Although the anniversary of his death is closer to Passover than to Succot, on Friday there will be a Chaim Herzog sail-by salute at the Herzliya Marina to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Israel’s sixth president, who was a resident and Distinguished Citizen of the City of Herzliya, and who was also an amateur yachtsman and a great lover of the sea.
The sail-by, which was organized by the Herzliya Municipal Tourism Development Corporation, is being held for the seventh consecutive year. Members of the Herzog family, including opposition leader Isaac Herzog, will participate, though he will be cutting it fine if he also plans to attend the 10 a.m. unveiling ceremony in Jerusalem of the tombstone of Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres.
■ WHILE AUSTRIA is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with Israel, Hungary is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the revolution against Soviet oppression and repression.
Although the revolution failed to achieve its goal, and cost thousands of lives, it did succeed in alerting greater attention from the Western world to what was happening in Eastern Europe, and in that year Time magazine named the Hungarian freedom fighter as its Man of the Year for 1956. At the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, the Hungarian delegation tore down the Communist Hungarian flag in the Olympic Village and replaced it with the flag of Free Hungary. A violent water polo match between the Hungarian and Soviet teams resulted in 4-0 win for Hungary. The match, later termed “Blood in the Water” also triggered spectator violence among the respective supporters of the two teams. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was once one of the great powers of the world, but had begun to dissipate following the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.
In 1914, the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered World War I. Nazi Germany annexed and occupied Austria in 1938, and after the World War II, Austria was occupied by the Allies, primarily the Soviets. In 1955, Austria once again became a sovereign state. A not insignificant number of Austrian expatriates live in Israel. Many are Holocaust survivors and some fought with the allied armies in World War II. Among the latter is Israel Prize laureate and one of the country’s best known photographers, David Rubinger, who at 92, drives all over the country and traveled from Jerusalem to Herzliya Pituah to join Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss and his wife Susan in celebrating Austria’s National Day. He wasn’t the only nonagenarian present, but he was certainly the best preserved, and he may have been the only one who still drives. There were also several visiting Austrian dignitaries, including Federal Minister for Family and Youth, Sophie Karmasin, who came to launch a film project by Austrian school children who had researched Jewish life in Austria before, during and after World War II. In his address, Weiss referred to the various ups and downs in Israeli-Austrian relations and caused a laugh when he related that Golda Meir, on her return to Israel following a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, was asked to sum it up. “He didn’t even offer me a glass of water,” she said.
Things have gotten a lot better since then with high level exchanges. Early next year, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern will come to visit. One of the things that pleased Weiss greatly in the realm of people to people exchanges is the working holiday agreement between the two countries whereby Israelis visiting Austria can receive a work visa for a limited period, and Austrians visiting Israel can do the same.
One of the more interesting aspects of the evening was a confession by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that up till now, she could never bring herself to visit Austria, though her husband goes there every year to ski, and several of her friends go there on vacation. But now she is planning to visit Austria for the first time within the framework of a joint effort with her Austrian counterpart to strengthen the friendship between the two countries and to discuss common issues. Shaked said she was particularly excited now to be going to Vienna, which is where Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl spent much of his life. It was perhaps her excitement that caused Shaked to make a Freudian slip over and over, saying Australia, before correcting herself and saying Austria, after someone told her there were no kangaroos in Austria.
■ ITALIAN PRESIDENT, Sergio Mattarella, will arrive in Israel on October 29 on a five-day visit. On Sunday, he is scheduled to go to Yad Vashem in the morning, and to deliver a lecture at the Hebrew University in the afternoon within the framework of events inaugurating the new school year. In the evening he will visit the Italian Synagogue and Museum in Jerusalem, and meet with representatives of the Italian community in Israel. On Monday he will meet with President Reuven Rivlin, and on Wednesday, he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Prior to returning home Mattarella will visit the Aliya Bet (illegal immigrants) exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum and will also attend the launch of the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah by Italian Minister of Culture, Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini. After the World War II, Italy was a transit center for Jewish survivors who wanted to go to Palestine, and some very firm friendships were formed between Holocaust survivors and the Italians. Leaders of many European countries call themselves Israel’s best friend in Europe, but Italy has proved it with regard to its condemnation of the recent UNESCO vote on Jerusalem.
■ ALTHOUGH SEVERAL Canadian prime ministers and other Canadian government ministers have visited Israel, until now, no Canadian governor general has done so. Current incumbent David Johnston is making history in terms of Canada-Israel relations by being the first to make the visit. Accompanied by a delegation of parliamentarians and civil society leaders, Johnston, will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. His visit, according to a statement released last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, begins on October 29 and will conclude on November 6. The visit will focus on security, refugee resettlement, and development issues – as well as promoting stronger innovation and education ties with the region.
In Jordan, the governor general will visit a refugee camp and the Queen Rania Teacher Academy.
In Israel, he and Mrs. Johnston will visit the Haifa Technion to discuss student diversity. The governor general will receive an honorary doctorate. He will also participate in a panel discussion on sustainability and environmental innovation at Bethlehem University, in the West Bank.
Trudeau, who was in Israel last month to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres, has stated that “Canada is committed to deeper engagement in the Middle East. Canada’s policy in the region reflects what Canada is all about: defending our interests alongside our allies, working constructively with partners to build long-term peace and stability, and working to alleviate the suffering of those forced to flee their homes – including through resettlement.”
While in the Middle East, the Governor General will meet with a number of political leaders including: Jordan’s King Abdullah, as well as Prime Minister Dr. Hani Mulki; Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He will also meet with researchers, innovators, and education partners to explore how to deepen Canada’s ties within the Middle East. Jordan is a valued partner for Canada in the Middle East given its peaceful vision for the region, strong bilateral trade links, and close collaboration on refugees. Simultaneously, Canada values its steadfast relationship with Israel. Relations between the two countries are multifaceted and have been enhanced in recent years through increased cooperation in several areas, including trade, investment and innovation.
Canada is also in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which it believes, remains the only viable option to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
■ RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin has twice been to Israel in his presidential capacity, and the first time was during Passover, when he had no choice but to eat the bread of affliction because regular bread could not be served in his hotel. Now, it’s the turn of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is expected to arrive on November 10, which is the day before Armistice Day which is commemorated around the globe as the day on which a treaty was signed to bring an end to World War I. It was hoped at the time that an analogy to the Biblical prophecy in which swords are turned into plowshares would become a reality, but up till now, the mark of Cain has continued to leave a stain on humanity. Medvedev will arrive at a time when across the Israeli border, Syrians are killing each other in a war in which his country plays a worrisome role. However in recent years, ties between Moscow and Jerusalem have flourished, and Medvedev’s visit is designed to bolster them even further especially in financial and humanitarian areas. Despite the financial crisis that has overtaken Europe, the Russian government is honoring a pension deal that it signed whereby it will pay pensions to former citizens who worked in Russia and live in Israel.
More than a million Israeli citizens speak Russian as a mother tongue or a second language, having come from countries that were part of the former Soviet Union. They are a strong factor in bridge building on all levels between Russia and Israel.
■ ON THE day following day a red alert along the Gaza Strip, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid took a bus full of foreign diplomats to the area, and asked them to try to imagine that if a siren was instantly activated, what they would do if they had 15 seconds to run for shelter. “But where do you run to?” he asked, and urged his guests to imagine how much more difficult it would be for a mother with a baby in her arms. The diplomats had all shed their formal business suits, but Lapid who has taken on the self-appointed role of minister for public diplomacy, and has traveled abroad to set the record straight in places where anti-Israel propaganda is rife, wore a suit and tie in the grueling firstname.lastname@example.org