Grapevine: Rosh Hashana receptions

President Peres hosts new year reception for diplomats; PM Binyamin Netanyahu visits a unit of the Golani Brigade.

Cyrus Vance Jr. 370 (photo credit: Kobi Fuchs)
Cyrus Vance Jr. 370
(photo credit: Kobi Fuchs)
DEPUTY FOREIGN Minister Danny Ayalon slipped out of the extremely well-attended conference on Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, of which the Foreign Ministry was one of the organizers, to attend the annual pre-Rosh Hashana reception for diplomats hosted by President Shimon Peres.
In addition to the ambassadors and the various Foreign Ministry personnel with whom they are in frequent contact, the event was also attended by several honorary consuls, among them Ran Rahav, the networking king who heads one of Israel’s leading public relations firms and who is honorary consul for the Marshall Islands.
Rahav is on friendly terms with many ambassadors, to the extent that when he greets them, it is not a mere handshake, but an embrace and sometimes a kiss on both cheeks. He also kissed Peres on both cheeks, and when he turned around to exchange pleasantries with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, he did not hesitate to ask him about the reported angry exchanges between Shapiro and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Shapiro laughed and told him not to believe everything he reads in the newspapers.
A new custom was introduced to the event when, at the end of the ceremony, waitresses came in with trays laden with glasses of sparkling wine and everyone present clinked glasses with all those in their immediate orbit. Some ambassadors even left their seats to clink glasses with colleagues in other rows.
■ COMPETITION NOTWITHSTANDING, the camaraderie in Israel’s hotel industry was evidenced on Tuesday night in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where two members of the Federmann family, which controls the Dan Hotel chain, found themselves in executive capacities in the hotels of other chains. Ami Federmann, who heads the Israel Hotel Association, hosted a reception at the Tel Aviv Hilton to toast the New Year; while Michael Federmann, who heads the Dan Board of Directors, was, in his capacity as president of the Israel-Germany Chamber of Commerce, among the recipients of the hospitality of the Fattal chain at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel, Jerusalem, when he attended a dinner hosted by the erudite, multilingual, multicultural Godel Rosenberg, who heads the Representative Office of Bavaria in Israel.
The dinner was in honor of Horst Seehofer, president of Bundesrat, Germany, minister-president of Bavaria; and Ludwig Spaenle, member of Bundesrat, Germany, Bavarian state minister of education and religious affairs. Earlier in the day, Seehofer met with Colette Avital, the head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors, and invited her to address the Bavarian Parliament next January on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
At the Leonardo, executive chef Shalom Kadosh, who has remained at the hotel through a series of changing ownerships and managements, prepared a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. He created a colorful Jerusalem market around the pool, with street signs pointing to the Persian market, the Iraqi market and the Bukharan market, where island buffets with a huge variety of delicacies were set out in such a manner as to avoid crowding.
Kadosh will travel to Munich in October to receive the Internationalen Eckart Witzigmann Prize for culinary art.
Seehofer said that he had wanted to visit Israel for a long time. If anyone had told him 30 years ago that such good relations could exist between Israel and Bavaria, he confessed, he would not have believed it.
He was even more impressed after listening to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speak of the capital’s cultural growth and its potential for hi-tech which was Barkat’s own area of expertise before his retirement from the field 10 years ago to focus on local politics. Seehofer invited Barkat to come to Bavaria, tempting him with a football game, the cultural delights of Oktoberfest or a hi-tech conference.
Among those attending the dinner were German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis and Yaacov Sudri, the director of business development for Fattal Hotels, a chain that includes 25 hotels in Germany.
One of the attractions of the evening was percussionist Bishara Naddaf of Nazareth, who taught everyone present to play a darbuka, which is a goblet-shaped drum. Rosenberg subsequently presented everyone with a small darbuka to take home as a souvenir.
■ THE GUEST of honor at the Israel Hotel Association’s reception was Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, who encountered a huge phalanx of media following revelations the previous evening on Channel 2 about his alleged misconduct, which he has denied.
Meseznikov came to the reception after attending Wizz Air’s launch of its new Tel Aviv-Budapest route, which will initially operate three times per week beginning December 6, 2012. Wizz Air, which claims to be the largest low-cost, low-fare airline in central and eastern Europe, inaugurated its European low-cost operations in 2004 and currently offers more than 250 lowfare routes across 29 countries, connecting 80 destinations. Wizz Air’s arrival in Tel Aviv is great news for Israel tourism and low-cost aviation, given that Malev, the national Hungarian carrier, went bankrupt and is permanently grounded.
The festive launch announcement at the Renaissance Hotel in Tel Aviv was also attended by Hungarian Ambassador Zoltán Szentgyörgyi. Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi was confident that his company’s low fares would be a driving force in generating more two-way tourism between Tel Aviv and Budapest, and anticipated that in the first year of operation the route would attract some 45,000 passengers. Varadi was warmly appreciative of the effort of Meseznikov, who has worked diligently to promote an open skies policy. Meseznikov, who is keen to reduce both air fares and hotel prices, said that he welcomes the introduction of any airline company to Israel because the more airline companies there are, the more it will encourage competition and the more tourists will opt for Israel as a destination.
■ REGARDLESS OF the excellent relations between Israel and Germany that have been carefully nurtured over the years and the extent to which German reparations have been instrumental in Israel’s development, there are still people who are opposed to reparations payments. With this in mind, the powers that be at the Begin Heritage Center decided to mark the 60th anniversary year of the Reparations Agreement between Israel and Germany by recalling the atmosphere of the immediate post-Holocaust era. Speakers were Channel 1’s current affairs anchor David Vitztum; best-selling author Michael Bar- Zohar, who was David Ben-Gurion’s official biographer; and Arye Naor, who was cabinet secretary in Menachem Begin’s administration.
Organizers had expected a huge turnout, especially because Begin, whose parents and brother were murdered by the Nazis, had been the most vocal opponent to the agreement. What they didn’t count on was that with all the benefits that people derive from information technology, it has simultaneously eroded the individual’s sense of history. There is no a longer a need to remember dates and events or even all the characters that appeared on the historical stage at any given time, so long as one knows the name of one of the lead players; a Google search will bring up the rest of the information. Thus, at the designated starting time, the auditorium at the Begin Heritage Center was less than half full, with mostly veteran Herutniks in the audience and barely a handful of young people. Some of the more senior members of the audience had joined Begin in his anti-reparations demonstration.
The speakers pointed out that it had not been so much the actual reparations that bothered Begin, but the fact that Israel was entering into direct negotiations with Germany.
He believed that the negotiations should have been carried out by a third party and not by Israel. Prior to the reparations payments, Germany had been isolated from the world, which was still reeling from the atrocities carried out by supposedly civilized and cultured people.
Naor put it succinctly in his closing sentence when he said that “Israel received the money, Germany regained its honor and rejoined the community of nations.”
■ ANNIVERSARIES ARE often rife with symbolism. When PM Binyamin Netanyahu visited a unit of the Golani Brigade in the Golan Heights to wish them well for Rosh Hashana, it just so happened that the date was September 11 – a most fateful day in modern American history and in the history of terrorism. During the visit, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz remarked that the date coincided with the birthday of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and implied that if Assad’s brutality was to extend across the border, the IDF was more than ready to meet the challenge and is prepared to confront any enemy.
■ REGULAR GUESTS at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel who have missed the efficiency and the smiling face of Sheldon Ritz will be glad to know that he is “returning home” as of September 23 to resume his position as deputy general manager and to take on the responsibility of director of the food and beverage division. During his previous stint at the King David, he was also director of operations and diplomatic delegations. He was so adept in this capacity that he was transferred to the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, where he served as the Dan Corporation’s director of sales for embassies and government ministries.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Israel a couple of months back, Ritz was summoned back to the King David to help out with arrangements.
Even though there is not a word related to diplomacy in his upcoming title, it’s in the cards that Ritz will be the man that every ambassador will turn to when making arrangements for the visit of a foreign dignitary. All the ambassadors know him and his name is on their guest lists.
■ AMONG THE films to be screened at the Haifa International Film Festival, which opens at the Haifa Cinematheque on September 29, will be several Polish films. From a Jewish perspective, the most important of these films will be Korczak, Andrzej Wajda’s biographical tribute to renowned humanitarian Henryk Goldszmit, who wrote under the pseudonym Janusz Korczak. This year marks the 70th anniversary of Korczak’s deportation to Treblinka.
Korczak was a pediatrician, a writer, a teacher and a radio personality who took upon himself the administration of a Jewish orphanage in the slums of Warsaw.
Following the Nazi invasion of Poland, Korczak took the children into the Warsaw Ghetto. Because of his vast connections, he had an opportunity to save himself, but refused the urgings of friends and acquaintances and remained with the children, trying to protect them from the ugliness around them.
Prior to the screening, children’s author Tami Shem-Tov, who is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Hebrew Writers, will talk about Korczak, who is the central figure in her new book, I Am Not a Thief, which is based on events that took place in Korczak’s orphanage in the years before the war.
■ MICHAEL ROSENZWEIG has been appointed global president and CEO of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, which is headquartered in Jerusalem. He will be working both in Israel and North America. Rosenzweig was a key figure in the establishment of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Pardes director Danny Landes welcomed the appointment and recalled that Rosenzweig had been his student at the Wexner Foundation, where Rosenzweig had been a Wexner Heritage Fellow.
He is also a former president of the North American Board of Pardes.
Landes said that Rosenzweig’s appointment marks a new era of enrichment in the 40-year history of Pardes, due to both his leadership skills and his passion for Torah learning.
■ TOO OFTEN these days, people learn about tragedies affecting their families not from a direct source, but from the media, which makes the shock even worse.
But sometimes good news not coming from a direct source can be a very pleasant surprise, as was the case with pop star and composer Ivri Lider, who received some very good news in the most unexpected manner. Lider was flying Arkia Israel Airlines from Tel Aviv to Eilat when passengers were notified by loudspeaker that Lider and his band were among those on board. But the announcement didn’t stop at that.
It continued with the information that Lider’s latest disc, “Mishehu Pa’am” (Someone Once), had reached the gold album status.
“Arkia and the crew are happy to surprise Ivri Lider and present him with the gold album,” was the tail end of the announcement. The presentation was accompanied by white wine which doubled as champagne – but the occasion deserved a toast of some kind. Lider was literally up in the air.
■ ON A visit to Israel, New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
stopped by the Israel Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, where he was given a grand tour by Diamond Exchange president Yair Sahar . Vance’s father was secretary of state to Jimmy Carter, and before that he was secretary of the army under Presidents John F.
Kennedy and Lydon B. Johnson. He also served as deputy secretary of defense under Johnson. Sahar also acquainted Vance Jr. with Israeli legislation pertaining to trade in diamonds and precious stones which is designed to prevent money laundering.
■ ALMOST EVERY school can boast a few graduates who became famous, and some can even boast several from one class. Among the graduates of the class of 1982 at the Rothberg High School in Ramat Hasharon were at least two talented people – a boy who thought he was going to be a singer but ended up becoming mayor of the city, and a girl with a comic streak and a sense of drama who became a sophisticated comedienne and a popular actress.
At the 30th anniversary reunion of their graduation, Itzik Rochberger and Keren Mor met up with old school friends. It’s just as well some of them wore name tags, because not all remained instantly recognizable.
Another famous classmate who literally lived up to his name was businessman Moshe Gaon, whose surname means “genius” in Hebrew. Gaon is the nephew of famous entertainer Yehoram Gaon and the son of the late Benny Gaon, who was considered to be a business genius.
■ MOST OF us have accidentally – or deliberately – jaywalked at one time or another. Those of us who are drivers have on occasion neglected to give way to pedestrians on crosswalks or have swerved too sharply around corners, almost colliding with pedestrians crossing the street. Some have driven private vehicles in sections of the road reserved for buses and taxis and others have broken the speed limit. There are many other infractions of which we ourselves are guilty or which we see others committing as though breaking the law was an accepted norm.
In the perverse human behavioral pattern that goes along the lines of “Do as I say, not as I do,” many of us wish that there was such a thing as citizen’s arrest so that we could immediately pounce on miscreants. Well, now there’s a nextbest thing. Nirsham, a mobile device application which was launched in Israel in July, enables citizens to record violations and present them to the police. The company is headed by brothers Gene and Elazar Goldman, the former a seasoned entrepreneur and the company’s CEO.
Gene Goldman has already founded three start-ups in the field of programming.
He returned to Israel after spending several years in Australia, where he held a senior executive position with Rio Tinto and managed $150-million projects. But his big dream was to improve the quality of life and sense of safety for all citizens of the world.
Elazar Goldman, who serves as the company’s deputy CEO, is a member of a group of thinkers whose goal is to develop generic methodology to optimize processes. According to the brothers, police react positively to the reports and take them very seriously, realizing that the citizens who file them are concerned with public safety. The police have even given them suggestions about how to speed up the processing.
The app is designed to deter violations, to promote safe driving and to assist in monitoring. The company has secured the aid of traffic violation specialists and community activists who are willing to follow reports and review them to see if there is sufficient evidence to warrant reporting the incident to the police. The Goldmans believe that the project will eventually attract a lot of community involvement and will cause people to take more care on the road and thus create a safer environment.
■ TO USHER in Israel’s 65th year, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Deputy Minister for Senior Citizens Affairs Dr. Lea Nass, in cooperation with the Israel Postal Company launched on Sunday, September 9 the “Thanks to Them” stamp as a salute to Israel’s senior citizens. The stamp, which features the hands of a senior citizen fashioning clay into the shape of a Jewish star, refers to the fact that in many countries, the age of retirement is 65.
■ MOUNT SCOPUS, which is one of the largest Jewish schools in the world, has been sending student groups to Israel for many years, and is this year sending its largest group ever from Melbourne to Tel Aviv. At least 103 tenth-grade students will arrive in Israel to participate in five- and 11-week programs. Many Mount Scopus collegians, including those who were in the pioneering classes, such as Louise Israeli (nee Goulburn), Amiel Gurt and Rita (nee Isaacs) are among the hundreds of old collegians living in Israel on kibbutzim, moshavim and in urban areas. Some have even achieved fame in Israel. One of these is Mark Regev, a senior spokesman for the prime minister and a frequent spokesman for Israel.
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