Although his 80th birthday is not until April 29, the birthday celebrations begin on Saturday, April 9, with a birthday party for Zubin Mehta and members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra hosted by Mehta’s longtime close friends Reena and Vinod Pushkarna, who come from Mehta’s hometown in India. Then on April 11, 12 and 13, there will be three special concerts in which Mehta will conduct the IPO at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv, with soloists at the first being pianists Dennis Matsuev and Khatia Biuniatshvili, soloist at the second violinist Itzhak Perlman and soloists at the third violinist Pinchas Zuckerman and his wife, cellist Amanda Forsyth.
Later this month, the IPO will go to Mumbai, which was Mehta’s birthplace when it was still called Bombay, and with Mehta conducting will perform three concerts in celebration of his 80th birthday. Part of his homecoming event has been organized by the Mehli Mehta Foundation, a nonprofit classical music school established in memory of Mehta’s father.
At the end of this year, the IPO celebrates its own 80th anniversary. Its first concert in Tel Aviv on December 26, 1936, was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Mehta has been associated with the IPO since he was 25 years old. In 1977 he was appointed music director of the IPO, and in 1981, music director for life. He is believed to hold the world record for being the musical director of any major orchestra for so long a period of time.
■ IF THE mountain doesn’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. President Reuven Rivlin, who was scheduled to travel to Australia last month, postponed his official visit in order to go to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. But this week New South Wales Premier Mike Baird, who is leading a delegation to Israel, and who had been scheduled to host a luncheon for Rivlin in Sydney, met with Rivlin on Sunday in the President’s Office. Rivlin was profoundly apologetic over not having followed through with plans to visit the southern continent, but in the final analysis the meeting turned out to be productive.
Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma, who accompanied Baird, took time out from escorting him from one appointment to another in order to participate in the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Race in Jerusalem, and after running 10 km., joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff, vice director- general of the ministry, to hand out awards to the winners. Sharma is a seasoned athlete who frequently runs or bikes from his residence in Herzliya Pituah to his office in the Australian Embassy in south Tel Aviv.
On Wednesday evening of this week, Sharma and his wife, Rachel Lord, hosted Baird and his large delegation at a dinner reception at the Australian Residence.
Baird, who had wanted to come to Israel for a long time, had waited until after last year’s elections, which determined that he would serve a second term. Coming with his wife, Kerryn, and a busload of enthusiastic participants representing the administrative, legal, business and academic sectors of New South Wales, Baird and the people with him impressed Sharma with their energy, ambition and enthusiasm. Baird was also impressed with Sharma and with Paul Israel, the executive director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce, whose laid back but totally efficient organizational abilities are legend.
Although state premiers in Australia have very little to do with foreign affairs and policy, especially on a federal basis, Baird said that Sharma should be promoted and asked him what he wants and where he wants to go to, so that Baird could use whatever influence he has to make that possible. Sharma’s spontaneous reply: “I want to be ambassador for life in Israel.” Baird was not surprised.
He had been inspired by the visit, he said, and had found Israel to be a country of “incredible beauty with an amazing history.” He was also full of admiration for the energy of the people whom he met. Like most visiting delegations, the one from New South Wales also went to Yad Vashem. Though aware to some extent of Holocaust history, Baird said that nothing had prepared him for what he had seen and experienced at Yad Vashem, which made it all the more remarkable that Israel had been able to rise from such depths to what it has become. “I don’t think any of us will forget these days,” he said.
Jillian Segal, the NSW chairman of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, who has been to Israel with top-level delegations on previous occasions, termed this visit as “exciting and overwhelming” and spoke of the vibrancy and amazing ideas that emanated from meetings that the Australians had with Israeli counterparts.
Members of the trade mission and Israelis alike had been impressed with Baird’s openness of mind and willingness to listen and learn and bring some of Israel’s innovation back to Australia, she said, noting that this was the first trade mission to Israel to be led by a sitting state premier.
■ AMONG THE people traveling with Baird was banker and former government minister Warwick L. Smith, who acts as the export and investment adviser to the premiers of New South Wales. Smith has been to Israel many times, not only on bilateral matters but also for personal reasons. His daughter, a nutritionist, has been living in Israel for the past two years and has an Israeli partner. Smith does not know whether the two will eventually marry but suspects that if that happens, his daughter, who loves Israel, will convert to Judaism – and that’s fine with him.
■ AUSTRALIAN EXPATS who attended the ambassador’s reception included Saul Kaye, a community pharmacist who is a leading advocate for medical cannabis, and who is convinced that despite strong opposition from the Knesset, the day will not be long in coming when medical cannabis will be legalized in Israel. An extraordinary large number of Israelis are paying through the nose for illicit cannabis, he says.
MKs simply refuse to recognize the benefits of cannabis, which has been legalized in some other countries.
If legalized in Israel, it could help a lot of suffering people to cope better with their various illnesses, it would cost less and it would reduce the crime rate, because growing and using cannabis is currently a legal offense, Kaye argues. Medical marijuana was legalized in Australia in February of this year.
■ CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL history buffs may be interested in catching up on some background information on Israel’s seventh prime minister and, before that, long-term Mossad agent Yitzhak Shamir. His son, Yair Shamir, a former agriculture minister, will appear Friday, April 8, at 6 p.m. as Yigal Ravid’s guest on The Way it Was on Channel 1. He will talk about his father’s roles as speaker of the Knesset, foreign minister and interior minister. The program will include archive material from some of the major events during Yitzhak Shamir’s political career.
■ GENERALLY SPEAKING, when people from the haredi community opt for a modern lifestyle, it indicates that they have relinquished the strictures of religion and have become secular or are moving in that direction.
Faigi and Shmulik Yurovich appear to have found a happy medium that enables them to move comfortably between both worlds. Both come from haredi families. She was raised in Ofakim, and he is a product of the strongly anti-Zionist hassidic sect Toldot Aharon in Jerusalem.
For a married, 22-year-old haredi woman, she has an unusual profession. She’s a model. Her husband is her agent and takes many of her photos, which are all over the Internet, and is obviously close by when she is posing for professional photographers during photo shoots for the various fashion companies for which she models. Their story was published at the beginning of this month in Yediot Yerushalayim.
Although she has modeled in dresses whose hemlines barely graze the knee, all the garments she models conform in other respects with haredi regulations.
They are high-necked and long-sleeved, and under no circumstances will she model lingerie. Her parents had sent her to Jerusalem to study interior design, but she was always more interested in fashion – not just in modeling but also in designing. She hopes to one day have her own fashion brand name with chic designs that are geared to religiously observant women but are simultaneously stylish and sophisticated.
There’s no reason in Faigi Yurovich’s opinion for haredi women to look dowdy, and while she has been subjected to criticism in some religious circles, by and large haredi women are interested in keeping up with her modeling career and what she’s wearing as evidenced on her Facebook pages. In actual fact, many haredi women have excellent taste and are fashionably yet modestly attired. Yurovich is essentially making it easier for those haredi women who surf the Internet to find clothes that suit them.
■ ONE OF the most common questions at this time of the year is “Where are you going for Seder?” Passover is not only the Festival of Freedom but the festival of hospitality, when those who are hosting a Seder invite others to their table – not just relatives and friends – but also total strangers. Many new immigrants, especially singles, don’t know where to turn for such hospitality.
The National Youth Committee for new immigrants from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, which is strongly affiliated with Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation, which, after the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, is the largest and most active organization of and for English-speaking immigrants, is organizing Seder hospitality for immigrants and lone soldiers. Anyone in either category should contact Dana Ben Chail, volunteers@ telfed.org.il, or Susan Sharon, email@example.com In addition, Telfed, together with other organizations, is hosting a communal Seder in Jerusalem for Australian, NZ and South African immigrants in the 18-35 age group at 12 Emek Refaim Street. RSVP by April 11, firstname.lastname@example.org
■ IN ADVANCE of the raising of the curtain on Emunah Petah Tikvah’s production of Dona Gracia, banker and businessman Leon Recanati hosted a reception at his home for Emunah. Recanati, who is the leading custodian in Israel of Sephardi Greek heritage, was a natural for hosting such an event, as Dona Gracia was the most important Sephardi Jewish woman of the 16th century. A woman of great wealth as well as political and diplomatic acumen, she made use of all three to improve life for Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal, and also financed Jewish settlement in Tiberias. The production of Dona Gracia is in Ladino, in deference to its subject matter and the fact that it is the common language of Sephardi Jews wherever they are scattered in the world. The script, by Michal Aharoni Regev, is in the process of completion.
Among the guests at Recanati’s home were descendants of the Sephardi communities of Spain Greece and Portugal, as well as Emunah national chairwoman Liora Minka, Dr. Rivka Manovitz, who heads Emunah’s drama circle, Amos Safrai, the principal of Emunah College, and actress Hani Nahmias.
■ WHAT SEEMED to be a spontaneous gesture on the part of the Netanyahu family in announcing the presentation of the archive of noted historian Prof.
Benzion Netanyahu to the National Library at the laying of the cornerstone ceremony for the new, updated National Library on Tuesday of this week was not exactly a surprise to the library’s board members. Soon after the death of Prof. Netanyahu, who passed away at the age of 102 in April 2012, the powers that be at the National Library approached the Netanyahu family with the request that the library become the custodian of the valuable and extensive archive. Fortunately for posterity, the Netanyahus fully understood the significance of making the archive accessible to future scholars and the public at large.
More than that, as noted by Lord Jacob Rothschild at the ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made available one of the last sizable tracts of land available for construction in Jerusalem. Netanyahu recalled that, as a boy, he and his brothers and their friends used to run and play there.
Rothschild also recalled that a member of the Rothschild clan had also attended the cornerstone ceremony for a previous National Library on the original site of the Hebrew University in 1926. Various members and branches of the vast Rothschild family have supported the Israel enterprise in buying land and establishing or helping to establish places of employment, education, culture, beauty, legislation and the rule of law. Rothschild said that he hoped that the Rothschilds would be involved with Israel’s development for at least another 100 years.
■ THE EXCITEMENT surrounding the new National Library reminded former associate vice president of the Hebrew University Eliahu Honig of his grandfather for whom he is named. The elder Honig was one of the leading figures of Jerusalem early in the 20th century and was involved in many of the city’s developments.
He helped establish the Old People’s Home, he set up and directed the Jewish Post Office under the Ottoman government, he deputized for Israel Dov Frumkin in running the Havatzelet newspaper and had many other accomplishments to his credit. He was also among the members of the founding committee of the Jewish Central Library, which later became the National Library and later the Jewish National and University Library.
In 1992, to mark the centenary of the library, a commemorative volume was published under the title A Century of Books. The elder Honig was one of the signatories on many of the early documents reproduced in this volume.
Before his retirement from the Hebrew University, where he held various positions over the years, and while the library was still an integral part of the university, the younger Honig worked closely with all the directors of the library and helped secure very substantial funds and also collections. He did all this with a sense of privilege of being associated with and aiding one of the really important institutions of the Jewish people, he says. “In one way, I guess, I was continuing the work that my grandfather began. Perhaps it was in the genes!”
■ AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Martin Weiss will attend the opening of the 15th International Orion Symposium on “The Texts of the Bible from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Biblical Manuscripts of the Vienna Papyrus Collection,” which will be held next week at the Hebrew University’s Beit Maiersdorf on the Mount Scopus campus. Biblical scholars and experts from Austria, England, France, Germany, Spain the United States and Israel will present papers over a three-day period beginning Sunday, April 10. The symposium is being held in conjunction with the Hebrew University, the University of Vienna Institute for Jewish Studies and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies.email@example.com