Grapevine: A capital conundrum

There have been so many milestone anniversaries this year that it was inevitable some of them would be overlooked, or remembered only by the very few people who were actively involved in the event.

SINGER SHLOMO ARTZI and three grateful fans 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
SINGER SHLOMO ARTZI and three grateful fans 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There have been so many milestone anniversaries this year that it was inevitable some of them would be overlooked, or remembered only by the very few people who were actively involved in the event.
An example was the 60th anniversary, a couple of months back, of the transfer of the Foreign Ministry from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Some ministry veterans, who are now long retired, were part of that move – which was not favorably regarded by the country that counts itself as Israel’s most enduring and best friend. In a statement issued on July 28, 1953, by then-US secretary of state John Foster Dulles during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Dulles wrote: “The United States regrets that the Israeli government has seen fit to move its Foreign Office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We have made known our feelings on that subject to the government of Israel on two prior occasions.
It was done in July 1952 and again in March 1953, when our ambassador, hearing rumors that this was in contemplation, called upon the Israeli government and requested them not to transfer their Foreign Ministry to Jerusalem.
“We feel that way because we believe that it would embarrass the United Nations, which has a primary responsibility for determining the future status of Jerusalem. You may recall that the presently standing UN resolution about Jerusalem contemplates that it should be to a large extent at least an international city.
Also, we feel that this particular action by the government of Israel at this particular time is inopportune, in relation to the tensions which exist in the Near East – tensions which are rather extreme – and that this will add to rather than relax any of these tensions.
“The views that I express here are, we know, shared by a considerable number of other governments, which have concern with the development of an atmosphere of peace and goodwill in that part of the world.
“We have notified the government of Israel that we do not intend to move our own embassy to Jerusalem.”
The US, in fact, owns land in Jerusalem that has been designated since 1995 as the relocation site of the embassy. A law to this effect was passed by the 104th Congress on October 23, 1995. The embassy was due to relocate no later than May 31, 1999, but a series of American presidents found reason to delay the move from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital.
Almost everywhere in the world, foreign embassies are located in the capital of the host country, and in some countries, when the capital was moved – so were the embassies.
Perhaps in two years’ time, when the 20th anniversary of the legislation enacted by Congress comes around, the Americans might relent.
Indeed, US President Barack Obama could conclude his term in office with a big bang. Congress has already reiterated its commitment to moving the embassy to the capital, with the recent passing of a bipartisan bill which refers to “Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital for historical, biblical and moral reasons.” The bill was passed almost concurrently with the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
■ AFTER FIVE years in a Hamas prison, Gilad Schalit has seen more of the world than he bargained for.
Aside from his travels abroad as a sports writer for Yediot Aharonot, he was utilized by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund to drum up donations. KKL-JNF sent him to Canada on a “thank you” tour to Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, where thousands of people paid $18 each to hear him speak and thank them for their support during his period of incarceration.
On October 18, Schalit will celebrate the second anniversary of his release. He had hoped to lead a normal life, he told his Canadian audiences, but it’s been anything but normal.
People stop him in the street to be photographed with him and in the market, vendors ply him with free food and produce.
Over the past two years he’s seen a fair bit of the world, having also traveled to Europe, the US, South America and Australia. Now, he’s eager to catch up on his education and will soon begin his university studies.
■NO ONE can measure another person’s sense of loss. They can empathize, sympathize and even identify to some extent, but they can’t really measure the grief of a bereaved parent, sibling, son or daughter. Yet bereavement, anguish, grief and pain form a common denominator and a rare bond between mostly Jewish Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones – each at the hands of representatives of the other.
The Bereaved Families Forum, which started out as the Parents Circle, comprised of scores of people from both camps who have lost loved ones in the senseless conflict that has been going on for decades, decided long ago that war isn’t worth the price it exacts. Together, they have forged a path of mutual respect and understanding, and have formed friendships that are sometimes so close no one on the outside can quite comprehend that former enemies could care for each other so deeply.
When they get together in Israel, it is often a frustrating experience. No matter how many strings have been pulled to ensure that the Palestinians will be able to easily cross through checkpoints, there is almost always a snag of some sort, resulting in frantic phone calls back and forth until the Israelis can sort out the chaos and enable the Palestinians to legally enter Israel. The scene at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque last Saturday was like so many others before it. The Israelis waited anxiously for their Palestinian friends, and when the latter arrived, they all literally fell into each other’s arms.
This time around, it was mainly a women’s meeting, with bereaved mothers, sisters and wives of Israelis and Palestinians telling their stories through photographs, books, art, theater and cinema – their vehicles for expressing grief and opening doors to dialogue. They have been meeting and working together for the past six years, in an effort to develop strategies to stop the bloodshed.
This grassroots attempt, in which humanity overrides politics, has been watched with interest by many people who are not part of the forum, but want to see it succeed.
Hundreds of them came to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on Saturday.
Among the most eloquent of the Israeli members of the forum is Robi Damelin, and on the Palestinian side, Bushra Awad; each has lost a son. Awad’s son, Mahmoud, was killed by Israeli soldiers and Damelin’s son, David, a soldier on reserve duty, was killed by Palestinians.
Awad said that following the death of her son, she was filled with hatred for Israelis and Jews – until she met Damelin, who transformed her perspective.
After the two women told their stories, there was a theatrical playback of their respective situations and several panel discussions. In every aspect of the day’s activities, Israelis and Palestinians interacted with each other, respected each other and grieved with each other. Perhaps the politicians should step back and let them take over.
■ FRESH FROM his meeting with US President Barack Obama and from addressing the UN General Assembly, but with a few days to digest reactions to what he said, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will follow up on his comments to the UN at the opening of the 20th anniversary conference of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies this coming Sunday, October 6. This will be his eighth appearance at the BESA Center, where he has delivered seven previous addresses in his capacities as prime minister, finance minister and opposition leader.
It was at the BESA Center that he delivered his controversial two-state solution address, which heralded a turning point that was in sharp contrast to his previously held policy and proved his capacity for dealing with realities on the ground – though he may have been less than overjoyed at the prospect of a Palestinian state. His topic on this occasion will be Israel’s challenges, which gives him a lot of leeway to talk about internal and external issues.
Since its establishment in October 1993, the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University has earned an international reputation for academic excellence and strategic prescience, as well as a realistic approach to the quest for peace and security for Israel. BESA’s 25 research associates have represented Israel and spoken at strategic affairs conferences in more than 30 countries. Additionally, they have been interviewed by correspondents of 150 newspapers and quality defense publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times of London and Jane’s Defense Weekly. BESA’s director Prof.
Efraim Inbar and his deputy, David M. Weinberg, who have steered the work of the center since its inception, are frequent columnists in The Jerusalem Post.
The center has also produced numerous original papers and books, and has hosted more than 300 symposia for specialists in defense, military industry, intelligence and foreign policy. These events have a strong following in diplomatic, political, academic and business circles, and often feature speakers from these spheres. BESA has also partnered with leading strategic studies centers in other countries. Aside from its own agenda, the center conducts contracted specialized research for Military Intelligence, the National Security Council, the Foreign and Defense ministries, NATO and others.
The opening of the conference will also provide a platform to introduce Bar-Ilan University’s recently appointed president, Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz, in his new guise. Herschkowitz, who was previously science and technology minister and chairman of Bayit Yehudi, will present awards to BESA’s three major donors: Muzi Wertheim, Saul Koschitzky and Dr. Tom Hecht.
Wertheim, who had a Mossad background before he went into business and became the chairman of Coca-Cola Israel and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, was a keen backer of the center from day one.
Koschitzky, of Toronto, has generously supported the center for more than a decade. Hecht, of Montreal, gave the center its name (an acronym memorializing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat), and is its founding chairman.
Other speakers at next week’s conference at the Bar-Ilan University Wohl Center (which, with the exception of Netanyahu’s address, is open to the public without advance registration), include (in order of appearance): Dr. Yuval Steinitz, intelligence minister; Prof. Uzi Arad, former national security adviser; Ze’ev Elkin, deputy foreign minister; Maj.- Gen. (res.) Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency; Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, IDF chief of staff; Gilad Erdan, home front defense minister; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, former national security adviser; Shai Piron, education minister; Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former national security adviser; Prof. Moshe Arens, former defense minister; Avi Dichter, former director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and former home front defense minister; and experts from the RAND Corporation, Georgetown University and the BESA Center.
■ IT TAKES a lot of altruism and courage to literally give a piece of yourself to someone else, but the Save1person organization, which is full of such people, is currently looking for a donor in good health, who has both A+ blood and the desire to save a life. This person is being asked to donate a kidney to Hagit Krug, a 44-year-old geneticist who worked at the hematology/ oncology department of a children’s hospital in Petah Tikva, but who now needs help herself.
Krug, who received her first dialysis treatment 31 years ago, says it is a very difficult way to live. She has been on a waiting list for a kidney from a live donor for many years, and is still waiting – and time is running out.
Anyone with the right blood type who would like to help grant her a longer, more normal life is asked to contact [email protected]
Krug is not the only person in Israel in need of a kidney, so people whose blood type does not correspond with hers but are willing to be donors, should get in touch with Kidney Mitzvah or check out the Save1person website.
RELATIVES AND friends of the bride were doubtful that her father would show up in time for the wedding.
If he didn’t make it, it would not be for lack of wanting to be there, but rather due to a battle of conscience as to whether his first duty was to his patient or to his daughter.
The father of the bride happened to be Prof. Dan Gilon, head of the Echocardiography Unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, which is treating Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Gilon is also one of the chief spokesmen who are briefing the media on Yosef’s condition.
Last Tuesday, when Yosef’s condition was extremely precarious, it was not certain Gilon would be able to leave Jerusalem for the wedding at a Pardess Hanna banquet hall. The fact that the bride, Tal, is a psychologist, and as such should have from a professional standpoint understood if her father was absent, did not make it any easier – although her mother, Rachel, a former publisher now working for a prestigious law firm, was there – as were other members of the family, who had come to celebrate her marriage to Haifa businessman Dror Man.
In truth, the couple were already married, having gone through the religious ceremony week a earlier at a somewhat smaller family gathering.
But they put up the bridal canopy again so their friends could enjoy a wedding, rather than just a party.
Having two weddings – one strictly for family and closest friends, and another for a wider circle of friends – has become quite trendy. It’s not actually a new practice. In some countries, it is customary to have both a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony – not necessarily on the same date or at the same place.
In any case, all’s well that ends well. The good doctor showed up in time, and everyone was able to celebrate.
■ TOMORROW NIGHT, October 3, German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis and his wife, Heike, will host a reception for the Day of German Unity, which celebrates the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; the October 3, 1990 reunification of Berlin, which for 40 years had been divided into East and West Germany; and the restoration of Germany’s capital, which moved from Bonn to Berlin.
Although this is not a milestone year, the Germans are well aware that for some reason, Berlin has a magnetic pull for Israelis, particularly those engaged in the arts. This may have prompted the launch of Berlin Days tomorrow night at Tel Aviv’s Machsan 2, a festival of music from classic to hard rock, art, photography, cinema, dance, literature and more, much of which is being held in conjunction with the Goethe Institute. While most of the events will take place in Tel Aviv, throughout the month of October, some will also be held in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Acre and Ashkelon. For Israel’s yekke community, this is going to be a truly great month of cultural diversity.
■ IF ISRAEL did not have an active, energetic and lucid 90-year-old president flitting around the world, the announcement published by Israel HaYom that Charles Aznavour, the enormously popular French-Armenian singer, songwriter, actor, diplomat and social activist, is coming to Israel for a concert at the Yad Eliyahu Stadium on November 23 would be hard to believe.
Aznavour happens to be 89 years old – and yes, several other senior citizen entertainers such as Leonard Cohen, Paul Anka, Peter Yarrow, Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand have performed in Israel to packed houses, but all of them still have a long way to go before they hit 89.
The announcement was published on International Senior Citizen’s Day, and seems to signify that after the third age, there may well be a fourth age in the not-too-distant future.
■ IT MAY not have been quite the same as winning the lottery – but all things being relative, it was certainly the next best thing. Jerusalemite teen Dara Wohlgelernter and two friends were hoping to get tickets for Shlomo Artzi’s performance at the Beit She’an amphitheater, and were more than a little dejected when they arrived at the venue and found the concert had been sold out. Suddenly, lady luck smiled in their direction.
They spied the vehicle transporting the singer and his band just as it was about to enter the stage area. The three young women ran over to the bus, and Artzi rolled down his window.
Thrilled to have their idol actually talking to them, the two poured out their hearts, saying how much they had wanted to hear him sing and how impossible it was to get a ticket.
Artzi told them not to worry, and that there would be tickets waiting for them at the box office in a few minutes. Not only did he fulfill his pledge, but the three fans ended up with front-row seats. Not only that, near the end of the show, Artzi called out to them and brought the ladies up on stage. In next to no time, they went from being down in the dumps to floating on cloud nine.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Matthew Gould will be in Jerusalem on Monday, October 7 to attend a lecture by his fellow countryman, the celebrated broadcaster, lecturer, author and winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Howard Jacobson, whose controversial topic will be, “When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust?” Gould will deliver the closing address of the evening under the auspices of the B’nai B’rith World Center and within the framework of the 170th anniversary year of B’nai B’rith International.
The event will be held at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkenot Sha’ananim.
Jacobson will be in Israel primarily for the launch of the Hebrew edition of his book Zoo Time. Because he is in such high demand as a speaker in England, B’nai B’rith prevailed upon him to let Israelis benefit from his oratory and wit.
■APROPOS THE British ambassador, for the third consecutive year, Gould and his wife, Celia, built a succa at the British residence, where decorations included a lot of Union Jacks, plus colored paper chains and other adornments produced by AKIM Ramat Gan members and volunteers.
The Goulds have really taken AKIM, the national association for the habilitation of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, to their hearts. They have started early with their older daughter, Rachel, who is still a toddler, in practicing the concept of inclusion of others regardless of how different they may be. Rachel, to the best of her ability, also helped with the decorations. AKIM Ramat Gan chair Gideon Michnik presented the Goulds with a calendar that included the artwork of people with intellectual disabilities.
■BLESSINGS OF any kind are always welcome, but in Jerusalem during election fever, a rabbi’s blessing is most welcome – regardless of whether a candidate is religious or secular. After all, one can never have too many blessings.
As such, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat had at least three rabbis from the national-religious camp visit his succa last week – Rabbis Shmuel Zafrani, Eisman and Simhon. Wellknown though they might be, they don’t enjoy quite the same surname celebrity status as members of the Ifergan family. Rabbi Eliahu Ifergan, the nephew of Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan – generally referred to as the X-ray Rabbi because of his uncanny ability to detect worries and illnesses – visited the Ein Kerem succa of Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who heads the Ometz Lev party. Ometz Lev’s headquarters are located in Ein Kerem; last week, it was erroneously published in this column that Tsur lives there. While she spends a lot of time in Ein Kerem, her home is actually in Kiryat Moshe, where she has lived for more than 40 years.
■ YET ANOTHER feather in the cap of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is the fact that it is the only Middle Eastern university to take part in the new Borders in Globalization project. BGU is one of 20 universities and public bodies worldwide involved in the project, which will advise North American governments on how to manage and control their borders in the coming decades.
BGU dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof.
David Newman’s borders and geopolitical expertise are recognized internationally. This is the third ongoing international project on the changing nature of borders on which Newman, a frequent columnist for the Post, will be working. As far as is known, he and his department have cultivated the sole expertise of this nature in Israel.
“Borders in Globalization is an innovative, integrative and sustainable partnership among an already productive network of academics in Canada, the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, who are engaging with non-academic organizations involved in managing borders and borderlands throughout the world. The partnership will promote further excellence in border studies, create new policy and foster knowledge transfer, in order to address globalizing forces of security, trade and migration flows, and to understand the challenges of emerging technologies, self-determination and regionalization around the world, affecting borders and borderlands,” according to Prof. Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly of the University the of Victoria, an international borders expert who will be directing the project.
“The project received the Partnership Grant, which is considered the most prestigious research partnership program in Canada. Only a few Partnership Grants are awarded each year across Canada,” said Newman, who has been a partner in similar European projects.
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