All the world loves a wedding

British Ambassador Gould throws a party for the royal nuptials – and the queen’s birthday – while Australia’s envoy reflects on the ANZAC legacy.

prince william and kate_311 reuters (photo credit: REUTERS/Dominic Lipinski/Pool)
prince william and kate_311 reuters
(photo credit: REUTERS/Dominic Lipinski/Pool)
Trite as it sounds, all the world loves a wedding, and the media hype surrounding the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was arguably unsurpassed. Despite the fact that many countries that were once monarchies are now republics, and that there have been moves afoot for Britain to go in the same direction, there is something magical about a royal wedding, reminiscent of fairy tales about Prince Charming taking a beautiful bride from among the commoners and making her a princess. And of course, the pomp and ceremony – not to mention the gorgeous headgear adorning the heads of some of the guests – was better than a Hollywood movie.
British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who hosted a local celebration for some 1,000 people at the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, was interviewed just after 7:30 a.m. last Friday by Israel Radio’s Yigal Ravid, who inter alia wanted to know why the young couple was honeymooning in Jordan and not crossing into Israel. Ravid said he had checked out the situation, and other than Prince Charles attending the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, none of the British royals had been to Israel.
Gould promptly corrected him, noting that the honeymoon destination was a matter of speculation and that he could think of at least four members of the royal family who had been to Israel.
As an example, he volunteered Prince Edward, who came for the Israel Youth Awards, but he did not mention others such as the Duchess of York. Though divorced from Prince Andrew, Sarah Ferguson, better known as Fergie, retains that title. She came to Israel four years ago. The Duke of Edinburgh was here in 1994, together with his sister Princess George of Hanover. They came to Jerusalem to plant a tree at Yad Vashem in memory of their mother Princess Alice, who in 1993 had been given the title Righteous among the Nations. Five years earlier, in accordance with her wishes, her remains were transferred from the royal crypt at Windsor to the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.
Lord Snowdon, who had been married to Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, is a celebrated photographer, who after his visit to Israel produced a book, first published by Little, Brown & Co. in 1986, with a wide-ranging impression of what he had seen through the lens of the camera.
Margaret, on a visit to Jordan, secretly crossed the border into Israel and toured part of the country. While admittedly there have been no official visits by British royals, some of them have definitely been here. Aside from all that, the newlyweds decided to delay the overseas part of their honeymoon.
In addition to his own party celebrating the Royal Wedding, Gould said, he knew of several others taking place around the country. There are some 70,000 people with British or British/Israeli citizenship living here, and many more with some kind of British heritage, said Gould, whose party also celebrated the queen’s birthday. Although the Queen was born on April 21, her official birthday has traditionally been celebrated in June. Gould, who hosts numerous events at his residence, didn’t need a second mega-event within a sixweek period.
It was much easier to ascertain who wasn’t at Gould’s affair than who was. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were on the invitation list, but did not attend, though members of their respective staffs seemed to be having a great time. The approach to the Rabin Center was lined with Union Jacks, and as guests entered the parking lot, they were presented with British flags.
In the lobby, a five-tier wedding cake created by Tal Katz stood resplendently alongside the guest book. At the far end of the patio the Magical Mystery Tour band was playing Beatles melodies. In addition to the buffets that featured typically British fare such as Stilton and cheddar cheeses, roast beef, fish and chips and strawberry delights appropriately titled Strawberry Fields, waitresses walked around with trays of top-quality smoked salmon, cucumber sandwiches and scones. Giant screens enabled guests to watch the wedding, and everyone was captivated by the elegance and pageantry.
Russian Ambassador Piotr Stegny and his wife stood looking up at the screen for a long time, possibly remembering that until 1918, Russia also had a royal family. Romanian Ambassador Edward Iosiper enjoyed every minute, and when asked whether he would like Romania to return to being a monarchy, replied that Romania’s King Michael, who is a third cousin to Queen Elizabeth and a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, was among the guests at Westminster Abbey. It was a glorious occasion for EU Ambassador Andrew Standley, who is British and who was grinning from ear to ear.
In age, the guests ranged from nonagenarians such as philanthropist Fred Worms and Zelda Greene, who was in the British Army in World War II, to four-week-old Rachel Gould, the daughter of the ambassador and his wife Celia. Since her arrival in the world, the baby has already been to a synagogue and a church, and now to what is probably her father’s biggest party.
During the wedding, the main hall in the Rabin Center was nearly as crowded as the streets of London. When there was a slight difficulty in getting the wedding ring over the bride’s knuckle, Prof. Ruth Arnon, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, remarked that at least it wouldn’t fall off. At various intervals, the crowd in Tel Aviv cheered and applauded just like the crowd in London. Gould was thrilled by “the amazing turnout,” saying that it showed how much attention the wedding had created beyond Britain’s borders, and declaring it a testament to the warmth and depth of relations between Britain and Israel – the country in which he and Celia most wanted to be. “After seven months, we’re not disappointed,” he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was representing the government at the part of the event reserved for the queen’s birthday, remarked that like so many other people present, he had been born a British subject. He offered his congratulations to both the queen and the young couple, and also congratulated the Goulds for having produced a sabra British subject.
For Marilyn Lyons, who has been employed at the British Embassy for 35 years and who has sung at embassy receptions in addition to her office job, this was her swan song as she went into retirement.
She sang the anthems of both countries and was joined by Zvika Pick in singing “Hatikva,” which Gould also sang – no less lustily than he had sung “God Save the Queen.”
Not everyone was smitten with royal wedding fever. Czech Ambassador Tomas Pojar hosted a lecture and luncheon at which Czech-born Prof. Yehuda Bauer, an eminent authority on the Holocaust and the founding editor of the Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, presented an Israeli perspective on the Holocaust and genocide. And in another part of Tel Aviv, would-be Labor Party leader Amir Peretz participated in a May Day parade that was held two days ahead of time so as not to clash with Shabbat or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Even further removed, in the Galilee, was an organized tour of Arab villages to emphasize some of the discriminatory practices in government expenditure on community facilities.
Australian and New Zealand expatriates, along with visitors from both countries and members of the Australian and New Zealand contingents serving with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), gathered at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem last Wednesday to honor the memories of the two countries’ soldiers who died in battle in this part of the world.
The commemoration of ANZAC Day, which traditionally falls on April 25 – the date on which Australian and New Zealand troops made their ill-fated landing in Gallipoli in 1915 – was delayed in Israel this year because it coincided with the last day of Pessah.
In welcoming participants – including representatives of other embassies as well as the Foreign Ministry and the IDF – Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner stated that ANZAC Day honored not only the original ANZACs who landed at Gallipoli, but also the servicemen and -women of both countries who had served and continued to serve their respective nations. Particular tribute is paid, she said, to the Australian and New Zealand soldiers “who lie at rest far from home in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and to 3,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Egypt and Palestine during the First World War, but who have no known grave.” Their names are permanently engraved in the memorial behind the cemetery’s catafalque.
Faulkner also noted the friends and allies who served alongside the ANZACs. The ANZAC spirit of courage and comradeship was formed at Gallipoli 96 years ago, she said, noting that since 1915, Australian and New Zealand troops had served with distinction and given their lives in France and Belgium, in the North African desert, in Sinai and Palestine, in Greece, Crete and Syria, in the skies over Europe, in Singapore, in the jungles of Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, in Korea and Vietnam, in later wars and conflicts and in peacekeeping.
Among the more recent supreme sacrifices made by the ANZACs, she cited the 23 Australians and two New Zealanders killed in action in Afghanistan.
Faulkner remarked on how this year’s ANZAC Day commemorations represented “the truly global nature of Australia’s contribution – both past and present.” She noted that Australia’s Governor-General Quentin Bryce led the ANZAC Day service in Thailand, Prime Minister Julia Gillard did the same in the Republic of Korea, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in northern France and Defense Minister Stephen Smith in Afghanistan.
“Australian leaders have spoken of the awful suffering of those soldiers, of their bravery, their dedication and their commitment to the values of freedom and democracy and ‘a fair go’ for everyone,” said Faulkner. Gathered in Jerusalem, she continued, “we commemorate specifically the remarkable contribution of Australians and New Zealanders to the historical shaping of this part of the world in the Palestine campaign and in the Second World War.”
Many Israelis, she said, had told her of their memories and those of their parents and grandparents of Australian soldiers who had served here. “Those stories have touched me and made me feel both proud and humbled.”
Today, Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women carry on the ANZAC spirit in combat, peace-keeping, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions around the world, including in the Middle East, said Faulkner, emphasizing that Australians and New Zealanders serving with the MFO and UNTSO were continuing the long history of involvement in the region and were “serving together just as they did on that first day in Gallipoli.”
Pastor Evan Thomas reflected that ANZAC Day was a time of rededication to justice, freedom and peace.
After the wreath-laying ceremony – including one from Turkish charge d’affaires Tolga Uncu, representing the country with which the ANZACS and their allies had once been at war – Rabbi Raymond Apple, chief rabbi emeritus of the Sydney Great Synagogue and former senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Forces, conducted a memorial service in the section of the cemetery in which Jewish soldiers are buried. Non-Jews also made their way to the Jewish section to pay their respects. Among the faces in the crowd were those of Mark Regev, Guy Spiegelman, Sue and Mervyn Doobov, Selina and Jack Beris, Yehuda Dayag, Monique Schwartz, Robert Vassal, Susan Rutland and her son IDF Capt. Benjamin Rutland, Bob Mountwitten, Don Stanley and many others.
It was a very busy day for the Australian ambassador, who that same evening hosted a reception at her residence in Herzliya Pituah for the 15 members of the Australian Psychologists Study Mission to Israel, led by Amanda Gordon, past president of the Australian Psychological Society. The mission was organized by the APS with the aim of promoting positive interchange of ideas between Australian and Israeli psychologists.
Among the group were those with special interests in trauma and resilience, especially among Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
Others were focused on working with the disabled or in educational environments.
The overwhelming majority of national day receptions hosted by heads of diplomatic missions take place in the evening, but South African Ambassador Ismail Coovadia decided last year to make it a lunchtime affair. It was so successful that he decided to do it again this year and chose the convenient venue of the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv for the Freedom Day festivities. The South African expats who attended were thrilled to be able to sample several tastes of home, as the menu included a number of South African delicacies.
The key message of Freedom Day is to unite the nation, promote democracy and protect freedom. It is a reminder of the struggle for freedom and democracy for all the people of South Africa, said Coovadia.
The struggle in 1994 was against segregation, he said; now the struggle is toward the fulfillment of hopes and values. “The dignity and freedom of all people is not an event, but a complicated process,” he went on. As part of this process, South Africans will exercise their democratic right to vote in local elections on May 18. Coovadia was also pleased to report that South Africa had turned the corner of economic development and could now offer many opportunities to foreign investors.
Unlike Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, who represented the government, Coovadia perceived the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation as a positive step, and reminded his guests that South Africa’s freedom fighters were also once regarded as terrorists. South Africa is keen to see an end to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and will propose a resolution in the UN to that effect. It is critical that the UN remain central to global issues of peace and the settling of conflicts, he said, adding that South Africa would continue to support all efforts for a just, comprehensive and sustainable peace between Israel and its neighbors. He emphasized the need to look at opportunities rather than the negative aspects of a situation, and never to allow one set of interests to ignore the interests of others.
Referring to the changes taking place in the region, Begin expressed the hope that they would lead to peace, security and true democracy. While the intelligence community is assessing the unfolding developments, no one really knows what will happen, said Begin. He also commented that democratic elections did not always produce desirable results. He pointed to Iraq, Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon, and Hamas among the Palestinians. Looking at the undemocratic systems of administration throughout the region, Begin declared the State of Israel to be a bastion of stability and a true democracy. As for the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, Begin warned that it had to be very carefully assessed and reviewed.
Age is no impediment to Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, who celebrated his 101st birthday in March of this year. The prime minister’s father, who is in full command of his faculties, lives in Jerusalem, but had no problem traveling to Tel Aviv for the launch of the 11th volume of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s letters.
Netanyahu arrived at the Jabotinsky Institute without fanfare, to the pleasant surprise of many of the veteran Revisionists who had come to honor the memory of their revered leader. One of the speakers at the event was Dr. Ido Netanyahu, the prime minister’s younger brother, who brought their father along for the ride. Benzion Netanyahu had a double reason for attending: Aside from taking pride in the oratory of his son, he had been a close associate of Jabotinsky’s, as had his father, Rabbi Natan Milikowsky. In welcoming the elder Netanyahu, Jabotinsky Institute director Yossi Ahimeir noted that he was probably the only person in the country who had not only known Jabotinsky personally, but worked alongside him and had a lengthy correspondence with him.