ONE OF the most popular columns in The Jerusalem Post in its time was 'With Prejudice' that expressed not only the unique brand of humor of the late Alex Berlyne, but additionally gave readers an insight into his enormous range of knowledge. Berlyne, who was also a highly respected graphic artist and had received many prestige commissions beyond his work at the Post, held various positions at the paper in the course of a long career, including that of Literary Editor. He is greatly missed by faithful readers who have asked from time to time for his timeless columns to be reprinted. Last week, his widow, Edna, gave the Post a collection of Berlyne's books on journalism. She also presented the paper with a three-volume bound collection of Berlyne's columns. When she and Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz picked up one of the volumes at random, it fell open to a column dated August 27 - which just happens to be Edna Berlyne's birthday.
US AMBASSADOR Richard Jones and his wife Joan hosted a farewell for Deputy Chief of Mission Gene Cretz and his wife Annette. The occasion was also an opportunity to welcome Cretz's successor Luis G. Moreno and his wife Gloria. Cretz, a veteran diplomat, was nominated in July by US President George W. Bush to serve as the first US ambassador to Libya since 1972, the year in which Muammar Gaddhafi took power. Diplomatic ties were severed in 1981, and Libya was subsequently listed by Washington as a state that sponsored terrorism. In 1988, Libya bombed a US PanAm jetliner, but did not accept responsibility till 2003, the same year in which Libya decided to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction. It later agreed to pay out $3 billion in compensation to the families of the 270 people killed in the PanAm crash - most of them Americans. However, not all of the money has been forthcoming.
Cretz, a veteran diplomat, previously served in Israel from 1991 to 1994, and moved on to Cairo and Damascus. He said that he hoped that the Libyans would show interest in where he had been before just as the Egyptians and the Syrians had done, because telling them what he had found here, presented another perspective. "You never know where these talks may lead to in the peace process," he said. Jones and Cretz who worked together very closely, exchanged a good deal of banter, especially with regard to Cretz's confirmation by the Senate. "It's a daunting process," said Jones. "They really scrutinize you. If you look as if you hired a nanny in 1981, they want to know was she legal, did you pay her social security?"
He warned Cretz that he was in for a real grilling in Washington and recalled that his own first ambassadorial appointment to represent the US in Beirut was held up for a year. After being initially notified, he waited six months for the White House to announce it, and then another six months for Senate approval. "It was a long, long year," he said, not only for himself but for some 30 potential ambassadors waiting to be approved.
Kidding aside, Cretz could be put on hold indefinitely, because several Democratic senators including Hillary Clinton have threatened to block his nomination until Libya fulfills its compensation commitment. Among the people who came to the US residence to wish Cretz well were former Israeli ambassadors to the US Moshe Arad and Itamar Rabinovitch, former media advisor to and spokesman for former prime minister Ariel Sharon Ra'anan Gissin, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy and ADC to the President Brig.-Gen. Shimon Hefetz.
IVORY COAST Ambassador Prof. Raymond Kessie Koudou was effusive in welcoming guests to his residence in Kfar Shmaryahu to join him in celebrating the 47th anniversary of his country's independence. He was particularly glad to see Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri who had attended the 46th anniversary celebrations last year. Florettes of balloons in the Ivory Coast national colors of orange, white and green, bobbed in the swimming pool of the large garden expanse of the residence. The national flag was also highly visible, with orange representing the fertility of the land, white representing peace, and green representing hope.
Although the Ivory Coast and Israel enjoy a good relationship on the diplomatic and political levels, said Koudou, economic ties were nowhere near those in the diplomatic sphere. Koudou hopes to set the wheels of change in motion in November of this year when his embassy hosts an Ivory Coast week at the Dan Panorama Hotel, Tel Aviv, beginning November 12. The event is aimed at interesting Israelis to invest in industry, mining, energy and agriculture. In addition to presenting opportunities in these areas via a series of seminars, the events will also feature Ivory Coast arts and crafts.
Koudou was optimistic that the war-torn Ivory Coast had put an end to hostilities on March 4 of this year when President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, in a symbolic act of reconciliation, set fire to weapons that had been handed over by the rebels. The act, according to both men, marked the end of war and enhanced the importance of the peace accord. On July 30, said Koudou, people from all over the Ivory Coast converged on Bouake, which had been the rebels' stronghold, and gathered around a bonfire of peace which was kindled by Gbagbo in the presence of a large representation of African leaders.
Noting that Gbagbo and Soro had declared peace to be "irreversible," Koudou said that this left much room for hope even though peace was not something that could be built in a day, but required an ongoing day-to-day effort. Koudou said that the Ivory Coast must remain vigilant in this respect. He was grateful to the international community for its assistance in the process of organizing free democratic elections. His hopes for peace embraced not only his own country but also the region in which he currently finds himself. In concluding his address, Koudou expressed the wish that Israel and the Palestinians might also find the path to peace.
Ben-Yizri, who declared Israel to be a friend of the Ivory Coast, said that he was very satisfied with the relationship and acknowledged that there was great untapped potential in the economic ties between the two countries. He praised the courage of the Ivorians in finding a way towards rapprochement and said that everything should be done towards continuing in this direction.
The most moving part of the ceremony was the singing of the national anthem which the large number of citizens of the Ivory Coast sang with such joy and gusto that other guests were simply swept along with their enthusiasm. A surprise guest at the Ivory Coast festivities was former Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg, who was back in the country for ten days to wind up his affairs. Due to the absence of furniture in the Swedish residence, Rydberg had no option but to stay in a hotel.
UNLIKE HIS Jewish colleagues in the government, Science Minister Ghaleb Majadle, who made history by being the first Arab to be given a ministerial portfolio, refuses to compromise on matters of language. Majadle who can get along just fine in English, insists on delivering his speeches in Hebrew when representing the government at national day receptions. A member of the Foreign Ministry sometimes reads out an English translation afterwards. Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri delivers his speeches in French, as he did at the Ivory Coat reception and a few weeks back at the Cameroon reception. But when Majadle came to the Herzliya Pituah residence of Rafael Veintimilla, the ambassador of Ecuador, to join in Ecuador's National Day celebrations, he read out his speech in Hebrew, and later was heard conversing in English. Majadle referred to Ecuador as a dear friend which Israel values. He also spoke of Ecuador's achievements in empowering women, agriculture, water management and social development, and underscored the extent to which its culture and beautiful scenery attracts young Israeli tourists who travel its length and breadth.
Veintimilla made the point that Ecuador is only two years away from celebrating the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the struggle for its independence. Veintimilla, looking to a better future for his country, noted that President Rafael Cirrea Delgado, a trained economist, who was previously Ecuador's minister of finance, had gathered all the people of Ecuador to vote for a new constituent assembly to rewrite Ecuador's constitution. Veintimilla was hopeful that this would provide a new jurisdictional framework to make his country more democratic and more involved with the aspirations of the people of Ecuador who seek more liberty, social justice, stability, prosperity and development.
Characterizing Israel as a country "with which we are honored to maintain diplomatic relations" Veintimilla did not overlook Israel's aspirations, saying that Israel was working hard towards a definitive peace process, and with the help of the international community, might find the right path. He was certain that if this happened, it would benefit not only the region but the world. Among the guests crowded around the pool was Israel's new Ambassador to Ecuador Eyal Sela. Most government ministers don't stay much beyond the formalities at national day receptions, but Majadle, who was obviously enjoying himself, stayed for a long time, talking to different people, and sampling the varied Ecuadorian delicacies which kept emerging from the kitchen.
CELEBRATING FIFTEEN years of diplomatic relations between Israel and India is keeping Indian Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh very busy. Last week, he was running around with Indian Minister for State for Commerce and Industry Ashwani Kumar, who met with Israel's top officials and talked about taking relations to a higher level, and this week he is presiding over the ceremonial opening of the India Festival that opens Thursday in Tel Aviv with a traditional dance performance by Kavita Dwibedi, one of the leading exponents of Odissi dance, and a sitar concert by Purbayan Chaterjee, one of India's finest performers of the national string instrument. Both artists have distinguished themselves not only in India but around the world. Thursday's performances are by invitation only, but lovers of Indian culture will be able to see the two artists nightly at 9 p.m. at the Eretz Israel Museum for five nights beginning August 18. The ambassador will also be traveling between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa to launch the Indian Film Festival at Cinematheques in all three cities. The festival begins in Tel Aviv on Saturday, in Jerusalem on Sunday, and in Haifa on Monday. The festival will be launched in all three locations with the film 'Dosar the Companion', a sensitive film about infidelity, with dialogue in Bengali and Hebrew and English subtitles. Also present in all three locations will be the film's director, Rituparno Ghosh, who has won numerous awards. Most of the other films are in Hindi, though there are also films in Tamil and Malayalam. The film festival concludes on August 30.
DURING HER stint as the wife of the US ambassador to Israel, Sheila Kurtzer founded a Rosh Hodesh Club to which women from many walks of life came together at or near the beginning of each Hebrew calendar month to learn something of Jewish tradition, to hear lectures on various subjects, to see a fashion show and to contribute to charity. Although Kurtzer is presently in Israel, and it was hoped that she would attend the Elul meeting of the Rosh Hodesh Club in Jerusalem last Friday, she simply had too many other commitments. A frequent visitor to Israel since her husband left the Foreign Service, Kurtzer is always inundated with invitations. Currently running the Rosh Hodesh Club is the dynamic Kitty Schenker, who persuaded Larissa Gerstein, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, to sing, and attorney Ettya Simcha to speak about the significance of Elul and to say something about the weekly Torah portion. Schenker also persuaded fashion designer Shoshan Ben Zur whose clientele includes politicians, diplomats, wives of diplomats and wives of presidents of Israel to put on a fashion show, together with wig expert Eli Cohen, who once a week gives his services gratis to cancer patients at Ichilov Hospital. Headquartered in Ramat Gan, Cohen has just opened a branch of his salon in Jerusalem's King Solomon Hotel. Gerstein, who performs in Europe and the US, was on the verge of leaving for a road show in the US, but like most other people, found it impossible to say no to Schenker. She came prepared to sing for an hour, but due to a technical hitch, sat around for even longer before she finally got to stand in front of the microphone - and then she had only enough time to sing three songs. Originally from Khirgizstan, Gerstein, who has been living in Israel for just over thirty years, has a deep husky voice, and does not sing merely to entertain. Her aim is to project Russian culture and not through the songs that people usually associate with Russian culture. She goes into greater depth with regard to the history, social milieu and lyrics of the songs, and she sings them not only in Russian but also in Hebrew and English.
The audience loved her and begged her to come back another time. None of the three models who showed off Ben Zur's fashions and Cohen's wigs is exactly a spring chicken. Former super model, Hani Peri, who still has plenty of oomph, admits to being 55, and is probably the oldest professional model still working on a regular basis with both Cohen and Ben Zur as well as with other companies. She and the other two models came out wearing wigs and extensions that matched their own hair and later wore wigs of another color that looked so natural that it was hard to believe they were wigs. But the piece de resistance was Schenker, who has a somewhat squat figure and dark hair that she wears in a twist. Schenker disappeared behind the screen and emerged in a flattering black cocktail outfit and a long blonde wig that completely changed her appearance and won shrieks of delight coupled with applause.
WHEN ZIMRIYA chairperson Esther Herlitz issued invitations to choirs around the world to come to Jerusalem to make music together, she had no concept of what the grand finale would be. Some 700 singers from 13 countries congregated in the capital to attend workshops, to sing the songs of their own countries and songs they learned while in Israel. In Herlitz's view, one of the best ways to make friendships across borders is to sing together - and this is what happens at the triennial Zimriya. Walt Whitman, Afro-American gospel singer, musical arranger and choir master of The Soul Children of Chicago, led a gospel workshop during the week of the Zimriya, but also led a 120 member choir at the gala concert on the last night of the festival, and had the audience in the packed Jerusalem Theater tapping their feet and even dancing in the aisles. The usual practice at concerts, plays, lectures, etc. is to ask members of the audience to turn off their cellphones. Whitman did the opposite. Instead of getting everyone to light a candle and wave it in time to the music as used to be the custom in another era, he asked everyone in the darkened theater hall to take out their cellphones and to hold them up and sway to the music. The effect was that of hundreds of fireflies - something memorable to behold.
EMET MEANS truth in Hebrew, but it also happens to be the acronym for what is largely regarded as the Israel equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Established by Mexican millionaire Alberto Moscova, who is now 91, the prize honors outstanding Israelis in the arts, science and culture, the Hebrew words for which are omanut, (beginning with aleph), mada and tarbut. Moscova donates a million dollars each year to be divided among the laureates. The committee that examines all the recommendations is headed by retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach. The winners will receive their prizes from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a festive ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater in November.
The Jerusalem Theater is also the venue for the annual distribution of Israel Prizes at the close of Independence Day celebrations. Meanwhile, this year's laureates, who have already been named, met last week for lunch at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv at a getting to know you prelude to the November ceremony. They included: former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, Tel Aviv University criminologist Prof. Shlomo Giora Shoham, Haifa University historian Prof. Miriam Yardeni, Hebrew University philosopher Prof. Avishay Margalit who will receive Social Science awards; authors Sami Michael and David Grossman, who will receive Culture and Arts awards, Hebrew University mathematician Prof. Shmuel Agmon, Tel Aviv University mathematician Prof. Vitali Milman and TAU computer scientist Prof. Micha Sharir who will receive Exact Sciences awards and Weizmann Institute biochemist Prof. Yosef Yarden and microbiologist Prof. Eliora Ron who will receive Life Science awards. Bach and his committee were also present.
WHEN FORMER Royal Sarah Ferguson was in Israel a few months back, she hinted to PresidentShimon Peres, who was then vice premier, that she would come back with someone very important. As she has remained on very good terms with her former husband, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, there was some speculation that she might persuade him to come to Israel with her. But in fact the Royal who will arrive in Israel at the beginning of September to distribute Israel Youth Award prizes for leadership is Fergie's former brother-in-law Prince Edward, who will stay in the country for a few days. Prince Edward's paternal grandmother Princess Alice, is buried on the Mount of Olives, where her remains were transferred in August 1988. She had a wish to be buried next to her aunt Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorowna. In October 1994, she was honored at Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations for having hidden the Cohen family in her home in Athens during the Second World War. Although British Royals have refrained from visiting Israel, ostensibly for reasons of security, though they do seem to go to more dangerous places, Prince Philip and his sister Princess Sophie, who was married to Prince George of Hanover could hardly ignore such an occasion, and duly came to Jerusalem for the occasion. Princess Sophie died in November 2001. Prince Philip, the youngest by many years of five siblings, and the only male among them, is the sole survivor. Prince Philip heads an international youth awards organization that encompasses young people from 120 countries including Israel. It is therefore fitting that one of his offspring come to Israel for the awards ceremony. It just so happens that the particular offspring bears the same name as Prince Philip's father.