Grapevine: Giving peace a chance

Inasmuch as the situation seemed hopeless in March 1975, it should be remembered that Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in Washington in March 1979.

Meister diplomas ceremony 370 (photo credit: Photo Gaaton)
Meister diplomas ceremony 370
(photo credit: Photo Gaaton)
It is easy to understand the optimism of US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose shuttle diplomacy is evocative of that of Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.
An extract from a March 1975 report in Time magazine reads: “Unfortunately, the differences on a number of key issues have proven irreconcilable. We therefore believe a period of reassessment is needed, so that all concerned can consider how best to proceed toward a just and lasting peace.
“With that admission of failure, read to newsmen in Jerusalem by State Department spokesman Robert Anderson, Kissinger’s latest venture in shuttle diplomacy came to an abrupt and unhappy end. After 17 days of almost continuous commuting between Israel and Egypt, the secretary suspended his efforts to get a second- stage disengagement and returned to Washington to report to President [Gerald] Ford.”
Kissinger engaged in shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East during the administrations of both Richard Nixon and Ford. Inasmuch as the situation seemed hopeless in March 1975, it should be remembered that Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in Washington in March 1979, following Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem in November 1977.
■ FAST forwarding, Kissinger was in Bejing last week, where he met not only with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang but also with Israel’s former national infrastructure minister Yosef Paritzky. Both were in Beijing for the Global Think Tank Summit hosted by the China International Economic and Exchange Center. Kissinger was a keynote speaker at the opening session of the summit, which was attended by Chinese Energy Authority head Zhang Guobao – with whom Paritzky also met.
Kissinger spoke of how globalization is overtaking the world. Paritzky, also a speaker at the summit, focused his address on the discovery of gas reserves in the Mediterranean and the cooperative endeavors between different entities in the region to find more natural resources.
In a private conversation with Paritzky, Kissinger asked what he thought of Kerry’s chances to facilitate the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
In typical Jewish fashion, Paritzky asked Kissinger the same question.
Kissinger was pensive for a moment, then replied that when he thinks back on his period as secretary of state, he’s very happy that he no longer has to deal with the conflict.
Paritzky also managed a private conversation with Zhang, who visited Israel more than a decade ago in his former capacity as infrastructure and energy minister. The two happened to be attending a dinner within the framework of the summit. Zhang, who is now the foremost authority on energy in China, told Paritzky he would like to visit Israel again.
Paritzky, a lawyer by profession, has for several years been involved with international energy-related projects.
He is the founder and owner of International Pipes, headquartered in Houston, Texas.
■ FARE THE government and Knesset afraid of national forgetfulness? Is this the reason that the Israeli public is being force-fed the memories of its founding fathers? It has been a longstanding tradition for memorial ceremonies to be conducted on the anniversaries of the deaths of Theodor Herzl, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and David Ben-Gurion, but unless it was a milestone anniversary, these events were held without any excess fanfare (with a possible exception in the case of Ben-Gurion, whose vision for the Negev – though on the way to becoming a reality – has not yet been entirely fulfilled).
Last month, however, even though it was not a milestone anniversary, we were inundated with radio commercials plus some print media advertising for Herzl Day. This month, the same is happening with regard to Jabotinsky, whose memorial this coming Sunday is being linked with a 70th anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Then, on Tuesday of next week, the Knesset will mark the first anniversary of the passing of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir by holding a special session in his memory. Earlier in his political career, Shamir had served as speaker of the Knesset from 1977-1980, so it was fitting for current Speaker Yuli Edelstein to honor his memory. But there are other Knesset speakers who are all but forgotten, such as Yisrael Yeshayahu, who was Shamir’s immediate predecessor and the only Yemenite thus far to hold the position.
Almost immediately after the Shamir session comes the entirely appropriate centennial commemoration of the birth of Menachem Begin, who prevented civil war, was the nation’s first right-wing prime minister and was the first Israeli prime minister to sign a peace agreement with an Arab country.
In previous years, not enough was done to honor the memory of Chaim Weizmann, who played such a pivotal role in the creation of the state.
But if things continue as they have this year, then Weizmann should also get his due in November – even though this is not a milestone year of either his birth in 1874 or his death in 1952. British Ambassador Matthew Gould set the ball rolling for properly honoring Weizmann this year, when he chose to hold the Queen’s Birthday reception at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
There, both he and President Shimon Peres spoke of Weizmann’s contribution to the establishment of the state and to bilateral relations, particularly of a scientific nature, between Israel and England.
■ WHEN YOU’RE hitting 90 and you’ve had an active and varied life in a relatively small country, revisiting old haunts is almost unavoidable.
Thus Shimon, a former leader of the Givatayim-based Borochov branch of Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed, returned this week to his old 1940s stomping grounds. There, he met with a new generation of youngsters, who had just completed the school year the previous day and were on the verge of a two-month vacation.
The Shimon in question was, of course, Israel’s No. 1 citizen – President Peres – who urged the youngsters to take advantage of the long vacation period to join summer camps and go out and explore the history, geography and scenic beauty of the country – and to learn what generations before them had done to make Israel what it is today. His happiest moments, he said, were spent with Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed. It was a busy time in which he and his friends worked in kibbutzim and moshavim, doing hard manual labor.
The settlement movement of kibbutzim and moshavim provided the foundations for Israel’s agriculture industry, which Peres said proudly is one of the best in the world. “We were farmers in a barren land, and look what we have now,” he said.
Today’s youth has no less an important task, said Peres, emphasizing that education is the key that will lead young people out of ignorance and poverty. Children are being rescued from this situation every day, he said, and members of their peer generation can help to accelerate this. “You are the future leaders of Israel,” he told them.
Most of the president’s meetings are with two-legged creatures, but early on Tuesday morning, he displayed a greater interest in those with four legs – as well as the two-legged species with feathers. This was, of course, when Peres visited the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
■ ENTREPRENEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE Stef Wertheimer, who inter alia builds industrial parks to help create more employment opportunities, hosted German Bundesrat president Winfried Kretschmann, who came to Israel with a 30-member, highranking delegation. Kretschmann and his colleagues came to confer the Meister (Master Craftsman) diploma on eight alumni of the first course in fine mechanics, which was conducted at the initiative of the Galilee Center for Industrial Training and Wertheimer, in cooperation with the government of Baden-Wurttemberg, the Center for Continuing Education for Teachers in Esslingen and the HandwerksKammer (Chamber of Crafts) Stuttgart, which supports business and innovation.
The two-and-a-half year course included both theoretical and practical work. The eight alumni, who will work as teachers and trainers, all did well in the course and passed external examinations conducted by German industrialists.
Kretschmann, who is also prime minister of Baden-Wurttemberg, said he was very pleased that Wertheimer had brought the German dual education system to Israel, and that the students had passed the exams with such high marks. HandwerksKammer Stuttgart head Claus Munkwitz, in presenting the diplomas, said that in Germany, many of the people who had earned Meister diplomas were employed in top executive positions in major industrial plants. The awards ceremony at the Nazareth Industrial Park was indeed attended by several industrialists, as well as by Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy and former industry, trade and labor minister Shalom Simhon.
■ THOUGH WOMEN are still underrepresented in the government and in the Knesset, and the prime minister occasionally has to be reminded that certain committees he has appointed should not be all male, there has been considerable improvement, said Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, when addressing a women’s convention in Jerusalem this week. The convention, a co-venture of Kol Ha’ir, the Jerusalem supplement of Haaretz and the capital’s municipality, attracted some 400 participants to the Jerusalem Theater.
Livnat noted that although the current Knesset has the highest female representation in the history of the state, 27 women out of 120 legislators is still not enough – even though this number is more than double the number of females that served in the Knesset when Livnat first became an MK in 1992. Since then, she said, many laws regarding women’s rights that are now taken for granted have been enacted, though back in 1992, there seemed to be little chance of getting them passed. Encouraged by past triumphs, Livnat, who wants to achieve more through the collective efforts of women legislators, borrowed from US President Barack Obama, and declared convincingly “Yes we can! Yes we will!” It is a matter of female MKs placing their commitment to the advancement of women ahead of their ideological differences, she said. Twenty years ago, when she started working intensively towards women’s advancement, Livnat, who chaired the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, was told by Likud colleagues that she would never be able to work with Tamar Gozansky of Hadash or Naomi Chazan of Meretz, because their political ideologies were so far apart from those of her party.
“But we got used to each other and we worked together very well,” said Livnat, who also had high praise for Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, who currently heads the committee she used to chair.
What bothers both Livnat and Lavie was that although many laws benefitting women exist, there is no one to ensure their implementation.
■ IT’S FRUSTRATING for any press photographer to submit what they consider to be an outstanding photograph to a publication, only to find that whoever was in charge of choosing photographs to illustrate a particular story opted for an inferior submission by another photographer.
But what must be even harder for a top-ranking, prize-winning photographer such as Israel Prize laureate Micha Bar-Am, is exercising self-censorship on a scoop.
The most famous photograph of Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War is that taken by David Rubinger, of three paratroopers at the Western Wall.
Rubinger has said many times that it was not the photograph he had picked; instead, it was the one selected by his late wife, Annie. Since then, it has become the iconic photograph of the era.
But Rubinger, who is also an Israel Prize laureate, was not the only photographer present. Bar-Am was also there, and has a photograph which right-wingers would give almost anything to lay their hands on.
Bar-Am revealed details on the photograph when interviewed by Yoav Ginai for the Channel 1 program- Touching the Spirit. Ginai asked Bar- Am if he had any photos which he would never publish. Bar-Am replied that there were very few, and of those, the one that would cause the biggest political bombshell was of the Israeli flag atop the Temple Mount – namely over the Dome of the Rock. Moshe Dayan, then defense minister, ordered the flag to be taken down immediately, not knowing that Bar- Am had already captured the frame in his camera. Bar-Am, realizing the repercussions if the photo was published, never released it.
■ THIS SEEMS to the era for people in the entertainment and communications industries who are in their 70s or late 60s to either prove that they still have what it takes, or to make a comeback. Broadcast and print media journalist Dan Shilon is a case in point. If there was ever a wandering Jew, it’s Shilon, who has done the rounds of radio and television stations.
Early in the history of Channel 2, Shilon, who was then general manager of the channel’s franchisee, Reshet, launched Dan Shilon Live – a highly popular weekly interview program in which he had newsmakers from different, often totally unrelated fields sitting in a semi-circle and fielding questions. Now aged 72, Shilon is this week making a comeback with a similar format. Taking a look at some of our senior citizens such as Peres, Wertheimer, Yitzhak Navon, Ruth Dayan, Lia Van Leer, David Azrieli, Shelly Hoshen, Binyamin Ben- Eliezer and David Teperson, who came from South Africa to Israel as a Machal volunteer and spent 61 years in the IDF, Israel may well become a world leader in continuing activity in the third age.
Navon, incidentally, was one of a group of Jerusalem and Motza residents who towards the end of last week, went to dine at one of Abu Ghosh’s major restaurants in an act of solidarity with the residents – following the vicious vandalism and racist slurs perpetrated against them by bigoted Jewish elements. The demonstration of solidarity was organized by former defense minister Itzik Mordechai.
■ THERE IS no greater grief than losing child. It is bad enough when the child has a terminal illness and the parents are prepared for the worst, and somehow make their farewells while infusing as much quality as possible into the life of their dying child.
But when a child dies suddenly as the result of an accident, unintentional negligence or a terrorist attack, parents have a very difficult time in finding closure. Some turn their grief into doing good for others. Thus, Nachshon Wachsman, the soldier son of Esther and Yehuda Wachsman who was murdered by Hamas in October 1994 at age 19, is memorialized in perpetuity at Beit Nachshon in the Shalva Children’s Center. One of his younger brothers, Raphael, who was born with Down syndrome, was given regular therapy and recreation at Shalva; the family chose to honor Nachshon’s memory in this way because he frequently took Raphael there and cared for him deeply.
After their eldest child, 13-year-old Koby, was stoned to death while hiking with a friend near his home in the West Bank in May 2001, his parents Sherri and Seth Mandell established the Koby Mandell Foundation. It offers healing programs that include camps and retreats for families and individuals who have been directly affected by terrorism. Sherri Mandell, a gifted writer, has also shared her grief through her writing, which has been helpful to others who lost loved ones to terror.
In August, 2001, three months after the attack that cost Koby his life, Malki Roth was one of 15 people – most of them minors – murdered during a terrorist attack on the Sbarro pizza parlor in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. Her parents, Frimet and Arnold Roth, created Keren Malki, or the Malki Foundation as it is known in English, which benefits children with special needs and their families.
Like the Wachsmans, the Roths also have a child with special needs, and Malki was always sensitive to the needs of her severely disabled sister.
It was therefore a natural progression for her parents to establish a caring foundation in her memory. Some 3,300 families from all strata of Israeli society and from different faiths and ethnic backgrounds have been helped through Keren Malki programs.
Last month, in recognition of their important work, the Roths were honored by Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, who at a special ceremony presented them with the Minister’s Shield for Volunteerism- Lifetime Achievement Award. Like Sherri Mandell, Frimet Roth is also a talented writer who uses her ability to condemn acts of terrorism wherever they may occur.
The related tragedies that these three families experienced prompted them to kindle lights of hope in many hearts, in the names of their murdered children. All of us are born with potential that remains unrealized.
The circumstances in which the Wachsmans, the Mandells and the Roths found themselves pushed a lot of that hidden potential to the forefront, enabling them to do things they may have previously thought themselves incapable.
That’s what their love for their children and their concern for other people’s children has done: They have all turned the most negative episode in their lives into something infinitely positive.
■ WHEN INTERNATIONAL businessman and philanthropist Marc Rich was pardoned in January 2001 by US president Bill Clinton, just before the latter left office, there was a big hue and cry as to whether he deserved to be pardoned. Rich and some of his associates had been indicted in 1983 on charges of tax evasion, false statements and illegal trading with Iran.
As a result, Rich lived in exile in Switzerland and was unable to return to the US for the funeral of his daughter, Gabrielle, who succumbed to leukemia. Had he attended the funeral, he would have promptly been arrested.
Following his pardon, there was a debate in the Israeli media as to whether Israeli organizations should accept allegedly tainted money. There were those who said that if the money was being used for positive purposes, there was nothing wrong with accepting it; others adopted a holier-than-thou attitude. If Israel in its nascent years had accepted aid from the Mafia, it could hardly turn its back on Rich – and for the most part, it didn’t.
In fact, Rich, who died last week, contributed handsomely to numerous Israeli organizations and institutions through the Marc Rich Foundation, and his various honors, among others, included honorary doctorates from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bar-Ilan University and Tel Aviv University. He was also an honorary fellow of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum. In addition, he was an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv.
His foundation supported health, education, medical research, culture and much more, and established the Gabrielle Rich Center for Clinical Immunology and Transplant Biology at the Weizmann Institute, long before Rich was pardoned. Among the organizations and institutions that published death and condolence notices for Rich in the Israeli media were the Haifa Music Center; Arthur Rubinstein International Music Society; Weizmann Institute; Rabin Medical Center; Ohr Torah Stone; Open University; Tel Aviv University; Ben- Gurion University; University of Haifa; IDC Herzliya; Israeli Opera; Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; Eretz Israel Museum; Beit Hatfutsot; and Taglit- Birthright Israel.
All the good that Rich did does not of course eradicate the crimes he committed, even if he did eventually receive a pardon. The bitter irony is that without bending the rules to the extent that he did, he might not have become affluent enough to support so many worthy causes.
This is something that critics of Israel’s tycoons should bear mind. It’s the tycoons who are shelling out millions to support Israel’s hospitals, museums, universities, colleges, social welfare institutions and countless projects. Without their combined financial input, tens of thousands of Israelis would have a much reduced quality of life.
■ ONE WOULD imagine that almost seven decades after the end of World War II, people who lost track of loved ones would give up on trying to find them. But where there is no closure or evidence that a loved one did not survive, people live on faint threads of hope that maybe somewhere, someday, a miracle may happen.
Indeed, many miracles have happened, where siblings, cousins and even spouses have rediscovered each other many years after having given each other up for dead. In Israel, there was a case of two brothers who lived around the corner from each other and never met – until they retired and happened to share a bench in the local square.
Television and stage personality Tsofit Grant, who each year accompanies her husband, football coach Avram Grant, on the March of the Living, has decided to take one last leap into the unknown on behalf of those who are still searching for loved ones. She will use her Channel 2 show, Lost, to try to help anyone who contacts her research assistant Michal Hochberg, at michalhocha@
While on the subject of Holocaust survivors, the Central Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, in conjunction with the Senior Citizens Ministry, the Claims Conference and the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority in the Finance Ministry, has published a booklet explaining all the rights of Holocaust survivors. This includes: Finance Ministry disability grants; health allotments; one timegrants from Germany; compensatory payments for forced labor from Germany; assistance from the Claims Conference; Welfare and Social Services Ministry special benefits; psychological help provided by Amcha; assistance from the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets; entitlements from the National Insurance Institute; special benefits for the Righteous Among the Nations; and much more.
If ever there was a case of better late than never, this is it.
The Central Organization offices are located at 55 Hamasger Street, Tel Aviv; (03) 624-3343.
■ THE MUSIC Center at Jerusalem’s Mishkenot Sha’ananim serves as a concert hall and recording studio for the 20-member Gitit Choir, performing under the auspices of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. The choir, conducted by Ronit Banit and accompanied on the piano by Lydia Chernin, who is also responsible for the musical arrangements, has an extensive repertoire that includes opera, jazz, folksongs and liturgical music – in fact, just about anything that provides an opportunity for the singers and accompanying musicians to demonstrate their versatility. They also sing in several languages.
Possibly because 2013 is the Verdi bicentennial year, the choir’s summer concert started with an impressive rendition of the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Verdi’s Nabucco.
Easily the most superbly performed item on the varied program was Yonatan Razel’s “Vehi Sheamda,” but unfortunately, when it came to Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” the only word that comes to mind is travesty.
It was a good program on the whole, with several singers showing off their instrumental talents as well.
However, one singer stood out – but not necessarily because of his voice.
Rather, he was the only one who throughout the concert, kept his eyes on the conductor and did not once look into his folder to check the lyrics or music – knowing it all by heart. His name is Doriav Menashe, and he’s something of a musical prodigy.
A fine pianist, he did not study music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, but it was important to his teacher that he receive his matriculation certificate in music from there. It was an unusual request, but the people at the academy are sufficiently savvy to know that you don’t turn a request like that down without first hearing the musician.
The upshot was that Menashe received his certificate through the academy, and earned full marks.
Later, it was discovered that he could also sing, and he was invited to join the choir. However, talented as he is, Menashe has no inclination towards making a career out of music.
Currently a university student, he’s aiming for a degree in business management – and music, he said, will remain a hobby.