MIDDLE-AGED and older teeny boppers who were au fait with the whole repertoire of Peter, Paul and Mary, sat in the Anna Ticho restaurant in Jerusalem and rapturously joined Peter Yarrow, who represents one third of the famous trio as he sang and strummed some of his favorite songs such as Puff the Magic Dragon, Blowing in the Wind, If I had a Hammer, and the song that changed his life, Don't Laugh at Me.
The totally engaging Yarrow was there to help promote The Media Line, an American non-profit news service with a special focus on the Middle East, and a mission of commitment to tell the whole story without favoring any side in the Middle East conflict.
TML co-founders Felice and Michael Friedson have a very special relationship with Yarrow based on a mutual passion for making information available, and respecting and understanding the other regardless of differences.
Yarrow's patience was sorely tried by restaurant staff who kept walking through the room, clanged plates, talked and operated a noisy espresso machine while he was performing.
Nonetheless, he kept his cool, and eventually won them over with his singing and cheery personality. His belief that music is a miraculous vehicle for bonding proved itself yet again.
As part of a fundraising effort for The Media Line, Yarrow auctioned off what he called a kosher guitar that he had decorated and autographed, and which he subsequently dedicated to the buyer, businessman David Zwebner, who once ran a rock band that included Israel's former ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker.
Now that he has his new Peter Yarrow guitar and Baker is back in Jerusalem, Zwebner is seriously considering putting the band back on the map.
n THE BEST laid plans of mice and men can be upset by the Labor Party.
Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi had planned a cocktail reception to celebrate the inauguration of the 18th Knesset.
For various reasons, the date was some time after the inauguration and unfortunately happened to coincide with the stormy Labor Party meeting in which it was decided that Labor would join the government coalition. Takeuchi, with the best of intentions, had even gone so far as to hold the reception at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem rather than at his residence in Herzliya Pituah, because the Knesset is in Jerusalem. Invitees included members of the Israel-Japan Friendship Club and the Israel-Japan Chamber of Commerce.
For the first half hour of the evening the event was overwhelmingly dominated by Japanese, who eagerly pounced on any Israeli entering the room to give him or her the most cordial and enthusiastic of welcomes. Eventually there were quite a few Israelis, including Eli Lancman, the former chairman of the Israel Japan Friendship Society, who came all the way from Haifa, historian and foreign policy expert Meron Medzini, who has written extensively on Japan's foreign policy, and of course Kadima MK Shai Hermesh, outgoing chairman of the Knesset's Japanese Friendship League, who on the previous day had celebrated his 65th birthday, a fact that was mentioned by the ambassador. Other members of the Friendship League who were in attendance were David Rotem and Yoel Hasson.
Hermesh confessed that when he first became an MK in 2006, he really didn't know in which direction to turn. His parliamentary assistant Dikla Cohen had advised him to opt for the chairmanship of the Japanese Friendship League.
Hermesh, who admitted to knowing almost nothing about Japan at that stage was hesitant, but acted with alacrity after Cohen told him: "If you don't go for it today, someone else will have it tomorrow."
The experience had been fascinating he said, and he had lost count of the number of times that he'd been invited to the Japanese residence. He was looking forward to the opportunity to reciprocate and host the Japanese ambassador at his home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza.
n GREEK INDEPENDENCE Day was hosted by Ambassador Nicholas Zafiropoulous and his wife Lynne at the Greek Residence in Kfar Shmaryahu. As at all such events, there was a large representation of the diplomatic corps, but perhaps more so on this occasion because Lynne Zafiropoulous is president of the Diplomatic Spouses Club, and spouses who don't always show up at such affairs made a point of being present at this one. Government ministers, who with two exceptions were playing musical chairs, did not attend, but the government was represented by Rafi Barak of the Foreign Ministry.
Ram Aviram, a former Israel Ambassador to Greece was also present, as were a group of sailors from the NATO ship docked at Haifa Port. Many of the crew happened to be Greek.
In welcoming his guests to Greece's National Day, Zafiropoulous declared that it marked the rebirth of the Greek Nation as well as the rebirth of democracy in the land where democracy was first established.
He was delighted, he said, that the 188th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence coincided with the closing of the celebrations marking the first 60 years of the State of Israel.
Both nations, he observed, are linked by many similarities such as very deep roots in history, the Diaspora phenomenon, and even the sharing of the same national colors. Another commonality was a bitter history of struggle from within as well as from without until each could achieve sovereignty and assert national identity. Referring to the solid economic ties between Greece and Israel, Zafiropoulous noted that between 2005-2008 the total volume of bilateral trade had increased by 20 percent, reaching $ 522.7 million.
n CANADIAN AMBASSADOR Jon Allen has found himself sandwiched between art exhibitions. Last Saturday night he opened the exhibition of American-born artist Sali Ariel at the Rozin Center Gallery in Ramat Aviv Gimmel, and next Saturday night he will attend the opening of an exhibition by his wife Clara Hirsch at Machon Hamayim, The Muncipal Gallery of Givatayim.
Allen did the honors for Ariel and opened the exhibition by saying that Sali is not Canadian or of Canadian ancestry but was born in Arkansas and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and as far as he knew Canada had not annexed either yet.
He was opening the exhibition he said, "not as an ambassador, but as an art lover and a friend, the husband of an artist, and an admirer of Sali's work."
For him, Sali Ariel's works capture a part of Tel Aviv that so many of those present know so well. Ariel is currently specializing in Bauhaus buildings which she has been painting for almost a decade. In addition to Allen and his wife, other art lovers at the opening included Tel Aviv deputy mayor Natan Wollach, Nigerian Ambassador Dada Olisa and his wife Janet, Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi and his wife Nabuko and Jelena Isakov, wife of the Serbian Ambassador and immediate past president of the International Women's Club, plus many other Coastal Plain notables.
n RETIRED BUILDING contractor Jack Beris and his wife Selina were somewhat disappointed that their children had not organized a family get-together to celebrate the couple's 50th wedding anniversary. What they didn't know was that their four offspring were planning a real nostalgia night at the Blue Moon restaurant in Modi'in.
The venue was chosen as a central location for people coming from both the north and the south of the country. In the course of their marriage, the couple has done a lot of moving around, living in at least a dozen different places, often because a house built by Beris aroused so much admiration that they were besieged by would-be buyers.
They met as teenagers in an interstate Habonim camp in Australia. Selina was from Sydney, Jack from Melbourne. It was love at first sight, and they married young and came on aliya.
One of his major projects was the Wolfson residential complex, one of the first high-rise buildings in Jerusalem. The excuse to get the couple to Modiin was that their son-in-law was being honored for something, and as extremely family conscious people, they naturally agreed to attend.
Guests were invited to come an hour earlier. With just over a handful of exceptions, they were all Australian, some of whom had known each other from babyhood, others who had been at school or at university together, and still others who knew one another from Habonim and possibly from school as well.
So the Golden Wedding was as much a reunion as it was a family celebration, with rib-tickling recollections by younger brother Sammy Beris and best friend Alec Braizblatt, as well as by Beris offspring.
Braizblatt came with his wife Ann. Other Australians included Libby and Norman Lourie, Ann and George Fink, Gwen Gorr, Jacqueline Miller, Harold Segal, Sue Winikoff, Isaac (Pixie) and Annie Ernest, Louise (nee Goulburn) and her Israeli husband Amos Israeli, and Michael Goldsmith and his South African wife Pamela. Among the non-Australians were Toby Shuster and Joan Kedem and some of the Beris in-laws.
Although most of the Aussies present had seen each other at Beris weddings over the years, many had not seen each other in well over twelve months and had a wonderful time reminiscing and catching up with each other.
n IN WASHINGTON last month to open the Americas Business Council Reconciliation Forum was former Chief Rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, who is currently Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. The Forum brought together world leaders from government, business and civil society to explore ways to impact positive change in the face of prevailing injustice and conflict.
Recalling his own background as a young Holocaust survivor, Lau said: "When we emerged in 1945 from the ghettos and concentration camps and death camps, no one saw campaigns of revenge from the side of the survivors against their enemies, even towards the Nazis who survived the war... Painfully, and with a commitment to never forgive or forget, we understand that mankind's needs require us to live together - with no more wars and no more conflicts. We had suffered so much, and in vain. We were after all innocent. I, a 7-8 year old child: What had I done against the National-Socialist Party in Germany? I had done no harm; I didn't endanger the very existence of Germany. So we were clearly the victims. And yet, we didn't resort to hatred. On the contrary: We returned to build our own home, in safety and peace...."
To emphasize the importance of dialogue between people, Lau went back to the first recorded killing, and referred to the Biblical text regarding brothers Cain and Abel.
"Nothing whatsoever is mentioned about what one said to the other. Just that they were in the field together. And that Cain stood up and killed his own brother. There was no dialogue.
"My dear friend Archbishop Tutu," he urged the famed South African clergyman Archbishop Desmond Tutu with whom shared a platform, "Just look at the Book: No dialogue between Cain and Abel. This, perhaps, is the core reason for bloodshed: lack of dialogue."
Other Forum participants included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, philanthropist Haim Saban, former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, former Tel Aviv University President and former Israel Ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich, Paul Rusesabagina ("Hotel Rwanda") and diplomats and human rights activists from around the globe.
n ISRAEL'S FIRST President Chaim Weizmann and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol were singled out at the annual Nissan 1 commemoration of the New Year for Kings which in modern Israel has been replaced by the New Year honoring the memories of deceased presidents and prime ministers.
At the ceremony at Beit Hanassi, where President Shimon Peres was supposed to talk about Weizmann and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about Eshkol, Olmert was upstaged by Peres, who having known both Weizmann and Eshkol personally, was in a position to talk knowingly about both of them.
n THE NAME Lilyan Wilder may not mean a great deal to most people, but for anyone who ever had anything to do with the American media and with representing Israel abroad, it was a name of immense importance. When she passed away last week many a person in public life in Israel and abroad felt a personal loss.
Lilyan Wilder was considered the foremost teacher and speech coach in the US, and inter alia was the speech guru at ABC and other television networks. But the most important fact in her life was her deep love for Israel and her passionate support for the Jewish State and Zionism. During her long career she had known all the leading lights of the Zionist world and had guided many Israeli spokespersons on how to conduct themselves in the electronic media.
Lilyan Wilder considered Binyamin Netanyahu and former ambassador Zalman Shoval her star pupils - and when the latter went to Washington on his first appointment as Ambassador, Netanyahu gave him an important piece of advice: "Go and see Lilyan Wilder!" In accordance with her wishes, Lilyan Wilder, who passed away in her home in New York, was buried in Jerusalem at the Givat Shaul Cemetery.
In her 80s at the time of her demise, she had a career that spanned six decades during which she gained the reputation of the 'grand dame of media training.' In addition to Netanyahu and Shoval, her students included broadcasting stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Charlie Rose and Maria Shriver; states-persons like George Bush (the father), John Sculley and Katharine Graham plus many others. As an avid supporter of Israel, she devoted many hours to voluntarily train tens of Israeli diplomats, media people and politicians in how to better transfer Israel's message to the world.
She came to Israel a number of times, again in a voluntary capacity, to lead workshops at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to coach future business and community leaders through Israeli academic institutions. Her love for Israel was so great and so all-encompassing that she dedicated her later years to working for Israel. She had no living survivors.
In eulogizing her, Netanyahu said that it was fitting that she should find her final resting place in Jerusalem.
"Her commitment to Israel and the Jewish People was absolute and indefatigable.
Lilyan sought to help Israel roll back the slanders by its enemies and puncture the lies of its detractors. She did so by giving freely of her talents to many of Israel's representatives stationed in the United States. I consider myself lucky to have had such a teacher. I will miss her greatly."
Uri Savir, a former Consul General in New York, recalled Wilder's rare ability to understand interpersonal communication between different societies and cultures.
Naomi Bentsur, who like others remembered Wilder's contribution to the betterment of Israel's image by helping Israeli diplomats and envoys to enhance their public speaking skills and abilities, also looked back on their meetings in New York coffee shops where they spent hours exchanging professional views. Rena Lazarus, who worked closely with Wilder and arranged her funeral, wrote a memorial poem in which she called Wilder "my beloved mentor.'
n NOW THAT she's no longer hampered by her work in the Knesset, former Meretz MK Zehava Galon can spend more time in her efforts to stamp out traffic in human beings and in getting more women involved in the decision-making processes in government, business and academia.
Towards this end, Galon, whose human rights activities were officially recognized in a State ceremony at Beit Hanassi at the beginning of the week, last week met with women who have carved careers for themselves in the fields of business, communications, law, academia, third sector, and feminist organizations.
The meeting at Comme il Faut's House at the Port (Bayit B'Namal) on the Tel Aviv waterfront was initiated by Comme il Faut CEO Sybil Goldfiner and resulted in the creation of a "Parliament of Women Leaders" that will convene regularly at Bayit Be'Namal.
n ARTISTS DEPICTED in novels, stage plays and movies are usually starving, but thirteen immigrant artists from Russia and Ethiopia can temporarily stave off hunger with the NIS 25,000 that each of them received last Thursday from outgoing Minister for Immigrant Absorption Eli Aflalo.
The thirteen artists, from a broad spectrum of disciplines including the plastic arts, music, fiction, theater, cinema, poetry, humor, satire and journalism received the 2008 Yuri Shtern Prize for New Immigrant Artists.
Shtern, who was a Zionist activist and community leader in Moscow, continued in this vein when he came to Israel in 1981, working initially to find jobs for fellow immigrants from the Soviet Union and subsequently moving into politics.
Elected to the Knesset in 1996, he served until January, 2007, when he died after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
A tireless worker for new immigrants and the underprivileged, he was also a great advocate for cultural expression in every field and led the campaign for the enactment of the Cinema Law which regulates government support for local cinema. An amateur guitarist and poet himself, he also promoted individual artists, cultural institutions and artistic projects.
His family and friends established the Yuri Shtern Foundation to keep his legacy alive through the promotion of the activities to which he devoted so much of his energy.
In presenting the prizes, Aflalo noted the extent to which Israeli culture had become enriched through the creative efforts of immigrants to the country. Prize recipients were painter and graphic artist Ilya Bogdanovsky, Gesher Theater stage and artistic director Yevgeny Aryeh, film director Peter Mostovoy, journalist and television script writer and editor Ella Kozakov, composer Yosef Bardanashvili, conductor and choirmaster Ilya Plotkin, jazz musician Abatte Barihun, satirist David Zilber, poets Hava Bracha Korzokova and Stein Alma and writers Abraham Adega and Dina Rubina.
Highly talented, several of the recipients have previously won international and local prizes.
n ISRAEL HAS taken more than a few hard knocks from critics around the world, but whatever people may think of Israel's politics or military incursions beyond her borders, anti-Israel sentiments take a back seat when it comes to judging Israel's beautiful women - especially those in the political arena. No less than four Israeli politicians - three of them current, and one former - were among the 54 politicians from 30 countries who won places in an online poll conducted by the popular Spanish newspaper 20 Minutos.
n Orli Levy 35, of Israel Beiteinu, was in 14th place, which within the framework of the survey made her the most beautiful politician in Israel. There were some countries whose female politicians did not score sufficient points for inclusion in the list.
In addition to Levy, Israelis on the list were Pnina Rosenblum 53, former Likud MK in 19th place, Kadima's Ruhama Avraham Balila, 44, in 23rd place, and Israel Beiteinu's Anastasia Michaeli, 33, in 31st place. Age was obviously not a factor in the choices that included US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who at age 61, ranked 34. Possibly in response to the comment by her husband, former US President Bill Clinton that her age had gone against her in the last US Presidential elections, public reaction indicated she was considered beautiful despite her age.
n IN WHAT the Austrian media dubbed the "high society wedding of the year," Austrian Jewish billionaire Martin Schlaff, who was a partner with the Palestinian Authority, Casinos Austria, and the Austrian BAWAG Bank in the Oasis Casino in Jericho, and who was also involved in illegal campaign contributions to Ariel Sharon, married off his son Benny in a glittering ceremony attended by the Who's Who of Vienna, political and business leaders, opera and pop stars, European and American jetsetters, and several Israelis, the most prominent of whom were Avigdor Lieberman, Haim Ramon and Aryeh Deri.
There were also a huge number of bodyguards, which was hardly surprising as the combined wealth of the guests could probably cover Israel's national budget. Benny and Golda Schlaff decided to have a somewhat less lavish affair than that of the groom's sister Nina who was married two years ago.
The latest Schlaff wedding took place on Sunday, enabling the Israelis to return home in time for the swearing-in ceremony of the new government on Tuesday.
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