Grapevine: Start-up peace

There were many more women present than in the past, which may be yet another symbol of the new Middle East.

Alya 311 (photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Alya 311
(photo credit: Sasson Tiram)
Though he is best known as the coauthor of Startup Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, Saul Singer and his wife, Wendy, who is the director of the AIPAC office in Israel, are also into start-up peace and are donating the garden of their Jerusalem home to be used for the annual craft sale of Palestinian and Israeli Women’s Joint Ventures for Peace.
Sponsored by the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, an Israeli nonprofit organization that promotes people-to-people processes and networks in peace-making, and the Sharouq Charitable Organization for Women, a non-profit organization that is committed to bringing Palestinian women into the public sphere, the joint venture includes seminars, business development sessions, one-on-one meetings and pairs of Israeli and Palestinian women creating joint products targeted for local and international markets. In working together, the women learn about each other’s lives and perspective, and in so doing tear down the barriers of hostility and build bridges for peaceful coexistence and joint projects.
The crafts and jewelry, which will be on sale at the Singers’ home at 42 Derech Bethlehem on September 3, were jointly created by Israeli and Palestinian artists and artisans. While creating the crafts, these women discussed peace and how beneficial it will be for both Israelis and Palestinians when enmity is eventually cast aside and friendship and cooperation become the norm. Joint Ventures for Peace is supported by the Canadian government.
■ WHILE THE media and politicians around the world are fretting over the Iranian nuclear threat and whether or not Israel or America will resort to military action in order to prevent any further progress on Iran’s nuclear program, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan is more concerned with the ecological threat to global stability.
Together with Korean Ambassador Kim Il Soo, Erdan this week visited the Kfar Hayarok youth village where some 100 young people from many countries are participating in a leadership seminar in which the main focus is the preservation of the environment.
On the night that that minister and the ambassador arrived, the seminar participants were having a folklore evening, in which they presented the songs and dances of their respective countries, and many wore the national costumes of their countries. As Israel doesn’t really have a national costume other than shorts and a kibbutz hat, which are not really appropriate for a minister on duty, Erdan chose something to symbolize his portfolio, and sported a green tie.
■ TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS is increasingly robbing us of our privacy. It’s amazing how people who are busy utilizing their cell phones pay no attention to who may be listening to the conversation, especially on public transport, in the street or in a restaurant. Nor, for that matter, does anyone seem to realize that whoever is sitting next to them or behind them can see what’s on their screen.
Thus, the person sitting behind Dalia Rabin at the commemoration on Tuesday of the 20th anniversary ceremony of the establishment of her father’s second government got to understand how bored Rabin was with the ceremony. She looked at YNet, she checked her email and she sent a couple of SMS bulletins. She also made a couple of impolite remarks under her breath, which were audible to people within immediate earshot. To her credit, she did look genuinely pleased when posing for photographs with various members of her father’s administration, including President Shimon Peres, who had served as both foreign minister and defense minister.
■ IT’S BEEN a busy week for Peres. After the Tuesday reunion of the Rabin government, he hosted an Iftar dinner on Wednesday, where guests included representatives of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Turkish embassies, Beduin soldiers and policemen and kadis, imams and heads of local councils, and where Peres walked around to each table, personally welcoming guests and shaking hands.
There were also many more women present than in the past, which may be yet another symbol of the new Middle East.
On Thursday, the president spent the day in Yeroham, where he celebrated his 89th birthday. The choice of venue obviously had something to do with Yeroham’s 60th anniversary, but also with the fact that Yeroham is in the Negev and represents part of the fulfillment of the dream of Peres’s mentor, David Ben-Gurion.
■ WHEN ONE thinks of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, there are two immediate associations. Older people remember the blue box, which was so ubiquitous in Jewish homes around the world, while people of all ages instantly think of trees and forests. But the JNF is also involved with building reservoirs and dams, land reclamation and development, community infrastructure and bringing life to the Negev. In the latter context, it is one of the partners of Nefesh B’Nefesh, which is the most successful agency for attracting immigration to Israel from North America.
Nefesh B’Nefesh operates in partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Jewish Agency, the Ministry for Immigrant Absorption, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the Russell Barrie Foundation, Friends of the IDF, Legacy Heritage Fund, the Marcus Foundation, the Irving Moskowitz Foundation and Shavei Israel. Leading figures representing nearly all these organizations were on hand at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday to welcome 350 immigrants from 37 states in the US and territories in Canada.
Among the newcomers were 127 young adults eager to demonstrate their ardor for Israel by serving in the IDF. KKLJNF world chairman Efi Stenzler, who was there to welcome the large and excited group, declared that his organization was ready and willing to help those immigrants who so desired to move into one of the four settlements that KKL-JNF has established in the Negev, with the aim of bringing Ben- Gurion’s vision to fruition.
Ben-Gurion’s great-niece, internationally renowned jewelry, accessories and fashion designer Michal Negrin, will on August 30 be among the recipients of special citations to be awarded by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Japanese Ambassador Hideo Sato at a festive event at the Bank Benleumi headquarters hosted by the Israel Japan Chamber of Commerce to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Israel.
The citations will be awarded to organizations, companies and individuals that have made significant contributions to enhancing the relationship between the two countries.
Negrin, who was born on Kibbutz Na’an but now lives in Tel Aviv’s trendy Neveh Tzedek neighborhood, has become an Israel icon worldwide and, in addition to Japan, operates in Italy, France, the USA, Russia, Croatia and Canada, among other countries. She has been involved with Japan for some 25 years and established the first of her chain of stores there in 1999. Today she has 16 points of sale in Japan. Together with her husband, Meir, she operates a veritable empire of glitz and whimsy.
She’s come a long way from the young kibbutznik who initially peddled her fantasy creations from a makeshift stall in Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin.
■ HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS and their children and grandchildren who owe their lives to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg have already participated in various events marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. In addition, Wallenberg is being honored by his own country, which is hosting an exhibition in his memory at Tel Aviv’s Beit Bialik.
Displayed under the title “To me, there is no other choice,” the exhibition will be open to the public from August 31 to September 20, following an official, by-invitation-only opening that will be hosted by Swedish Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjold and will be attended by Sweden’s minister for eu affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson.
■ NOW THAT that the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has finally vacated Sergei’s Courtyard, which was returned some years ago to Russian ownership, Jerusalemites can expect to see the construction of yet another hostel in the capital. At least that’s what President Vladimir Putin reportedly has in mind. In its original incarnation more than 120 years ago, Sergei’s Courtyard was a hostel for pilgrims.
Of course, in those days pilgrims lived in much more spartan conditions than they do today; and as Jerusalem already boasts some fairly high-class hostels, the multi-million-dollar Russian restoration project will obviously be a competitive alternative.
When faced with evacuation from the building they had occupied for 38 years, SPNI officials voiced the hope that once it was renovated, it would still be open to the public because it really is a unique and beautiful place. Unless it limits itself exclusively o Russian pilgrims, it would seem that in its old-new guise, Sergei’s Courtyard will be accessible to the public and may extend its activities to promoting Russian culture.
■ MEANWHILE, THE Czechs are promoting their culture via Czech Film Week 2012, which begins in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv next week. From August 19 to September 8, Czech films will be screened at the cinematheques of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sderot, Holon and Rosh Pina, with Long Live the Family, directed by Robert Sedlacek and produced by Radim Prochazka, scheduled for the two main openings. Prochazka will be in Israel and will attend the openings in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
■ IN THE old Middle East that existed prior to the establishment of the modern State of Israel, there were Jews in sizable numbers in several Arab lands.
Most, numbering in excess of 900,000, were either killed, expelled or forced to flee, firstly in reaction to the formal renewal of the Jewish homeland and secondly following Israel’s territorial conquests in the Six Day War. Their properties were seized and confiscated, as were funds that they may have had in Arab banks. They received no compensation for what had been taken from them, and now, decades later, when Palestinians are demanding compensation for properties that have come under Israeli ownership or custody, the Jews are still being denied compensation for what was theirs. To discuss this and other related issues, the World Jewish Congress, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Senior Citizens, will host an international conference on “Justice for the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.” The conference will be held at Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel on September 9 and 10.
Among the speakers will be Regina Waldman, the Libyanborn founding president of JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.). Other members of the JIMENA staff will travel with her from California to Jerusalem.
The opening session of the conference will be addressed by Waldman; Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon; Deputy Minister for Senior Citizens Lea Ness; Canada’s former minister of justice Irwin Cotler and World Jewish Congress secretary-general Dan Diker. Other participants now living in Israel, North America and various European countries cam trace their origins to many countries of the Middle East and North Africa.