All the world loves a wedding Some 10 times as many people attended the wedding reception of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Irina Nevzlin, chairwoman of the board of Beit Hatfutsot, at the Ronit Farm in Ra’anana on Monday night as the 150 who the previous week attended their marriage ceremony on the roof of Aish Hatorah overlooking the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The only similarity between the spiritual and the social events marking the wedding was that on both occasions the groom, contrary to his attire in the Knesset, disdained a tie.
Conspicuous by their absence from the reception at Ronit Farm were President Reuven Rivlin, former president Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who were all abroad. Rivlin was in Belgium, Peres was in Rome, where earlier in the day he had met with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss combating international terrorism, and Liberman was in the United States. Also absent was Rabbi Israel Eichler, who was marrying off his granddaughter in Bnei Brak.
Most of the members of the Knesset were on Edelstein’s guest list, aside from a handful.
While the actual wedding ceremony had been performed by Rabbi Gideon Perl, the chief rabbi of Alon Shvut, and Rabbi Benji Levene, a prominent Gesher educator and the rabbi of Ahdut Hatorah Synagogue in Nahlaot, which was once the synagogue of his legendary grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the rabbi who seemed to be everywhere, meeting and effusively greeting guests at Ronit Farm with such enthusiasm that a stranger might have thought that he was a member of the family, was Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. He actually embraced Zionist Union MK Amir Peretz, who, as suggested this week by former minister Shalom Simhon, could save the Labor Party by joining forces with Ehud Barak.
Edelstein and his bride joined their guests to the strains of Idan Raichel’s “Mima’amakim” (From the Depths). Invitees comprised many public figures from the business world, academia, the arts, past and present government ministers and Knesset members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat, Gideon Sa’ar, Yair Lapid, Isaac Herzog, Arye Deri, Naftali Bennett, Ze’ev Elkin, Tzipi Livni, Ayoub Kara, Michael Oren, Yehudah Glick and Moshe Gafni. State Comptroller Joseph Shapira and other past and present representatives of the judiciary were also among the guests.
Security was very tight on the road leading to Ronit Farm, and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had enforced safety measures by ensuring that no planes would be flying in the airspace over the area. Although guests had been notified that gifts would be donated to charity, especially to lone soldiers, it is unlikely that the gift that the newlyweds received from Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, will be given away.
Their choice was a verse from the 126th Psalm printed on parchment: “When the Almighty returned us to Zion, we were like dreamers….”
Nothing could be more appropriate for former Prisoner of Zion Yuli Edelstein.
■ AMBASSADORS DO not choose the ministers who come to their national day receptions as representatives of the government, but no minister was more appropriate to attend the 118th anniversary celebration of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence hosted at the Tel Aviv Hilton by Philippines Ambassador Neal Imperial and his wife, Octavia, than Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. In his address, Imperial noted that the Philippines is the most gender-equal country in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Philippines has had two women presidents, and the present chief justice of the Supreme Court is a woman, he said. “We share common ground with Israel in supporting the struggle for gender equality globally.”
Imperial did not mention it, but several of his ambassadorial predecessors in Israel were women.
The Filipino nation has the distinction of having been the first to mount a successful anticolonial revolution in Asia, and there were women among the courageous revolutionaries.
In addition to celebrating his country’s independence, Imperial said that together with the 27,000 Filipino nationals residing in Israel, he was also proud to be celebrating the 30th anniversary this year, of the 1986 People Power Revolution, which was a unique popular uprising that overthrew 14 years of authoritarian rule through peaceful and democratic means. “This mode of peaceful political change has inspired a wave of democratization worldwide that reverberates to this day,” said Imperial.
He was pleased to give advance notice that next year Israel and the Philippines will celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations, “an important milestone in the relations between our two democracies.” He saw this as an opportunity to build on existing relationships particularly in the areas of tourism and agricultural cooperation. He was grateful for the benefits derived by numerous Filipinos who have participated in Mashav training programs provided by Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. He also thanked the Israel government for allowing 20,000 Filipinos to work in Israel as caregivers.
Gamliel, too, mentioned Filipino caregivers in her address, lauding their professionalism, commitment and dedication. She also emphasized that the Philippines was the only Asian member state of the United Nations which in November 1947 voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, which paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel.
Even before that, the Philippines, at the initiative of president Manuel Quezon, had been one of the very few countries in the world that offered a haven to Jews fleeing from the Nazis and welcomed Jewish refugees from Germany, some of whom are still living.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by vocalist Rose Fostanes, who came to Israel as a caregiver and became a celebrity after winning The X Factor competition on television.
■ IS IT good genes or simply that people are increasingly living to a triple-digit age? Earlier this month, this column featured an item about Bess Muss Markofsky Glaster, one of 11 siblings, whose family hosted a 100th birthday party for her in Beth Protea in Herzliya. This week it was the turn of Sara Belfer (née Feiglin), whose father, Moshe Zalman Feiglin, who also happens to have been the great-grandfather of former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, was the founder of Chabad in Australia.
Together with his brother Bere, Moshe Zalman went from Russia to the Land of Israel, which was then under Ottoman rule. To avoid conscription into the Ottoman army, he migrated to Australia, arriving there in 1910. He had left his wife, Leah, and five children – Avraham, Tzipora, Judah, Joseph and Mordechai – in Palestine. It took three years before they were able to join him. All in all, Moshe Zalman and Leah had 10 children, and Sara, who was born in Australia, was the seventh.
Because Melbourne did not have the religious facilities that it has today, and because it was almost impossible to get a job in which one didn’t have to work on Saturdays, Moshe Zalman moved to Shepparton, where he and his family operated a farm and opened their home and their hearts to Chabad families who all found it easier to be observant in Shepparton than in Melbourne.
Moshe Zalman’s numerous descendants were and are influential in many aspects of Jewish life, not only in Australia but also in Israel, Thailand, the United States, Canada, London and points elsewhere.
Some specially came to Israel to participate in Belfer’s 100th birthday celebrations, arranged primarily by her daughter, Pnina Rochwarger, and her niece Carmella Burke, who she said has become like a second daughter to her.
Over the years, several of Moshe Zalman and Leah Feiglin’s children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews settled in Israel, while other relatives remained in Australia or went to America but had business or educational interests in Israel. The family is enormous.
Of Belfer’s three children – Pnina, Binyomin and Michi – only Michi lives in Australia, but he came with his wife, Barbara, and four children to join in the festivities. His son Yechiel, a successful lawyer, spent part of his growing-up years in his grandparents’ home, and he was also closely in touch with them in Jerusalem when he was a student in Israel’s capital. Now 38 and a parent himself, he shared memories of his grandmother’s cooking, of the spoon of sugar she allowed him on his cereal, of her kindness, hospitality, dignity and integrity. He was speaking only from the perspective of his own experience and his 38 years, he said, adding that he would email his speech to other members of the family, in the hope that they would contribute their own memories and experiences and turn the tributes to her into something more comprehensive.
There was so much love and affection in the room that it was almost tangible, and cameras and cellphones with cameras clicked away madly to capture these special moments for posterity. Large families don’t always manage to get together very often, and it has to be a very special occasion, such as a wedding or a 100th birthday, that prompts them to travel from overseas or across the country to reunite.
Sara Belfer said that she was pleased that her birthday brought so many members of her family together, and by way of thanks she blessed each and every one that each should get their heart’s desire.
■ AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE Day is not always celebrated in Israel on the Fourth of July. If the date happens to coincide with a Friday or Saturday, or there is some other major event on July 4, the celebration is shifted to a more convenient date a day or two earlier or later. But this year, it has actually been moved to June, with one of the main reasons being that the prime minister and the president of Israel are always the representatives of the government and the state at American Independence Day receptions. Netanyahu will not be in Israel during the first week of July. He is scheduled to be in Entebbe on July 4, to mark the 40th anniversary of the daring Entebbe rescue operation of Israelis and Jews being held hostage by Black September.
The mission was commanded by his brother Yoni, who was killed in action. Peres, who was defense minister at the time, is also planning to be in Entebbe on July 4.
■ AT A FAREWELL dinner dance at the Sharon Hotel Herzliya last Thursday night, Catherine de Renesse, outgoing president of the International Women’s Club, said: “It’s time to say goodbye; we are leaving the Holy Land for the Holy See.” De Renesse and her husband, the extremely affable Belgian Ambassador Jean Cornet d’Elzius, are leaving Israel at the end of July, but will be happy to welcome the many friends they made in Israel to their residence in Rome.
The IWC has a rotating presidency, with an ambassador’s wife holding office one year and an Israeli the following year. Regardless of the fact that the popular Belgian couple were leaving, it was also time for the changing of the guard at the IWC, where there is usually a luncheon to bid farewell to the outgoing president and welcome the incoming president, who in this instance is Tsippi Ben-Sheffer, who ran around all night photographing everyone.
The outgoing president, who loves to dance, decided that she wanted her farewell to be a dinner-dance rather than a luncheon, and judging by the attendance and the number of couples and individuals circling the beachfront deck of the hotel, the idea was a good one. Some of the older couples proved that dancing is akin to the elixir of youth.
Former diplomat Werner Loval and his wife, Pamela, came from Jerusalem for the occasion and were arguably the most senior couple on the dance floor. They will be dancing again in September when they host a triple anniversary marking his 90th birthday, her 80th birthday and their 60th wedding anniversary, which will be held at the King David Hotel Jerusalem, where they were married in 1956.
Between dances, the Belgians, separately and together, stopped at the various tables to chat with guests, assuring them that they would be back for weekends and vacations because they really love Israel. De Renesse said that she could not have wanted a better integration into Israeli social and cultural life than that afforded her by the IWC. She specially thanked veteran member Daniella Oren, who has been her great friend since her first day in Israel. She also thanked members of her executive, without whom, she said, she would not have been able to accomplish any of the things that she achieved.
Ben-Sheffer said that many people had been asking her what changes she intended to make during her presidency, and her reply had been “None” because she is in perfect agreement with everything that de Renesse had done. If other leaders in perhaps more important positions would also realize that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, the world might be a better place.
■ WHILE RETURNING to Jerusalem from Givatayim, where they had attended a memorial service for the victims of the Altalena, Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, made a beeline for Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to see what they could buy for their grandchildren and themselves at Hebrew Book Week. They were delighted to bump into best-selling author David Grossman, with whom they stopped to chat. His was not the only familiar face that they encountered.
■ ON THE subject of Hebrew Book Fair, two of Israel’s elder statesman, former MKs who are gifted speakers and writers but on completely opposite sides of the political fence, nonetheless stood more or less together at Hebrew Book Week in Tel Aviv to hawk and autograph their respective books. Former Likud MK Zalman Shoval, who twice served as ambassador to the US, was hawking his new autobiographical book Diplomat, while Uri Avneri, who is arguably Israel’s most iconic leftist, the first Israeli to openly speak face-to-face with Yasser Arafat and the founder of Gush Shalom, was hawking his latest book. At least they had something to argue about when things got quiet.
■ AMBASSADOR TO the UN Danny Danon frequently receives visitors from Israel, but one of the most heartwarming visits was from Amir Rituv, the head of the Lev Sharon City Council, who brought with him a package – not for Danon but for Danon’s daughters. The package contained letters from their school friends with updates about events on the home front plus assurances that the two girls were missed. In an era of social media correspondence, it’s comforting to know that some youngsters still prefer the personal touch.
Danon will be in Israel next week when he accompanies UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon on the latter’s farewell visit to Israel before he steps down at the end of this year.
■ ENTERTAINER AND current affairs commentator Yehoram Gaon has a problem. He can’t communicate with his grandchildren. On his weekly radio program on Reshet Bet last Friday, Gaon said that he hates cellphones because his grandchildren are so absorbed in their individual cellphones, texting or playing games, that they totally ignore him when he comes to visit, and when he calls out a greeting, there is no response.
Thinking that perhaps they might be more polite if he took them to his home and plied them with hamburgers and other things that people feed to children, he was shocked by the total silence in the car. He had expected the youngsters to make noise, to fight with each other, but instead the silence was deafening.
Looking into the rearview mirror, he saw that his grandchildren were, as always, preoccupied with their cellphones. He asked them to at least put away the phones while in the car. “What should we do instead?” they asked. When he suggested that they look out of the window at the scenery, they gave him a withering look as if to say “You’re mad.”
Once inside the house, he confiscated the phones, but that did not deter his grandchildren, who made a beeline for his personal computer.
Gaon appealed to grandparents among the listeners who have confronted and overcome a similar problem to help him out. “I’m just dying to have a conversation with my grandchildren,” he said.
■ IT WAS roses, roses all the way for Karine Aliya, the 2016 Miss Israel who last week started the most glorious year of her life at the Hilton Tel Aviv with a long, pampering day of relaxation. The 18-year-old student from Kiryat Gat, recently voted as the most beautiful of all contestants in the annual beauty contest, enjoyed a dip in the pool, gourmet dining and mouthwatering beverages, plus the luxury of the Sheva Spa.
The new Miss Israel was welcomed with roses by the hotel’s enthusiastic bellboys team, who wished her success in the upcoming Miss World contest The Tel Aviv Hilton has a long experience with Israeli beauty queens. In fact, Rina Mor-Goder, who in 1976, as Rina Messinger, was the first Israeli to win the Miss Universe contest, after completing the year of her reign, went to work in public relations for the Jewish Agency and Israel Bonds in New York, and after returning home from the Big Apple worked in the public relations department of the Tel Aviv Hilton.
■ SECURITY IS a universal top priority these days, though one might never know it from watching Israelis cross the road on red lights, motorcycles violating speed limits as they weave in and out of traffic, and car drivers risking loss of license as they talk with their cellphones held to their ears while driving. But in areas where security really is important, we had a cyber conference this week, and before that former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo joined the advisory board of United Against Nuclear Iran. Pardo, who served as Mossad director from January 2011 through January 2016 and was a member of the intelligence agency for 35 years, succeeded long-standing UANI advisory board member Meir Dagan, who preceded him as Mossad director.
“The leading global powers cannot turn a blind eye to the clear and present dangers the Iranian regime poses to the safety and freedoms of millions of people within their borders and throughout the world,” said Pardo. “I have had the opportunity to follow UANI activities during the last years and I am proud and honored to be part of the UANI advisory board.”
Other new members of UANI advisory board include Lt.-Gen.
Sir Graeme Lamb of the UK, former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, former US ambassador John Bolton and US Army Lt.-Gen.
Michael D. Barbero. UANI is a nonpartisan not for profit advocacy organization known for its efforts to make the world aware of the dangers posed by the Iranian regime.
■ IN THE course of a visit to Yad Vashem on Wednesday, Education and Culture Minister of Cyprus Prof.
Costas Kadis will sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Cyprus and Yad Vashem, which promotes professional development of Cypriot educators in the field of Holocaust studies. This memorandum outlines several projects in the field of teacher training, including a seminar for Cypriot educators to be held at Yad Vashem.
Cyprus has a special feeling for Holocaust history as so many Holocaust survivors were incarcerated there in the final years of the British Mandate when authorities refused to allow survivors to land in what was then Palestine. While some managed to evade the British, many did not, and while they yearned for the Land of Israel, they enjoyed Cypriot hospitality. Between 1946 and 1949, some 2,200 children were born to Holocaust survivors in Cyprus.
■ JAZZ GUITARIST Pat Metheny, who was in Israel last week, said that if he was already in the country, there was no way he was going to leave before visiting the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was cutting it fine because he had to board a plane to Italy, but he got to the museum bright and early and was standing in the doorway when the museum opened.
Someone else who decided to take the special tour with Metheny was singer Ahinoam Nini, who was happy to spend the morning on tour even though she had a concert in the evening. As always, she was accompanied by guitarist Gili Dor.