Grapevine: In the swim of diplomacy

Leading an intrepid team from the UK Embassy in Tel Aviv, the ambassador and his colleagues put in a very respectable performance in what is one of the largest amateur sports events in Israel.

Ambassador Matthew Gould with British Embassy staff 370 (photo credit: Courtesy British Embassy)
Ambassador Matthew Gould with British Embassy staff 370
(photo credit: Courtesy British Embassy)
The emperor has no clothes. Scrap that. British Ambassador Matthew Gould is almost in his birthday suit – but not quite. It has been previously noted in this column that Gould is an expert swimmer and, just to prove the point, he decided to take part in the 59th Sea of Galilee Swim. Leading an intrepid team from the UK Embassy in Tel Aviv, the ambassador and his colleagues put in a very respectable performance in what is one of the largest amateur sports events in Israel.
Once he was back on dry land, Gould said that the contest was undoubtedly one of the highlights of his time in Israel. “The atmosphere was fantastic, the scenery unparalleled, and swimming the Kinneret with 10,000 others was a real joy. I only wish we had followed the example of our Olympians and put in a few more hours of training. We’ll all be feeling a little sore tomorrow. It’s been a great day and I’m thrilled to have been part of a great Israeli tradition.”
Perhaps next year, all the members of the Ambassadors’ Club will be persuaded to participate. Some of them and some of their predecessors in office previously participated in a table tennis tournament against players from the Foreign Ministry and found Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to be a formidable opponent. He might be equally formidable in the water.
■ USUALLY, WHEN one talks about coming to Israel on eagles’ wings, the subject is about the long ago airlift of immigrants from Yemen. But they’re not the only ones who can claim a latter-day interpretation of biblical prophecy.
Last year, LaTrice Nettles visited the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya as a member of an evangelical students’ mission called Eagles Wings. The group met vice president for external relations and head of IDC’s Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS), Jonathan Davis, who spoke to them on counter-terrorism and the situation in Israel.
Inspired by what she had heard, Nettles thought carefully when she got home and decided that she wanted to return to Israel to study for an MA in counter-terrorism.
Eagles Wings came to her assistance by awarding her a scholarship, and now she’s enrolled at IDC. A basketball player in the US, Nettles is keen to try out for IDC’s basketball team, led by head coach Ilan Kowalsky. Last week, Nettles attended IDC’s annual World Summit on Counter-Terrorism and met Tal Brody, with whom she has more than basketball in common. Both are alumni of the University of Illinois.
■ PARTIES IN the household of Michelle and Yehudah Katz almost always develop into a jam session because Yehudah is the lead singer-guitarist in the Reva L’sheva band, which specializes in Jewish rock and soul music and includes a lot of Carlebach in the repertoire. Many of his friends are also singers and musicians. The late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach was a family friend and Yehudah Katz frequently appeared with him in Israel and abroad.
However, last week, at the bat mitzva party for their daughter Daniella in their beautiful, spacious home in Tekoa, Yehudah took a back seat and let his wife, who is an accomplished torch singer, do most of the singing. The repertoire was of course decidedly different from his, and included a wide Beatles selection.
Joining her were Rabbi Joe Schonwald and singer and keyboard instrumentalist Hanan Elias. All the members of the Katz family are musical, especially Batya, who is the third of six siblings and who sings very much like her mother. She, too, took a turn at the microphone. It was delightful to see how all the siblings – Shalom, Aviva, Batya, Amitai and Elisheva – pitched in to make this a very special evening for Daniella, who is the youngest member of the family.
They all looked exceptionally festive, wearing the outfits that they had worn a week earlier at a family wedding in New York. Bat mitzva guests who were waiting to hear the Carlebach melodies were not disappointed. Yehuda Katz temporarily disrupted the pop scene, brought out his guitar and launched into some of Carlebach’s earliest and most soul-stirring works.
■ ALTHOUGH THERE was no official representative of the government at the funeral of lyricist and poet Haim Hefer, who died on the second day of Rosh Hashana, there was at least a member of Knesset – ironically, one who isn’t Jewish. Labor MK Ghaled Majadele came to honor the iconic Hefer on his final journey. Perhaps the over-candid Hefer, who never hesitated to express his opinion, would have preferred it that way.
Hefer fans are in for a treat on the 30th day after his death, when Israel Radio will have a Hefer marathon in which it will play most, if not all, of his songs, featuring legendary singers such as Shoshana Damari, Yaffa Yarkoni and Arik Lavi, who were all his contemporaries, as well as some who are somewhat younger and still in the land of the living, such as Rivka Michaeli, Yehoram Gaon and Arik Einstein.
■ WHAT DO you do when you’re not well enough to attend a fund-raiser for the institution that you not only built, but which is dearest to your heart? Dalia Rabin was supposed to go to New York to participate in the gala fund raiser that Friends of the Rabin Center hosted at the Big Apple’s Plaza hotel, but she was unwell and unable to attend.
Fortunately, she was able to send a very suitable replacement – her son, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, who is the grandson of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Ben-Artzi appeared on stage with Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former US president Bill Clinton. The Clintons always surrounded themselves with Jewish friends and advisers, but more so now that Chelsea is married to a nice Jewish boy by the name of Marc Mezvinsky.
■ ON OCTOBER 18, Gilad Schalit will celebrate the first anniversary of his release from Hamas captivity. The long years of demonstrations calling for his freedom and the tent meetings around the corner from the Prime Minister’s Residence now seem part of the dim and distant past, when in actual fact it was not so long ago that the tent, with its many VIP visitors from Israel and abroad, was part and parcel of our everyday lives. But over the past year, Schalit celebrated his first festival of freedom in years on the recent Passover festival.
Then, on August 28, he celebrated his 26th birthday, his first birthday celebration out of captivity in a seven-year period. Last week, grinning from ear to ear, he attended the wedding of his brother Yoel to Ya’ara Winkler, who was one of the activists campaigning for Gilad’s release – which is how they met. And a couple of days later, Gilad celebrated Rosh Hashana, his first New Year in freedom.
By now he may have learned to take all these things for granted, but after his ordeal it’s possible that he will never take anything for granted again.
■ AUSTRALIAN-ISRAELI venture capitalist Ishai Klein and his wife, Tammy, who have been living in Singapore for the past 11 years, are currently in Israel to spend the holidays with Klein’s mother, Sarah, in Jerusalem. Klein, who is religiously observant and active in Singapore’s Jewish community, knows Jewish spiritual leaders throughout Asia and the Pacific and often calls them ahead of time to find out if they can arrange a minyan for him. In this way he has gained quite a few Jewish friends across Asia and has hosted some of them in his home when they have come to Singapore.
Klein was recently approached by the Chabad emissary in Bali to contribute to the cost of a pair of phylacteries because, although Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, many Israeli tourists go there, as do Jewish businesspeople and tourists from other parts of the world, in addition to which the local Jewish population is growing.
One of Chabad’s many missions is to get Jewish males over the age of 13 to don phylacteries at least once in their lifetime.
Klein, whose father died a little over a year ago, was looking for a project with which to honor his memory, and the idea of providing phylacteries appealed to him because, in his final illness, despite extreme weakness, his father had insisted on donning phylacteries daily.
When the family had lived in Australia, one of their first holidays abroad was in Bali. Many of Klein’s father’s friends had tried to dissuade him, saying that Bali was no place for a religiously observant Jew, but Shmuel Klein fell in love with the gorgeous scenery and returned there several times. After donating to the Bali project, Ishai Klein remembered that there was a paucity of Jewish ritual objects in Taiwan, which he frequently visits for business. So he contacted Rabbi Shlomi Tabib, the Chabad rabbi who arranges a minyan for him when necessary, and asked him if he also needed phylacteries.
Tabib was ecstatic because, until now, the only available phylacteries were his own.
For people who want to make truly worthwhile donations to a cause without worrying that their money is not serving its purpose but is going towards someone’s salary, donating phylacteries, prayer books and Torah scrolls to Chabad houses in outlying areas is one way of performing the closest thing to hands-on philanthropy.
■ ISRAELIS OFTEN fail to realize the extent of Jewish community life in the Diaspora, and Diaspora Jewish communities are often unaware of what is going on in Jewish communities in other countries. For instance, it’s quite interesting to note how many Jewish radio stations operate around the world.
Some are privately owned; some are owned by organizations or religious groups and others are part of state-owned networks that specialize in multilingual broadcasts to various ethnic communities.
In South Africa, Johannesburg-based community radio station 101.9 Chai FM held a radiothon just before Rosh Hashana and raised just over R2 million ($239,605) for the Selwyn Segal in the Bidvest. Selwyn Segal caters to the intellectually disabled.
Billed as the Selwyn Segal Change A Life radiothon, the project was supported by various Jewish community institutions and businesses.
Kathy Kaler, CEO of 101.9 Chai FM said that she was overwhelmed by the love and generosity of spirit shown by Chai FM listeners toward the residents of the Selwyn Segal. Lara Milner, the social worker at the Selwyn Segal, described the radiothon as a “very humbling experience” and said that the residents were very excited by the interest and care toward them that was demonstrated by the community. 101.9 Chai FM has issued a challenge to all other community radio stations to create a radiothon fundraiser for organizations in their orbit.
■ TEDY PRODUCTIONS, which produces the popular television singing contest Kochav Nolad “A Star is Born,” which is the Israeli version of American Idol, was almost in the position of having to find a new host for the show.
Tmira and Dudi Yardeni own Tedy Productions, which has produced several other leading television shows, live events and media programs and which has exclusive agreements with some of Israel’s major pop talents and other performing stars, including Zvika Hadar, who has been both host and one of the audition judges of the popular show since its 2002 inception. Hadar suffered cardiac arrest on Wednesday just prior to undergoing a stress test in the course of a regular checkup at his Meuhedet health clinic in Tel Aviv.
The jovial, well-built Hadar, 46, had some weeks earlier undergone a catheterization procedure in his heart and had returned to work. Had it not been for the prompt action of his cardiologist, Dr. Hana Tamir, who applied CPR, Hadar, a father of four, would most certainly have died. Following the CPR he was transferred by ambulance to Ichilov Hospital, where he underwent a second catheterization procedure, and his condition was pronounced stable. He was fully conscious afterwards and able to joke with family and friends.
Tmira Yardeni said afterwards that he would return to work when his doctors allowed it, but that there was no doubt that Hadar, who has been a senior partner in many Tedy projects, would resume his role as host of Kochav Nolad.
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