Grapevine: Public figures take pride in their offspring

For Gabi Ashkenazi, Shimon Peres and Ron Prosor to all be in the same company for a common purpose but different reasons, is quite rare.

WINSTON CHURCHILL’S granddaughter with Shimon Peres 370 (photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)
WINSTON CHURCHILL’S granddaughter with Shimon Peres 370
(photo credit: Marc Neiman/GPO)
It’s not unusual for former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi to find himself at the same event as President Shimon Peres or in the course of a visit to the United States at a function attended by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor.
Likewise, it’s not unusual for Peres to find himself in the company of one of the other two. But for all three of them to be together for a common purpose but for different reasons is quite rare. However, that’s what happened at the end of last week when Peres, Gabi and Ronit Ashkenazi and Ron and Hadas Prosor showed up at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s graduation ceremony.
Ostensibly, Peres was there as the guest speaker, but it just so happened that his grandson Nadav was one of the graduates.
Among the other graduates were Gali Ashkenazi and Lior Prosor, the respective offspring of Ashkenazi and Prosor. Nadav Peres is the son of venture capitalist Chemi Peres and his wife Gila.
■ MANY THINGS have changed in the life of Linor Abargil, who won the Miss World title in 1998, but one thing remains constant: her connection to Netanya wherelast Thursday she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, at Laniado hospital. The circumcision ceremony is scheduled for this Friday. Abargil, who has a law degree from Netanya Academic College, has been in the limelight for more than just being a fashion model and a beauty queen. Only two months prior to being crowned Miss World, she was raped in Milan by her travel agent. Though only 18 years old, she had the courage to lodge a complaint with the police, with the result that the perpetrator was charged and convicted.. She later waged an international campaign, which included a documentary film, to encourage other rape victims to follow her example.
Ignoring attempts to dissuade her from marrying a non-Jew, Abergil married Lithuanian basketball star Sarunas Jasikevicius in July 2006 in Barcelona and then returned to Israel for a gala celebration and a contract to pose with him for underwear commercials. The marriage did not last long, and after her divorce, Abargil became increasingly religiously observant, swapping her revealing attire for high-necked, longsleeved blouses and long skirts.
After marrying her second husband, Oron Halfon, she began to wear a head covering, as do most devout Jewish married women.. In her new role as a mother, especially a mother of twins, Abargil will probably try to avoid paparazzi, but a celebrity of her stature cannot completely fade into anonymity.
■ EVERYONE LOVES a wedding, and the 500 guests who came to join Orly Abraham and Noam Katsav in celebrating their wedding at the Nahala banqueting hall on Moshav Beit Oved., near Ness Ziona, on Sunday, were no less delighted to see the father of the groom, former president Moshe Katsav, who not only received special permission to attend the festivities but who late in the evening was notified by prison authorities that he had received a 90-minute extension on the seven-hour leave that he had initially been granted. Guests crowded around him and offered congratulatory comments as if nothing were amiss, and Katsav not only took the microphone to bless the newlyweds but also danced with the bride. It was difficult to tell whether Gila Katsav was more overjoyed that Noam, 39, the middle child of her five offspring, had finally entered into the institution of matrimony, or whether she was happier to see her husband relaxed and smiling and free of the tensions that had preceded his incarceration.
The wedding ceremony was performed by Israel Prize laureate and former MK Rabbi Haim Drukman. Among the guests was Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev, who is a Katsav family friend and who has on several occasions spoken up on Katsav’s behalf with the aim of reducing his prison sentence.
■ IT WAS almost Ladies’ Day with Peres on Sunday, starting with opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich followed by US Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Naopolitano, and in the afternoon there was a more emotional meeting with sculptor and writer Edwina Sandys, who happens to be the granddaughter of Winston Churchill.
She is not the first of Churchill’s offspring to visit Israel, but she may be the only one to leave a permanent impression other than the mark that her famous grandfather has left on history.
Sandys came to Israel at the invitation of Yuli Edelstein, the Minister for Public Diplomacy.
One of the reasons for her visit was to find a suitable site for a particular sculpture on which she is working.
Peres told Sandys that the Jewish people owes a great debt to her grandfather, and praised Churchill’s courage in swimming against the tide in pursuit of his own beliefs. Peres, who is a walking encyclopedia on his mentor David Ben-Gurion, shared the contents of a letter that Ben-Gurion had written after meeting with Churchill.
Sandys, in turn, presented Peres with a book containing photographs of her creations.
■ WHILE SEVERAL heads of foreign missions in Israel are celebrating milestone anniversaries of the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel, Nigerian Ambassador David Oladipo Obasa is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic ties between Nigeria and Israel. At the urging of the Organization of African Unity, Nigeria severed relations with Israel in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in protest of Israel’s occupation of territory in Sinai that had previously belonged to Egypt. Now, 20 years after the renewal of those ties, Nigeria is eager to do more business with Israel and to attract more Israeli investments.
Toward this goal, Nigeria for the first time had a booth at Agritech and sent a high-profile delegation of Nigerian business people to network with their Israeli hosts, to meet with local counterparts and to promote Nigeria’s wealth of natural and human resources.
The person who attracted the most attention during a preluncheon reception at the Tel Aviv Hilton hosted by Obasa for the Nigerian delegation was Princess (Dr.) Ebonoluwa Oladunni, who is also her country’s Queen Mother and who used to be Nigeria’s representative to the International Monetary Fund. When Menahem Kanafi, the director of Southern African Affairs at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, asked her which of her titles she liked best, the erudite princess opted for “Dr.” because that was the one that she earned through hard work.
The princess has been coming to Israel at least once a year for the past 20 years and was actually vacationing in Eilat when the Nigerian delegation arrived. Although she speaks a highly cultured English, she delighted guests when giving greetings at the luncheon by speaking in pidgin English.
Other speakers included Nigeria Israel Business Forum president Sir Paul Edor Obi, Betsy Bene Onaseki of Nigeria’s Bank of Industry, Nigerian Export Promotion Council executive-director David Adulugba and Dele Adeleke, CEO of Adroit, a company that deals in strategy, project management, business incubation and business reengineering.
All were eloquent in stating what Nigeria has to offer and its readiness to enter into joint ventures, but Adeleke, who is a natural stand-up comedian, truly outshone his much more serious colleagues by spicing his presentation with humor.
■ IT’S A little difficult to decide whether the Russians are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the renewal or the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel. On May 17, 1948, the Soviet Union became the first country to grant de jure recognition to Israel. It broke off relations in 1967, and in December 1991, Alexander Bovin, the last-ever ambassador of the Soviet Union, presented his credentials to president Chaim Herzog. A week later, Bovin was the accredited representative of the Russian Federation, which was the successor to the Soviet Union. Be that as it may, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated both the 20th anniversary and Jerusalem Day with a gala concert in Moscow last Sunday with Zubin Mehta conducting and acclaimed Russian pianist Dennis Matzuev as the soloist. The concert was the brainchild of Israel’s ambassador to Russia, Dorit Golander and cultural attache Yaffa Olyevski. According to Golander, the concert was sold out a month in advance.
■ ELSEWHERE IN the FSU, led by choirmaster cantor Binyamin Glickman and manager Dr. Yair Plesser, the Jerusalem Cantors Choir, which was on a tour of the Ukraine with the aim of using Jewish choral music as a vehicle for strengthening the connections of Jewish communities in the Ukraine to Israel, gave a Jerusalem Day performance in Kiev and also held a memorial service at Babi Yar for all those murdered souls who never lived to see Jerusalem. The choir also gave concerts in Dniepropetrovsk and Odessa.
Many of the older people in the audiences wept openly when they heard the choir sing in Yiddish, and there was strong sentiment among all age groups when the choir sang well-known songs about Jerusalem. The choir received standing ovations at every performance.
For the choir members themselves, the highlight of the trip was their visit to the Jewish school at Dniepropetrovsk.
The entire population of the school assembled on the steps outside the building to hear the choir perform Israeli songs. The school takes pride in the fact that many of its alumni are now living in Israel, and displays a large poster of former pupils serving in the IDF. Parts of the tour were covered by the local TV station.
■ AT DAWN this morning, more than 110 women from around the world will plunge into the Sea of Galilee for the annual Swim4Sadna, a women’s swim-a-thon fundraising event on behalf of Sadna Shiluv, an integration project in Gush Etzion that helps children with special needs who “fall between the cracks” and are unable to find solutions to their particular problems within the special education system. The children are classified as “retarded,” “autistic,” “learning disabled” or simply “problematic.”
Some of them who complete a Sadna Shiluv treatment program geared to their needs are subsequently integrated into other frameworks. Others depend on the Sadna Shiluv treatment program throughout their schooling. The demand for Sadna Shiluv integrated education has increased to the extent that there is a need to build two additional hostels for students, but at the moment there is insufficient funding available for the advancement of the project. The swim across the Sea of Galilee, now in its third year, is one of the organization’s major fund-raising activities in which so many women from around the world will participate, including some young women who, though they may have special needs with regard to education, are fine athletes. The swim-a-thon is not a race; it is a women-only personal swimming challenge, with each participant aiming to raise at least NIS 2000.
Three of the swimmers Shiri Epel, Lisa Rich and Miriam Lottner, created websites in which they appealed to potential donors. Epel has done extremely well, proving the old adage that if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. She has raised more than double the minimum target with more than 40 donors contributing small but meaningful sums. The overall goal is to raise NIS 350,000.
Among the swimmers are a :mother with her down syndrome daughter and a three-generation family. There are two starting points for the swim.
Participants who want to aim for the 3.5 kilometer challenge will start at Ha’on Beach, while those who don’t think that they can get beyond 1.5 kilometers will start from Ma’agan Beach.
The event opened with a fun and fitness day at the Zemach Beach on May 22, which included water slides, aerobics, zumba, pilates, spinning, kickboxing, decathlon and musical performances – all for women only. The swim begin this following morning at dawn.
■ MANY PEOPLE are familiar with the story of Chabad mining millionaire Joseph Gutnick of Australia who was advised by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to search for gold and diamonds in the Australian desert. Fewer people are aware of the story of local Chabadnik Avi Taub, the president and CEO of Shefa Yamim who received similar advice from the rebbe, with the essential difference that he was sent to explore a much more unlikely area – the Carmel Mountain range in the north of Israel, where he did indeed finds diamonds and other precious stones that have been verified by De Beers as well as by world-renowned Canadian geologist Dr. Mark Fedikow.
What was so unusual was that much of the area had been previously characterized as basalt, which according to Fedikow was an erroneous classification.
Findings have yielded kimberlite, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, moissanite, zircons and other precious and semi-precious stones which would never be found in basalt.. Fedikow, who acts as an advisor to Shefa Yamim as well as to numerous mining companies around the world, was in Israel this week to tell Israelis who were looking to invest that they should keep their eye on Shefa Yamim, a relative newcomer to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Among the people who came to listen to Fedikov at a Jerusalem Day reception at the capital’s Montefiore Restaurant were law professor and former government minister Shimon Shetreet, who had planned to attend two other events but found that exits from the area had been sealed off and that even if he managed to get out, there was so much traffic congestion that he would never have gotten to either event in time. So he stayed and listened and contributed to the conversation.
Also present was Rabbanit Bruria Zvuluni, the sister of Rabbi Ya’akov Ifergen who is also known as “Rentgen” (X-ray) because of his uncanny ability to read into people’s lives. It happens to be a family trait.
Zvuluni took Taub aside and he was flabbergasted by what she told him. Her husband, Rabbi Binyamin Zvuluni, is also known for having extraordinary powers, but held back when asked by Sarah Davidovich, who had organized the reception, to give a blessing to Taub.
Zvuluni explained that Taub had already received the ultimate blessing from the Lubavitcher Rebbe and that it would be impudent on his part to try to improve on anything the rebbe had said.
■ DEAN OF the Latin American Diplomatic Corps Suzana Gun de Hasenson led a group of Latin American ambassadors and cultural attaches on a tour of Beit Hatfutsot – the Museum of the Jewish People, where they displayed particular interest in the exhibit on the capture of Adolph Eichmann.
Argentine Ambassador Carlos Garcia asked more questions than anyone else, which was hardly surprising considering that it was in his country that Eichmann was captured half a century ago. Among the other Latin American ambassadors who attended were Honduras Ambassador Jose Herrera, Uruguay Ambassador Bernardo Greiver and Panama’s Ambassador Hector Aparicio.
■ HI-TECH AND social entrepreneur Erel Margalit, for whom innovation is the elixir of life, has done it again with yet another first. Margalit, the founder and managing partner of Jerusalem Venture Partners and JVP partner Uri Adoni are hosting Jerusalem’s first Startup Weekend at the JVP Media Quarter this coming Friday, with the goal of creating the next Facebook in just 54 hours.
Startup Weekend has been held in 700 different cities throughout the world, including Tel Aviv in 2011, and now it’s Jerusalem’s turn to host the intense 54-hour event which focuses on building a web or mobile application that could form the basis of a credible business over the course of a weekend. The weekend brings together people with different skill sets – primarily software developers, graphics designers and business people – to build applications and develop a commercial case around them.
Entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to meet like-minded, creative individuals to partner on new startups in this dynamic arena. Participants will be coming from across the spectrum of Jerusalem’s cultural mosaic. The budding entrepreneurs along with mentors from companies like JVP and Microsoft begin by brainstorming.
The best ten ideas are chosen and teams are formed to flesh them out. At the end of the weekend, judges from JVP, Google, Microsoft, the Jerusalem Development Authority and After Docs Angel Fund will select a winning startup to represent Israel in international competition. In order to compete, the winning startup will receive $50,000 plus the opportunity to present its concept to leading investors. Other Startup Weekends will be held simultaneously in cities in Finland, Italy, the US, Germany and Bulgaria.
The Jerusalem event was initiated by Geekmedia, founder of Israeli tech blog Newsgeek.
According to Moran Bar, Director of Newsgeek, Jerusalem has become a hi-tech and entrepreneurial hub, so it was important to hold the event in the nation’s capital. “Great startups begin with collaborative thinking and teamwork, so we see Startup Weekend as the launching pad for the next big thing,” she said.
Adoni emphasized JVP’s commitment to providing a platform from which young entrepreneurs from the area can flourish. “Two of the largest exits in Israeli hi-tech over the past year have come from Jerusalem, and I have no doubt the city can be an international hi-tech hub.” he said.
■ LAST THURSDAY, more than 200 English-speakers gathered at the Knesset for a pre- Jerusalem Day event sponsored by MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem and his Am Shalem movement.
Rabbi Dov Lipman, director of the Am Shalem Anglo division, organized the event and took the role of master of ceremonies.
Amsalem spoke about the uniqueness of Jerusalem in unifying the Jewish people.
Yishai Fleisher, managing editor of and a resident of the Ma’aleh Hazeitim, spoke about the rich history of Jerusalem which was augmented on Jerusalem Day in 1967. Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post columnist and chairman of Shavei Israel, described how the Bnei Menashe in India have clung to the hope of returning to Jerusalem for 2,000 years, something which is set to take place this summer. Tal Bar-On, a student leader at Hebrew University, explained the deep significance that Jerusalem plays in her life as a secular Jew. Finally, Shani Taragin delivered an indepth Torah lecture on Jerusalem’s name and the message it teaches us today. All speakers expressed their support for Am Shalem’s message of unity and moderate Judaism.
■ TEL AVIVIANS who frequently find themselves in Jerusalem tend to identify with the city’s joys and sorrows. Case in point is actress Esti Zakheim, who is in Jerusalem almost every week and is just as angry as the local women who are campaigning against the elimination of the fairer sex from billboard posters and newspaper advertisements.
As someone who commutes regularly between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Zakheim cannot help but be aware of the fact that women’s fashion companies that feature beautiful models on the Tel Aviv billboards have taken them out of the picture when advertising in Jerusalem.
In a show of solidarity, Zakheim has joined in the protest demonstrations organized by women in the capital and early this month could be seen outside Golf on the corner of Ben Yehuda and King George streets carrying a sign that read “They won’t look at your face but they’ll take your money.” Golf is one of several fashion brand names that have given into haredi coercion.
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