WEDDINGS AND funerals are usually the occasions in which the disparate threads of a person's life come together in a wide-ranging social tableau. This time, however, it was neither. It was a book-launching for his English autobiography, one of an international series conducted by Israel Prize laureate and veteran Time-Life photographer David Rubinger and Ruth Corman, with a foreword by Shimon Peres. Rubinger, considerate of his friends in Jerusalem and surroundings, and in Tel Aviv and surrounds, held one book-launching in the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and another in Beit Avi Hai in Jerusalem. In the latter case, there were many invitees for whom this was a first visit to Beit Avi Hai. Faces in the crowd included many of Rubinger's media colleagues - some who have retired and some who are still working, among them Marlin Levin, Bob Slater, Herb and Mary Crosney, Richard Osterman, Eric Silver and Anna Ponger. Also seen in passing were well-known personalities such as Alice Shalvi, Avraham Avi-Hai, Moshe Arad, Edward Cohen, Beatrice Baer Rosenberg and Harry Sapir. There are book launchings in which the author sits around in a book store and signs copies of his or her work. There are other launchings in which the author or someone with thespian talents reads excerpts from the book, and there are attention-grabbing performances that are a mix of reminiscences, readings and power-point presentation such as Rubinger's book, Israel Through My Lens: Sixty Years As a Photojournalist, which had the audience in the packed Avi Hai Theater riveted to the two live presenters and readers as well as to the screen. It was both a gripping and memorable experience. Corman revealed that the book came into being as a form of therapy for Rubinger, who had discovered the murdered body of his companion, Ziona. Rubinger had fought in Israel's War of Independence and had participated in every other war in which Israel was engaged with a camera instead of a gun. He had thought he'd seen it all and there was no more emotional pain to bear. But Ziona's death left him devastated. Corman, a long-time friend, wanted to do something to take him out of his misery. Because he is as good a raconteur as he is a photographer, she persuaded him to write his life story, or rather to relate it verbally, and she wrote it in much the way that he spoke. Film-maker Micha Shagrir has also made an extraordinary documentary of Rubinger's life. In between book launches and film premieres in different parts of the world, Rubinger - now a very youthful octogenarian - has a new spring in his step and a new light in his eye. nTHE ISRAEL Council on Foreign Relations, largely made up of retired Israeli diplomats, often invites visiting presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers to address it. Such meetings are also attended by heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel. Last week, however, when the speaker was Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Mihai Ciorianu, the audience was enhanced by several members of Israel's large and active Romanian community. While every guest speaker invited by the council is considered to be important, Romanian dignitaries are especially so given the fact that Romania was the only Soviet Bloc country that did not sever relations with Israel, and has maintained diplomatic ties since 1948. In addition, Romania played a crucial role in events that led to the historic meeting between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat and an eventual peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The event was chaired Dr. Yosef Govrin, a former Israel ambassador to Romania, and was sponsored by Bank Leumi, which recently acquired a bank in Romania. Cioroianu, 41, is a historian by profession and spoke of Romania's ties with Israel and NATO. Govrin, in introducing the minister, warmly praised his efforts towards ensuring that Romania confronts the least savory aspects of its wartime and post-wartime past and highlighted the fact that a new generation had risen to positions of influence in post-Romanian society. From the tables reserved for foreign diplomats, Albanian Ambassador Tonin Gjuraj rose to challenge Cioroianu, who had explained why Romania, together with Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia, was not ready to recognize the independence of Kosovo. The exchange between the two demonstrated the extent to which the diplomatic struggle for Kosovo is being played out in Israel and other parts of the world. Canadian human rights activist, parliamentarian and former justice minister Prof. Irwin Cotler arrived in time to have a brief conversation with Cioroianu, who holds an MA and PhD in History from Laval University in Quebec. At the end of the meeting the minister and Romania's very personable ambassador, Eduard Iosiper, remained to shmooze with many of the Romanian expatriates. nIT WAS hardly surprising that the bulk of the people attending a tribute dinner for Rabbi Avigdor Burstein for the purpose of establishing scholarships in his name on the occasion of his 60th birthday were congregants of the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation in Jerusalem where Burstein has been the much much admired spiritual mentor for some thirty years. Burstein is also the founder of The Bet Shemesh Educational Residential Center, which gives boys from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds the opportunity to discover their potential, to study and to develop their talents, be they intellectual or sporting. One of the key supporters of the Bet Shemesh Center is Los Angeles businessman Zvi Ryzman, who made a special effort to come from California to Israel for the dinner. The event was chaired by philanthropist Stuart Dove, who is a former president of the Hazvi Israel Congregation and an ardent supporter of the Bet Shemesh project. Dove reminded guests that the Torah portion for the week indicated that Jews wanted to be counted by contributing half a shekel. Those attending the dinner also indicated that they wanted to be counted, he said, but were expected to contribute a lot more than half a shekel. In fact, their joint effort produced $90,000. Ryzman, who is an Israeli living in the US, has known Burstein since childhood, and went to school and to the army with him. After extolling Burstein's virtues, and recalling Burstein's bar mitzva, Ryzman said: "I was his room-mate. We cheated together; he wrote my compositions, we did laundry together and he always dreamed about helping other people, and of teaching others. He was a giver all his life, and he's still giving today. That's what the school in Bet Shemesh represents." nONE OF the events related to Israel's 60th anniversary is a reception at Beit Hanassi for all those people who were born on the same day that David Ben-Gurion announced the creation of the state. Among those eagerly awaiting the event is journalist and former public relations executive Bella Diamant, who is now the deputy editor of Motke, a Hebrew Internet site geared to the 50-plus age group. The site, which is interactive, offers employment opportunities, trips, tips, educational outlets - in short a whole new lifestyle for baby boomers who, according to Diamant, have the money, the time and the desire to go on to a new lifestyle adventure. She and several of her friends born on Israel's first day of independence were invited to meet president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi on the tenth anniversary and president Zalman Shazar on the 20th anniversary, but since then, says Diamant, "they forgot about us. Now, suddenly at 60, they remember us." Others who accompanied her 40 and 50 years ago when she met with the presidents include Ami Federmann of the Dan Hotels, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yaki Amidror, Sylvia Doran, flamenco dancer, Dr. Avi Asner, deputy director of Ichilov Hospital, and Dudu Bianco, television cameraman for ABC. There were quite a lot of others born on that date, says Diamant, but she can't remember them all. nTHOUGH INDISPOSED to the extent that he cancelled several meetings due to the flu on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, including a gala dinner with honorary consuls and members of the foreign diplomatic corps, President Shimon Peres appeared to be in fine fettle on Thursday when he hosted the Hapoel Migdal Jerusalem basketball team, its managers, sponsors and some of its fans in acknowledgement of its recent victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in the State Cup final. Peres has a special place in his heart for anything connected to Hapoel, and the Peres Peace Center is among the sponsors of the Hapoel Jerusalem Football Team. Peres recalled the days when Hapoel stood for much more than sport. "I come from Hapoel, from the time when it wasn't just basketball and football," he said, "but when it was an ideology and the red flag was an ideological symbol." Admitting that he was no expert on sport but that he did have a certain expertise and experience in the matter of struggling to win, Peres was present when Hapoel came from a low ebb to a high tide to score a near impossible triumph over Maccabi, whose team members were so shocked by the result that they exited before the conclusion of the cup ceremony. "I didn't think you had a chance," he told the players. "It was the most riveting game I've ever seen. Your commitment is terrific." Peres commended the team for not giving in to despair when they stood so far behind at half time. "Although you achieved a great victory," he said, "you have to understand what a great defeat it was for the other side." Hapoel chairman Danny Klein, in thanking Peres for his hospitality, indicated that he might soon have to host the team again if it wins the ULEB cup. He was hopeful that it would become a regular tradition for Hapoel to celebrate its victories at Beit Hanassi. The tradition, if it becomes one, was introduced exactly a year earlier by then acting president Dalia Itzik, who could not do otherwise considering that she is a Jerusalemite, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and the member of a family of Hapoel supporters. Klein also pointed out that Hapoel continues to be more than a sports club, and reaches out to the community, in particular to Shalva, the organization for children with special needs. Shalva youngsters are permanent fixtures at Hapoel games and were present at Thursday's reception where the Shalva choir and percussion band performed and received a tremendous ovation. Klein paid tribute to the team's patrons, Migdal, and businessman Arkadi Gaydamak, whose cash infusions have enabled the team to attain such impressive achievements over the past two years. Klein and Gaydamak presented Peres with a basketball autographed by all the members of the team and a placard that contained a photographic collage of events on the night that the team won the cup. nPLACES VISITED and dignitaries met by visiting groups representing important Jewish organizations in Israel are usually more or less the same - except in the case of The Board of Deputies of British Jews. Its president, Henry Grunwald, told President Peres this week that his delegation would be meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair's people in Israel to get an update on the former British prime minister's activities and achievements. nALTHOUGH HE didn't win the Oscar for foreign film at this week's Academy Awards, Israeli director Joseph Cedar certainly won points for being a proud Jew. His black kippa remained in view in Hollywood, and when invited to participate in a panel discussion that took place on the Saturday prior to the awards, Cedar consulted with his rabbi, who told him it would be OK for him to participate providing that he did not use a microphone. It took Cedar the best part of an hour to walk to the venue, and the discussion moderator explained that for religious reasons, he would not be using a mike. That public display was worth a lot more than an Oscar. Although it has already been published in The Jerusalem Post that singer Ninet Tayeb and ten teenagers from Sderot were also in Los Angeles and went to the Beaufort party hosted by the Israeli consulate, what is not widely known is that they were there courtesy of El Al. El Al CEO Haim Romano was at Ben-Gurion Airport to see them off when they left for LA. nAFTER HOSTING the popular television series The Ambassador, it looks as if Nachman Shai may become an ambassador himself. According to Yediot Aharonot, he's a front-runner to replace Danny Gillerman as Israel's next ambassador to the United Nations. nNOBEL PRIZE laureate Robert Aumann and his wife, Batya, have welcomed new additions to their family - a grandson and a great grandson. That seems to be a popular thing in Jerusalem these days, and the Aumanns are not the only ones welcoming two generations in the same time frame. nIT'S ANYONE's guess who will win the US presidential elections, but according to Prof. Samuel Heilman of City University in New York, who was this year's speaker at the Daniel J. Elazar Memorial lecture in Jerusalem, many Jews who traditionally voted Democrat may this year vote Republican. It may not make a serious impact on the overall results, but it will reduce Democratic votes in predominantly Jewish areas. nJERUSALEM POST columnist Barbara Sofer, whose full-time job is working for Hadassah, chaperoned a Young Judea Group through Morocco recently. Told in advance to keep a strong grip on her purse for fear of pickpockets, she came home with purse intact, but then had it stolen at her local supermarket in Jerusalem.