WHILE THE general inclination here is to view anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism as the new anti-Semitism, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz disagrees. Speaking this week at Mishkenot Sha'ananim in Jerusalem at a book launch of Uneasy Neighbors: Israel and the European Union by Sharon Pardo and Joel Peters, Horowitz, who as a journalist spent six years in Paris and Brussels covering the EU, said that it was a mistake. While there was no denying the anti-Semitism that exists in Europe, he acknowledged, "it is very wrong to define each and every criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism. It damages relations."
Horowitz said that he frequently tells Israeli diplomats that they are wrong "to put everything in the basket of anti-Semitism," but he understood that they were doing this because this is the signal put out by the Foreign Ministry. He lamented the "profound" lack of knowledge about the EU and its various institutions or what it shares with Israel in terms of values, trade, tourism and scientific and cultural exchanges. Horowitz declared that it was "very irresponsible" to deepen the gap between the EU and Israel and to present the differences as unbridgable.
He also suggested that Israel should allow Europe greater involvement in the peace process. Addressing himself directly to Ambassador Andrew Standley, who heads the delegation of the European Union, Horowitz said: "You have a challenge."
Juan Gonzales Barba, deputy head of mission at the Spanish Embassy and formerly adviser for Mediterranean affairs in Spain's Permanent Representation to the EU, observed that one area in which antagonisms between Israel and Europe are put aside is sport. This prompted Oded Eran, a former ambassador to the EU and an Arsenal fan, to tell Standley that he could forgive him for a lot of things but not for supporting Tottenham.
Eran, who is currently director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, agreed with Horowitz on the irresponsibility of decision makers in not familiarizing themselves with Europe, and as far as the Knesset was concerned, said that Horowitz was "a minority of one." He also insisted that Israel's hinterland is Europe.
The book launch was jointly hosted by BGU's Center for the Study of European Politics and Society, the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
AFTER MONTHS of speculation in the Hebrew press as to whether former prime minister Ehud Olmert would land a plum job with his good friend Benny Steinmetz, Olmert has cast in his lot with another major player in the economy, Avraham Livnat, who announced this week that Olmert would become chairman of the highly diversified Livnat family enterprise, whose interests include asset management, banking, transport, agriculture, real estate development and oil exploration. "Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?" asked the Beatles. Olmert doesn't seem to have that problem. At 64, he's embarking on a whole new career.
IF SOMEONE had told the great grandparents of British-born, Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen that one of their descendants, the youngest of three brothers, would one day be made a knight commander of the Order of Gregory the Great at the behest of Pope Benedict XVI and that just over four years later, he would be awarded a CBE by the queen of England, they would have done more than raise the proverbial quizzical eyebrow. It would have been inconceivable to them that a Jewish boy from a rabbinical family would be honored by both the pope and the queen.
But Rosen, a former chief rabbi of Ireland, currently director of the American Jewish Committee's Department for Interreligious Affairs and its Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding, has done so much to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding that he is virtually a walking conglomerate of institutions. He is honorary adviser on interfaith relations to the Chief Rabbinate, serves on its Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and represents it on the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. He is an international president of Religions for Peace, honorary president of the International Council of Christians and Jews, serves on the executive of the World Council of Religious Leaders and is a member of the Elijah Institute's World Board of Religious Leaders.
He is also a founder of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel that embraces some 70 organizations involved in interfaith relations. And for the past four years, Rosen served as chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, a broad-based coalition of organizations representing world Jewry to other religions.
AMONG THE personal friends of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah are entertainment industry moguls Yoram and Lea Globus, who also happen to be the Netanyahus' neighbors in their holiday home in Caesarea. Thus it was no surprise that the Netanyahus were among the guests who congregated at the Globus villa last Saturday at a gathering to welcome the new year. The difference was that most of the other guests arrived in the afternoon, whereas the Netanyahus didn't make an entrance till the early evening.
The Netanyahus have a reputation for lack of punctuality, however on this occasion it wasn't due to a losing race against the clock, but the presence of a phalanx of paparazzi who were waiting to capture the PM and his wife. The Netanyahus were more or less on time on their way to the party, but found so many cameras off-putting, and beat a hasty retreat. Later, when the coast was clear, they returned, and most of the other guests were still there, which indicated that everyone was having a good time.
IT WOULD seem that Danny Ayalon is the most active deputy foreign minister to date. He appears to have his finger in more pies than does his boss Avigdor Lieberman, who is anything but idle, and his office does more than Lieberman's to ensure that the media is aware of his schedule. Last Wednesday, for instance, his office put out a notice announcing that at 5 p.m. he would address the World Union of Jewish Students and talk to them about Israel's current standing in the international community; and at 9 p.m. he would be at the Jerusalem International Convention Center to present the 2009 Aish Hatorah Boneh Yerushalayim awards to Arnold Goldman, Shai Agassi and Guma Aguiar, and while at the Aish event would also talk about Israel's technological environmental advances and how they can be utilized for the region as a whole as another tool in peacemaking and building trust.
Basing the theme of its event on energy, with which both Agassi and Aguiar are closely linked, Aish called it "Fuel for Life: Generating Energy and Life for Jerusalem, Israel and the World." Goldman is the founder and chairman of BrightSource Energy that builds, finances, and operates solar thermal electric generating projects around the world; Agassi is the founder and CEO of Better Place which aims to introduce electric cars to Israel; and Aguiar, the founder and CEO of Leor Energy, has found rich natural gas and oil deposits in Texas.
And where does Ayalon fit into all this? The man who manages to juggle his schedule in such a way as to acquiesce to most requests for his presence, actually finds time or rather makes time to study with Aish's Rabbi Ephraim Shore on a weekly basis. In addition to that he is a past recipient of the Boneh Yerushalayim award, having been deemed worthy during his stint as cochairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh.
Yigal Arnon, the founder and senior partner of the law firm that bears his name, was given a life achievement award.
ACROSS TOWN at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, several other remarkable people were being honored by the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, and the Israel Region of the International Young Israel Movement. Notwithstanding the names of the two organizations, most of their members and supporters are in their 70s and 80s, and still filled with the Zionist fervor of their youth - as demonstrated at the beginning of the evening when CYIR Co-President Rabbi Chaim Wasserman, who has an excellent voice, sang Hatikva.
Prior to the presentations to the honorees, another presentation was made to representatives of one of the most recent of the 55 Young Israel congregations here. Rabbi Ariel Bareli, Yigal Brafman and David Springler of Kehillat Doresh Tov in Sderot were presented with a Torah scroll sent from Young Israel in the US. This was the 200th Torah presented by Young Israel of America to Young Israel congregations here; 180 have been presented to IDF units, and 20 to permanent congregations. Prodded by Wasserman, Bareli, hugging the large scroll to his chest, began to dance. Other men quickly rose from their tables to join in. At the far end of the room, the women, not to be outdone, also formed a circle of dancers, but they didn't quite have the impetus of the men.
Springler recalled that some 40 years earlier, his great uncle and his grandfather Abraham and Emil Dere founded congregation Kol Emes in Richmond, Virginia. Until some 20 years ago, it was the only congregation in Richmond with a mehitza. "They said it was better to have a small shul with a mehitza than a large one without," recalled Springler, adding that this was what inspired him to become one of the founders of Young Israel of Sderot.
Representatives also came from three other new Young Israel congregations - one comprising former residents of Ganei Tal in the Gaza Strip, who now live in Yad Binyamin; one in Bnei Dekalim which is home to other former residents of Gush Katif; and the third in Nahariya, which is writing a Torah scroll in memory of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were taken captive by Hizbullah in 2006, and whose bodies were returned in a prisoner exchange in July, 2008.
The honorees at the event included Rachel Levmore, an active rabbinical court advocate who is one of a team who developed a prenuptial agreement that will save countless couples from undue misery and anguish, should one of the parties to a marriage wish to end it. The other honorees were Rabbi Stewart Weiss, whose op-ed pieces frequently appear in The Jerusalem Post and who is known for his outreach work; Joel Guberman, Ari Greenspan and Baruch Sternman, cofounders of the Ptil Tehelet Association which aims to find the mysterious biblical blue dye for the fringes of tallitot; and Sheldon Abramson, who chairs the welcoming committee of the Great Synagogue and provides pro bono dental services for Holocaust survivors and Gush Katif evacuees.
Levmore received the Leah Ain Globe award in memory of a trail-blazing woman who set out to save agunot and women whose husbands would not give them a divorce. She, who worked relentlessly on behalf of such women both in the US and here, was friendly with Levmore's parents in New York. In appreciation, Levmore, while still a teenager, had given her a photograph with a dedication written on the back. Globe's daughter Rena Quint found the photograph when cleaning her mother's effects, and in making the presentation to Levmore, also gave her the photograph.
PS: Although he didn't attend the event, Ayalon sent a message that was published in the brochure, which effectively put him in two places at the same time. He was also fairly busy in the interim and this evening will be addressing the Council on Foreign Relations on "Challenges to Israeli Foreign Policy."
INTERVIEWED FOLLOWING the Israel Broadcasting Authority's decision to have Harel Skaat represent Israel at this year's Eurovision, Izhar Cohen, who in 1978 won the Eurovision contest with his rendition of "A-ba-ni-bi," was asked by Israel Radio if he thought that Skaat was a good choice. He replied that he was an excellent choice. He went even further in his appraisal when the interviewer asked whether he had any tips for Skaat. "I don't think he needs anything from me," said Cohen. "He's experienced; he's a pro and he knows just what to do."
SECURITY WILL be tight tonight at Tel Aviv University's Green Room where members of TAU's business and academic club will hear Defense Minister Ehud Barak discuss the state's security agenda with Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, a former president of TAU and former ambassador to the US. On hand to listen to the dialogue and possibly contribute to it will be TAU president Yossi Klafter, Friends of TAU chairman Amos Shapira, Alfred Akirov, Yael and Rami Ungar, Shuki Schwartz, Aviv Giladi, Roni Ross, Shlomo Meltzer, Yoram Bauman, Ami Federmann and several other leading figures from the business world.
AND TOMORROW TAU will again be the venue for another security related discussion on "Peace Parks on Israel's Borders." A peace park is a protected area that spans boundaries of multiple countries, where the political borders enclosed within it are meant to be abolished. This includes removal of physical boundaries, allowing free movement of people and animals within the designated area. The establishment of peace parks aims to foster peace building and cooperation between rival states.
Several organizations and institutions have pooled their efforts to organize a conference on the subject in response to recommendations by the US administration, which favors introducing environmental elements as part of the formal negotiations between Syria and Israel.
"We believe the Israel-Syria peace process is now ripe for a more intense reintroduction of environmental aspects and considerations," asserts Shahar Sadeh of TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies. "The Obama administration - particularly through Fred Hof, deputy to Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell - has expressed profound interest in advancing the idea of a peace park on the Golan Heights, and we have timed our conference to coincide with these political developments. Today this is definitely not merely a theoretical issue."
Speakers at the conference will include Prof. Eyal Zisser, Prof. Dan Rabinowitz and Dr. Alon Liel. The keynote lecture will be delivered by Prof. Saleem Ali of the University of Vermont, an international expert on peace parks and the author of Peace Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution.
NEW YEAR'S Eve is as good a time as any
for a fund-raiser, and the upstairs neighbors of Defense Minister Ehud Barak took advantage of the occasion to once again persuade members of the business community to pick up the tab for something that strictly speaking should be covered by the state budget. Even though cultural institutions do receive some funding from the government, few if any can function without the support of philanthropists. This includes the Israel Opera. Opera enthusiasts Lizika and Ami Sagi invited several of their friends, neighbors and acquaintances to part with NIS 4,000 each to come to their New Year's Eve red carpet affair and managed to raise NIS 180,000 for the Israel Opera. Among the guests were Moshe and Pnina Edri, Gideon and Hannah Hamburger, Morris Kahn, Moshe and Batsheva Bublil and David Liba'i.
IT MAY not make the best-seller lists but The Diamond in the Crown, a book about the history of the Diamond Exchange, is arousing considerable interest in Ramat Gan where the Diamond Exchange is located. Published by Rabbi Hagai Halevi, director of the Chabad Center at the exchange, the book reviews the history of the institution from its inception during the British Mandate to the present. Leaders of the diamond industry are presenting the book to mayors of the cities in which they live. It's not surprising that Halevi chose to put out the book. Lev Leviev, one of the leading figures in the diamond industry, is also a Chabadnik.
FANS AND followers of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach have been singing his melodies with a little more fervor than usual in celebration of what would have been his 85th birthday. Carlebach tended to pay more attention to the Hebrew calendar than the Gregorian calendar. His Hebrew date of birth was the 18th of Tevet, which was last week, and according to the Gregorian calendar, he was born on January 14, 1925.
NOT TOO many employers are displaying much appreciation for their employees these days. If anything it's the opposite, with employer-employee relations running the gamut from cancelation of perks, to reduction of salaries, to dismissal. Among the exceptions to the rule is Cellcom, which on January 26 is hosting a gala event at the Nokia Arena to pay tribute to all of its employees for their individual and joint contributions to the company's success as the country's leading mobile phone company. "This is an opportunity for management to say thank you to the workers," says CEO Amos Shapira. "We wouldn't be where we are without the workers." Ah, if only more company managers were to think that way.