The Eurovision village received an additional aura of Europe on Wednesday night when Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, head of the delegation of the European Union, and his wife, Min-Ja Masson, hosted a gala Europe Day reception to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the European Union and Israel.
In addition to a wide representation of the diplomatic community and representatives of the various organizations and institutions with which the EU cooperates on various levels, guests of honor included President Reuven Rivlin and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. The significance of the occasion could perhaps be judged by the length of Rivlin’s speech, which was far longer than usual and somewhat of a strain for him because it was in English. Another sign of the importance which the president’s office attached to the event was the presence of his haredi Chief of Staff, Rivka Ravitz, who, despite the unbearably hot weather, managed to look cool and radiant despite the fact that she wears a wig and is pregnant with her 12th child. Both she and her husband come from large families. He is one of 12 siblings and she is one of 10. Rivlin and Huldai did not stay long after the formalities. Rivlin was headed for the Sami Ofer Stadium in Haifa to watch the State Cup match between Bnai Yehuda Tel Aviv and Maccabi Netanya, and to present the cup to Bnai Yehuda. It was a long night. The match ended after midnight, and even in a presidential car, it takes two hours at least to travel from Haifa to Jerusalem.
In his Europe Day address, Rivlin said that the Middle East could learn from Europe, which he characterized as one of the best examples of integration and friendship. Referring to the Eurovision’s “Dare to Dream” slogan, Rivlin said that it could very well apply to Europe itself. He found it natural for Europe and Israel to be allies as both were the result of dreams. The European Union resulted from the dream of French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, and the State of Israel from the dream of Theodor Herzl. “Schuman dared to dream,” said Rivlin. Israel, too, had dreamed many dreams over the past 100 years. “The EU and Israel are dreams turned to reality by the courage and determination of our founders,” he said.
Rivlin lauded Giaufret for the tremendous contribution he has made to the strengthening of ties between the EU and Israel, particularly in science, cyber security and counter terrorism. Scientific cooperation has been taken to new heights, said Rivlin.
Fully aware of the occasional tensions between Israel and the EU, Rivlin said that political considerations should not prevent further cooperation. He suggested that the EU play a broad role in investing in Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation and joint ventures.
“Real peace is not made with a piece of paper, but by bringing people together and building confidence,” said Rivlin, who was loudly cheered and applauded as he concluded.
Giaufret began with greetings in such good Hebrew, that Rivlin butted in and declared: “His Hebrew is better than my English.”
Stressing the need for unity and partnership in an increasingly unsettling world, Giaufret said: “United, we are stronger.”
The EU’s challenges are not just her own, he said. Regional instabilities impact the EU. Effective multi-lateral partnerships are essential in the prevention of conflicts.
Giaufret pledged that the EU will remain a strong partner of Israel, and citing areas of cooperation such as higher education, counter terrorism, tourism and open skies that enable 90 European destinations from Israel, said that the EU believes in and remains committed to peace in the region.
“It is possible through meaningful negotiations towards a two-state solution,” he said, adding that the EU reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel.”
Huldai: said that as Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, he was delighted “that one of your celebrations made it over here from Europe. A little contest, quite tiny really, just 42 countries, is happening in Tel Aviv-Yafo this week, and you can feel that we are really in Europe.” He acknowledged that he didn’t really care who wins the Eurovision Song Contest. “The most important thing is that we continue to celebrate Europe Day and the growing cooperation between the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and the EU.” A couple of years back in recognition that most foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv, Huldai introduced a tradition of lighting up City Hall with the flag of each country on its national day. Last year when he did so for Europe Day, he disclosed, he was inundated with phone calls from Hapoel supporters who wanted to know why Maccabi Tel Aviv was getting special status at City Hall. The EU’s colors of deep blue and yellow are also those of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
■ IN WORLD history, 1929 is remembered as the year of the Wall Street Stock Market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
But in Jewish history, it is the year in which Chaim Weizmann, who was later to become Israel’s first president, founded the Jewish Agency on August 11, meaning that this year, it celebrates its 90th anniversary. Until the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency was the body representing the Jewish residents of what was then Palestine to the British Mandate authorities. In a sense it was the shadow government of the state in the making. Within the framework of the Jewish Agency’s 90th anniversary celebrations, and in conjunction with the publication of the book forecasting Israel’s centenary by Prof. Yossi Shein, head of the School for Political Science and International Relations at Tel Aviv University, a panel discussion on Israel’s 100th anniversary and the future of the Jewish people will be held on Sunday evening, May 19, in the Weizmann Hall of the Jewish Agency. The panel will include Shein, Pnina Agenyahu, the Jewish Agency for Israel's director of interfaces and synergy, Hebrew University philosopher Meir Buzaglo and Prof. Guy Ben Porat of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. There’s also something historic in the fact that introductory remarks will be made by Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog. Both his parents held senior positions in the Jewish Agency long before he was born.
■ APROPOS THE Jewish Agency, immediate past chairman Natan Sharansky will not be in Jerusalem on May 19.
He will be in Brighton, Massachusetts, participating in a chess tournament. It is fairly common knowledge that while incarcerated in solitary confinement in a Soviet prison, Sharansky, who had been a chess champion since childhood, maintained his sanity by practicing chess moves in his head and mentally playing chess with himself. Next week, he will be the guest of honor at the third annual Michael Rudyak Chess Festival at Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton.
Aside from any of the usual reasons for accepting in the invitation to participate in the Chess Festival, for Sharansky it was an opportunity to catch up with two of his grandchildren who attend Shaloh House School while their parents, who reside in Israel, are in Boston to complete post-graduate studies.
The Rudyak Foundation is sponsoring the festival in memory of Michael Rudyak, a prominent Russian-born builder who loved chess, and who died in 2007 at age 47. The family foundation supports educational causes in Russia and in Boston.
■ IN DECEMBER 2018, Sara Netanyahu went to Guatemala to take part in the laying of the cornerstone ceremony for victims of the June 2018 Fuego volcano disaster. The village that was being constructed was named Jerusalem.
This week, Sara Netanyahu hosted Guatemala’s First Lady Patricia Morales, who came to Israel on a reciprocal visit in the original Jerusalem. The two toured the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes (Tabgha) at Capernaum. Morales was the guest of honor at a luncheon at the prime minister’s residence hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife. Among the other guests were Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman, Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Latin America Mody Efraim and Guatemalan Ambassador to Israel Mario Bucaro.
During the lunch, Netanyahu telephoned Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and congratulated him on the first anniversary the Guatemalan Embassy’s transfer to Jerusalem, and voiced his hope that the two would soon meet again. Netanyahu said at the luncheon table that Morales was a good and great friend of Israel.
■ LONG BEFORE taking up the position of US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman was a supporter of United Hatzalah, and continues to attend the organization’s events and to support it in other ways.
Like many Israel-based organizations and institutions, United Hatzalah has support groups in different parts of the world including the US, where the volunteer Emergency Medical Service Organization is held in high esteem. In order to raise additional funds to enable it to expand its work, United Hatzalah last year inaugurated an annual gala in New York, and this year, at its second annual gala will honor Friedman at a May 30 dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York.
Friedman will receive United Hatzalah’s Jerusalem award from the organization’s president Eli Beer in recognition of his historic role in transferring the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and in appreciation of his ongoing support for United Hatzalah which is headquartered in Jerusalem.
More than a thousand people are expected to attend the event chaired by United Hatzalah Gala chairman and supporter Ami Pomeranc, and co-chaired by Mitchell Moinan with a performance by Israeli singer Dudu Aharon and hosted by Rona-Lee Shimon, star of the Netflix hit series Fauda.
■ MANY JOURNALISTS have multiple talents and aspire to other professions, crafts or ambition, but few actually take the time to pursue those outside interests, mainly because journalism is not a 9 to 5 profession, certainly not for reporters who have to go with the flow when and where news breaks out
But The Jerusalem Post’s Managing Editor David Brinn, who writes, edits, does administrative work and maintains close three generation family ties, also manages to find time for his other love which is music. Together with his former Post colleagues who later moved on to Haaretz, Bradley Burston and Larry Derfner, Brinn debuted their 60s-70s garage rock band The NightCallers last Saturday night at a dance party for 75 friends, family members and fans at the Einav Center event hall MoveIt. The band is rounded out with longtime Jewish community professional and Conservative rabbi Bob Golub, who made aliyah to Modi’in three years ago. Among those who turned out to show support for their fellow scribes were former Post senior staffers Calev Ben-David, Arieh O’Sullivan, Leora Eren Frucht, Eliot Zimelman and Alan Abbey. The Post is both a stepping stone and a revolving door for many members of the Fourth Estate who have gone on to build up their careers after starting out as new immigrants at the Post, and have in many cases returned not once, but sometimes twice. Some find it so difficult to break connection with the Post, that even when working elsewhere, sometimes no longer as journalists, they continue to contribute articles and columns to the paper.