In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the ISEF Foundation held a gala fund-raiser at the Shuni Amphitheater, where Shlomi Shabat and Yuval Dayan entertained the hundreds of guests, many of whom were ICEF graduates. They would in all probability not have risen to the positions they hold today without the educational opportunities provided for them by ISEF, which was co-founded in 1977 by Lily Safra and the late Edmond Safra together with Nina Weiner.
Originally created for Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews living in peripheral areas, it gradually embraced all cultural and ethnic groups in Israeli society. ISEF graduates have taken up leadership roles in almost every sphere of Israeli achievement. MK Prof. Yossi Yona who was in ISEF’s first graduating class, spoke at Shuni of his difficult childhood, and how at an early age he went to work to help contribute to his family’s income. At that time he never dreamed of academia. It was only through ISEF that his potential was recognized. He was one of thousands of youngsters who became success stories thanks to ISEF’s moral commitment to reducing Israel’s social gap through educational projects and initiatives. It is this moral commitment that guides him in his Knesset activities, he said.
The ISEF agenda is totally education oriented, and ISEF spends some NIS10 million per annum on education in Israel. Among the other ISEF graduates seen at Shuni were Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Sami Shamoon College, Prof. Yehuda Hadad, journalist and former MK Daniel Ben Simon, Sapir College President Omri Yadlin, and many other prominent figures with strong ISEF connections. In an emotional address, ISEF president Nina Weiner said that, after 40 years of activity, ISEF’s record of excellence has exceeded the dreams of its founders.
■ ON THURSDAY of last week, a delegation of rabbis joined Adnan Oktar, a prominent Turkish Muslim cleric, at the Çıragan Palace ballroom in Istanbul for his traditional interfaith iftar feast, at which he and his Muslim guests broke their Ramadan fast. More than 750 people from different religions and nationalities, including Jewish and Christian clergy and lay leaders, joined Oktar for the annual event hosted by Oktar’s organization, the Movement for the Culture of Peace and Reconciliation. The guest list included a number of illustrious personalities, several of whom were Israeli, including inter alia Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav who is chief rabbi of Shoham, retired Supreme Rabbinical Court president Rabbi Abraham Sherman; Anglican priest Todd William Kissam from Maryland; and co-chairman of the Muslim–Jewish Friendship Organization in France, Imam Mohamed Azizi .One of the highlights of the event was a video message from Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who despite having good reason to harbor animosity toward Muslims (having been shot at point blank range by an Arab terrorist), instead stretches out the hand of friendship. Glick has attended the Turkish cleric’s iftar event in previous years as Oktar’s personal guest, and referred to him in his message as “a champion of religious tolerance, champion of love to all human beings, [and] champion of God in the world.”
■ WONDERWOMAN MAY be banned in Lebanon and Ramallah, but last night a group of approximately 130 women went to Cinema City Jerusalem for a special screening. That may not sound like such a big deal, but it was in fact a spontaneous act of female Zionist support for Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who stars as Wonderwoman. Believing that Gadot has received a raw deal from the anti-Israel public, Sharon Katz put out a message on Facebook inviting women from the greater Jerusalem area to join her in showing support for Gadot, who despite her newfound Hollywood fame does not hide the fact that she is Jewish, an Israeli and a former IDF soldier.
“We are showing our support for Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonderwoman, who uses her courage, wisdom and positive values to fight for justice. We are showing our support for Gal Gadot,” said Katz. “Her film may be banned in Lebanon, but she and her message of giving oneself for the greater good have brought together a theater full of supporters to cheer her on.
“Life in Israel specifically with its constant challenges and life as a modern day woman have really turned all women into wonder women, and 129 women have joined together to applaud Wonder woman.” The rapid response to her Facebook message came within less than 24 hours. Among the women who responded positively were Susan Peled, Esther Hilf Revivo, Bonnie Chasen, Varda Epstein, Cheryl Mandel, Ruti Eastman, Deenah Misk, Irene Rabinowitz, Carol Goldberg, Penina Taylor, Nancy Morin, Suzanne Pomeranz and many more.
■ JAPAN MAY not be the first country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, but Ambassador Koji Tomito is one of the few if not the only ambassador to celebrate an anniversary of diplomatic relations with Israel in a Jerusalem hotel – the historic King David. It wasn’t even a milestone anniversary, unless the number 65 may have some special connotation in Japanese culture, but the gesture was greatly appreciated by guest of honor President Reuven Rivlin, a seventh generation proud Jerusalemite, who at every opportunity makes a point of saying “Jerusalem the capital of Israel.”
Other ambassadors have receptions in Jerusalem when their president, prime minister or foreign minister is in Israel’s capital, but otherwise they stick to the coast. Earlier in the evening Tomito had presided over the awarding of prizes in the second annual ‘My Japan’ competition, in which people were invited to submit photographs of their favorite image of Japan. Of the 132 entries submitted, 20 were selected as finalists and placed on display in the Ambassadors’ Hall of the hotel, together with historic photos of Japan-Israel relations, including a large photo of Chiune Sugihara, the extremely humane Japanese vice-consul in Lithuania during World War Two, who against orders issued thousands of visas that saved the lives of Jews. Tomito took Rivlin on a tour of the exhibition before meeting with former Israeli ambassadors to Japan and other dignitaries who have contributed to bilateral relations.
Japan is contributing to peace efforts in the Middle East by building a commercial and industrial zone near Jericho to help Palestinians work toward a sustainable economy. Japan supports the two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As for relations with Israeli, Tomito said that he is “supremely confident about our future, because I know our relations are built on a strong bond between peoples, supported by mutual respect, affection and trust.” He was gratified he said, to see increasing co-operation between the two countries with more and more Japanese companies coming to establish relations with Israeli start-ups. There is also an increase in two-way tourism and cooperation in cyber security.
Rivlin spoke of two ancient peoples that, while preserving their traditions, look to the future, which neither takes for granted. That is why each invests so much in education he said, adding “We know that a nation is only as good as its education.”
In preparing for what he would say at the 65th anniversary ceremony, Rivlin came across a 15th century Japanese art technique called Kintsugi whereby broken pottery is repaired with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. He uses it as an example when speaking to other audiences.
“This art comes from the philosophy that looks at breakages as what makes the object even more beautiful and unique,” he said. “Both our nations have been horribly broken, more than once. We both built ourselves back, with brushes and gold, we carry our breakages with pride, they made us stronger, smarter. They made us beautiful.
“For 65 years, Japan and Israel have cooperated in trade and science, culture and technology, education and aviation. We hold dear this cooperation, and we look forward to making it grow even stronger.” In conveying his greetings to Emperor Akihito, and to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Rivlin said of the latter “We cherish his friendship.”
■ ON JUNE 11, 2003, Alan Beer, 48 a resident of Jerusalem, and a native of Cleveland, Ohio was one of 17 people killed by a terrorist suicide bomber who blew up a bus on the corner of Jaffa Road and Davidka Square. In order to perpetuate his memory, members of his family have donated an ambulance in his name to United Hatzala and in addition commissioned the writing of a Torah scroll which was donated to the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Efrat. Seen in the crowd in Efrat were a were a number of former Clevelanders who now live in Israel. Among them were Simcha and Barbara Rock, Yehudit Spero, Judy Oster, Abba Engelberg, Mordechai Spiegelman and Shelly Friedman Brown. Beer’s family sued for damages from Iran and other entities that support terrorism and won their case. From the penalties awarded, only a small amount ever reached the family and they decided to utilize this money for the ambulance and the Torah scroll.
■ ON SUNDAY evening of this week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat fired the city’s ancient Ramadan cannon, signaling that Jerusalem Muslims could break their fast. To perform this traditional deed, Barkat joined the family of Haj Yahya Sandoka, which operates the cannon during Ramadan and has been responsible for the firing of the cannon for some two centuries dating back to Ottoman email@example.com.