ON WEDNESDAY morning, veteran broadcaster Yaakov Ahimeir interviewed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and soon afterwards former foreign minister Tzipi Livni. Both were in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, though Livni was obviously not part of the prime minister’s delegation. At the conclusion of Livni’s interview, Ahimeir thanked Livni but made the Freudian slip of calling her Tzipi Hotovely. Livni gently corrected him to save him embarrassment, laughed and in a Hebrew word play said, “yesh yoter mi dai tzipiot,” which translates as “there are too many expectations.” While in New York, Livni met with former defense minister and prime minister Ehud Barak, who has been harshly critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meeting fueled further expectations that Barak is returning to the political arena.
■ TWO WORLD figures who are about to leave the stage of international politics and diplomacy have expressed their admiration for former president and prime minister Shimon Peres good wishes for his recovery from the stroke he suffered on September 13. At his meeting with the prime minister, US President Barack Obama referred to Peres as a “great friend, a hero and a giant in the history of Israel.” In March, 2013, Peres bestowed the Medal of Distinction on Obama, which at the time was Israel’s highest civilian honor. The Medal of Distinction, which does not carry the former president’s name, and which was introduced by Peres as a means of enabling Israel to give recognition to both Israeli non-Israel outstanding individuals, has not been continued by President Reuven Rivlin.
Only nine months earlier, Obama had conferred America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Peres at a dinner in Washington. Peres often referred to Obama’s unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the security of its citizens. There has been a mutual long-term admiration between the two. Obama visited Israel during his first presidential campaign, spent time asking Peres for his advice and sought the secret of his longevity, a question he kept asking in one way or another whenever they met.
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, sent a personal letter to Peres, with hand written inserts over the typing wishing him a speedy recovery and a long life. In the letter, Ban wrote that Peres and his family are in his thoughts and prayers. Declaring himself to be a steadfast admirer of Peres’s stamina and energy and his ability to maintain an active life, Ban wrote: “In your dedicated service to the land and people of Israel, you remain a model of visionary statesmanship. I recall our encounters with great fondness and remain grateful for the wisdom and advice you have shared on those occasions. Your tireless work to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians has been an inspiration for many people.”
■ WORLD JEWISH Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, who in June, 2006 paid $135 million for the controversial portrait of Austrian Jewish socialite Adele Bloch Bauer painted in 1907 by Gustav Klimt and placed it in his Neue Galerie in New York, this week hosted Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern at a special reception at the Neue Galerie, and called him “a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Lauder specifically thanked Kern for spearheading an exhibition during his former tenure at Austria’s OBB Railway, depicting its role in Nazi operations during World War II. “It was a very controversial show and it showed real courage,” said Lauder. In recognition of his initiative, Kern was awarded the Marietta and Friedrich Torberg Medal by the Vienna Israelite Community in 2013.
Speaking before close to a hundred guests, the Austrian chancellor told Lauder, “I honestly and deeply admire what you have achieved in your life and more than appreciate your contribution to Jewish life in Austria.”
On Wednesday, representatives of the US and Belorussian governments met at WJC headquarters in Manhattan to sign an agreement to preserve burial places, places of worship, memorials, historic sites, and archival material in the former Soviet state, with a focus on victims of the Nazi genocide. The agreement was signed by Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makai and US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad chairwoman Lesley Weiss. Among the many international figures who have met with WJC top brass during the 71st United Nations General Assembly are Polish President Andrzej Duda, Norwegian State Secretary Tone Skogen, Argentina President Mauricio Macri, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs Miro Kovac, Monaco Minister of State Serge Telle, Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, Senegalese President Macky Sall, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni Silveri, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. The WJC scheduled close to forty meetings this week with presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers.
■ JEWISH TRADITION has it that the coming of the Messiah will be followed by the rising of the dead. Presumably, it will just be their souls, because there certainly won’t be enough room for their bodies. In the premise that bodies may just be protective coverings for souls, it stands to reason that souls will be able to see, hear and smell just as they did when they were visible living beings. The question is will they be able to find their way in an ever-changing environment? In Israel, for instance, cities have undergone such radical changes that even people who died as recently as ten years ago would have difficulty in recognizing a once-familiar neighborhood. Vacant plots of land have been filled with high rise commercial and apartment complexes, shopping malls abound, landmark buildings have disappeared to be replaced by new, sleek structures reaching ever skywards. In Jerusalem for instance, the city seems to have become a never ending construction site. The popular annual opportunity for voyeurism, Houses from Within, which began yesterday, and continues today and Saturday, includes the home of stone and pottery sculptor Arik Pelzig at the edge of the Mount Zion Parking Lot, the Franciscan Monastery next to David’s Tomb, an apartment at 5 Shoni Halachot Street in the Jewish Quarter of the old city, Christchurch Guest House next to the Jaffa Gate, the studio of legendary Armenian photographer Elia Kahvedjian, who began documenting Jerusalem in 1924, the Garden Tomb, the Jerusalem Center for Near East Studies, plus several other places for which reservations were required and which are fully booked.
There’s also a tour being led by Rafi Kfir whose passion is preserving the memories of a Jerusalem that used to be, for instance the cinema area which included Zion Square, Jaffa Road, Shamai Street, Hillel Street, Shlomzion Hamalka (formerly Princess Mary Street) and just slightly away from city center, the legendary Edison Theater. Zion Square ,which is about to undergo a face lift, was named for the famed Zion Theater which hosted movies, plays, concerts and operatic performances. The Rex Theater on nearby Princess Mary Street was immortalized in a song by the late Yossi Banai “Me, Simon and Little Mois.” None of the many cinemas that were in the center of Jerusalem exist any more. The buildings were either demolished or revamped. Only recently have cinemas regained popularity in the capital, but are no longer located in the center of town. Anyone who wants to join one of Kfir’s tours can contact him at 052-3508440.
■ HONOREES at the gala 40th anniversary luncheon of the League for Special Children were veteran members Shoshana Dolgin-Be’er and Chana Homnick. Founded by Shoshana Kanotfsky, the league which has a membership of 150 raises money to benefit mentally challenged, brain damaged, learning disabled and autistic children by supporting special needs schools in Jerusalem.
The group provides equipment that goes beyond the operating budgets of these institutions, such as a trampoline for autistic children, wooden rocking chairs; furnishings for a beauty shop, a commercial kitchen and woodworking shop to teach the children trades, so that they can earn money through the sale of their handiwork. The League’s slogan is “We fill the gap between what they need and what they get.”
Treasurer Harriet Stavsky’s great-grandson Amichai, who has cerebral palsy, goes to a school in the Katamon neighborhood, where he is learning to stand and walk. He is now crawling, said Stavsky, adding that this is hopefully a precursor to walking.
All funds raised by the league go directly to the schools which are only partially supported by the Ministry of Education. There are no overhead and no administrative expenses. Meetings are held around the dining room table of the league’s co-president, 94-year old Ruth Friedson, who supplies the snacks at her own expense. Dolgin- Be’er is preparing for another 40th anniversary – that of her synagogue HaZvi Yisrael, which will be celebrated in November with a gala dinner at the Inbal hotel. Dolgin- Be’er is the historian of the congregation, and wrote a book about it which was published in firstname.lastname@example.org