Grapevine: the president wore tails

This week in Israel's social news.

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November 7, 2017 20:59
Grapevine: the president wore tails

President Reuven Rivlin delivers remarks at a state dinner in Madrid, Spain, November 6, 2017.. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

Although he much prefers an open-necked shirt devoid of tie and jacket, President Reuven Rivlin, in the course of his official duties, observes the suit-and-tie dress code. But when he and his wife dined with the king and queen of Spain at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Rivlin even went a step further and observed the more formal palace dress code, which includes black tailcoat, starched white shirt, white waist coat and bow tie and black trousers. Fortunately, his wife, Nechama, was able to help arrange the bow tie.

■ IN TANDEM with the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Jewish News, a British newspaper and online publication, in conjunction with the Jewish Agency and in association with United Jewish Israel Appeal, published its “The Aliya 100” list of people who migrated from Britain to Israel, and who in the course of their careers have made a difference and have a share in Israel’s progress in numerous fields.

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Of the 100 names on the list, 30 are deceased, and not all of the 100 people selected were actually born in Britain. The list even includes Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, who was born in Belarus, but lived for many years in Manchester, as well as Israel’s first chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, who was born in Poland, and one of his successors, Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, who was born in Belarus. Educator and women’s rights activist Alice Shalvi was born in Germany.

Abba Eban, who was part of Israel’s nascent diplomatic corps, and who was first an ambassador and later foreign minister, was born in South Africa. Yair Zivan, who was the foreign press spokesman for president Shimon Peres and is currently foreign press spokesman for Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, was born in Israel, but lived in England from the age of five to 18. Fleur Hassan Nahoum, a lawyer, who sits on the Jerusalem City Council, was born in Gibraltar and is the daughter of Gibraltar’s first mayor, the late Sir Joshua Hassan.

The list includes a remarkable number of journalists, most of whom were associated at one stage with The Jerusalem Post or its sister publication The Jerusalem Report or both. Foremost, of course, was the late David Landau. Times of Israel founder David Horovitz edited both. Other journalists associated with one or both were Anshel Pfeffer, Isabel Kershner and Matthew Kalman, though several other people on the list are also journalists.

There are quite a number of diplomats who also came from England, headed of course by Eban and his brother-in-law Chaim Herzog, who became Israel’s sixth president. Other diplomats who came from the UK include Avraham Harman, David Kimche, Ze’ev Suffot, Shabbtai Rosenne (born Sefton Wilfred David Rowson), Yehuda Avner, Neville Lamdan, Alan Baker, Mark Sofer, Daniel Taub and Jeremy Issacharoff.

At least half a dozen other people on the list, though not diplomats strictly speaking, are frequently engaged with diplomats, and in some cases have actually performed diplomatic missions. They include former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, who in 1996 also had a diplomatic posting as ambassador to the European Union in Brussels; Rabbi David Rosen, who is one of the world’s leading figures in ecumenical relations; Ashley Perry, who worked in the Foreign Ministry during the tenure of Avigdor Liberman, and who is now involved in persuading descendants of 15th-century Sephardim expelled from Spain to reclaim their heritage; Jason Pearlman who is Rivlin’s foreign media spokesman; Eli Ovits, executive director of Limmud and a former head of communications at the Israel Project; and David Newman, who founded the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

There are many other well-known names on the list, but in all probability, there are a lot more that should have been on the list but were omitted.

That’s almost always the problem when there’s a numerical limit placed on the list. Very often, there are people who have quietly done amazing things, but who are relatively anonymous, and if they are placed on a list, very few readers have ever heard of them. Sometimes, it’s wiser to compile such lists from readers’ recommendations, without suggesting any names to them in advance.

The full list is available on the Jewish News website.

It may surprise a lot of people to know that singer Shuli Natan, whose signature song is “Jerusalem of Gold,” was also born in England.

APROPOS WEIZMANN, who is believed in some circles to have written the first drafts of the Balfour Declaration, his memory was most certainly honored on November 2, at a gathering in the Weizmann Hall of the Jewish Agency building, where the government convened before moving itself and the Knesset down the road to Frumin House. The joint meeting last week was hosted by Balfour 100 and StandWithUs.

There’s a joke that is almost a tradition that all Jewish functions – even funerals – start late. But the Bafour Centenary event not only started on time, but nearly all the seats were occupied a half hour before the time scheduled, prompting Andrew Balcombe, one of the organizers, to announce that the meeting had been called for 8 p.m. and would start at 8 p.m.

Almost all the speakers had a direct or indirect connection with the main cast of characters or, if you will, the heroes of the Balfour Declaration.

Lord Turnburg, a medical specialist and an amateur historian, was born in Manchester, where Weizmann spent some 30 years as a lecturer and researcher at Manchester University. Turnburg is the author of Beyond the Balfour Declaration: The 100-Year Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. There was also Micaela Sieff, the granddaughter of Manchester- born Israel Sieff and Leeds-born Rebecca Marks Sieff, who were strong supporters of Weizmann both ideologically and financially; and there was Phillip Weyers, the grandson of Gen. Jan Smuts, who was a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet and who later became premier of South Africa. It was the cabinet that approved the letter signed by British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour that subsequently became known as the Balfour Declaration.

Turnburg was interviewed by former Canadian ambassador Vivian Bercovici, whose father was born in Romania, as was Turnburg’s father, so there was another common link.

Their conversation naturally centered on issues related to the Balfour Declaration, with Turnburg’s gentle humor central to nearly all his replies. Even Tony Kay, British deputy chief of mission, who was standing in for British Ambassador David Quarrey, who was at the British festivities at Lancaster House in London, had a kind of connection in that he is a member of the Foreign Office. He noted that it was no coincidence that in Tel Aviv, Balfour, Allenby and Rothschild streets intersect.

He added that he is pleased with Britain’s role in helping to make “the Jewish homeland a reality.”

Weyers, who described himself as a Christian Zionist, is upset that some people try to paint his grandfather as an antisemite. “He was not remotely antisemitic,” he said.

While all the speakers were interesting, Sieff, who has quite a sense of drama, spoke of her family and the strong Zionist leanings and different philanthropic causes undertaken by each, in addition to the fact that they all supported Weizmann. She also mentioned that Weizmann had first met Balfour in 1906, and that her grandfather had insisted on accompanying Weizmann to Palestine in 1918. She was proud of the fact that her grandmother, of whom she was terrified, but nonetheless wore her watch as a sort of talisman, had been one of the co-founders of WIZO, “but it behooves us to think why an organization like WIZO is still needed.”

■ AT WESTMINSTER Palace in London, members of the international Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi held a Balfour Declaration centenary ceremony, with Roderick Balfour, the fifth Earl of Balfour, the great-grandnephew of Arthur James Balfour, as the guest of honor. Representatives of AEPi’s eight UK and six Israeli chapters were present at this celebration of the historic rebirth of modern Israel.

“This program on this date [November 2] is especially meaningful to our undergraduate brothers.

We all have a connection to Eretz Yisrael, and because of the Balfour Declaration, our connection is tangible and real. The miracle of modern Israel was first conceived right here in London, and our UK brothers are amazingly impacted by this history and our sense of responsibility to see Israel continue to thrive as the Jewish homeland,” said Andrew Borans, AEPi’s executive director.

“I am humbled by the interest in my family name and the legacy it represents for all Jewish people around the world. It really is amazing,” said Balfour. Referring to the Balfour Declaration, he said: “It was the first time that a major global power said we need to find a home for the Jewish people. It’s turned into one of the most seminal documents, not just in modern times but throughout the ages. It has turned into a major humanitarian proclamation, of which Britain and my family are very proud.”

The fraternity held a similar event in Toronto to commemorate the signing, and has obtained thousands of signatures on a proclamation of support from AEPi undergraduates and alumni from around the world (AEPi has 190 groups located in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Israel, Australia and Austria).

“Our fraternity has a commitment and passion for Israel, and organizing these events and collecting this support demonstrates that,” said Borans. “Nothing is more important to our brotherhood than standing with Israel.”

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan congratulated AEPi on the proclamation and said: “Israel is celebrating 100 years of the Balfour Declaration, which was a turning point in our efforts to gain international legitimacy for the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland. While there are still those trying to delegitimize the Jewish state, AEPi’s proclamation, signed by thousands of Jewish students from around the world, shows that Israel and the Jewish people are stronger than ever.”

■ TO MARK the 20th anniversary of the death of philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, a symposium on urbanism will be held in his memory as part of the 12th Anglo Israel Colloquium.

Shenkar College president Yuli Tamir, a former education minister, received her PhD in political philosophy from Oxford University, where she worked under the Berlin’s supervision, and she will therefore deliver the tribute address. Participants in the symposium, which will be chaired by former British ambassador to Israel Sir Andrew Burns, will explore Berlin’s celebrated essay “The pursuit of the ideal in the light of aspects of urbanism and our vision for cities of today and of the future.”

The symposium will be held on Sunday, November 12, at 6 p.m. at Beit Hansen, 14 Gedalyahu Alon Street, Jerusalem.

■ WITH ONE or two exceptions, the Tel Aviv Hilton has for several years been the venue for the annual Balfour dinner of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association.

The bulk of the guests usually come from Herzliya, Kfar Shmaryahu, Ra’anana, Netanya and Tel Aviv, with just a handful from Jerusalem.

This year, however, representation from Jerusalem has warranted the hiring of a bus.

In addition to this year’s gala event, a special cocktail, based on British alcoholic beverages, was created by Tel Aviv Hilton bar manager Ray White, to be served in the hotel’s lobby restaurant and bar. The bar’s ripple-maker technology enables the team to serve the cocktail with a Lord Balfour image in its foam. The recipe includes Tanqueray Gin, fresh cucumber lemon ginger mix, lemongrass syrup, lemon juice and Benedictine liqueur. The secret is in the quantities and the mixing.

■ JUST AS good news is no news, for filmmakers tranquil situations provide little inspiration for documentaries or feature films. But terrorism, racism, extremism, antisemitism, anti-Zionism and boycotts can all be explored from many different angles and are major sources of creativity for filmmakers. At least two such films within this umbrella category will be screened in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this week.

The Israel premiere of Wish You Weren’t Here will be screened at noon on Thursday, November 9, at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel Hai Street, Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy. The film deals with the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and contemporary antisemitism, and will be followed by a panel discussion with Ian Halperin, the film’s director and executive producer; Dr. Charles Asher Small, producer and executive director, ISGAP; Dan Diker, fellow, project director, program to counter BDS and political warfare, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; and Adam Shay, senior project coordinator, cultural boycott expert, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. For attendance, registration is required by email, jcpa@netvision.net.il., or telephone (02) 561-9281 or fax (02) 561- 9112.

■ THE OTHER film is an impressive and unusual Swedish documentary about terrorism and antisemitism, in the making of which Jerusalemite Arnold Roth, an expatriate from Melbourne, Australia, played a small role.

Roth is the father of Malki Roth, the teenager who was one of 15 people killed in a terrorist bombing of the now defunct Sbarro pizza parlor in downtown Jerusalem in 2001.

Roth and his wife established the Malki Foundation in their daughter’s memory, to help families of severely disabled children. Malki was a loving and caring sibling to her disabled sister, and their parents thought that the best way to remember her is to do for others what Malki did at home.

During the making of the film, Roth got to know the directors and stayed in touch with them as they became enmeshed as victims in a little-publicized but highly effective and ugly politically motivated silencing at high levels of Sweden’s TV and film establishment.

Filmed in six countries, Watching the Moon at Night will be shown in the presence of one of the directors, Bo Persson, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque Wednesday evening and at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on November 13. The film is in Swedish with English subtitles and examines terrorism and antisemitism and some of their victims. Well-known US Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum has described the film as being “intellectually informative, visually compelling and an emotionally moving and highly disturbing exploration of the phenomenon of terrorism in our time.” The film has been shown at the European and Swedish parliaments and at various international film festivals in Europe and the US.

The late French writer and philosopher André Glucksmann, the late historian of antisemitism Robert S. Wistrich, and the eminent historian Walter Laqueur, who left his native Breslau for Palestine on the day before Kristallnacht in 1938 and is one of the inspirations behind the production, are among the film’s preeminent on-screen commentators.

The film also incorporates personal experiences of terrorist victims and their families from Algeria, Spain, France, Moscow, Israel, New York, Colombia, Munich, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

Arnold Roth appears in the film as does Dan Alon, one of the surviving Israeli athletes from the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. The directors regard them as important voices in the film.

Creative camerawork, inspiring music and Polish Nobel laureate, the late Wislawa Szymborska, who reads her own poetry in the film, all add to the “personal and emotional” perspective, as Agnieszka Holland, chairwoman of the European Film Academy, described it. She sees the film as a production that “shows the common ground shared by victims the world over and the similarities between the perpetrators. In the film, there is no simplifying thesis, no ‘political correctness’.... The film truly makes you think.”

Following the film screenings, Persson will lead a discussion (in English) with the participation of the audience on issues raised in the production.

Even though the film was approved by the Swedish Film Institute, Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national public TV broadcaster, has, for some obscure reason and despite the fact that it originally signed on to co-produce it, refused to screen it.

■ DRAMA OF another kind last month accompanied United Hatzalah volunteer Jonathan Chiche, who heads the French division of the organization. He was invited by Axel Robbie, a friend of United Hatzalah, to address a delegation of French WIZO in Netanya.

Chiche brought with him an hourlong documentary about what United Hatzalah does to save lives. He also asked his good friend and fellow French-speaker Julien Marciano, who is likewise an EMT from Netanya, to come to the meeting with his ambucycle and to talk about some of his past experiences volunteering, and how he could be called away at any time to attend to a medical emergency.

In an ironic twist of fate, five minutes into the screening of the movie their radios alerted the two men to the fact that there was a person who had lost consciousness on nearby Ussishkin Street. Marciano leaped onto his motorcycle and raced off toward the emergency, departing with sirens blaring from within the hall. The audience was stunned.

A minute passed and another call came across on Chiche’s radio. “EMT requesting backup.” Without giving the matter a second thought, he darted out of the room and jumped into his car, leaving the audience in a state of shock and bewilderment, as their guest speaker suddenly disappeared.

When Chiche joined Marciano, he found another ambucycle volunteer, Effy Greenberg, who is also a French-speaker, in the middle of performing chest compressions on a 77-year-old man. Chiche and Marciano attached a defibrillator, and one shock was immediately given.

The volunteers took turns performing chest compressions and assisted breathing, gave the patient an intravenous drip, and then he was intubated by the ambulance paramedics when they arrived. A Lucas compression machine was attached, and it took over the chest compressions.

Forty minutes passed without any response from the patient. There was no pulse, and he was not breathing.

The situation looked bleak. The man’s family was from France, so Chiche switched hats to take over as a representative of Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, so that he could translate what the paramedic was saying to them and help family members answer any questions that the paramedics might ask about the patient’s health before he collapsed. The family was in tears, and each member was praying.

Just as the EMS team was about to code the patient, the man’s pulse returned. The prayers had been answered. The team quickened their pace in order to get the patient into the intensive care ambulance that was waiting and sent him off to Laniado Medical Center for further treatment.

Chiche and Marciano left to return to their lecture. An hour had passed.

The documentary had finished a few minutes prior to their return, and the event organizer was updating the crowd regarding what had occurred and why the two men had rushed out. As they reentered the hall, the crowd rose and gave them a standing ovation. The two were messy and sweaty, but in the eyes of French WIZO they came back as heroes who had saved a life, and the audience got to see them in live action without the need for a documentary.

■ THE SAGA of Israel has been documented on film, radio recordings and in print, but Aryeh Halivni, born Eric Weisberg, believes that, wherever possible, history should be recorded by the individuals who lived through it. Thus, several years ago he founded Toldot Yisrael, and together with Peleg Levy, who has filmed and recorded testimonies of Holocaust survivors for Yad Vashem, plus a wide-ranging steering committee of scholars, social entrepreneurs, television producers, senior army veterans, diplomats, educators, et al., has built up an impressive archive that is stored in the National Library of Israel. Now, in advance of the 70th anniversary celebrations of Israel’s independence, Halivni is interested in finding Americans who played a role in the founding of the state or who are veterans of the War of Independence.

Over the next several months, Toldot Yisrael, through the support of the William Davidson Foundation, will be conducting a limited number of interviews with Americans in the US and Israel who qualify for this project. Halivni is looking for personal recollections or authoritative second-generation accounts from: World War II veterans who formed the basis of Israel’s fledgling air force and navy and who, as foreign volunteers, played a critical role in bringing immigrants to Palestine; individuals who raised funds, recruited manpower and acquired munitions, army surplus, and even airplanes and aircraft carriers for the young state; volunteers who smuggled weapons, machine parts and uniforms overseas to assist the effort in the War of Independence; Americans who came in the 1940s as doctors, nurses, journalists, students, etc., and were eyewitnesses to Israel’s founding.

To recommend an interview candidate, please contact him at: http://www.toldotyisrael.org/en/recommend- interview-candidate/. Interviewees will receive an unedited copy of the interview. An additional copy will be added to the over 1,000 interviews in the Toldot Yisrael archive in the National Library.

■ IT SEEMS that Israel has something to teach to Portugal and to the world, for that matter, in the art of pastry cuisine. Hilton Tel Aviv pastry chef Idan Hadad, 27, demonstrated his talent at the Conrad Algrave hotel in Portugal. This Hilton Worldwide luxury brand facility was transformed over the past few days into a hub of gastronomic talent, hosting the second edition of the culinary event of the year – Culinary Extravaganza 2.0. A total of 16 Michelin- starred, globally renowned chefs, including Hadad, created a series of exclusive ticketed culinary events.

His colleagues in Tel Aviv can hardly wait to taste some of the new recipes he discovered while in Portugal.

greerfc@gmail.com


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