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AMERICAN POLITICIANS and officials are descending on Israel like rain. Aside from George Mitchell, Robert Gates and James Jones in recent weeks, we've had a delegation of Republican congressmen and women, followed by a Democratic delegation, followed by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and then two-time Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, yet another Republican who came to declare his support for a united Jerusalem and for the right of Jews to live and build in Judea and Samaria. Accompanying Huckabee was NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
There have been others whose visits have been more low-key, and there are more US politicians on the way. Whether Democrats or Republicans, they all want to assure Israel that the relationship has not diminished and that America remains its best buddy.
Ros-Lehtinen and Perry, who were accompanied by high profile civic leaders and business executives, attended a private screening in Jerusalem of the documentary film The Third Jihad and expressed concern at the global threat posed by radical Islam.
The two, along with Democratic State Senator Juan Hinojosa went home with something extra in their luggage - the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation Defender of Jerusalem Award presented to them by Florida businessman Guma Aguiar, who now divides his time between Florida and Jerusalem where he also has a home. Aguiar who became the knight in shining armor for the Betar Jerusalem soccer team and may take on a similar role with the capital's Hapoel basketball team, is becoming increasingly involved with sports and philanthropy here, but is cautious about the level of his commitments.
WHAT BETTER place is there to launch an annual essay writing award than at the Writers' House in Tel Aviv? That was the venue for the awards ceremony of the first Simcha Bahiri Youth Essay Contest organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal. The contest, with $1,000 per winner, was open to Israelis and Palestinians aged 17-24 who were given a single topic: "The Day after the Gaza War: What can young people do to strengthen the prospect for peace?" The contest was the brainchild of Bronx-born Dr. Simcha Bahiri, a member of the journal's editorial board, who at 82, after working with the Ford Foundation in Africa, the Armand Hammer Economic Peace Research Center at Tel Aviv University and with Prof. Seymour Melman at Columbia University on economic conversion (that's just the abbreviated list), is still coming up with new, innovative ideas.
"This prize is dedicated to young creativity about issues related to peace and understanding," said Ziad Abu Ziyad, who was one of the event's moderators together with PIJ coeditor Hillel Schenker.
The enthusiasm of the Israelis and the Palestinians present was palpable, but was overshadowed by the realities on the ground in that one of the Palestinian contestants Rami Samandar from Ramallah had problems in receiving a permit from the Israeli authorities to come to Tel Aviv, and was therefore unable to dialogue face to face with Israelis of his peer generation.
The winning Israeli essay, by 19-year-old Maya Wind from Jerusalem, advocated the creation of "a joint Israeli-Palestinian doubt forum which would provide a way for Palestinians and Israelis to directly interact with each other before they reach the opposite sides of a checkpoint or a wall... and would refresh the framework of the political debate, and allow more freedom to think differently." The winning Palestinian essay, by 19-year-old Khadrah Jean Jaser AbuZant from Tulkarm, called for a process of "healing, engagement and reconciliation." She emphasized the importance of "compassionate listening."
The Palestine-Israel Journal is a nonprofit quarterly, founded in 1994 by Abu Ziyad and the late Victor Cygielman. Its establishment was concurrent with the first phases of the Oslo peace process as a vehicle for encouraging dialogue between civil societies on both sides with the aim of broadening the base of support for the peace process. Based in east Jerusalem, is is the only joint independent publication to be produced locally.
Avi Primor, who served as ambassador to the EU and Germany, described how he initially viewed Cygielman as a dangerous critic of Israeli policy, but eventually learned to appreciate his honest dedication to the facts.
The young people who participated in the ceremony came from Jenin, Tel Aviv, Tulkarm, Beersheba, Nablus, Jerusalem (west and east), Tiberias, Rehovot, Galil Yam, Ramallah, Rosh Ha'ayin and Hebron.
Abu Ziyad acknowledged the efforts Palestinian youth put into obtaining the permits to travel from the West Bank to Israel. "It wasn't easy but they were really persistent and stubborn," he said. The two winning essays will be published in the next issue of PIJ. All of the essays will be available in English, Arabic and Hebrew at www.pij.org.
WHEN THE Tel Aviv Sheraton's executive chef Charlie Fadida was learning some of the secrets of his profession, he studied French and Italian gastronomy and picked up a few recipes from other parts of Europe - but he never imagined that the day would come when he would be serving up Nigerian cuisine. But that's what he'll be doing for several days this week within the framework of the Nigerian cultural festival brought to Israel by the Nigerian Embassy in tribute to Tel Aviv's first hundred years. Fadida picked up a few tips from embassy staffers and invited some of them to come and taste the results. They decided that he'd been a pretty good student.
SINGING WAITERS are old hat. Running waiters have also been around for a while, but their contests are infrequent and seldom held on even an annual basis. Thus the waiters' 200 meter race held recently in Jerusalem excited a lot of interest. There was a photograph in The Jerusalem Post on the following day, showing some of the 30 waiters on the run, but the winner's name was not published. This was no ordinary race in which the contestants were clad in athletic garb. Nor was it your regular sprint. The waiters were dressed in their uniforms and had to cover the 200 meter distance balancing a tray with a bottle of wine, a glass of wine and a plate with the main course. The idea was to avoid spillage and to have the main course looking as it did when it emerged from the kitchen. After all, in the hotel business, presentation is everything.
The winner of the race was Bassel Chalwani, 24, a resident of Wadi Joz who works at the Grand Court Hotel in east Jerusalem. Grand Court general manager Dudi Ashkenazi said that the race had been conducted along similar lines to the annual waiters' race in Paris. Chalwani not only ran faster than his colleagues but also spilled the least wine. The prize was a round trip ticket to Paris, which he cannot use till 2010 when he goes to represent Israel in the Paris waiters' race. The question is will he come back if he wins?
THE MOTHER of the bride is a leading real estate agent who doesn't sell an apartment here or there, but sells whole neighborhoods. Nonetheless Shelly Levine will have no hand in the housing of her daughter Dori and future son-in-law Dr. Avi Schiowitz. The groom's family is apparently solving the housing problem. Public relations executive Charley Levine, the proud father of the bride, is very happy that his wife will be able to focus on the November wedding without having to worry about what comes next.
IT LOOKS like a great year for Channel 2 newsman Amit Segal. In July he was awarded a scholarship to study in the UK, and in recent weeks rumors have been flying strong that he and Na'ama Zisser, the daughter of international business tycoon Moti Zisser and his wife Bracha, who initiated the Israel bone marrow bank, may find themselves together under a bridal canopy. If that does indeed eventuate, chances are high that Segal, sooner or later, will make a significant career change.
IN HIS former capacities of chairman of the Jewish Agency and mayor of Ra'anana, Kadima MK Ze'ev Bielski attended many dedication ceremonies, but the one he attended at the Ariel University Center in Samaria was special because it was a family affair. The dedication was a new sculpture garden featuring creations of celebrated South African sculptor Edoardo Villa. The garden was donated by Bielski's brother-in-law Leslie Sacks of Los Angeles in memory of his father Wolfe (Harry) Zev Sacks. Leslie Sacks, his mother, sister Caron and other family members along with Moshe Arens, chairman of the AUC's International Board of Governors, and AUC president Dan Meyerstein attended the dedication ceremony. The eight sculptures will adorn the western campus adjacent to the School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Sciences, Center for Design and Technology and the dormitories.
Born and raised in Italy, Villa is a leading sculptor in South Africa, where he now lives. His works are a reflection of his European roots combined with strong African influences. His sculptures are exhibited in a museum bearing his name at the University of Pretoria, as well as throughout South Africa and in many other countries. Here, his work can be seen at the South African Embassy.
Eldad Halachmi, vice president of resource development at Ariel University Center, observed that "the sculpture garden marks the beginning of a new era at AUC, which not only excels in research, but is open to the values of traditional and modern art and culture. Mr. Sacks's contribution is a wonderful expression of the feeling of cooperation between world Jewry with Israel's next university as it heads toward new, groundbreaking discoveries."
A COUPLE of weeks back, Aryeh and Yaffa Deri were among the many guests of business mogul David Appel when he married of his daughter Shira to David Israel in a glittering ceremony followed by a lavish dinner at the Sheraton City Tower Hotel. Also among the guests was Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who together with several others had to wait for some time while technicians repaired a faulty elevator. When they completed the task and apologized to her for the delay, they addressed her as Tzipi Livni. Livnat was not amused.
MODERN TECHNOLOGY may put antiquarians out of business - at least those who trade in old books. The works of all major writers are being digitalized around the world, including Israel. The digital scanning of the archive of Aharon Appelfeld, including the author's original manuscripts,was recently completed and is housed in the Hebrew literature archives of Hakesherim - the Research Institute for Jewish and Israeli Literature and Culture - at Ben-Gurion University. The collection is now accessible to researchers around the world. Researchers interested in the archive of Uri Zvi Greenberg can also find it at Hakesherim. Other archives at Hakesherim include those of Amos Oz, Yehuda Amichai, Ruth Almog, David Avidan, Yocheved Bat-Miriam, David SchÃ¼tz, Nissim Aloni and other leading writers. Hakesherim director Yigal Schwartz, one of the world's leading scholars of Hebrew literature, notes that Hakesherim collects the works of the "First Israelis," the first generation of writers who shaped the language and culture of the nascent state. The archives, with their extensive paraphernalia, including Avidan's typewriter, are open to researchers, students and the general public.
TO THIRD generation Tel Avivian Nurit Bat-Ya'ar, the name Polishuk is not a television series. It's the name of her grandfather Asher Polishuk, who was one of the founders of Tel Aviv. When the Tel Aviv Municipality was gathering material on the city's founders for exhibitions and publications related to the 100th anniversary celebrations, Bat-Ya'ar, who for many years was the chief fashion writer for Yediot Aharonot, was approached to submit material not only about her grandfather, but also herself. Before becoming a fashion writer, Bat-Ya'ar was a fashion model.
Like many Tel Avivians, she frequently accesses the centenary Web site to see what's going on and what's worth going to - and was pleasantly surprised to discover photos from her modeling days as well as a well documented article about her career. Bat-Ya'ar is currently in the process of completing a book about the history of fashion in Israel.