Grapevine: Vietnam on Rivlin’s horizon

"The knowledge in these areas may help us with the required change.”

By
February 23, 2017 21:08
NEWLYWEDS Ziona Cohen and Yehoshua Ashkenazi.

NEWLYWEDS Ziona Cohen and Yehoshua Ashkenazi.. (photo credit: HOFIT DUANI)

Although he missed out on going to Australia, President Reuven Rivlin will nonetheless be traveling south and is scheduled to pay a four-day state visit to Vietnam on March 20. He will be accompanied by a large business delegation and open a bilateral business conference in Hanoi.

The visit will be the second to visit Vietnam by an Israeli president in just over five years; president Shimon Peres visited in November 2011 and was given a most enthusiastic and colorful welcome.

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While no Israeli president has visited Australia over the past 12 years, hopefully, Rivlin will be able to coordinate with Canberra to pay a visit some time this year because 2017 is a milestone year in relations between the two countries: It’s the centenary year of the Battle of Beersheba in which soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse Brigade triumphed over their Turkish opponents and thereby paved the way to the end of Ottoman rule, a victory that led to what has become known as the Balfour Declaration.

When he landed in Sydney on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that relations between Australia and Israel went back a hundred years. The subject came up again several times during the visit.

This year is also is the 70th anniversary of the UN resolution of the partition of Palestine, in which Australia was the first country to vote yes. Australia was also among the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel, establishing full diplomatic relations in January 1949.

When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull leads a delegation to Israel for the centenary celebrations of the Battle of Beersheba in October, it will also be remembered that Australian soldiers were stationed here during the Second World War.

It will likewise be remembered that in November 1975, Australia was among those countries that voted against the United Nations resolution that equated Zionism with racism, and that long before that, Dr. Herbert Evatt, Australia’s permanent representative to the UN, who was elected General Assembly president in 1948, was largely responsible for enabling Israel’s entry into the UN as a member state.

While Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia, some Australians have been wondering why it took so long for such a visit, especially considering the number of Australian prime ministers who both in and out of office have visited Israel.

Among them were Robert Menzies, who visited in 1941, seven years before Israel attained statehood, as well as William McMahon, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Netanyahu has been to Australia twice before, but not as prime minister.

Prime ministers who visited the island continent before or after being head of government included Moshe Sharett, Ariel Sharon, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.

Rivlin really has a duty to go to Australia this year.

APROPOS VIETNAM, it is one of two countries – the other being Laos – that intend to sign a knowledge import deal in the field of informal education, in the sum of tens of millions of dollars, with the Israel Association of Community Centers (IACC). Duong Do Thuy, head of the Hanoi Office of Education, and Prof.

Phetlavanh Phimmasone, daughter of the prime minister of Laos, were guests of the Export Institute and the Israel Association of Community Centers. Their visit to Israel was made in preparation for the visit of Rivlin’s delegation to Vietnam.

During their stay in Israel, Duong and Phimmasone focused on issues of informal education with the intention of creating change in their countries. Each is very active in politics.

“We have no formal education or enrichment model in Vietnam,” said Duong. “The model that we found in Israel and in the IACC can also be applied in various communities in Vietnam, and Hanoi in particular. We are currently evaluating the possibility of cooperation. It is estimated that it is a deal of tens of millions of dollars.”

It should be noted that Hanoi has around 8 million residents. In Laos, said Phimmasone, “the children in the lower classes do not receive an informal activity. The upper class provides its children with additional studies at home after the regular school hours but without the community aspect, without a cooperative, and it is not concentrated on the child’s will or pleasure. The knowledge in these areas may help us with the required change.”

According to Aviad Friedman, chairperson of the IACC, “the non-formal education model of the IACC is unique in terms of suitability for all types of communities and in terms of creating a strong and robust community.”

Friedman is confident that just as the residents and children of Israel enjoy it, so, too, will tens of millions of residents and children of Vietnam and Laos benefit from it.

THERE ARE many theories that a high percentage of Palestinians are of Jewish descent, and there are scholars who say they have come across Palestinians who secretly practice certain Jewish customs that are not part of Muslim tradition.

Some people of Palestinian background have traced their Jewish roots and have opted to live a Jewish life style. Mark Halawa, who now lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, is one such person. He was born and raised in Kuwait to an Arab Muslim family of Palestinian background. He always knew that his maternal grandmother was Jewish, but never knew that this automatically gave him a Jewish identity.

In 2004, while a university student in Canada, Halawa came across a popular rabbi and professor of philosophy from Harvard, Dr. Yitzchak Block, who informed him that by Jewish law, he is actually Jewish.

In 2010, Halawa decided to make Israel his home and has since become a liaison between Israeli and Middle Eastern business enterprises, as well as an outspoken advocate for Israel.

His wife is from Finland, and they have a daughter. People interested in Halawa’s story can hear it this coming Monday evening at 7.30 p.m. at the Yeshurun Synagogue, 44 King George Street, Jerusalem.

WHILE HORROR stories about the abuse of senior citizens in retirement homes continue to be revealed in Israeli media outlets, there are also heart-warming stories, such as a wedding in the Amal retirement home in Tiberias that took place on Thursday.

The bride and groom have not known each other for long, but there was instant chemistry as soon as they met, though it could be said that the groom was on the rebound. Yehoshua Ashkenazi, 77, who recently suffered a slight stroke, had been in a relationship with another woman who left him when he took ill. But then Ziona Cohen, 66, appeared in his life and proved her devotion by standing by him during his most difficult days. Both the bride and groom are from Migdal Ha’emek and are spending their twilight years at Amal.

The rabbi who officiated at the wedding ceremony is the kashrut supervisor at the retirement home. The wedding took place in the lobby, where a band not only cheered the bride and groom, but prompted their guests to dance. Those of the guests who were in wheelchairs happily swayed to the music from the sidelines.

CHANNEL ONE has been bringing back old programs – not just reruns that remind viewers of the stars of yesteryear, but programs that fell by the wayside for any number of reasons and are being revived. One such program, Globus, co-hosted by David Vitstum and Oren Nahari, disappeared from the late Saturday afternoon lineup after the co-anchors left the employ of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Now, with only two months left of its existence (unless Acting Communications Minister Tzachi Hanegbi takes some drastic measure to keep the IBA going), the powers that be at the IBA have decided to bring Globus back. The format is supposedly going to remain intact in that it will deal with universal issues of the day, and there will be on-screen conversations with experts who are savvy about the main subject matter of the given episode. The anchor will be Yigal Ravid, and broadcasts will begin this Saturday at 5 p.m.

Ravid is quite a busy broadcaster on both radio and television, hosting several programs and also reading radio news.

ASIDE FROM career ambitions and all the professional and political reasons that Avigdor Liberman is pleased to be defense minister, his office is within walking distance of ZOA House, where most Yiddishpiel productions in Tel Aviv are staged.

Lieberman is a great supporter of Yiddish theater, and although both his Hebrew and his English are laced with a strong Russian accent, Russian was not his first language.

His mother tongue is actually Yiddish.

This might not be so surprising considering that he was born and raised in Moldova, where Yiddish was a common language in Jewish circles – even in Communist times. But what could be surprising is the identity of one of the other ministers with whom Liberman frequently converses in Yiddish. Any reader going through the list can guess this one only if he or she knows the background of the minister in question, who happens to be Moroccan born Interior Minister Arye Deri, who is also the chairman of the Shas Party. Deri was educated in Lithuanian yeshivot, where Yiddish was the spoken language, and he is completely fluent.

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