Grapevine: Foreign diplomats’ cold shoulder

New ICEJ director joins Jerusalem Day festivities.

Benzion Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Benzion Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It has become an annual tradition for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem to host a Jerusalem Day reception on the lawns of its premises. When executive-director Jurgen Buhler sent out invitations to the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Israel, he did not expect many to come, but he thought that some of those ambassadors who had previously attended events at the ICEJ would at least put in a brief appearance. No such luck. He was indirectly informed that the reason was because Jerusalem Day celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem, which is a matter of controversy in international circles and therefore a political problem. No foreign ambassador could go against his or her own country’s foreign policy. One might expect Jews to be a little hesitant about socializing with Christians, but there was quite a sizable Jewish turnout that included several Orthodox Jews who were wearing kippot, including a rabbi or two, former Israeli diplomats and representatives of various organizations and institutions.
Joining in the festivities from the Christian side was recently arrived ICEJ international director Joha Ketola from Finland, who succeeded Buhler.
Israeli national flags fluttered from rooftop flagpoles, and two giant Israeli flags were suspended from the roof to ground level on the exterior of the building. Live classical music was loud enough to hear but soft enough to enable the flow of conversation. The hosts also provided top-quality kosher catering for their Jewish guests at one end of the garden and non-kosher catering for those who don’t observe the Jewish dietary laws at the other end of the garden.
■ TULSA, OKLAHOMA philanthropist Lynn Schusterman who, through the family foundation that she and her late husband Charles established, supports numerous Jewish causes and Israeli initiatives, asked Israel Museum director James Snyder what he would like for his 60th birthday. Snyder could have asked for something personal, but preferred that she give something of substance to the museum and the people who visit it. He wanted her to fund the cost of one of the most extraordinary exhibitions that has ever been displayed at the Israel Museum – a joint exhibition of two unique artists, one Polish and the other German, who each worked in parallel in multi media, but were best known for their avant garde stage productions and dialogues which often dealt with Polish-Jewish and German-Jewish issues. The works of Joseph Beuys and Tadeusz Kantor had never previously been exhibited together, but when Polish curator Jaromir Jedlinski came up with idea, both Snyder and the Israel Museum’s chief curator of fine arts, Sizanne Landau, were instantly enthused. Jedlinski is known as the world’s foremost expert on Kantor.
For Landau, it was a bittersweet experience in that this was her final exhibition at the Israel Museum, where she has worked for 34 years. Snyder said he was sad that she was leaving but proud that she was moving on to become the director of the Tel Aviv Museum, which meant that in the future they will not only be colleagues but also collaborators.
German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis said that the Israel Museum had taken a very brave step in showing Beuys in such a comprehensive way. He recalled travelling to Kassel in 1977 for Beuys’s famous honey pump exhibit. Alluding to the hostilities that had long pervaded German-Polish relations, Michaelis said that it was a great achievement for Poland and Germany to enjoy the friendship that they have today. Deputy chief of mission at the Polish Embassy, Wieslaw Kucel, lauded the Israel Museum for bringing together two icons of 20th-century European Art.
Snyder said that some of the works had come from private collections but others had been borrowed from museums and galleries which had rarely or never before given out works on loan. “All our endeavors throughout the exhibition are about history, memory and the special dialectics between past, present and future,” said Jedlinski. “The work of both artists has been illuminated by memory.” He also said, since both artists have died, that “art historians are representatives of artists who have passed away.” At the exhibition itself, many of the visitors were mesmerized by a video of one Kantor’s most acclaimed and controversial works, “Dead Class” in which mannequins and actors are juxtaposed.
■ THE GOVERNOR of the Bank of Israel should have as broad an understanding as possible of how money is being invested to improve not only the quality of life of the population but the actual quality of the population. Indeed, Stanley Fischer visits so many diverse organizations and institutions that he could probably write a guide book on investing in human resources for a better tomorrow. His recent visits have included Reuth, where he was hosted by executive-director Alex Jacobi, Reuth Medical Center director Dr. Nissim Ohana, deputyexecutive director Miriam Frankel and board members Tami Chaimovsky and Zeev Jaffe.
While touring the facilities, Fischer and members of his staff were clearly moved to meet with two Holocaust survivors who live in Reuth’s subsidized housing complex in Tel Aviv and to whom Reuth has become not just a home but their only family.
Fischer and his entourage then visited the medical center, where they learned of the professional scope and capacity of the hospital, which specializes in rehabilitation. They met with staff in the physiotherapy department and were fascinated to learn about “Step of Mind,” a new advanced technology system in which patients can learn to regain their walking capability, and were emotionally overwhelmed as they went through the children’s and babies’ department.
Somewhat closer to home on an emotional level, Fischer also visited the Jewish Agency’s Institute for Youth Leaders from Abroad, of which he is a graduate.
The current crop of leaders with whom Fischer met this week at the Kiryat Moriah campus in Jerusalem was surprised to learn that he had been at the institute in 1960. Fischer met with some 80 young leaders from English speaking countries and talked them about economics and Zionism. Some 450 leaders of Zionist youth movements are trained at the institute each year, with a view to giving them the tools for strengthening the connection between Jewish youth in their home countries with Israel.
Many of these youth leaders subsequently return to Israel as immigrants after obtaining their university degrees or after gaining career experience.
■ “OLD SOLDIERS never die, they just fade away,” is a song that was written in tribute to US general Douglas MacArthur. The song could just as easily apply to members of Machal, an acronym for Mitnadvei Hutz La’artez (volunteers from abroad). The volunteers, made up largely of World War II veterans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, fought for the nascent State of Israel during the War of Independence and were also active in bringing Holocaust survivors to the land of Israel when the forbidding British Mandate was still in force. Some Machalniks later remained in Israel and continued serving in the IDF as reservists until they were too old to do so.
Like Holocaust survivors who are slowly fading into the tapestry of history, the Machalniks are succumbing to advancing age, but there are still quite a number in Israel and abroad who can tell the story. Many of them will gather at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People – next Thursday, May 31, for the opening of a permanent exhibition on “Volunteers from Abroad in Israel’s War of Independence.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is expected to attend, and speakers will include World Machal chairman Smoky Simon and UK and Scandinavian Machal chairman Stanley Medicks. In 1993, Medicks and fellow Machal comrades raised funds for the creation of a Machal monument at Sha’ar Hagai to honor the memories of the 123 Machalniks who sacrificed their lives for Israel.
Approximately 3,500 men and women from 46 countries were part of Machal, serving in 14 branches of the IDF and establishing the foundation for ground forces, air force and navy.
■ ON WEDNESDAY, to honor the memory of his father-in-law, noted Bible scholar Shmuel Ben-Artzi, who died last November, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu revived the Bible study circle that had been initiated by Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Addressing the 16 rabbis, Bible scholars and archaeologists who gathered in the courtyard of his official residence in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said that the Bible “is always relevant and that it gives us great power.”
This coming Tuesday evening, Netanyahu will also have the opportunity to witness the honor done to his late father, noted historian Professor Benzion Netanyahu, who passed away at the end of last month. Channel One had prepared an in-depth documentary on the senior Netanyahu, which had been scheduled for screening on the day that he died. In respect to the family, the program was deferred until after the mourning period.
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