Grapevine: A heart of gold – and a golden boy

The event included a performance by singer Rita, whose elder daughter Meshi is a singer with the IDF.

Rita and Nili Fallek at the IMPACT 311 (photo credit: Courtesy Iru B’Klik Group)
Rita and Nili Fallek at the IMPACT 311
(photo credit: Courtesy Iru B’Klik Group)
Visiting with President Shimon Peres on Thursday as a member of Hollywood’s Creative Coalition, actress Andrea Bowen, who stars in Desperate Housewives, set off the metal detector as she went through security. Although the reason may have been her large hoop earrings, Bowen stepped back and removed her shoes, as is customary when passing through US airport security. One of her colleagues said to her, “Andrea, you will have to take everything off because you’ve got a heart of gold.”
■ “THE LETTER from Mr. Balfour is at once the fulfillment of an aspiration and the signpost of a destiny.” This quote from a November 9, 1917, editorial in The Manchester Guardian was read aloud exactly 94 years later, last Wednesday night, by Col. Richard Kemp CBE at the annual Balfour Dinner of the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association held at the Tel Aviv Hilton. The occasion also marked IBCA’s 60th anniversary.
Kemp, a British military hero, became the golden boy of Israel two years ago when he publicly refuted charges against Israel in the infamous Goldstone Report in which Israel was said to have engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Operation Cast Lead.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon thanked him for his unwavering support of Israel and for being a voice of morality and truth in an age when these values are fast disappearing. Ayalon noted that Kemp has spoken out on Israel’s behalf at every possible forum, including the United Nations Human Rights Council. Noting that Kemp had already been awarded CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II, Ayalon said that he wanted to also confer on him the title of “mensch.” Kemp himself recalled an act of menschlichkeit (integrity and honor) on the part of the Israel Defense Forces.
In 2003 when he was sent on very short notice to take command of the British Forces in Afghanistan, Kemp was suddenly face with the threat of suicide bombers. He had asked Britain's military training and doctrine organizations how to prepare his troops to deal with suicide bombers was told that he shouldn’t – it was too difficult to prepare for. They would just have to do whatever they could if the situation presented itself.
In Kemp's view, that was no way to command men in action. So he spoke to a contact at the Israeli Embassy in London and asked him to arrange for their Defense Attache to brief him. The contact said he could do better than that and had an IDF brigadier-general – an officer considered to be Israel’s leading expert on countering suicide attacks – flown to London. After four hours of conversation with the Israeli officer, Kemp devised what became the British army’s policy for countering suicide attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That selfless act of an Israeli comrade-in-arms undoubtedly saved British soldiers’ lives.” Even as he spoke, said Kemp, “British, Commonwealth and American soldiers’ lives are being saved by Israeli counter-terrorist technology and techniques.”
What he hopes will advance cooperation between British and Israeli forces even further, he said, was manifested the previous week by the successful visit to Israel of the British Chief of the Defense Staff General Sir David Richards who, Kemp said, places a high value on Britain's military relationships with the IDF.
■ ALTHOUGH THEY have been divorced for eight years and each has remarried, there are certain causes that Nava Barak embraced while she was married to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and that she continues to embrace today. One of them is the IMPACT Program of the American Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), which last week celebrated its 10th anniversary at a gala event at Tel Aviv University. The event included a performance by singer Rita, whose elder daughter Meshi is a singer with the IDF. In fact, although she wowed the crowd with her singing, Rita got an even bigger round of applause when she addressed IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz from the stage and said, “I've got warm regards for you from my soldier daughter Meshi. She's just crazy about you.”
Also in the audience were Ehud and Nava Barak, FIDF CEO Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Gershon, FIDF chair Nili Fallik, Israel representative of FIDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Kaplinski, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Galant who almost became the 20th chief of General Staff of the IDF but who was discredited as the outcome of a smear campaign days before his appointment was to become official, Commander of Army Radio Yitzhak Tunicand many of FIDF’s supporters and graduates of the IMPACT Program.
FIDF concerns itself with the welfare of soldiers in the IDF, their families and the families of soldiers who have died or who have been killed in the course of military service. IMPACT provides scholarships for soldiers in combat units as well as for soldiers completing their army service. The scholarships, which enable recipients to study for a bachelor’s degree, are personally awarded so that each donor and each recipient feels a mutual responsibility toward the other.
Some 2,500 students have already completed the IMPACT program and to a large extent owe their academic achievements to FIDF. There are currently 3,300 FIDF students studying in universities and colleges across the country. Many might not have embarked on university studies were it not for FIDF, which in addition to the scholarships raises some $60 million a year for the IDF through its 14 branches across the United States.
■ AS SEVERE a blow as it is for former president Moshe Katsav to go to prison on December 7 for rape, at least he will be able to celebrate his birthday at home before serving his sentence. Katsav will turn 66 on December 5 has had much happier birthdays in the past – especially his 60th, which was celebrated with the participation of many dignitaries. At that time he was still president and commanded respect and affection.
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