DEPUTY DEFENSE Minister Ephraim Sneh, who has been in Washington for the past week - primarily to address the annual AIPAC convention - was visiting the State Department when he caught sight of Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir.
Last month Jubeir presented his credentials to President George W. Bush following the abrupt resignation last December of Prince Turki al-Faisal, who had been widely regarded as one of the most talented and successful diplomats in Washington.
According to a report filed by Yaron Deckel, the Israel Broadcasting Authority's man in Washington, Sneh, taking the initiative, approached Jubeir, introduced himself and told him that this was the first time that he had seen him in the flesh and not on a television screen.
"It won't be the last," said Jubeir, as he shook hands with Sneh.
"We have many problems to solve together."
Jubeir is only the third Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US in 24 years, but he is no stranger to the United States, having studied at the University of Texas before gaining his master's degree in international relations at Georgetown University in Washington.
In 1986, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was then the Saudi ambassador, and who remained in the post for 22 years, appointed Jubeir as his assistant for Congressional affairs.
Jubeir was subsequently a member of the Saudi Arabian delegation to the UN General Assembly and a visiting Diplomatic Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2000 he was transferred to Riyadh to serve as adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, and when the prince became king, Jubeir stayed on as adviser to the monarch but was promoted to the rank of minister.
THE INVITATION started with the words "Ruth Dayan, 90 years young." Indeed, Ruth Dayan is not your typical nonagenarian. She's still running around from one end of the country to the other encouraging artisans to continue with their traditional handcrafts, guiding young Beduin women towards educational opportunities and continuing the dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian moderates. Aside from that she is frequently called upon as a speaker and is equally articulate in Hebrew and English. She drives her own car, has a phenomenal memory and a marvelous collection of anecdotes. The birthday brunch arranged by her family and friends was held in the charming Jaffa seaside home of Meir and Edith Rosenfeld. The hostess is one of the daughters of the late, famous and fabulously wealthy businessman Shoul Eisenberg, who played a major role in the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and China.
In deference to Ruth Dayan's long-standing and close connections with the Beduin communities, the event carried a certain Beduin ambience. The stairway was decorated with a colorful long strip of Beduin fabric, and on the outer terrace, two Beduin men sat on multi-colored Beduin rugs which had been woven by Beduin women. As always, Dayan radiated warmth, and looked almost regal with her elegantly coiffed white hair standing out in its full glory against her aubergine velvet dress adorned with a gold chain and a long strand of pearls.
Although Edith Rosenfeld was the hostess, guests were greeted primarily by Tel Aviv city councilor and former Labor MK Yael Dayan, the daughter of the guest of honor. Among the guests were Reuma Weizman, widow of Israel's seventh president, who is Dayan's younger sister, former Meretz leader Yossi Sarid and his wife, Dorit, who happen to share grandchildren with Yael Dayan, vice premier Shimon Peres, who left his suit at home and came casually attired, Meretz-Yahad leader and one-time Peres prot g Yossi Beilin, writer Jonathan Geffen, his ex-wife, Nurit, and their daughter Shira Geffen, who are closely related to the Dayans, former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat and his wife, Ziva, writer Meir Shalev, television personality Yaron London and his wife, Nira, actress Rivka Michaeli, journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, former politician and diplomat Lova Eliav, Esther Rubin, who never misses a good party, former fashion model Batya Dissenchik, who was one of the leading models for Maskit - the famous handcrafts store founded by Ruth Dayan to help newly arrived immigrants from Yemen, Morocco and elsewhere to derive an income by selling their exotic jewelry, woven items and embroideries - and Nurit Bat Yaar, the long-time doyenne of Israel's fashion writers, who also modeled for Maskit before she became the nation's fashion arbiter. Bat Yaar, who has written extensively about Dayan, came with her husband, Dr. Remy Soriano.
A milestone birthday for someone who's 90 years young cannot go without speeches - and there were quite a few, but all delivered and taken in good spirit. On such occasions, said Yael Dayan, it's customary to wish the person being honored to have nahat (satisfaction) from their children. Speaking on her own behalf as well as on behalf of her brothers Assi and Udi, Yael Dayan turned to her mother and said: "With all the problems and difficulties you went through, I don't know if we gave you nahat, but we certainly have nahat from you." To which Ruth Dayan, like any good Jewish mother, responded that she was proud of all her children.
IT HAS long been a custom among Hadassah members in the United States to make their menfolk associate members. The idea had not caught on in Hadassah-Israel till this week when Inga David, the treasurer of the Vered Hasharon chapter, decided that buying another sweater for her significant other, Henry Banks, was not exactly the way in which she wanted to celebrate his 80th birthday. She wanted to do something just a little more meaningful. So she contacted Phyllis Levinson, the former president and current treasurer of Hadassah-Israel to inquire if she could make Banks a Hadassah Associate. Levinson told her that not only would Hadassah-Israel make him an associate but that he would be the founding member of Hadassah-Israel Associates.
A festive event was held to mark the occasion, with Banks saying that he now understands how women must feel when they are surrounded by 50 men, but added that he was proud to be part of an organization whose activities range from stem-cell research to conferences on the environment, to providing support for those affected by the war in Lebanon - and then some. Vered Hasharon President Sheila Brody said that she now feels free to call on Banks, who has long been a supporter of Hadassah activities even without the title of Associate Member. Long-time Hadassah-Israel member Evelyn Wollman said that she was signing up her husband. Moneys raised by Hadassah-Israel Associates will go into a special fund and will be distributed to one of the Hadassah-Israel projects.
THE FIRST meeting of the international board of the Davidoff Cancer Center at The Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus, Petah Tikva, brought together a group of world-renowned cancer experts, whose combined research and know-how will do much to relieve the suffering and anxiety of Israeli cancer patients and their families. The center, which has been designed with aesthetics in mind, consolidates all its departments and its services under one roof, making it much more comfortable for patients who are moving from one treatment to another. Alberto and Paul Davidoff represented the Davidoff family. Other participants included experts from internationally renowned cancer facilities. Among them were Prof. Zvi Fuchs and Prof. Clifton Ling from Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Prof. Lawrence Shulman and Prof. Jay Harris from Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; and Prof. Nancy Lee Harris from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, also in Boston; Rabin Medical Center CEO Dr. Eyran Halpern; associate director of RMC Dr. Moti Lifshitz; head of oncology at the Davidoff Center, Prof. Aaron Sulkes; and Head of Hemato-Oncology Prof. Ofer Shpilberg. Also present at this significant inaugural international board meeting was Yoram Petruschka, chairman, Friends of Davidoff Center.
AT GATHERINGS of Jews and Arabs engaged in dialogue aimed at fostering peace, the Jews are usually in the majority. But at the Peace x Peace International Women's Day event in Jerusalem, the Arab women were not only in the majority but came on time. Most were from Shuafat, the Palestinian village in the northeast of Jerusalem. Those who live within the Palestinian Authority were not able to get past the checkpoints and were therefore reluctantly absent. The occasion was used to present Peace x Peace Certificates of Achievement to lawyer Tali Shachar, who is the executive director of the Israel Women's Network, and to Jihad Abu Zneid, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and director of the Shuafat refugee camp group of the Union of Women's Committees in Jerusalem.
For some of the women, it was their first encounter with Jewish women. Men, they said, had failed to achieve peace, but they were reasonably confident that women, because of their commonalities that transcend race, religion and politics, could succeed. Abu Zneid was unable to attend and her certificate was accepted by Nawal Shtay of the Shuafat Women's Center.
LATER THAT evening, WIZO Jerusalem hosted a much larger International Women's Day affair at Binyanei Ha'uma which has become the temporary home of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, whose founder and director Lia Van Leer was there in a dual capacity. The event included the screening of Miss Potter, a delightful film about Beatrix Potter, the best-selling British author of children's books, most notably Peter Rabbit" so Van Leer was there to ensure that everything went right with the film. She was also there as a past honoree of WIZO along with other past honorees Ruth Cheshin, Etya Simcha and Michal Smoira Cohn. This year's honorees were retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner and educator Anna Goren.
Moderator Judy Shalom Nir Mozes kept referring to Jerusalem City Council opposition leader Nir Barkat as Bareket. She apologized each time that she was corrected, and after the third time smiled and said: "I can't help it, I'm from Ramat Gan." (Bareket means emerald in Hebrew and the Precious Stones Exchange is in Ramat Gan, within 10 minutes' walk of JSNM's home.)
WHEN SHE went to see a performance by charismatic, multilingual and highly talented Yung Yidish founder Mendy Cahan, Renee Becker, one of the three chairpersons of Emunah Jerusalem was so entranced that she decided to have a fund-raiser in the Yung Yidish headquarters located in a basement in the capital's Romema neighborhood. For some of the more senior members of the audience, the journey along the uneven path coupled with the hazardous staircase was little short of a nightmare, but all was forgotten as soon as Cahan got on stage. They lapped up every word, sang along with him, and said that they would happily come again.
HIS ELEVATOR ride last Thursday in a Tel Aviv high-rise office building was not much fun for Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai. It was far from a regular ride for Yishai, his bodyguard and several Shas MKs and their parliamentary aides. Due to a malfunction, the elevator fell three stories, and its occupants were trapped for 45 minutes before they were rescued - and one of the MKs actually fainted.
There was a certain irony in the fact that among the things for which Yishai's office is responsible is the security and regular inspections of elevators. To make matters worse there was some confusion as to who should perform the rescue operation and how it should be performed - a time-wasting argument, which only served to raise Yishai's hackles. Fortunately, no one was injured, but that may have been because they all knew how to pray.
HE DIDN'T attend the surprise 50th birthday celebration for his suspended bureau chief Shula Zaken, who is suspected of corrupt activities, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did send a videotaped message, and the following day arrived at her home with a large bunch of flowers, and didn't leave until he'd finished a bowl of her famed kubbe soup.
IT'S NOT every day that a bar mitzva boy gets his present three weeks in advance of his transition to manhood. But then Raz Rotman, who will celebrate his bar mitzva at the end of this month, is not your usual bar mitzva boy. A gifted child who lost his mobility six years ago in a traffic collision in which his sister Eden was killed, Raz is not only paralyzed, but is also attached to a respirator and has two caregivers with him all the time. He needs constant treatment - even at school. Yet despite his handicap, or rather because of it, Raz is an ardent campaigner for road safety. He is the living symbol of Chaim Bederech's Kol Hayeladim (Children's Voices) campaign in which children express their concerns, fears and opinions about what happens on the roads. Last year, he organized the project at his school. As it happens, Raz's bar mitzva coincided with that of Chaim Bederech, which held a small but festive celebration and presented him with a laptop so that he could do his school work more comfortably and efficiently. Raz also received an album filled with bar mitzvah greetings from youngsters in Israel and abroad. Among the celebrities who added greetings were actor Gur Alfi, a great supporter of Chaim Baderech, and children's author Zohar Aviv, who presented Raz with a book inspired by the Kfar Yona school bus crash in which three children were killed and more than 50 injured.