Grapevine: Ruvi to the rescue

August 22, 2019 22:49
Grapevine: Ruvi to the rescue

President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival . (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

■ IT WAS left to President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin to mend fences with the Democratic Party after comments made by US President Donald Trump about the disloyalty of Jews who vote Democrat went viral. Considering that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to say anything that Trump might find offensive regardless of how diplomatic the language, and bearing in mind the tensions between Netanyahu and Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, Rivlin took it upon himself to call House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to thank her for her “unqualified commitment to US-Israel relations and for being a true friend.”

Rivlin emphasized that the relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party. He quoted President John F. Kennedy, who had said: “Friendship with Israel is not a partisan matter. It is a national commitment.”

Rivlin emphasized that the State of Israel must be kept above political disputes and that every effort must be made to ensure that support for Israel does not become a political issue.

Rivlin frequently refers to America’s bipartisan support, and sees America as Israel’s greatest ally.

■ EVERY AUGUST, Jerusalem becomes not only the capital of Israel, but a completely international city with the annual International Arts and Crafts Festival, which began in a small way 44 years ago, and has mushroomed into a spectacular display of arts and crafts which this year, brought 100 exhibitors from 33 countries to Hutzot Hayotzer by the Sultan’s Pool. Not only does the festival attract exhibitors but also personnel from the embassies of the countries represented. During the festival, there are probably more foreign diplomats in Jerusalem than at any other time, because they come not only to support their own countries, but also to tour the various booths and pavilions with their families, to enjoy the entertainment and to sample the huge variety of fast foods. On Tuesday evening of this week, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion hosted a reception for the exhibitors at City Hall, and on Wednesday night, a reception for diplomats at Hutzot Hayotzer was co-hosted by Zion Torgeman, the director-general of the Ariel Municipal Company, which organizes the festival, and Sara Malka, the festival’s producer and artistic director. Deputy Mayor Elisha Peleg came to meet and greet, and foreign relations coordinator Libby Bergstein performed introductions where necessary. Diplomats from Argentina, Guatemala, Romania, Nepal, Mexico, Peru, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka were in attendance. Many passersby were curious about what was going on in the enclosed area, but security guards kept them at bay.

All of a sudden, before making his speech, Peleg left the enclosure, causing some degree of consternation among other officials. But he didn’t go far. One of the people he had seen outside the enclosure was the once-powerful Shula Zaken, who rose from the ranks of a junior typist to the personal assistant of Ehud Olmert as he went from mayor to minister to prime minister, subsequently betrayed him – and both were sentenced to prison terms. Torgeman invited her to come inside the enclosure, but she declined.

For Dr. Anjan Shakya, the ambassador from Nepal, who took up her duties early this year, this was her first experience of the International Arts and Crafts Festival, and she found it both interesting and exciting.

Although Peru’s Ambassador Carlos Chávez-Taffur has been in Israel for a somewhat longer period, this was also his first time. He thought it would be smaller, he admitted candidly, adding that he was greatly impressed. He also bought items from the student artists in the Bezalel compound.

Bernardo Greiver, the ambassador of Uruguay, loves the festival and comes every year, but not just to boost his country’s participants. He comes every night, and stays for three or four hours. At the reception, he refrained from alcoholic beverages, saying that he was driving back to Herzliya Pituah. He didn’t use his driver, because he didn’t want him to wait around for such a long time. Chávez-Taffur, who also drove himself, had dinner at a Jerusalem restaurant before returning to his residence.

Representatives of the Embassy of Panama invited all their diplomatic colleagues to visit the Panama booth to watch a display of dancing. Panama’s recently arrived ambassador, Adis Arlene Urieta Vega, would have liked a Panama dance group, which is currently on tour, to come to Israel, but that was not feasible at such short notice, so some of the Panama arts and crafts people dressed in voluminous swirling skirts, put on a traditional dance performance.

Sometimes culture, sport or religious pilgrimage precedes diplomatic relations. Indonesia, for instance, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but for some time now, Indonesian artist Samto has been returning to the festival to paint his breathtaking landscapes of olive trees, which seem to have human figures in the trunks and branches. Old olive trees under any circumstances look like pieces of sculpture, but Samto adds an additional near-human dimension.

■ THERE WAS also a certain nostalgia at the Arts and Crafts Festival which closes this Saturday night. Aside from honoring veteran entertainers such as Berry Sakharof, Shlomi Shabat, Danny Sanderson, Gidi Gov and Yehuda Poliker among others, the festival had unexpected moments. Unique jewelry exhibitor Federico Campbell from Argentina happens to be Jewish. When his mother heard that he was going to Jerusalem to participate in the annual Arts and Crafts Festival, she asked him to take the old Jewish National Fund blue box in which throughout her childhood and early teens she had placed a coin every Friday. When the box was full, someone from the JNF would come and empty it, and tell her that she was helping to plant trees in the Holy Land. For her, this was an extremely emotional experience – the knowledge that with her coins, she was helping to build the State of Israel. So when her son was coming to the land in which there are now many trees in many forests, she gave him her old blue box, and with tears in her eyes told him to give it to someone in Israel as a symbol of the contribution of Argentine Jewry. This particular blue box was actually made in Argentina. Campbell was not quite sure what he should do with it, so he gave it to Sara Malka, who was thrilled to receive it because of what it symbolized. Campbell was so excited by her reaction that he wants to talk to the people at JNF headquarters in Jerusalem about the possibility of having a display case of old blue boxes. He is sure that other people, like his mother, kept their old blue boxes for sentimental reasons. It’s quite possible that there are other old blue boxes in other countries which could collectively be displayed to show that even though Jews the world over may choose to live in any number of countries, their hearts remain in the Jewish homeland, in Israel. In years gone by, they gave their coins each Friday toward the planting of trees, because the roots of trees go deep into the ground.

■ JERUSALEM POST columnist Gil Troy is currently on his way Down Under to serve as the scholar in residence for the Zionist Federation of Australia. He will be speaking in Sydney on “The Zionist Ideas,” based on his book of the same name. He will also be in Melbourne and Perth. He is scheduled to speak at the plenary conference of the Zionist Federation in Sydney this Sunday, August 25, where he will discuss the diversity of Zionist opinions, and will explore trends and issues in contemporary Zionism. In Melbourne on Saturday evening, August 31, he will have a session in Hebrew and will revert to English when he addresses the Perth audience on Sunday September 1 – a very significant date in that it marks the 80th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland that cost so many millions of Jewish and non-Jewish lives, changed the course of history, and perhaps because of the high price paid by European and North African Jewry, hastened the post-war establishment of the State of Israel. There are many who say that had the State of Israel been created 10 years earlier, there might not have been a Holocaust.

■ THE ORTHODOX Union (OU) in the United States was founded in 1898. Its Israel branch is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary in honor of which there will be a festive concert at the Live Park in Rishon Lezion on Wednesday, August 28, with entertainment provided by Yaakov Shwekey, Yonatan Razel and Shlomi Shabat. The OU initiates and supports many projects geared to enhancing Jewish life. It also engages in kashrut supervision, and will even send experts to kasher a non-kosher kitchen. That’s what happened when former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer was previously ambassador to Egypt. Kurtzer and his wife, Sheila, observe the Jewish dietary laws, and therefore an expert from OU flew to Cairo to kasher the kitchen at the ambassador’s residence. When the Kurtzers were subsequently sent to Israel, their kitchen was once again koshered by the OU.

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