Grapevine: The best laid plans...

Krieger was willing to delay her birthday by 5 days to accommodate the Redas, and sent out invitations a month in advance.

Gideeon Sa'ar shakes hands Guido Westerwelle 390 (photo credit: Muki Schwartz)
Gideeon Sa'ar shakes hands Guido Westerwelle 390
(photo credit: Muki Schwartz)
When social, cultural and political activist Alice Krieger wanted to host a farewell party for her friends, Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda and his wife, Nahla, there was a problem in the timing because Reda preferred not to have the party during Ramadan. Krieger, who is well known for her Sabbath soirees, which almost invariably include diplomats of every rank, suggested that the farewell could be combined with her annual birthday bash and that way Reda could also say a last goodbye to many of his colleagues. She was even willing to delay her birthday by five days to accommodate the Redas, and sent out invitations a month in advance.
However, like so many best-laid plans, this, too, went awry and Reda, who will be elevated to a very important post in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, was unexpectedly called home to discuss his new position and what it entails. Before leaving for Cairo last Friday, he wrote an apologetic note to Krieger and the two agreed that she would have a welcome party for Reda’s successor, Suleiman Atef. Meanwhile, Moustafa Elkouny, who had served as Reda’s deputy, did show up at the party last Tuesday along with diplomats of varying rank from ambassador down to first and second secretaries from Australia, Korea, Estonia, US, the Philippines, Turkey, China and other countries.
Also present were former chief of staff Dan Halutz; Israel Prize laureates David Rubinger and Micha Bar-Am; who are both internationally recognized photojournalists; Maersk Line managing director Steve Felder, who is transferring to Kenya at the end of September, MKs Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman, icons of the political Left Gershon Baskin, Alon Liel, Ilan Baruch and two first-time guests, Rachel Afek and Racheli Merhav, who are also aligned with the far Left through their work with Machsom Watch and Yesh Din.
Krieger likes to introduce her friends to one other, particularly her new friends to her old friends. She met the two Rachels through a project called Min al Bahar (Arabic for “from the sea”), which was initiated six years ago by Tzvia Shapira, the mother of Combatants for Peace conscientious objectors Yonatan and Itamar Shapira. (Yonatan Shapira is the Israel Air Force pilot who two years ago authored a letter signed by other pilots saying that they would not fly over occupied territories).
Due to their work in the peace camp, the Shapiras have a lot of Palestinian friends, some of whom were invited to a party which Tzvia Shapira made for her granddaughter’s birthday. One of the guests asked how far her home was from the sea and she replied that it was quite close. He asked whether it was possible to go there because his children had never seen the sea. Shapira was astounded to realize how many Palestinian youngsters who were geographically so close and politically so far away from the sea, had never stood on the shore and felt the water lapping over their feet. And so a project was born.
Every summer for six years, a group of Israeli women volunteers has been organizing beach days for Palestinian children from the West Bank. The group undertakes all the bureaucratic hassles of travel permits for the youngsters and their accompanying parents. The project, which started out small, now brings more than 750 children and adults from the West Bank to the beach every summer. The group rents the buses and provides the food and games. The children can barely wait to get out of the buses and into the water. Like children anywhere and everywhere, they quickly adapt to the new environment and fill the beach with the sound of laughter as they play. Their mothers sit at the water’s edge and relax. They share stories of their home lives with their Israeli friends, and the stories of hardship sometimes bring tears to the eyes of the Israelis.
Krieger, who has joined the group, spoke movingly of the fulfillment it has brought to her life. She also referred to peace projects involving Arab and Jewish children that have been established by some of her other guests. It has become a tradition at Krieger’s birthday parties for celebrated singer Shlomit Aron to sing a birthday song to the piano accompaniment of composer, conductor and instrumentalist David Krivoshay, who is a long time friend of Krieger’s. This year, Aron chose to sing “Lakum mahar baboker v’lahathil mibereshit“ (“To get up tomorrow morning and to start again from the beginning”), which the crowd loved. As Krieger embraced Aron afterwards, Krivoshay launched into Happy Birthday, and everyone sang along.
■ AS FOR Jews and Arabs, the first responder when the call came in about Jamal Julani, who was brutally beaten by a gang of adolescents in Jerusalem’s Zion Square last week, was Hatzalah Emergency Medical Service volunteer Gavy Friedson, who, together with fellow Hatzalah volunteer Danny Ben-David, tried to resuscitate the hapless youth and continued working on Julani with a Magen David Adom team that arrived soon after. While they were trying to revive Julani, bystanders asked why they were bothering to save an Arab when an Arab would not do the same for a Jew. Friedson was shocked. There are quite a lot of Arabs working as volunteers with Hatzalah, and Friedson has sometimes worked with them in life-saving situations.
“We’re not interested in someone’s religion, color or politics,” he says. “All we care about is that a human being needs our help.”
Julani is not the first Arab whose life Friedson has helped to save, and probably won’t be the last. It was very fortunate for Julani that Friedson was sitting in a coffee shop in Zion Square across the road from where the attack took place. When he received the call, he didn’t even have to get on his motorbike. Julani didn’t have a pulse and his heart had stopped. Friedson and Ben-David gave Julani CPR until the MDA team arrived and then they all worked on him until he started breathing, at which point they took him to hospital.
Friedson subsequently visited him in hospital and met his parents, who could not contain their emotions as they thanked him for saving their son’s life. Julani’s father, with tears in his eyes, said that as someone who has worked with and for Jews for more than 30 years, he could not understand why this should happen to his son.
Friedson intends to visit Julani at home soon after his release from hospital.
A college student in his early 20s who has been volunteering with Hatzalah for years, Friedson likes to follow up on cases in which the patient almost died. He gets a real kick out of the seeing the person functioning and fully restored to health.
■ ALTHOUGH ORGANIZATIONS and institutions rush to publicize visits by high-ranking dignitaries – especially if entities within their countries are supporters of the said organizations and institutions – little note is taken of the fact that the spouses of the ambassadors may visit with greater frequency, out of personal interest or as members of the International Women’s Club, the Diplomatic Spouse’s Club or some similar body.
Celia Gould, the wife of British Ambassador Matthew Gould, went to Arad to see for herself what happens at the SOS Neradim Youth Village, whose residents are all youngsters from dysfunctional or economically disadvantaged families. Most of the youngsters have been relocated to Neradim by court order to ensure that they are no longer in an atrisk environment.
Within the village, the children are placed in apartments with families rather than in dormitories.
Between eight and night youths live in each apartment, under the care of a house mother.
Gould was very impressed by the fact that when the youngsters graduate from high school and go to the army, they maintain their association with Neradim, which continues to be the place they regard as home when they get weekend leave. Some stay even beyond their service in the IDF.
Gould told her hosts that she regarded her visit as an important lesson in learning how Israel relates to youth at risk. From what she had seen, she said, it was obvious that the staff were dedicated to giving the youngsters as normal and happy an environment as possible under the circumstances, thus ensuring that they would have a better future when they branch out into the world. In the course of her tour of Neradim, Gould met with SOS CEO Ahituv Gershinsky, youth village director Matti Rose and Arad Mayor Tali Ploskov, who is one of the few women mayors in Israel.
■ SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS, companies and individuals became involved in distributing school bags to economically deprived children who do not have them. Aware that this problem was more or less solved, and looking slightly beyond the start of the school year toward Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, decided to give needy youngsters something that they would appreciate even more – vouchers for clothing and shoes to be purchased at H&O, which is owned by the Livnat family, who happily cooperated with him to help bring a smile to the faces of some 11,000 youngsters, who will each receive a NIS 300 voucher.
Most people wear something new on Rosh Hashana, but with the economic problems that are confronting so many families, those in lower income brackets are more likely to spend the little they have on food rather than clothing. Thanks to the combined Eckstein-Livnat project, some children from such families will be able to bask in a new outfit for the New Year. Nitzan Hadas, the CEO of H&O, said that Eckstein was one of the most generous of philanthropists in Israel and this was one of the reasons that H&O was happy to join forces with him.
■ THE OLD adage that it doesn’t matter what you know, but who you know, rings true under a variety of circumstances. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who in his spare time is a DJ in Tel Aviv night clubs, is equally casual about shopping for groceries and doesn’t make a big deal of the fact that he’s a government minister. According to Yediot Aharonot, Sa’ar popped in to his local grocery store to pick up some dairy products. While he was deciding what to buy, the owner of the store approached him with a problem.
A young man had forgotten his wallet on the counter, and all efforts the grocer had made to get in touch with him had failed. The grocer asked Sa’ar to look in the wallet and see if there was anything that could help to find the owner. Flipping through the contents, Sa’ar discovered something that indicated that the owner was an education coordinator who worked in Sa’ar’s own office. Sa’ar pocketed the wallet and very quickly returned it to its rightful owner.
■ A UNIVERSAL problem when planning the guest list for a wedding is sticking to the numbers and deciding who to eliminate. In the Jewish faith, aside from the specifically religious considerations, there are the sheva brachot – the week of feasting after the nuptials, where in some cases the lunch or the dinner is no less lavish than what was served at the wedding reception. Depending on the hosts, it may even be better.
Sheva brachot get-togethers make it possible for the bride and groom to celebrate with those people who for whatever reason were not invited to the wedding but whom they count as friends and colleagues.
Thus, when Michal Cohen, a graphic artist at The Jerusalem Post and its sister publication The Jerusalem Report, got married, she decided that the last of her sheva brachot events would be held in her place of work.
This also gave her the opportunity to introduce the staff to her husband, Joey Eckstein, whom she married last week in the romantic setting of the Dan Hotel Jerusalem, which was previously the Regency, which was previously the Hyatt.
Rabbi Mark Wildes of the Manhattan Jewish Experience flew in to Israel to officiate at the ceremony, which was conducted in Hebrew and English to accommodate all the guests, some of whom came from the US for the occasion. Joey made aliya from San Francisco, while Michal is a Sabra. The newlyweds have decided to make their home in Jerusalem.
The offices of the Post have been the venue for toasts to various Jewish festivals, farewell parties, and birthday parties, but no one who partook in the festive meal on Tuesday could remember having previously attended sheva brachot on the premises, so Cohen may well have established a precedent.
■ ALTHOUGH SHE’S the only Israeli woman featured in the latest Forbes List of the World’s Most Powerful Women, Shari Arison, who is Israel’s wealthiest woman and who was ranked 64 on the list, is not the first Israeli to be recognized. In 2005, Ofra Strauss (who this week celebrated her 52nd birthday), ranked 42, while in 2006 Tzipi Livni ranked 40 and Galia Maor 88. Galia Maor scored better in 2007, when she was ranked 83.
■ JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat was determined to make his city the capital of culture, whether the residents liked it or not. Culture vultures in every media happily cooperated with the mayor with the result that there has been an enormous glut of cultural projects and activities this summer, most of which Barkat has somehow found time to attend.
Last week at the opening of Ron Arad’s amazing installation at the Israel Museum, Barkat was seen dancing with museum director James Snyder. This Monday, August 27, he will be tapping his feet again at the opening of the International Jerusalem Music Conference taking place at JVP Media Quarter and hosted by venture capitalist Erel Margalit, who has previously hosted the mayor at Zappa Jerusalem’s The Lab, where the opening of the conference will feature live performances by Barry Sakharof & Rea Mochiach, Geva Alon, Karolina and Boom Pam. The purpose of the conference is to export and develop Israeli music in the international market place.
The conference will showcase Israeli artists and host key figures from the international music scene. Some of the leading lights from the largest international music festivals will give master classes. It promises to be one of the most harmonious international conferences that Israel has known.