Grapevine: IBCA celebrates 60th anniversary

November is a poignant time, with Balfour Day, anniversary of assassination of Rabin, anniversary of Kristallnacht, Armistice Day, UN resolution on partition of Palestin,Richjard Kemp says.

COLONEL RICHARD KEMP with British Ambassador Matthew Gould (photo credit: Andres Lacko)
COLONEL RICHARD KEMP with British Ambassador Matthew Gould
(photo credit: Andres Lacko)
THERE ARE almost always two peers at the annual Balfour Dinner hosted by the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, but this year there were four. In addition to Jerusalem-born Viscount Samuel, who may well be the only Sabra in the House of Lords, and Dame Shirley Porter, who has been an IBCA stalwart for years, there were also Dame Vivien Duffield and Sir David Sieff. It was somehow fitting that the peerage was so well represented at IBCA’s 60th anniversary celebration, which coincided with the Balfour Dinner, held a week after Balfour Day. As guest speaker Col.
Richjard Kemp noted, for most people November is a very poignant time. It certainly is for Jews and for people from Britain and the Commonwealth. November 2 is Balfour Day, November 4 the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, November 9 the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 11 Armistice Day and November 29 the United Nations resolution on the partition of Palestine.
The dinner was IBCA chairman Austen Science’s final function in office. Chairman-elect Alan Webber has already proved both his organizational skills and his gift for oratory. In welcoming the guests, especially heads of diplomatic missions such as British Ambassador Matthew Gould, Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner, Ghana’s Ambassador Henry Hanson Hall, Kenyan Ambassador Lt.-Gen. Augostino Njorge and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Donald Perera, Science also included Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly, who he said was very welcome even though Ireland had not been part of the British Empire. Not enough has been done to promote Balfour Day, said Science, and suggesting that the second guest speaker, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon take up the matter for inclusion in the national calendar. Emphasizing the significance of Israel's relationship with Britain, Ayalon said that the three strong candidates for ambassador to the Court of St. James had all been British citizens including the present incumbent Daniel Taub.
Ayalon noted that his two personal assistants also hail from Britain and that through them he has started to learn about intense football rivalries.
The toast to President Shimon Peres was given by Dame Vivien Duffield, who though she may be on first name terms with the president, might nonetheless have considered using his full name when giving the toast. To call him “Shimon” without mentioning his surname could be construed as disrespectful both to the office he holds and to the State of Israel.
■ UNLIKE CERTAIN members of Knesset who change their personal assistants almost as often as they change their underwear, Peres has developed a coterie of loyalists who have been with him for years and move with him from one position to the next. Even those who have worked with him for shorter periods, like Israel Maimon, chairman of the Steering Committee of the annual Presidential Conference “Facing Tomorrow,” once they’ve won his trust, are with him for as long as they want to be. Maimon, who has chaired the committee since its inception, continues in that role and is already preparing for the next conference in June 2012 with another round of big-name hi-tech industrialists, past and present heads of state, leading diplomatic and political figures and celebrity entertainers.
Meanwhile, this week Peres hosted a delegation of Honorary Israel Consuls from many parts of the world. Very often in the complicated field of bilateral relations in which full diplomatic ties have not been established or in which there is not a resident diplomatic mission even though there may have been an exchange of ambassadors, an Honorary Consul takes on some of the duties of a fully accredited consul in that he or she can issue visas to the country that he or she represents.
Honorary Consuls also exist where there are large embassies and consulates.
Honorary Consuls came from Portugal, Holland, Chile, Cyprus, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Slovenia, South Korea, Turkey, Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, Kazakhstan, Jamaica, Aruba, Poland, the Solomon Islands, Trinidad and Tonga to meet with Peres, who briefed them on current developments in the Middle East. Peres thanked them all for what they are doing in their respective countries to represent Israel's interests and said that the people of Israel owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a conference to provide them with even more knowledge about Israel.
■ DOMESTIC VIOLENCE within the Orthodox and haredi communities was for many years swept under the rug. People within these communities may have been aware of specific incidents, but preferred to keep silent rather than tarnish the community image.
But silence is no longer an option especially since the visit last week by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger to the Bat Melech home for battered women, which is a haven for Orthodox and haredi women and their children. Metzger was somewhat shocked by the overcrowded conditions that indicated that domestic violence knows no borders and that women and children in every community are equally vulnerable. Somewhere in the range of 1,500 women apply to Bat Melech for help each year. There is insufficient accommodation in the shelters for all of them, but all get assistance of some kind, including legal aid. In the course of his visit to the shelter, Metzger boosted the morale of the women by praising their courage to get up and leave their closed communities in order to escape further persecution by their husbands. He also spoke to individual women about their cases and promised to include domestic violence on the agenda of the upcoming convention of dayanim (religious court judges), saying he would devote a special session to the problem. He said that he would also look into ways and means in which the Chief Rabbinate could help women in this predicament. Metzger’s visit to the shelter was facilitated by Bat Melech founder and director Rabbi Noach Korman, former director of the rabbinical courts Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan, who is familiar not only with domestic violence but with finding absent husbands who refuse to divorce their wives.
When Dahan was employed by the Rabbinical Courts, he persuaded several such men to relent and to give their wives the freedom to get on with their lives and possibly create new families.
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