SIXTY YEARS ago, Maria Grever and Stanley Adams wrote a song that begins “What a difference a day made, 24 little hours…” This week those two lines were applicable both politically and diplomatically. On Tuesday night, Mariano Caucino, the Ambassador of the Argentine Republic hosted a reception in honor of his country’s National Day with Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel representing the government, while on the following evening, Italian Ambassador Gianluigi Benedetti hosted a reception to celebrate his country’s National Day and the minister who had been scheduled to represent the government was Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. But at the 11th hour, Steinitz like all Likud MKs was ordered to remain in the Knesset building. The absence of a minister would have been doubly insulting to the Italians because this year is also the 70th anniversary year of diplomatic relations between Italy and Israel, in addition to which the common history of these two old-new countries sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean goes back more than two thousand years, and according to the ambassador, the Jewish community of Rome, is the oldest Diaspora community in the world. But on the premise that every cloud has a silver lining a solution was found.
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara failed to be elected to the Knesset in the last elections, but remains extremely loyal to the State, to Likud and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although it did inconvenience him slightly, especially to be asked in the last minute, he agreed to stand in for Steinitz, and in due course arrived at the Italian residence in Ramat Gan where he was greeted with open arms by members of the Protocol Division of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and of course Italian Embassy staff. Ironically, while Netanyahu was holed up in the Knesset with Likud MKs, President Reuven Rivlin was in Caesarea, which is Netanyahu’s weekend getaway, albeit Rivlin was not exactly in the area that Netanyahu calls home. Rivlin joined Baroness Arianne de Rothschild in launching the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation’s NIS 150 million Caesarea Vaults project and the innovative Visitors’ Center at Caesarea Port. The vaults once belonged to King Herod.
Space does not permit detailed reports of the Argentine and Italian receptions at this time, but this lacuna will be amended in next Wednesday’s Grapevine. Prior to the above mentioned launch, Michael (Miki) Kliger was appointed as the Israel representative of Baron and Baroness Rothschild as well as deputy and acting chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation (IL), the Caesarea Development Corporation, and the Caesarea Assets Corporation. The appointment will take effect next week in June. At the launch itself, Rivlin said: “History is not about dry facts or statistics. It is about the lives people lived, the places they loved, and their stories. The Caesarea Vaults restoration project ensures that the story of this place, and of its connection to the Jewish people, will be told for many, many years to come.” He thanked Baron and Baroness Rothschild and the Edmond Rothschild Foundation for making it possible to see hidden treasures which had not been revealed for two thousand years. Baroness Rothschild said: “Caesarea is an inspiration for our call to co create the future. We go beyond just acknowledging human diversity. We engage in building a society that is strengthened by all its members, believes and tradition.”
■ PROUD JERUSALEM -based grandmother Joan Fisher is kvelling because the Summit Institute, the organization in which her granddaughter Michal Rosenberg works, was chosen by President Rivlin to produce the gift he sent to Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle on behalf of their son Archie. The baby is still a little young to play with the gift of colorful wooden blocks, but they’ll be there for him when he is a little more independent The Summit Institute, which was established in Jerusalem in 1973, works to rehabilitate mentally ill young adults through personalized psychosocial rehabilitation programs using groundbreaking treatments that enable the mentally challenged to deal with their problems and to find their places in society.
■ THE WAY to a man’s heart is through his stomach is one of the time honored traditions of every female cook. It certainly appears to be so in the case of celebrity restaurateur Reena Pushkarna who prepared special Indian dishes for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he paid his historic visit to Israel two years ago. She obviously made an impression, because Modi who was recently re-elected in a stunning win, invited her to attend his inauguration this week. Needless to say, she accepted.
■ NOTWITHSTANDING BDS and escalating antisemitism around the world, it seems that Britain recognizes Israel’s right to be in Judea and Samaria. Maybe there’s something to Brexit after all. It’s ironic that a winery in Samaria saved Israel’s honor as a producer of quality wines in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards by winning a gold medal. Decanter Magazine, founded in London in 1975, is now published in 90 countries, but in its reviews focuses mainly on wines available in Britain. It also runs interviews with wine makers, travel pieces on wine regions, market reports, etc. In addition it runs an annual wine contest – Decanter World Wine Awards – in which France, Spain and Australia dominated Best in the Show, platinum, gold, silver and bronze medals. Israel would not have rated a mention but for Gva’at Winery, whose CEO Eliav Miller is more than thrilled for reasons beyond the quality of the company’s wine. Results are published on line in a grid that inter alia includes country and region. Israel is listed under the former with Shomron (Samaria) as the region.
■ IT HAS become trendy to take women who don’t look as if they just leapt off the cover of Vogue Magazine to participate in fashion shows. Inclusiveness is the name of the game, and age, height, physique, disfigurements and disabilities are no longer barriers to a modeling career. The 20 women who will be modeling new season’s fashions at the Pink Party, hosted by Azrieli Group chair Dana Azrieli, at the Azrieli Mall in Tel Aviv on Sunday, June 2, are all coping with cancer or are presently in remission. The event will be moderated by actress and singer Sharon Haziz who is herself a recovering cancer patient.
■ WHAT WAS arguably the biggest Iftar dinner in Israel, and quite possibly in the world, was hosted this week by SodaStream International Ltd. at its plant in Rahat, where close to 3,000 guests came to break their fast during the Ramadan holiday.
Jews, Arab Israelis and Palestinians and others were among the guests. Although they were eating together on this occasion, most of them also work together. Both management and employees refer to it as their Island of Peace.
“Believing that peace is attainable at grass roots level,” SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, in calling for peace and coexistence, told his guests. “Do not wait for our leaders to bring coexistence between our peoples. We are the responsible adults who need to ensure coexistence and peace between us, not just at an Iftar dinner, but every day. The thousands of people who are eating here with us tonight are the light which defeats the darkness, both under missiles and during tense periods.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who also addressed the guests, said, “I can’t think of a better place to celebrate an Iftar dinner than at SodaStream, where Muslims, Jews and Christians come to work every day in cooperation and friendship. They exemplify the peaceful coexistence that is God’s greatest blessing to all humankind.”
Friedman later in the evening tweeted, “Tonight I had the pure joy to attend the Ramadan Peace Festival at SodaStream’s factory in the Negev. Muslims, Druze, Christians and Jews working together, each making the other better, happier and more prosperous. This is peace!”
During the dinner, the testimonials were presented by SodaStream factory employees who conveyed their personal versions of the Island of Peace’s special story. SodaStream also announced its unique assembly lines for convicts in a prison facility near Beersheba. Launched eight months ago, the assembly lines in the Elah Prison, which is fairly close to the factory plant, provide an opportunity for incarcerated individuals to reintegrate themselves into the work force and society while earning extra money with which to support themselves and their families.
SodaStream offers the highest wages permitted by prison regulations and also awards encouragement prizes. Proof of the success of the project lay in the announcement that four of the prisoners who were working on this line have since been released from prison and are now employed by SodaStream, and are working in the factory receiving equal pay and benefits. One of them has even become a manager who oversees 44 team members after only a relatively brief period in the company.
In addition, SodaStream announced the establishment of a new assembly line in the Kuseife Bedouin village which has 17,000 residents, but which suffers from 30% unemployment, and 50% female unemployment.
The assembly line in the village community center to help alleviate female unemployment by encouraging the women to come to work in a friendly and female environment, with shifts organized in a manner that enables them to continue with their traditions while working to support their families.
It was also announced that in line with the values of women’s empowerment, SodaStream will open a free Peace Factory daycare center at the factory in September 2019. Every section will have Jewish and Arab infants learning together, celebrating holidays together, creating a next generation of children instilled with the values of peace and tolerance.
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