THE SURPRISE guest at the wedding of Osnat Deri to Roni Dahan was Shas leader Eli Yishai, a rival of the bride's father Aryeh Deri, who was the Shas kingpin until he had to relinquish his position when he was convicted of bribery and fraud and had to do jail time.
It was rumored that Yishai had been excluded from the guest list, but his presence proved the rumors false, especially when he and Deri embraced. Presumably they'll embrace again next month when Yishai marries off his daughter. Although Deri consistently denies that he's returning to politics, the period from which he is legally barred from returning to public office is coming to an end - a factor that is provoking much speculation. The host at the celebration was not the only one who's been in trouble with the law. His good friends Haim Ramon and Dudu Appel have also had that experience, albeit not with the same dire result.
AWARE OF the Israeli investor's penchant for buying real estate abroad, visiting banker Paata Gagzadze, first vice president of TBC Bank in the Republic of Georgia, noticed in the course of a Power-Point presentation to business executives in Tel Aviv that they leaned forward with interest when the palatial old building in which the bank is located appeared on the screen.
"This building is not for sale," he told them. Gagzadze said he meets so many Israeli investors daily that he has decided to learn Hebrew. On the plane on the way here from Georgia, most of the passengers were Israeli, he said. For a moment, he thought they were investors, but after he struck up a conversation with someone, he discovered that they'd been to Georgia to play at the casino. Investment, he said, is a safer bet.
ALTHOUGH JERUSALEM'S Great Synagogue is not celebrating Jerusalem Day till this coming Shabbat, Bar-Ilan University president Moshe Kaveh, who delivered last Shabbat's sermon, got in early by telling bar mitzva boy Ron Green from Rehovot of the significance of Jerusalem. The sumptuous kiddush sponsored by vice president Zalli Jaffe and his wife, Tamar, in memory of Dr. Maurice Jaffe and in honor of Bar-Ilan University, as well as by board chairman Mordecai and his wife Dr. Monique Katz.
Maurice Jaffe was the founder and chairman of the Great Synagogue, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. Festivities this Shabbat will bring in a large number of celebrities as well as a formidable group of freeloaders who don't come to services but turn up for every kiddush and pile their plates as if there'll be no tomorrow. Last Saturday, one of them actually removed a plate of food from the table, and when a congregant tried to rescue it, they came close to a scuffle.
Among the dignitaries will be Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski , and past and present government ministers and Knesset members. Joining resident Cantor Naftali Herstik will be Cantors Chaim Adler, Moshe Schulhof and Asher Hainovitz.
FORMER FOREIGN Ministry deputy director-general for public affairs Gideon Meir, currently ambassador to Italy, is also non-resident ambassador to San Marino and Malta, where each year the ambassador traditionally hosts a gala dinner to celebrate Independence Day. This year was no exception. Meir and his wife, Amira, hosted a prestige affair at the Portomaso suites at the Malta Hilton. Distinguished guests included Edward Fenech Adami, president of the republic, Parliament Speaker Anton Tabone and his wife, Ministers Louis Galea, Michael Frendo and Dolores Cristina and their spouses, plus an impressive representation of the diplomatic corps. Among the diplomats were the ambassadors of the US, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, Australia, Italy and Belgium along with representatives of Austria and the Czech Republic. Dr. Dimitri Dombret, director-general of the European Parliamentary Friends of Israel, made a special trip from Brussels to demonstrate solidarity with Israel. Also in attendance were several Israelis and members of Malta's Jewish community, plus a large group from the Malta-Israel Cultural and Friendship Society, headed by its president and founder Lawrence Attard Bezzina and his wife, who coordinated the whole affair.
Meir said he was spellbound by the hospitality and openness shown him and Israel, not only in his official meetings but also by people from all walks of Maltese society. He had made only three visits to Malta since presenting his credentials in November, he confessed, but pledged to come more often. The main task that he has set himself is to improve economic and cultural relations with Malta and to facilitate significant tourist exchanges.