SIXTIES NOSTALGIA is pervasive. Fashion designers have resurrected the sixties silhouettes. Beatles star Sir Paul McCartney will finally perform in Israel on September 25, 43 years after he was supposed to appear in Israel with fellow Beatles John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. (They were banned, and it took a long time for Israel to apologize.) For the past year, Israel has been commemorating the 1967 war. And last week, the Czech Embassy hosted a lecture and film night commemorating the August 1968 invasion by Soviet troops. A documentary of the invasion illustrates how much freedom the Czechoslovakians had in comparison to citizens of other Soviet satellites. The film, "Seven Days to Remember," depicts Czechs with Beatles hairstyles and clothes that were recognizably sixties styles, trying to resist Soviet tanks and to reason with Soviet soldiers. On the same night as the Czech commemoration, Israel's electronic media announced the death of peace activist Abie Nathan, whose theme song from his Voice of Peace ship broadcasting "from somewhere in the Mediterranean" was the 1969 Beatles hit "Give Peace a Chance." More dramatic than any of the praise given to Nathan as a maverick pioneer of peace in the various eulogies delivered, was the tribute he received from the media. Within three hours of the announcement of his death, more than 160 media outlets around the world had reported it. It should be remembered that the once flamboyant Nathan had for several years been felled by a stroke which radically altered his appearance and all but deprived him of speech. Yet even though he had been away from the public eye in the Tel Aviv Haketana sheltered-living home, his glory days were not forgotten.
PRIOR TO the screening of "Seven Days," the overflow audience who had assembled at the Czech Embassy, one of the oldest embassy buildings in Israel, were told by Ambassador Michael Zantovsky to watch for a scene in which the Czechs, who severed relations with Israel in 1967, apologized to the Israelis. He didn't say what form the apology took, but the alert made everyone pay close attention. And indeed there was a scene of Czechs wearing signs on their backs that read: "Forgive us Israel. May we succeed as you did."
The event started exactly on time because Jerusalem-based Prof. Eliyahu Rips, who in 1968 had lived in Lithuania and who had set himself alight in protest at what five Warsaw Pact armies were doing in Prague, was also scheduled to give an address that night in Haifa. Speaking in Tel Aviv, Rips said that he believed that there were many other protests that people simply did not know about.
Before a dissertation he delivered on the differences between the Communists and the Nazis, Prof. Shlomo Avineri spoke about his visit to Prague in 1966. He had been invited to participate in an academic conference, and because there were no flights between Tel Aviv and Prague in those days, he flew via Athens, where he boarded a Czech plane. As it happened, he was seated next to an engineer who had been working on the Aswan Dam and who was married to a Jewish woman. Though not a religiously observant person, Avineri was carrying a prayer book and a memorial candle, because one of the few religious traditions he does observe is to say Kaddish for his father, and the memorial day was due to fall during his stay in Prague during the month of Elul. His intention had been to go to the Altneuschul. When he registered at the hotel, he was told that there was a note for him from Pan Am. Somewhat surprised, he read it and found a message that stated: "Welcome to Prague. Can you come to evening prayers at the Altneuschul?"
Avineri, who claimed never to have known real fear before, was, for the first time in his life, afraid. This was very cloak and dagger. He did not recall having shared his intentions with the Aswan Dam engineer. Who in Prague was aware of his plans?
Putting his fear temporarily aside, he went to the conference and in the evening made his way to the Altneuschul. When he approached the beadle, he told him of his strange experience. The beadle was very matter of fact about it. "Oh that's my son from Pan Am," he said airily.
When Avineri met the son a few minutes later, the latter told him that Pan Am had started to fly to Prague in 1966, and that he was the local representative of the airline. As yet, there were not too many people flying Pan Am to Prague, so it was always easy for him to check the flight manifest. Whenever he saw a Jewish name or recognized that someone was from Israel, he checked them out to see if they would come to the Minyan.
As for the difference between Communism and Nazism, Avineri said that many Communists saw the gap between Marxist ideology and reality and became disillusioned. "Nazism does not have a humane face," he said. "Communism in the ideological sense does, but the reality was different from the ideology, causing Communism to collapse from within." Nazis could not be disillusioned because they carried out what they preached, whereas Communists did not, he said.
FORMER KOREAN ambassador Shin Kak-Soo left Israel so quickly to take up his new post as vice minister at his country's Ministry for Foreign Affairs that he had no time for farewells. So he came last week to say an official goodbye to President Shimon Peres and to other dignitaries, and also to make a farewell speech in the garden of the Korean residence in Rishpon. He had set himself several goals when he arrived in Israel in June, 2006, and he believed that he had made considerable progress in all of them, he said. One was to promote mutual awareness among Israelis and Koreans of each other's countries and cultures; another was to improve bilateral trade, which now is in the range of $2 billion per annum; and the third was to resume direct flights between Korea and Israel. The latter went into effect this month, but not in time for Shin Kak-Soo to return home via his country's national carrier. He said that he had enjoyed the many exchanges of views that he had with shrewd Israeli intellectuals and had been delighted to have the opportunity of a first hand experience in exploring Israel's vibrant and multi-layered culture.
Thanking Israelis for the warm welcome and pledging that Israel would always have a place in his heart, he hoped that his successor Ma Young Sam would benefit from the same kind of attitude.
Korea's new ambassador, who was previously director general of Middle East and Africa Affairs at the Korean Foreign Ministry, is no stranger to Israel. He served here as minister counsellor from February 2003 to 2006.
JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Yoshinori Katori, who was at the Korean event, will be holding his own official farewell reception in mid-September. As yet, he has not been told what his next assignment will be other than that it will be on the homefront, but he anticipates that he will be better informed by the time he has to make his farewell speech.
THE CANADIAN Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to lure Ambassador Jon Allen back to home base with a plum job offer, but he said that he still had unfinished diplomatic business in Israel and was allowed to stay another year.
WHEN FINNISH Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb visited Beit Hanassi this week, he detected a lot of excitement. But he was not exactly the cause. It was the person with him, Israel Ambassador to Finland Avi Granot, who was previously the political and foreign affairs adviser to president Moshe Katsav, and who stayed on briefly after Peres came into office. Beit Hanassi veterans were overjoyed to see him.
FOUR OF the five offspring of nuclear physicist, author and teacher Gerald Schroeder and his wife Barbara, a noted author and columnist, have provided them with offspring. The fifth hasn't been married long enough to follow suit. But she and her husband were in attendance to celebrate the birth of the youngest member of the family, Eliana Schroeder, who is the first-born child of Dr. Josh Schroeder and his lawyer wife Yaira, whose parents, Marla and David Frankel of Jerusalem and several other members of the family were present at the Simchat Bat at the Zionist Confederation House in Jerusalem. The Schroeders had yet another reason to celebrate. Just a few days earlier, Barbara Schroeder, better known as Barbara Sofer, Jerusalem Post columnist and Public Relations Director for Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, had been notified that she is one the winners of this year's Search for Common Ground Eliav-Sartawi Award, for an article published last September in The Post on the gathering in Jordan of the Women's Interfaith Network. The award ceremony will be held on November 11 at the International YMCA in Jerusalem. Each of the winners will receive a check for $1,000.
IN RECENT months, an extraordinary amount of attention has been given to an anthology of articles about former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, now almost 93 years old and ailing. The anthology, "Solid as a Rock," edited by his former aide Yossi Ahimeir, has been presented by Shamir's son Yair (who may be on the next Likud Knesset list) to various dignitaries, but the official launch was held this week at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv with the participation of former prime ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and incumbent Ehud Olmert.
THE INVITATION was to attend the launch of the Jerusalem branch of the Israel Jewelry Exchange at the Akirov Mamilla Mall. But the event was actually a threefold affair. Aside from introducing the well known Ramat Gan headquartered company to a new clientele in the capital, it was also a birthday party and farewell for Ludmilla Tichon, the wife of former Knesset Speaker Dan Tichon, a bright star in Jerusalem's social firmament, not to mention those of Tel Aviv, Herzliya Pituah, Kfar Shamaryahu and Haifa. After more than 40 years in Jerusalem, the Tichons are returning to Haifa to be closer to their grandchildren. What that may portend is that many Jerusalem socialites will be heading north for the famous parties hosted by Ludmilla Tichon, who has a fine reputation both as a producer of gastronomic delights and as a singer - particularly of Russian folk songs. Not only did she bump into a large number of her close friends who came laden with gifts to the Israel Jewelry Exchange store, but the company's proprietor Arye Pozylov presented her with a string of pearls with matching earrings and an utterly calorific chocolate birthday cake, on which it would have been a little difficult to fit 61 candles - so it came with none. "What am I going to do with a cake?" quipped Tichon. "Don't I weigh enough already?" Among the friends who gathered to wish her well were Ella Lieberman (the wife of Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman); Ruthie Kaplan, the personal assistant to Aliza Olmert; attorneys Tami Raveh and Sarah Zissman; Sima Lindenstrauss (the wife of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss), WIZO Jerusalem chairperson Sima Mor; Kitty Shenkar, Mimi Kanfu, Bruria Pressburgerand Mira Feldman.
NOTHING QUITE matches the excitement of first graders on the eve of their first day in school. The anticipation of moving up in the ranks from kindergarten to grade school is sometimes more overwhelming than the reality. Certainly for some 200 children from the southern region adjacent to the Gaza Strip, the excitement was palpable because it wasn't just a regular preparation for entering the first grade and hearing the teacher say "Shalom Kita Aleph." They and some of their mothers and teachers had been bussed into Jerusalem to meet Peres and Education Minister Yuli Tamir at Beit Hanassi. They left the Negev not long after noon and arrived at their destination in the capital at around 2.15 p.m. Although security treated them with greater leniency than that accorded most visitors to Beit Hanassi, they still had to wait in line in the grueling heat for close to half an hour. Then, when they got past the inspection, they had to wait on the grounds for an event that was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. but didn't start till 4.15. Although the children were all issued white caps bearing the blue presidential insignia, some of the adults accompanying them were angry that the children had been subjected to the unbearable heat, which they said was worse than that of the Negev, when they would have been much more comfortable in the air conditioned reception hall. When Peres did appear, he walked along the front row, shaking hands with each child, asking them where they came from and how they felt about entering Grade One. In his address, he asked the same questions, getting youngsters to raise their hands in response.
"You are the center of our affection. You have finished kindergarten and now you will go to school and you will make our country strong and beautiful," he said. "I'm sure that each of you will do your best." Fully aware that the youngsters were all from areas of trauma, Peres said: "You stand at the frontlines of the state. Your settlements have been attacked many times by Kassam rockets and that is very hard on you." Peres expressed the hope that the relative quiet in Gaza would prevail so that the children could enjoy their first year in school without fear.
Peres was pleased that there were also Arab and Beduin children among the group, and said that there are no real differences between children. He asked the children to help their teachers by not misbehaving.
One of the advantages of being part of the education system, said Tamir, is that one gets to go to first grade every year "with pride and hope." She asked all those children who could already write their names to raise their hands - and most did. "Now you're going to learn to write much more," she said. "We want to give every child in every school the same opportunities from Grade One onwards, so that we can have a better society," said Tamir.
Three children, Ravid Sadeh from Sderot, Shira Cohen from Ofakim and Elias Abu Hamed from Darjat, expressed good wishes to Peres and their peers, saying that they were all excited, they wanted no more war and only peace so that children could play among the flowers and that the year ahead should be a good one for everyone.
WHEN HE published his book "Brain Exercises to Cure ADHD," approximately a year ago, Jerusalem-based psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Amnon Gimpel envisaged that it would attract a large number of parents with children suffering from ADHD, but not that it would be a runaway international best seller or that the frequent seminars that he conducts to help empower parents and primary caregivers of children with ADHD would be filled to capacity. But the book, which is published in Hebrew, English and Russian, has taken on a life of its own, and Gimpel, a sabra who spent a large part of his life in the US and several years in Russia, is delighted to have the opportunity to develop brain exercises that will enable so many children of different backgrounds to reach their full potential.
FORMER TEL Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat and his wife Ziva, together with Gila Shaham, the widow of Col. Zeev (Zonik) Shaham, will be honored at a tribute night hosted by the Institute for the Advancement of Education in Jaffa, better known as the Jaffa Institute, in recognition of their contributions to its establishment in 1982 and their abiding interest in its enrichment programs aimed at children from low socio-economic backgrounds suffering from low self-esteem and malnutrition. The tribute, on September 18, will be at Beth Hatefutsoth, another institution that Lahat helped to found and in which he has remained active. The Jaffa Institute's programs, aimed at children in Jaffa, South Tel Aviv, Neve Ofer, Bat Yam, Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, inter alia help to discover and develop hidden talents.
TSOMET BOOKS CEO Avi Shumar organized a book launch for celebrated journalist Nahum Barnea in honor of the publication of his book "Journeys with a Notebook." Barnea, who had returned to Israel a few days earlier after covering the war in Georgia, quipped that he had missed out on watching the opening of the Olympics on television and the disappointment in the failure by Israel to score several medals, but that he had learned throughout his career that if there were an Olympic contest for aggressive Israeli journalism, Israel would romp home with a bevy of gold medals.
FIFTY YOUNGSTERS under the care of Elem, the not-for-profit organization that deals with youth at risk, were awarded prizes and certificates at a festive ceremony at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. The youngsters had all completed a course in interpersonal communications sponsored by Debate Pty. Ltd., owned by Gur Breslavi and Ariel Halevi, within the framework of a project in which their company is involved, together with Bank Mizrahi Tefahot. The course is one that is usually given to senior business managers with the aim of providing them with additional tools for effective persuasion. The Elem youngsters were introduced to the course so that they would be better able to cope with pre-military service interviews and job interviews in addition to which they would be equipped to address large audiences without feeling shy or afraid. On hand in addition to Breslavi and Halevi were Elem President Nava Barak and Jacob Perry, chairman of Bank Mizrahi Tefahot.