Grapevine: A Journey to India

The Rivlins who traveled extensively through India, have many photographs to show to their family during the days ahead.

November 19, 2016 20:17
Reuven Rivlin

President Rivlin at the Taj Mahal. . (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)

WHO WOULD dream of visiting India without going to the Taj Mahal? Certainly not President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama, who are due to fly home to Israel tonight following an intensive week-long state visit, which was also the first time for both in the sub continent. The Rivlins who traveled extensively through India, have many photographs to show to their family during the days ahead, but one of their favorites will undoubtedly be as they sat together on a bench with the Taj Mahal in the background.

■ THE NATIONAL Library which administers the estate of Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig recently received 26 letters written by him from 92-year-old Bat Yam resident Hanna Jacobson, who is the step-daughter of Hans Rosenzweig, who as a 16-year-old living in Königsberg was a great admirer of Zweig’s and who corresponded with him on a regular basis. The correspondence ceased in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. The letters shed new light on Zweig’s personality and his attitude to various Jewish issues, and their contents will be revealed to the public this coming Wednesday night, November 23, at an event at the National Library which is located on the Safra Campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram. Lecturers will include Prof. Klemens Renoldner, director of the Stefan Zweig Center in Salzburg and Prof. Mark Gelber, director of the Center for Austrian and German Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. This is one of several events marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Israel and Austria.

■ AT LEAST two once familiar faces will be among the participants in the second global forum of the National Library that is taking place on November 29-30 at the Mount Zion Hotel. Old friends will be delighted to greet former governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fisher and former US ambassador to Israel Prof. Daniel Kurtzer. Other participants will include President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with several prominent figures from Israel and abroad. Discussions will focus on the philosophical and political implications of secularism and religion, revolutions in both and how secularists and religiously observant people have related to each other throughout history to the present day.

■ EILAT HOTELIERS are more than happy to employ African refugees in their establishments, but were by and large prevented from doing so by various bureaucratic legalities. The upshot is a dearth of employees in the hospitality industry. Israelis are not terribly keen to work in hotels, where the work is long and hard and the pay minimal until one rises through the ranks. But change is on the way. Michael Saban, CEO of the Israel branch of Vatel World Wide Hospitality and Tourism School, says that many of Vatel’s European students who are being trained in Israel will remain here to work in the hotel and restaurant industries. Unlike Israelis, who do not have a tradition of courtesy and politeness, he says, the Europeans do have politeness ingrained in their culture, and will therefore upgrade the level of service. Many tourists who come to Israel, says Saban, love the country, but complain about the quality of service and the attitude of service staff. A better attitude is needed in order to boost tourism, he believes.

■ AN INTERNATIONAL group of Women’s International Zionist Organization activists currently visiting Israel, met with Zionist Union MK Michal Biran at the Rebecca Sieff facility in Jerusalem, named for one of the key founders of the organization. Biran told them that women should vote for other women on their merits and not simply because they are gender empathetic. “People should not elect me because I’m a woman,” she said. “People should elect me because I’m the best for the job. But part of the reason I’m best for the job is because I’m a woman.” Biran gave as one of the reasons that she finds time to meet with Jewish groups from the Diaspora is because “I feel that they are my family. We all have a joint history and a joint future.”

■ JUST UNDER two weeks ago, Warren Buffett raised $60 million for Israel Bonds by making a personal investment of $5 million, and calling it “a terrific tribute to the country.” Buffet who initially made waves in Israel’s economy in 2006 when his Berkshire Hathaway insurance and investment company made its first overseas acquisition and paid $4 billion in cash for 80% of Stef Wertheimer’s scar company specializing in precision metal working tools, continues to profit from the deal as does Wertheimer. Berkshire Hathaway purchased the remaining 20% in 2013 for $2.05 billion. Expressing confidence in Israel’s economy, Buffett told an Israel Bonds gathering in Omaha: “You can tell prospective investors that I would have taken a perpetual bond if you had offered one. I believe Israel is going to be around forever.” All those present invested at least $1 million in Israel Bonds.

The evening opened with a videotaped message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said: “Warren is one of the most brilliant and successful investors of our time. He knows a good investment when he sees it. That’s why he invests in Israel.”

Buffett, spoke warmly of Israel, calling it “a remarkable country,” and emphasizing that “the United States and Israel have a common destiny.” To illustrate this point, he told the gathering: “If you are looking for brains, energy and dynamism in the Middle East, Israel is the only place you need to go.”

Buffett also spoke positively of investing in Israel Bonds, saying he would invest $5 million in the bonds in his personal portfolio if participants at the event matched his investment. In doing so, Buffett stated: “I wanted – through the last-minute challenge – to set the bar even higher for future events.” Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio has included Israel bonds since its acquisition of GUARD Insurance in 2012, now known as Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies.

In expressing appreciation to Buffett, current Israel Bonds president & CEO Israel Maimon, who is relatively recent to the role said: “This event tells me that Warren Buffett, famed for his investment expertise, continues to view Israel as a sure bet.”

The evening was hosted by Henry Davis, president & CEO of Greater Omaha Packing Co., Inc.

Apropos Wertheimer – who celebrated his 90th birthday in July, and has created industrial zones in which many Arabs are employed as part of Wertheimer’s philosophy that giving Arabs jobs is an antidote to violence – received an open letter this week from Indonesia requesting that he direct his philanthropy in that direction.

The letter was also sent to the writer of this column with copies of an ID Card and passport in the hope that it would reach Wertheimer.

The English and the spelling leave something to be desired, but it’s an interesting approach and the contents have been left intact:

“Dear Mr. Stef Wertheimer, Billionaire Philantropy Stefen Israil, Metel-Cutting Company Iscar and Blade Technology, My Name Sudaryono Jatmiko, man, 69 years old, live in Jakarta – Indonesia, retired as Civil Engineer for Road and Bridge Department – Ministry of Public Works since 2004. But on 2003 I got stroke illness because of high tention blood pressure in left body site until this time.

Now this time, during my retire time, I manage my house rental in my home-town Yogyakarta o cover my monthly needs and my debt, but this activity is not enough to close my debt So please give me possibility to get Gift from You for 20,000 USD with my plan: 1) To cover my debts USD $5,000, 2) To install AC in my rental house USD $5,000 & 3) To buy Rental Car USD $10,000.

With your Gift, I hope I can get live better in my residual live. Thank you to your attention and I will wait you decission>Please send your Gift to my local bank account God bless you and the God always give you have good healthy Mr. Stef Wertheimer

Thank you.”

The letter also includes bank account details, plus a Paypal address in the event that the donation is less than $20,000 and turns out to be only a small amount.

■ A MORE urgent request not to Wertheimer, but to the public at large is for the donation of a liver from a living donor. Posted by Lauren Finkelstein of the Save 1 Person organization, it concerns a loving husband and father of three children named Oz, who desperately needs a liver donor to save his life. The message goes on to assure potential donors that if they give a portion of their liver to him, the liver will grow back. “He needs the kindness of a stranger,” writes Finkelstein. Not all of us are blessed with the financial resources to help others in need, but some of us can make up for that lacuna with the gift of a kidney or a liver or bone marrow, which not only enables another to continue living, but also to live a better life. Such gifts also benefit the families of the recipients, and are enormously rewarding to those who can say that they have contributed the gift of life. Whoever wants to help should email

■ OOPS, WE did it again. In last Sunday’s column, in an item about the reception hosted in honor of ESRA volunteer and Holocaust survivor David Klein who helps financially strapped university students of Ethiopian background to continue their studies by providing them with monetary resources, we gave the wrong name for the hosts of the reception. The correct names are Michael and Adele Hunter.

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