CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to former prime minister Ehud Olmert and
his wife Aliza, who despite the legal problems confronting them,
nonetheless have reason to smile as their family keeps growing. Their
son Shauli and his wife Vardit recently presented them with a new
granddaughter, and their daughter Dana expects to give birth to her
first child in the near future. Aside from that, their son Ariel
completed his studies at the Sorbonne and returned home.
THAN the justice minister who almost always has a law degree, even if
he hasn’t necessarily been a practicing lawyer, most cabinet ministers
do not have the professional backgrounds to give them a foundation of
knowledge for the ministries which they head. One of the exceptions to
the rule is Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, who prior to becoming
an MK and a member of the government, was a senior member of the
faculty at the Technion.
Ministers are often parts of groups of
dignitaries distributing scholarships and university degrees, but when
Hershkowitz briefly returned to the Technion this week, he was on the
receiving end. He was one of scores of veteran faculty and staff
members who received special citations and a gift from Technion vice
president and director-general Avital Stein for having been employed
there for 25 years or more. In the course of his career, Hershkowitz
was also dean of the Faculty of Mathematics. He actually has a much
longer association with the Technion, which was not only his place of
employment, but also his alma mater.
INDIAN AMBASSADOR Navtej
Sarna and his wife Avina last week hosted a well-attended reception in
honor of historian and author Dr. Ramachandra Guha, who was here to
deliver the keynote address at the Ninth Asian Studies Conference at
the University of Haifa. His books and essays cover a wide range of
subjects including political history, environment, anthropology and
cricket. He has been widely translated and is the winner of several
awards, including the UK Cricket Society’s Literary Award and the
Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History. He
is, most recently, the author of India after Gandhi: The History of
World’s Largest Democracy. Foreign Policy magazine included Guha in its
list of 100 most influential public intellectuals in 2008.
the reception at the ambassador’s residence Guha delivered an address
on “The world’s most unnatural nation? How India survives,” followed by
a lively interactive session with the audience. Among those present
were: Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Esther Hayut, MK
Einat Wilf, Ambassadors Baija Nath Thapala of Nepal, Petronila Pena
Garcia of the Philippines and Andrea Faulkner of Australia, as well as
Issa Sarid, the grand niece of Hermann Kallenbach, Mahatma Gandhi’s
close Jewish associate during the period he spent in South Africa.
READY for an important August wedding is Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona
Metzger. No, he hasn’t been approached by some prominent family to do
the honors. This time the groom is his son Moti, who celebrated
Independence Day by announcing his engagement to Tehilla Silberson of
Bnei Brak. Metzger, with the input of his wife Ofra, is now busy
compiling a guest list. When you’re a chief rabbi, the list tends to be
At his induction ceremony in Jerusalem seven years
ago, Metzger, who has faced some severe criticisms in his career, set a
wonderful example for his son to follow in terms of spousal respect. He
publicly thanked his wife “for walking with me in the wilderness.” Such
public acknowledgements are rare in the sector that Metzger represents.
AMBASSADOR Jon Allen and his wife Clara Hirsch celebrated the 60th
anniversary of Canadian-Israeli friendship and diplomatic relations
with the launching of joint Israeli-Canadian commemorative stamp
designed by Karen Henricks, Yarek Waszul and Miri Nistor featuring the
national symbols of both countries – the Maple Leaf and the Star of
David, which are represented by human figures making up the separate
national groups and then blending with each other. The stamp also
features the flags of the two countries. In Israel it is worth NIS 4.60
and in Canada C$1.70, reflecting the strength of the Canadian dollar in
relation to the US dollar.
Allen disclosed that he’d been quite
enthusiastic when Yaron Razon, director of the Israel Philatelic
Service, told him that the anniversary must be commemorated with a
stamp, but the Canadian authorities put a damper on his ardor, telling
him that there was no way in which they could produce a joint stamp
within six months. It would take at least two years.
according to Avi Hochman, president and CEO of the Israel Postal
Company, the project was saved by Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv, who
was celebrating her birthday on the day that she had to meet with
Minister of Transport John Baird who is also the minister responsible
for Canadian post. “It’s my birthday,” she told him, “and you can’t say
no to anything I ask.”
Hochman, who was in Ottawa last week for
the Canadian launch of the stamp, said that it had been a most
impressive ceremony hosted by the Canadian Parliament. Communications
Minister Moshe Kahlon commented that nothing was more fitting to
symbolize the good relations between the two countries than a stamp. He
also noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is “the
friendliest Canadian government in memory.” Kahlon likewise had high
praise for Allen, who he said was doing “a great job” toward the
enhancement of bilateral relations. MK Yohanan Plesner, who heads the
Israel-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Association, said that Canada
has an important moral voice in the world and that its relationship
with Israel was warm and getting warmer.
Nearly all speakers
referred to the fact that Canada was one of the 33 countries that voted
in favor of the partition of Palestine at the fateful United Nations
vote of November 29, 1947. Allen also announced the publication of a
commemorative coffee table book in French, English and Hebrew which
highlights points in the relationship including exchange visits by
RARELY IF ever was the ratio of
Jerusalemites among the guests at a reception hosted by the French
ambassador as high as it was last Thursday night. The reason: Two of
the four honorees who were being conferred with the title of Chevalier
de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres were Jerusalemites – though only
one, Yossi Tal Gan, director of the Israel Festival, is a native of the
capital. James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, is a transplanted
New Yorker, who has lived in Jerusalem for 15 years.
Jerusalemites who cheered them included family, friends, colleagues and
staff. Snyder’s friends also included someone who works in Jerusalem,
but doesn’t live there – Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, who
came with his wife Rhoda, and whose presence was commented on by
Ambassador Christophe Bigot, who was particularly appreciative that he
had taken the time and trouble to attend. The other two honorees were
Dubi Lenz, music director at Army Radio, and internationally acclaimed
French Israeli filmmaker Raphael Nadjari. All four have imported
various aspects of French culture to Israel.
Although there had
been no discussion between the honorees, the embassy and the guests as
to color coordination, it was quite amazing how many people had chosen
to wear shades of violet, lavender, lilac and magenta. These are the
signature colors of Lia Van Leer, founding director of the Jerusalem
Cinametheque and a previous recipient of French honors. Looking at her
and comparing his own tie to that of Bigot’s, which was almost an
identical shade of lavender, Snyder exclaimed: “We’re in the same
For Tal Gan, the occasion was particularly moving
because he was a second generation Chevalier. His father, Gavriel, had
been sent at 14 in 1925 from Jerusalem to Paris where he spent four
years of study. The experience turned him into a lifelong Francophile.
He had been a student at the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris
and later taught at and headed the Alliance school in Jerusalem. His
contribution to French culture here was recognized by the French
authorities, and now his son is carrying on the tradition.
AMBASSADOR designate Tomas Pojar is a second generation diplomat and a
second generation Czech ambassador to Israel. His father Milos Pojar
was the first Czech ambassador after the renewal of diplomatic
relations 20 years ago, and after concluding his tour of office, has
returned at least once a year. The senior Pojar was a panelist last
Friday at the resumption of the Czech Embassy’s discussion series
“Czech the Issues.”
Other panelists included Yoel Sher, the
country’s first ambassador to Czechoslovakia as the Soviet Union was
crumbling, and Moshe Arens, who was then foreign minister. Pojar noted
that his grandson was also in Israel, and voiced the hope that 20 years
from now, he would be the third generation Czech ambassador here.
can never be a discussion about Czech-Israel relations without
reference to the training provided by Czechoslovakia to the nascent IAF
in 1948 or to the arms and military equipment that it supplied during
the War of Independence. Hugo Marom (Meisl), a living witness to that
period, was among the people in the audience. Marom, one of the
country’s top pilots, was born in Czechoslovakia and was sent on a
kindertransport to London. He later went to what was then Palestine and
joined the air force of the fledgling state.
GUESTS ARRIVING at
the Ramat Gan residence of British Ambassador Tom Phillips for the
celebration of the 84th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II could hear the
sound of bagpipes long before they reached their destination. As
always, some of the ambassador’s neighbors came into the street to
watch the kilted piper marching up and down. Some of the politicians,
diplomats, businesspeople, journalists and members of Israel’s vibrant
Anglo community arrived late, having first attended a lecture at Tel
Aviv University by Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda.
Ambassador Jon Allen and his wife Clara came after deferring an Israel
Britain and the Commonwealth Association event that had been scheduled
at their residence. Considering that Canada is part of the
Commonwealth, Allen could hardly ignore the queen’s birthday. Aside
from that he’s a good friend of Tom Phillips’.
consignment of smoked salmon that has annually been flown in from
Scotland for the event had to be cancelled due to the volcanic ash
cloud. Guests were probably unaware of the absence, because resident
chef Emmanuel Tellier still had a stock of smoked salmon in his pantry.
This was the last queen’s birthday celebration that Phillips and his
wife Anne hosted here. They are due to wind up their posting in four
months, but it was obvious from the way that Phillips spoke that they
will be back to visit.
Representing the government was the
ambassador’s friend and neighbor, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom,
who referred to the ups and downs in bilateral relations, but also
remarked on the legacy that the British left at the end of the Mandate.
He said that like the English, Israelis are extremely keen on Premier
League football. He regretted that Israel was not participating in the
World Cup in South Africa, but assured the ambassador that he would
support the British team. Shalom is known to be an ardent football fan,
so it was not an idle promise.
The national anthems were sung by
veteran embassy staff member Marilyn Lyons, who on a previous occasion,
honoring members of the Yishuv who had served with the British forces
during World War II, had sung the songs of the era to the great delight
and participation of all those present.
WELFARE AND Social
Services Minister Isaac Herzog had a twofold reason for being in China
last week. He was representing the government at the opening of the
Shanghai Expo 2010, but he also had an extremely personal reason: He
attended the launch of the Chinese edition of his late father’s book
Living History: A Memoir which was prominently displayed in the largest
bookstore in Beijing. Chaim Herzog, who was the sixth president, in
1992 was the first Israeli head of state to visit China.
store manager told Herzog that the Chinese are very interested in
history and that his father’s book had aroused considerable curiosity.
Uncertain as to whether this was merely polite small talk or whether it
was true, Herzog decided to investigate for himself, and in the evening
after the launch, returned to the store on foot to see whether the book
was still featured in the showcase. Indeed it was, while inside the
store, there was little doubt that the book was selling well because
the pile of copies had been considerably depleted.
special relationship between Germany and Israel, it is not too often
that Israel bestows honors on German citizens. Among the German
citizens singled out for honors is Eva Luise Koehler, the wife of
President Horst Koehler. For the past five years, she has been the
honorary president of the German Friends of Sheba Medical Center, whose
annual events take place at Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of
the presidents of Germany.
For her efforts on behalf of Sheba,
Koehler was invested with the Sheba Humanitarian Award which was given
to her last week by President Shimon Peres and Sheba CEO Ze’ev Rotstein
in the course of her private visit to see the progress of the medical
center and to learn of its current needs.
IN ADVANCE of Europe
Day, May 9, Ambassador Andrew Standley, head of the European Union
delegation here, will be among the speakers at a symposium at the
Hebrew University sponsored by HU’s European Forum and the Konrad
Adenauer Foundation. Standley will speak on “The European Union, Israel
and the Challenges of the 21st Century.” Lior Herman of the European
Forum will look back on “Helmut Kohl, the Reunification of Germany and
the Economic and Monetary Union.” There will also be a short video
showing President Peres congratulating Helmut Kohl on his 80th
birthday, and a screening of the French film Welcome to the Land of
ALTHOUGH ZIONIST visionary Theodor Herzl was born in Budapest on May 2,
1860, the Austrians also lay claim to him because his family moved to
Vienna when he was 18, and Vienna was an important influence on his
life. Thus it stands to reason that Austrians here and people with
Austrian roots will participate in the rounds of celebrations marking
the 150th anniversary of his birth. The Austrian birthday party will be
held at the residence of Ambassador Michael Rendi on May 26 within the
framework of the Red and White Clubbing Nights that Rendi introduced
two years ago, to enable young Israelis of Austrian background to
reconnect with their roots.
Rendi held a press conference on Herzl’s actual birthday which happened
to coincide with Lag Ba’omer, to announce details of the upcoming event
which will be attended by Austrian Vice Chancellor Josef Proll, who by
happy coincidence will be on an official visit. Among the young
clubbers will be Sagi Eckhaus, grandson of Gideon Echkaus, the chairman
of the Central Committee of Austrian Jews in Israel.