Grapevine: Honoring the House of Orange

Attendees of Queen's Day event surprised that no Israeli government representative appeared to mark Queen Beatrix's abdication.

Peres meets diplomat families 311 (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Peres meets diplomat families 311
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
GUESTS WHO attended the Queen’s Day reception hosted by Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp – to mark the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the investiture of King Willem-Alexander, the first male monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in more than 120 years, along with Queen Maxima – were somewhat surprised that there was no official government representative present. The official line by both Veldkamp and the Foreign Ministry was that the ambassador didn’t want any speeches, and just wanted people to mingle, network and have fun.
However, it’s a well-known fact in diplomatic circles that the ministry has great difficulty persuading government ministers to attend foreign national day events as representatives of the government.
Now, with a new crop of ministers and the general unrest within the Foreign Ministry, arranging government representation is becoming more complicated than ever. Through various sources, it has been learned that Veldkamp originally hoped to have President Shimon Peres as his guest of honor, but Peres could not be in two places at once, as he was already set to be in the Vatican on that date to meet with Pope Francis. No senior Israeli minister was available for the occasion, which was somewhat insulting, given that the Dutch deputy prime minister had attended the Independence Day reception in The Hague. The only minister who could be persuaded to attend was Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach, but the ambassador was disinclined to have a junior minister represent the Israel at a reception honoring the investiture of his king.
There were several Foreign Ministry representatives on hand, and there was a familiar face from the President’s Office – although Yosef Avi Yair Engel, who manages the president’s special projects and is also his personal photographer, made it clear he was not there to represent the president, but himself. Engel’s mother was born in Holland of Portuguese Dutch descent. She was named Wilhelmina after the queen, but when she came to Israel, everyone called her Malka – which means queen in Hebrew.
Engel, who is a member of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, served as an emissary in Holland for several years, so he has ties with the country in more ways than one.
Even without government representation or speeches, Veldkamp and his staff were determined to make the evening a memorable occasion, not only because of the historic change in the Dutch monarchy, but also because for several years now, ambassadors for the Netherlands have limited the Queen’s Day receptions to Dutch nationals, and this time the residence was open to the international community and to many Israelis.
As guests approached the residence in Herzliya Pituah, they could hear the sound of the Dutch barrel organ, though once inside the grounds there was no sign of an organ grinder, just a painted wagon from which the sound of the organ emerged.
Because the Dutch royal family is known as the House of Orange, it is also the national color of Holland.
Thus, the main color scheme of the evening was, of course, orange – and not just with regard to the residence itself. In addition to bunting in that color, there were bowls of orange tulips all over the place, as well as orange table linens and orange balloons in the pool.
Furthermore, embassy staff, other Dutch nationals and non- Dutch guests were by and large partially or fully clad in orange.
Men sported orange ties or ties with an orange stripe; a few wore orange shirts and many wore a small orange bows on their lapels.
The women were far more adventurous, wearing orange dresses, saris, jackets, skirts, pants, shawls, stoles and scarves. Some chose to accessorize with orange jewelry and one even came with an orange pocketbook.
Among the savories that were served, the trays that appeared with the greatest frequency featured rolled strips of smoked salmon on a cream cheese and cracker base – smoked salmon is, of course, a rich shade of orange.
Various people sent floral, mostly orange-colored tributes to the embassy, but none were quite as original as that of Moshav Magshimim agronomist Avi Hoffman.
His company, Ringel Nursery, had developed a new strain of orange-hued carnation that was dubbed the Maxima carnation, in honor of the king’s wife. Since the company had two Dutch partners in the development process, it was decided to name the new strain after the then-princess and now-queen, because both she and the flower live up to the name – which means charming in Hebrew. Maxima carnations are destined for export to Europe, primarily Holland. Hoffman presented the ambassador with a potted sample on the night of the reception.
■ OUTGOING CHAIRMAN of the Foreign Press Association and BBC bureau chief Paul Danahar presented his report at the FPA’s annual general meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem this week, and was delightfully droll in reviewing not-so-funny situations that had even the most cynical of reporters rocking with laughter.
An example: Mothers tell their children to wear clean underwear, in case something happens to them and they have to go to the doctor. Mothers of journalists covering events at the Prime Minister’s Office tell them to wear clean underwear, in case they have to undress.
The reference was to strip searches to which several FPA members, especially those with Arabic-sounding names, have been subjected. There have been not a few other unpleasant incidents within other branches of Israeli authority, where the situation was not only bad but getting worse. However, there has been significant improvement in dealings with the Government Press Office, which is trying much harder to serve the interests of the foreign media.
■ IT WOULD not be surprising if celebrity chef Yonatan Roshfeld published a cookbook, but to do so in collaboration with three other people sounds a little farfetched.
Yet this was one instance in which too many cooks did not spoil broth – if anything, they made it better. Adi Strauss – who is Roshfeld’s partner in the Tapas 1 bar on Tel Aviv’s Ahad Haam Street, which serves a modified version of the cuisine in Roshfeld’s highly recommended Herbert Samuel gourmet restaurant – advertising executive Udi Pridan and fashion photographer Ron Kedmi put together a book under the title A Week in Lesbos, which details their culinary adventures on the Greek island and presents their favorite mouthwatering Greek recipes.
The launch of the book was of course held at Herbert Samuel, and the fare provided for the guests included some of the dishes listed in the book. The general ambience was Greek, with a band led by Haim Rom playing Greek music. Among those who came to offer congratulations and join in the festivities were a large representation of the Strauss dairy family, including father Michael and sister Irit; Michal Ansky and Haim Cohen, who are adjudicators with Roshfeld on TV’s MasterChef, as well as several other celebrity chefs; actor, director and author Eyal Gefen; Maj.-Gen.
(res.) Yoav Galant, who almost became chief of general staff; and other well-known personalities.
■ THERE IS a certain irony in the fact that 521 years after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has been invited to Spain next week to participate in an interreligious conference under the patronage of the Spanish monarchy. The symposium is taking place at the Catholic University of Murcia on May 10-16, during the week of festivities marking the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. This was a deliberate choice, according to the organizers, because Israel’s capital is so important to Jews and Christians alike and “symbolizes the presence of the transcendent in history and for all humanities.”
The irony is further muted when considering that one of the many titles of the king of Spain is “king of Jerusalem” – though to the best of anyone’s knowledge, he is not descended from King David.
The conference is sponsored by the recently established Fundación Don Juan de Bourbon Spain-Israel, which aims to heal the wounds of the past and enhance relations between the two countries and with world Jewry, especially in light of rising anti-Semitism in Spain. Foundation president Sadia Cohen invited the chief rabbi as well as Oded Wiener, director-general of the Chief Rabbinate, and other leading rabbis including Rabbi David Rosen, who has been the most prominent and effective activist in the historic reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people. A highranking representation of the Spanish Episcopate, headed by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, has also been invited to join in the initiative, as has Bar- Ilan University, which will be represented by university deputy president Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats.
There was unanimous agreement that the conference should focus on innovation and research in science, technology and commerce, in addition to the obvious interreligious subject of Catholic-Jewish relations.
■ FORMER COLUMNIST and editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post Saul Singer, who coauthored the international best seller Start-Up Nation, is in great demand as a speaker at hi-tech and start-up conventions. Thus it is not at all unexpected to see his name at the top of the list of keynote speakers at the first Israel Asia Summit, which will take place on May 20-22 under the auspices of the Jerusalem-headquartered Israel-Asia Center. Israeli participants will be joined by individuals and delegations from mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Asian participants will be taken to meet officials and to look at start-up initiatives in different parts of the country, with a grand finale for all participants at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.
■ DOOMSAYERS WHO have for decades been predicting the demise of the Yiddish language and Yiddish culture would be amazed at the degree of preservation and revivalism that is going on in Israel alone. Aside from the fresh air breathed into Yiddishpiel by managing director Sasi Keshet, who has scheduled several new productions and has also persuaded a number of Hebrew theater stars to appear in Yiddish productions, there are Yiddish festivals, community singalongs, stand-up comedy events and concerts proliferating all over the country. Bella Bryks-Klein, who is the Israel representative for the Yiddish edition of The Forward and has made it her life’s mission to promote Yiddish culture, puts out a monthly e-newsletter addressed to friends and lovers of Yiddish in which she lists Yiddish events for the month ahead, downloading announcements, fliers and advertisements from around the country. In short, the volume of Yiddish activities in the month of May is mindblowing.
■ GIVEN THE fact that almost seven decades have passed since the end of World War II, it is quite extraordinary to see how many countries, and cities within those countries, are putting up Holocaust monuments, museums and educational centers. Joining the many countries that have already done so is Scotland. Glaswegian Dr. Kenneth Collins – who has chaired the Scottish Jewish Archives Center in Glasgow since its inception in 1987, and has continued to do so by remote control since making aliya in 2009 – was recently back in Scotland to examine the possibility of setting up a Scottish Holocaust era study center.
Together with Scottish Jewish Archives Center director Harvey Kaplan and archives employee Deborah Haase, Collins met with First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond to discuss the matter, offering use of the center – which is located at the city’s historic Garnethill Synagogue – as a base.
The offer was made due to the center’s extensive and rapidly growing collection of Holocaustera material, relating mainly to members of the Kindertransport who settled in Scotland, refugees who arrived from Central Europe during the 1930s and survivors who came in the post-war period.
Hundreds of refugee physicians obtained their British qualifications at the Royal College of Medicine and Surgery in Scotland, and hostels for refugee children formed an important part in the rehabilitation of those who had suffered the torment of discrimination, imprisonment and slave labor.
Salmond was supportive of the idea, noting that the Scottish government recognized the importance of opening the archives to scholars and researchers as well as the general public. He said that £10,000 would be made available to assist the preparation of a feasibility study.
■ IN JERUSALEM this week, the Holocaust was also a matter of primary interest in discussions held by visiting foreign dignitaries with the Israeli leadership, and in their visits to Yad Vashem. Most of the dignitaries were from Europe, but some also came from the US.
Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and committee chairman Rep. Ed Royce laid a wreath in Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance.
Joining them there were Rep. Nita Lowey and Rep. Brad Sherman.
During his visit to Israel, Engel also met with Netanyahu and expressed his strong support for the US-Israel relationship. He agreed with the prime minister that the two countries must stand shoulder-to-shoulder to confront the challenges of the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian civil war and the Middle East peace process. It was Engel’s second visit in a five-week period, as he also accompanied US President Barack Obama on his visit to Israel in March.
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