrael congregation, less than a five-minute walk from Beit Hanassi, and subsequent services at the Great Synagogue and Yeshurun.
Peres, who is reputed to need very little sleep, seems to be confirming this with overly long work days. On Sunday, he visited several schools in the Jerusalem area, arriving at the first at 7:45 a.m. In the evening, he participated in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Van Leer Institute - and he was busy working for most of the afternoon. This morning, Wednesday, he leaves for Rome on a 6 a.m. flight, which means that he has to get up at least an hour in advance.
After meeting with Italian dignitaries during the day, he will be feted at a state dinner hosted by Prime Minister Romano Prodi. But this doesn't mean he can rest afterwards. At 9 p.m. he will meet the Jewish community of Rome, whom he is scheduled to address at 10 p.m. in the Great Synagogue. Someone who used to work with Peres says that people less than half his age can't keep up with him.
Peres is already thinking ahead to other trips abroad. In mid-August he was visited by Kazakhstan Ambassador Vadim Zverkov, who came to convey birthday greetings, not realizing that Peres was born on August 2, and not on August 16, as had been listed in some of his biographical data. It was just before the Kazakhstan elections, which gave Peres the opportunity to express his confidence in the success of Kazakhstan's endeavors to become a democracy. Peres, who has visited Kazakhstan on more than one occasion, reportedly expressed his intention to visit yet again, this time in his presidential capacity.
NO-ONE MADE more friends for Kazakhstan in Israel than Byragnym Aitimova, who was its first ambassador to this country. The charismatic Aitimova, who served in Israel in 1996-2002, was subsequently ambassador to Italy. Prior to her diplomatic career, she had been a member of parliament and a government minister. Following the completion of her tour of duty in Italy, she was appointed minister of education and science and deputy prime minister. But apparently she prefers diplomacy to politics, because in March of this year, she again became an ambassador, and is currently Kazakhstan's permanent representative at the United Nations.
IT MAY not have been something that he intended to put on his CV, but Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, otherwise known as the "rabbi of the Kotel," seems to be developing a reputation for conducting the wedding ceremonies of politicians who are entering into second marriages. First it was Yossi and Daniella Beilin. Then, a couple of months back, it was Ehud and Nili Barak. Next in line are Haim Ramon and Vered Sharon Rivlin, who have set the date for October 10. When Ramon was charged and subsequently convicted of sexual harassment, Rivlin nonetheless stuck by her man, and will soon be standing with him under a bridal canopy.
THOUGH NO longer in politics, Natan Sharansky continues to be a popular public figure. On Tuesday, he participated in the tribute to Beit Hatefutsoth donors in his capacity as chairman of its board of directors. The honorees included the Nadav Fund, which is headed by Leonid Nevzlin, chairman of Beit Hatefutsoth's international board of governors; the Claims Conference; The Federmann family; Dan Hotels; Sabby Mionis; and the Community of Koinsk. On Thursday night, he will deliver the keynote address: "Seeing the Light through the Darkness: Living During Difficult Times," at a Tishkofet-organized event at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem. Tishkofet is a non-profit organization providing educational and other kinds of support for patients, families and professionals dealing with life-threatening illnesses.
APROPOS THE Federmanns, they also have their own major event this week when they celebrate the 40th anniversary of Elbit Systems Ltd., of which the Federmann Group are the principal shareholders, and Michael Federmann is the chairman of the board. The intended guest of honor at the Elbit celebration was President Peres, but Peres will not be able to attend, due to his being in Italy.
KNOWN AS a marvelous party-giver, the ebullient Alice Krieger, who makes a point of taking guests by the hand and walking them through the crowd to introduce them to other guests, did not disappoint this year when she entertained an extremely varied group of people on the back patio of her delightful Tel Aviv home. The party was a birthday celebration, and although it is quite common these days for women to reveal their age, Krieger has decided to leave hers a secret - or rather, to go into count-down mode. Anticipating in her speech how many people were wondering how old she was, she announced that for the coming year she was 49, and that next year she would be 48 and the year after would turn 47.
Among the guests were Krieger's childhood friend, Dr. (Lady) Naomi Lightman and her husband, Sir Gavin Lightman, a British High Court Judge; Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Boim and his wife, Edna; eminent lawyer Michael Fox (who has just published a book) and his wife, Sheila; senior diplomat Jacob Levy and his wife, Ellen; former chief of General Staff Dan Halutz and his wife, Irit; prize-winning photographers David Rubinger and Micha Baram and his wife, Orna; Australian Ambassador James Larsen; second in command at the British Embassy Janet Rogan; composer/conductor David Krivoshei; Dr. Ilan Gull, a member of Physicians for Human Rights; actor Shlomo Baraba; former deputy minister Yehuda Ben Meir - who is now a research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University - and his wife, Dvora; and a host of other interesting people. Krieger, an e-mail addict, decided not to send out regular greeting cards for Rosh Hashana, and has instead e-mailed a downloaded recording of the haunting High Holy Day prayer, Unetane Tokef.
IT'S NEVER too early to issue a wedding invitation, even if there is not yet a bride. Boaz Silverman, the youngest of four siblings and the son of Naomi and Bob Silverman of Bet Shemesh, has a huge number of relatives both in Israel and the US. Most of his Israeli relatives, and some of his American ones, flocked to Bet Shemesh to join him in celebrating his bar mitzva. In acknowledging their presence, and in thanking those who made the long journey from America, Boaz expressed regret that other members of his family had been unable for various reasons to come to Israel at this time, and took the opportunity to invite them to his wedding. Marriage at a young age is not unusual in his circle, so although the invitation generated a ripple of laughter at his bar mitzva dinner, the young man of the hour seemed, in fact, quite serious.
DESPITE DECADES of contention that Yiddish is dying out, there seems to be a major swing towards revivalism. It is heard much more on the radio; there are clips from Yiddish productions on television; Yiddish plays and concerts continue to attract full houses; and enrollments for classes in Yiddish are increasing all the time. Beit Leyvik in Tel Aviv is starting a new Yiddish semester. In Jerusalem, people were literally begging for tickets for the third concert of Jewish soul music that featured cantors Asher Heinovitz, Yehuda Rotner and Shimon Bergman singing Yiddish favorites, plus one or two cantorial melodies. The three harmonized beautifully in chorus, and outdid each other in solos, much to the delight of the appreciative audience. Cantor Naftali Hershtik decided not to strain his glorious voice prior to the Rosh Hashana services, confining himself to a lecture on the connection between cantorial and Yiddish music, pointing out that nearly all the great composers of Yiddish songs had a background in synagogue liturgy. Hershtik sat at the side of the auditorium, beaming with satisfaction as his colleagues competed good naturedly with one another to produce one of the most memorable of Yiddish concerts. Hopefully the many people who were turned away for lack of room will have an opportunity to hear them at some future Yiddish get-together.
WHILE ON the subject of Yiddish, Bryna Wasserman, the director of the Yiddish Theater at the Segal Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Saidye Bronfman Center), founded half a century ago in Montreal by her late mother, Dora Wasserman - widely acknowledged as the doyenne of the Yiddish Theater - was in Israel last week for the bar mitzva of her grand-nephew, Tal Gaffen. Tal's grandmother, Ella Gaffen, who works in the hotel industry, several years ago - when employed at the Neve Ilan hotel - organized a Yiddish festival which brought people from all over the country to Neve Ilan. Because no Wasserman/Gaffen family celebration is devoid of Yiddish, Gaffen sang a couple of songs, while her sister encouraged the people gathered in the banquet room to join in - and they just loved it. Gaffen's son, Haim, was the cause of the family's coming on aliya. They wanted to celebrate his bar mitzva in Israel, and decided that since they were all coming anyway, they may as well stay. Their initial home was on Kibbutz Giladi, where Haim Gaffen, today a country-western singer/guitarist and composer, was the first bar mitzva boy. He and his wife and children now live on Kibbutz Galon.
Although Wasserman has many theatrical successes under her belt, she is particularly proud of YAYA (Young Actors Young Audiences), in which high school students have been touring Canada and the US with a play written in English by child Holocaust survivor Batia Bettman about teenagers in the ghetto. Wasserman believes that this youth-to-youth project is one of the best educational tools for teaching Holocaust history and awareness, because after each performance, the audience and the actors engage in dialogue.
A HUNDRED shekels for a ticket to a movie might seem a little steep, but Friends of Melabev chairwoman Nancy Brown and her team had little trouble selling tickets for a benefit screening of The World's Fastest Indian, with proceeds going to projects for the memory-impaired elderly. Some people doled out more than NIS100 to see the movie at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Sponsors parted with NIS300, but were happy to do so. Members of the audience were also urged by Harvey Chesterman, co-chairman of the Melabev Walk-a-Thon, which raises money for Melabev projects, to sign up after the movie for a three-day walk-a-thon in Mitzpe Ramon at the end of November. The spiel was accompanied by a power-point presentation illustrating not only the beauty of the Negev desert, but also the friendships formed on the walk.
THE JERUSALEM Cinematheque, which in the past has hosted numerous eminent figures from abroad, will on Thursday host His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex and British Ambassador Tom Phillips. Prince Edward is in Israel for the Gold Award presentation of the Israel Youth Award.
ART DEALER, business entrepreneur and man-about-town Ronald Fuhrer added a feather to his cap when he concluded an agreement with artist Meir Appelfeld to be his exclusive representative in Israel and abroad. To celebrate this coup, Fuhrer launched an exhibition of 27 of Appelfeld's works, valued at around NIS1 million, at the Golconda Gallery in Tel Aviv. Invitees included prominent business people and art collectors, such as Nochi Dankner, Eitan Wertheimer, Mori Arkin, Zohar Zisapel, Lenny Recanati, Meir and Ruth Sheetrit, Maurice Kahn and several others among the rich and famous.
ALTHOUGH IT'S hotter than most places in Israel, Eilat continues to attract both the glitterati and the "common people," especially during weekends and at times when there's some sort of organized gathering. Thus, there was a good representation of Israel's entertainment industry at the beach festival promoting lemon-flavored Tuborg beer. Not everyone can drink alcohol in the heat, but it was one occasion for seeing and being seen. Among the celebrities present was model and television hostess Becky Griffin, who was escorted by Shai Avital, one of the proprietors of Elite Models. He didn't seem to mind that she was both drinking and smoking - not to mention sitting in the sun. But none of the three vices seems to have had a negative effect on her skin.