Grapevine: Celebrating Europe

It is extremely rare for heads of diplomatic missions to host a reception on a Friday, especially because it can’t be done at night.

EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Unlike his predecessors, EU delegation to Israel head Lars Faaborg-Andersen did not host a mega-reception in celebration of Europe Day.
For one thing, Europe Day falls on May 9, which this year was on a Friday.
It is extremely rare for heads of diplomatic missions to host a reception on a Friday, especially because it can’t be done at night. Aside from that, he had several related prior commitments, which would have precluded his ability to be home in time for a midweek celebration.
On Monday, Faaborg-Andersen spent most of the afternoon and early evening at the Hebrew University’s eighth annual Eurofest, and tomorrow evening he will lecture at the University of Haifa on challenges of the EU and its relationship with Israel. He also lectured on this subject at the Hebrew University, where he participated in a roundtable discussion together with Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser, Spanish Ambassador Fernando Carderera Soler, Slovakian Ambassador Radovan Javorcik and Austrian Ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch.
Earlier that day there had been another roundtable discussion, with Hungarian Ambassador Andor Nagy, who will also be speaking in Haifa; Minister Delegate for Romanians Abroad Bogdan Stanoevici; Estonian Ambassador Malle Talvet-Mustonen; Belgian Ambassador Jean Cornet d’Elzius; and Bulgarian Ambassador Dimiter Mihaylov.
Before that there had been a meeting with Israeli master’s and doctoral students who had benefited from EU grants and scholarships, which not only enabled them to study abroad but also to attend international academic conferences.
Prof. Ruth Fine, who heads the Hebrew University’s European Forum, which organized the Eurofest, noted the significance of Israel’s membership in Horizon 20/20, the EU’s most extensive innovation and research and development program, enabling Israeli innovations to receive greater world exposure.
Fine also made the point that because of Israel’s enviable reputation for innovation, Israeli students are in high demand at European universities.
The day ended with a lecture on “The EU as Weaver of Peace,” delivered by Prof. Enrique Baron Crespo, former president of the European Parliament.
In addition, 13 of the 28 EU member states maintained stalls featuring books and pamphlets about many aspects of their respective countries. In some cases, the ambassadors joined the staff operating the stalls. At the Romanian stall, the women all wore the traditional embroidered blouses of their home country, and at the Italian stall there were displays of pizza, tomato paste, olive oil and pasta.
Minister Delegate for Romanians Abroad Stanoevici, a former actor who has been in his present role for only two months, was on an official three-day visit to Israel, during which he met with Immigrant and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. He visited Rosh Pina, the first settlement founded by Romanian Jewish immigrants in 1882.
Every movement, group, community, et al has a particular lexicon, and this was certainly borne out by the ambassadors of EU countries, who used expressions such as “integration,” “stability,” “competitive,” “Euroskeptics,” “rule of law,” “freedom of movement” and more.
Faaborg-Andersen said the EU enjoys strong relations with Israel, “a fact not fully known to the public,” adding that he would like to broaden understanding of this.
Most of the ambassadors also referred to the crisis in Ukraine, with Faaborg-Andersen declaring it the greatest crisis since the Cold War, as a result of which the EU will have to define a new relationship with Russia. There were also several references to the upcoming European Parliament elections and the possibility of a new high representative for foreign affairs – a factor of considerable interest to Jerusalem.
Another topic was the rise of the extreme Right in Europe, with resultant anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
The ambassadors acknowledged that the findings of a wide-ranging survey on anti-Semitism of eight European countries were worrying and disturbing, and said that educational projects about Holocaust history in each of their countries were designed to teach their youth to guard against any form of racism.
The ambassadors were aware that the general perception in the Jewish state is that the EU is anti-Israel.
But this is not so, they insisted. “If Europe doesn’t agree with the Israeli government, it doesn’t mean we’re anti-Israel. We simply have different positions,” said Slovakian Ambassador Javorcik. Other ambassadors clarified that the EU has a certain code of values which Israel does not always meet, and when this happens, differences arise because the Israelis do not understand the complexities of the structure of the EU and its various institutions.
■ IT COMES as no surprise that doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers might want to get together in an effort to save Hadassah University Medical Center from falling under government control, but it’s really interesting when a group of writers, poets, playwrights, translators, photographers and academics join Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, in taking out a quarter- page advertisement in Haaretz to extol the virtues of Hadassah.
The ad called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Health Minister Yael German and Education Minister Shai Piron to demonstrate responsibility and not allow the ruination of Hadassah.
Among the signatories were Haim Guri, Hanoch Bartov, A.B. Yehoshua, Eli Amir, Aharon Applefeld, Meir Shalev, Zeruya Shalev, Eyal Meged, Haim Beer, Yehudit Rotem, Aliza Orbach and Vivian Eden.
■ WHEN HE began to plan a testimonial dinner honoring Rabbi Emanuel Quint on his retirement as rosh kollel and dean of the Institute of Jewish Law, Joel Botfeld, one of Quint’s many students, did not imagine that so many people would want to attend. He therefore chose the cafeteria at Jerusalem’s OU Center, an appropriate venue given that inter alia, Quint is an OU vice president. But so many people were enthusiastic about the opportunity to honor him that in the final analysis, many had to be turned away – including members of Quint’s own family.
Quint, a successful New York lawyer, took early retirement to come on aliya and almost immediately began teaching Gemara classes in a voluntary capacity. Next to learning, Quint’s great passion is teaching.
Most of the students in his kollel, which was hosted by the capital’s Hazvi Yisrael congregation, were retirees. Very few of them had a yeshiva background, and some didn’t even know which was the right-side-up for a Gemara. Quint encouraged them to ask questions whenever there was something they didn’t understand, or if there was some part of the lesson with which they disagreed. One of his most frequently uttered comments was, “There are no stupid questions – just stupid answers.”
Indeed, he made a point of ensuring that every student could translate the text and understand the lesson, to the extent that each could give a dissertation on it if called upon to do so. And every student was called to do so at one time or another. Even when they were not called, there was enthusiastic and vociferous participation in the lesson.
In addition, Quint taught a Thursday night Gemara class in his home, with men and women participating.
Sometimes there were as many as 70 people sitting around long, narrow, refreshment-laden tables in his living room. Once, when discussing this particular class with a famous rabbi, the latter remarked that he presumed there were no women in the class. To which Quint replied: “Why not?” “Because women would never be able to learn Gemara,” was the response.
To Quint, this was an argument without foundation. If women could be scientists and unravel complicated math problems, they could also study Gemara, he said.
Among the many tributes Quint received for being an unusual and outstanding teacher were two from other teachers, famed Talmudist Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who has frequently joined Quint in public discussions on subjects dealing with Jewish law and ethics, and Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, who in addition to being the spiritual mentor of the synagogue which Quint and his wife, Rena, attended for many years before switching to a congregation closer to home, is also the principal and founder of a residential school for boys in Beit Shemesh. Both spoke of Quint’s extraordinary qualities as a teacher, and Steinsaltz wanted to know his secret in being able to attract so many people who had no background in Jewish religious studies, and keep them interested.
Quint, in addition to teaching, also writes extensively on Jewish law. The testimonial dinner was to mark his retirement from teaching after almost 30 years of leading the kollel. Steinsaltz refused to believe that Quint was retiring, and said he was only resting so that he could write another book. “Torah scholars don’t retire,” he said. “Only politicians retire, or should retire.”
Burstein said he could not imagine the kollel without Quint, and that the kollel might cease to exist because Quint was no longer teaching.
When it was Quint’s turn to respond, he told the story of Rabbi Akiva, whose wife had sent him away to study, and to whom he attributed all that he had achieved and had become. Quint said that without the support of his own wife, he would not have been able to attain his achievements.
One of Quint’s grandsons, Eli Silverman, who was present and is a charismatic teacher in his own right, was asked by several people to take over from his grandfather.
Because he doesn’t live in Jerusalem and already has many commitments, he can’t do so on a weekly basis, but he is ready to teach his grandfather’s students once a month – providing, of course, that Quint is there to offer guidance.
■ SEVERAL JOURNALISTS from both the electronic and print media took up the unequal pay case of Shamira Imbar, who earned considerably less than her colleague Arye Orgad for acting as announcer at the Mount Herzl opening ceremony for Independence Day. Orgad reportedly earned NIS 10,800 (more than double the minimum monthly wage) for a night’s work, while Imbar earned only NIS 7,000. This was particularly galling because the ceremony, for the first time ever, was entirely devoted to the achievements of women in building the state, and on its 66th anniversary, women in nearly all professions are being paid less than men who are doing the same job.
Channel 2’s Rina Matzliach, in a panel discussion with women including Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who had initiated the concept of a women-only torchlighting ceremony, asked how the government could violate its own law of equal pay for equal work. Livnat said she was dealing with it, but also noted that Imbar had told her she had received the amount she had asked for – and that Orgad had obviously asked for more.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli, who was also on the panel, observed the irony of it all: that women entering so-called men’s professions continue to earn less than their male counterparts, but men entering so-called women’s professions, such as teaching kindergarten, continued to earn more than women doing the same job.
■ DIRE PREDICTIONS that online publications would spell the death knell of the print media initially held a grain of truth, in that several major newspapers around the world – including in Israel – either downsized or closed up shop. But the battle royale between Sheldon Adelson, the founder and owner of Yisrael Hayom, and Noni Mozes, the publisher of Yediot Aharonot – which used to be the most widely read tabloid, until it was overtaken by free-of-charge Yisrael Hayom – is creating renewed interest in newspapers as such. It will be interesting to see whether proposed legislation (allegedly initiated by Mozes) to outlaw free daily newspapers will eventually pass and put Adelson out of the media game (unless he decides to charge), or whether Adelson will triumph over Mozes – especially in view of the fact that Yediot Aharonot is often distributed free of charge on university campuses.
While all this has been going on, Ma’ariv, previously the arch-rival of Yediot Aharonot, was rescued from probable oblivion by Eli Azur, who heads The Jerusalem Post Group.
Azur merged it with the highly successful Sof Hashavua, which he started with an editorial staff comprised largely of former Ma’ariv leading lights. Understandably, Sof Hashavua quickly found a faithful readership, and after Azur acquired Ma’ariv, he immediately united it with Sof Hashavua under a double masthead; during the week it’s Ma’ariv Hashavua.
Now, there’s a new publication coming out tomorrow. Almost in tandem with the release from a Russian prison of his good friend and former partner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, billionaire philanthropist Leonid Nevzlin, who rescued Beit Hatfutsot from closure, announced he was planning to start a new magazine devoted to politics, the communications industry and culture. Its name is Liberal, it’s a monthly retailing at NIS 39.90, and the cover of its first issue features a cartoon-style drawing of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – which had it appeared in a publication in any other country, would have immediately been interpreted as anti-Semitic. Emanating in large letters from the foreign minister’s jawline is the question: “Who are you really, Yvette?” Naturally, the first issue also contains an exclusive interview with Khodorkovsky, and another intriguing story about the media wars surrounding former IDF chief of general staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
Nevzlin has put together an excellent stable of Hebrew writers, including Rino Tzror, Amnon Levi, Rogel Alper, Ran Adelist, Ronit Vardi, Udi Segal, Amit Segal, Danny Ayalon, Eldad Yaniv, Emanuel Rosen and a host of other household names.
This is not Nevzlin’s first media venture. In the past he was the main shareholder of the Group Menatep holding company that owned Moskovskiye Novosti (Moscow News), which he sold in 2005 following a serious disagreement with the editor-in-chief Yevgeny Kiselyov. Three years ago, Nevzlin purchased a 20-percent stake in Haaretz, but apparently that was insufficient to satisfy his urge to own a publication lock, stock and barrel – and he hasn’t spared any expense in piquing the curiosity of potential readers.
■ THE TITLE of today’s conference at Bar-Ilan University is “Israel in the Eyes of the Arab Media.” Yet with the notable exception of Saliman A-Shafi, editor-in-chief of the Arabic News division of I24; Hamudi Bukai, head producer for Al-Arabiya news network; Zohar Bahloul, deputy manager and moderator of Radio A-Shams; and Hassin Sviti, political correspondent for Al-Sinara, the 19 other speakers are all Israeli Jews. So much for learning from the horse’s mouth what the other side thinks.
■ POLITICAL PUNDITS forecast that Netanyahu will fail in his attempt to have the vote for a successor to Shimon Peres deferred by six months, and likewise will fail in his effort to either do away with or revamp the presidency altogether.
Reading newspaper reports on this on his Israel Radio morning show, veteran broadcaster Arye Golan voiced the hope that Netanyahu, whose itinerary in Japan this week included an audience with the emperor and empress, would not decide upon returning home to elevate the presidency to royal status – whereby the next president would be a king or queen. In Israel, that could happen only if a candidate could prove direct descent from King David.
Netanyahu should be careful about changing the basic law with regard to the presidency; he may very well be a candidate himself one day. According to media reports, all of Netanyahu’s efforts have a single purpose – to prevent former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin from becoming president.
But then again, maybe not. After all, it could be a well-orchestrated exercise in reverse psychology, guaranteed to give Rivlin either a protest vote or a sympathy vote – without Netanyahu having to indicate which candidate he prefers.
■ THE WARS of the Jews are legendary, so much so that there is an enduring joke about the Jew stranded on a desert island who builds two synagogues. When rescuers eventually arrive and ask why he needed two synagogues, he replies that he needed one to go to – and one he would never enter.
The tragedy is that disagreements among Jews often lead to irreparable rifts, because of the inability of at least one side and sometimes both to acknowledge the right of the other to have a different approach. Thus, we see J Street all but excommunicated from the American Zionist mainstream, despite its claims to being a pro-Israel organization; and closer to home, we see anyone who has a moral conscience vis-à-vis the property rights of Arabs in Israel referred to as traitorous leftists. Tikun olam is one of the great Jewish values; how can one fix the world without identifying its flaws? While there may not be consensus on what these flaws may be, in a civilized society, differences do not automatically breed hatred as they do here. One only has to look at allegations against haredim to understand the depth of hatred and the festering of negative myths. The “price tag” people and their cohorts, who believe that Arabs have no rights to this land, would do well to read a statement presented by the Zionist Organization at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
The Zionist delegation was led by Chaim Weizmann, who many years later became Israel’s first president.
In acknowledging Palestine as the Jewish national home, the statement also noted it was clearly understood that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
■ THE PRESTIGIOUS annual Dan David Prize will be awarded on Sunday, May 18, at a festive ceremony at Tel Aviv University. The prize is an enduring endowment of the late Dan David, a Romanian press photographer with a background in television who arrived in Israel in 1961 almost penniless, but with a dream that would change the world. With a loan from a distant cousin, he developed the concept of instant vending machine photography, and became a multimillionaire.
He eventually left Israel and settled in Italy, but continued to divide his time between Israel, Italy, Spain and England. He died in London in 2011, and was buried in Israel in the Kfar Shmaryahu cemetery. Over the years he developed many patents, established an investment company and also served on the board of directors of many Israeli, European, American and Asian companies.
A generous philanthropist who wanted to reward people who had done something to benefit the world, he established the Dan David Prize in partnership with Tel Aviv University, where he was a member of the board of governors.
The prize, which was awarded for the first time in 2002, is presented through the Dan David Foundation with the proviso that laureates donate 10% of their prize money to endow doctoral scholarships for outstanding PhD students, as well as postdoctoral scholarships for outstanding researchers in their own fields from around the world.
This year’s laureates are Krysztof Czyzewski of Poland, Pierre Nora of France and Prof. Saul Friedlander of the US, in the category of history and memory; Prof.
John A. Hardy and Prof. Peter St. George-Hyslop, both of England, and Prof. Brenda Milner of Canada, in the category of combating memory loss; and Prof.
Marvin Minsky of the US, in the category of artificial intelligence, the digital mind.
■ LAST SUNDAY was not an easy day for Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, whose former positions include head of IDF Central Command, deputy chief of staff and head of the National Security Council.
Dayan, the nephew of Moshe Dayan and a first cousin to actor, writer and filmmaker Assi Dayan, whose funeral was held in Nahalal on Sunday, was a bereaved son from the year he was born. His father, Zorik, who was Moshe Dayan’s younger brother, was killed in April 1948 in the Battle of Ramat Yohanan.
Last Sunday night, Uzi Dayan participated in the Remembrance Day ceremony organized by the Beit Shemesh Municipal Council, and had an emotional meeting with the family of the late Sharon Edery, who while serving in the IDF was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in 1996. It took security forces seven months to find the body. Dayan, who had been head of Central Command at the time, maintained close contact with the family and was extremely supportive during the seven months of anxiety before the soldier’s fate was known.
Sharon’s aunt Yocheved (Edery) Yaacov and his uncle Paltiel Edery told others at the ceremony that Dayan had been a rock for them throughout the entire search period. He had been in touch with the family on a daily basis, they said, and they could not thank him enough.
Also participating in the conversation with Dayan was Eliran Cohen, who chairs the Forum of Bereaved Families.
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