Grapevine: The best-laid plans...

Among the well-known Israeli figures who participated in the JPPI conference were Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Shamir, son of the late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Shamir 370 (photo credit: Hagay Offen)
Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Shamir 370
(photo credit: Hagay Offen)
We grow up with pithy maxims, such as “Man proposes – God disposes,” and this week there was ample proof of just how much truth there is in those words. Hurricane Sandy intruded on the opening of the conference of the Jewish People Policy Institute, preventing several of the leading figures from attending.
As a result, a conversation between President Shimon Peres and ambassador Dennis Ross was canceled. Peres showed up briefly at the conference for a conversation with John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, but that meeting was closed to the media, whereas the meeting with Ross, when originally scheduled, was going to be open to the media.
Among the people who were scheduled to attend the JPPI conference but were prevented by Hurricane Sandy was executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, who was also scheduled to speak at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue this coming Saturday evening. Hoenlein, who is very savvy about American politics and has close connections with leading figures in both parties, would have presented the latest in election speculation. Fortunately, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Dore Gold, who is a former Israel ambassador to the United Nations, is available to speak in Hoenlein’s place. His topic, “From Benghazi to Tehran: Policy Implications of Changes in Israel’s Regional Environment,” will include both regional and American policies. Among the well-known Israeli figures who participated in the JPPI conference were Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and Yair Shamir, son of the late prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is running with Yisrael Beytenu in the upcoming Knesset election.
■ IT WAS not a cancellation but a relocation that caused more than a little disappointment to invitees of the Australian Embassy who were looking forward to seeing a reenactment of the Australian Light Horse Regiment’s victory ride after the October 31, 1917, Battle of Beersheba. The commemoration ceremony, which is usually three-pronged with a visit to the Park of the Australian Soldier followed by a memorial ceremony at the nearby Commonwealth War Graves cemetery and concluding with another memorial ceremony at the Turkish monument, did not quite take place as planned.
Security concerns prompted the embassy to move the event from the site of the famous of Beersheba battleground in which the Australian and New Zealand Light Horse regiment trounced the Turks and paved the way for the triumphant entry into Jerusalem by General Allenby. Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner instead decided to host a commemoration ceremony at her residence in Herzliya Pituah.
Australians don’t scare easily, so a delegation from the Australian Light Horse Association went ahead with the ride and their own commemoration ceremony in Beersheba later in the day. Embassy staff said they knew that some of the invitees had gone to Beersheba despite the warning.
Outside the Australian residence were several UNTSO and MFO vehicles, while inside, uniformed Australian and New Zealand soldiers plus a Fijian bugler mingled with uniformed Australian and New Zealand Zionist youth from Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair and Hineni who are in Israel on leadership and volunteer programs.
Faulkner was thrilled to see so many young Australians in her garden, even more so during the playing of the national anthems, when the young Australian voices spontaneously rang out with “Advance Australia Fair.” The commemoration usually includes a brief ecumenical service, but this time Rabbi Raymond Apple, the former senior rabbi to the Australian Defense Forces and senior rabbi of the Sydney Great Synagogue for more than 30 years, was the sole religious representative.
Even in the absence of a catafalque, the catafalque ceremony took place with a tree in the ambassador’s garden as a substitute. However, when the wreath-laying ceremony took place, there were so many wreaths that one tree was insufficient and the wreaths were placed at the base of the trunks of two trees.
Both Faulkner and New Zealand Ambassador Taha Macpherson noted the presence of Turkish Charge D’Affaires Dogan Forhat Issik and the warm relations their countries have with a country that was once the enemy. In paying tribute to the heroism of Australian and New Zealand, soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice and are buried in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in Israel and the Palestinian territories, they also mentioned the heroism of Turkish soldiers.
■ THE DEVASTATION caused by Hurricane Sandy defies imagination, but what has become more interesting is how it will impact on the US elections. Many pundits have now changed their predictions about the outcome. We have only a few days in which to find out.
From Wednesday onwards, the tone of the many lectures and symposia comparing the speeches, the body language, the policies and the statesmanship of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will switch gears and all the pundits will be telling us ad nauseam what we can expect over the next four years, as if any of them know for sure. Still, there are people whose job it is to keep their fingers on the pulse of presidential progress, and one of them is former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Bret Stephens who will be at the Harvard Club in Manhattan on Tuesday, November 13, to address members and friends of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) on what’s in store now for Israel. It will be interesting to follow his predictions over the next four years to see just how well he reads the political map.
For several years now, Stephens has been writing a Global View column on foreign affairs in The Wall Street Journal, where he is a deputy editorial page editor. He previously worked for the paper as an op-ed editor in New York and as an editorial writer in Brussels. The entrance fee for the event, which is a fund-raiser for CAMERA, is $200.
■ LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS and institutions are getting in ahead of CAMERA and, as early as Wednesday, November 7 from 6 a.m. to 12 noon, AACI Jerusalem and The Jerusalem Post will join forces to present analyses and panel discussions with the participation of pollster Mitchell Barak, Jerusalem Post managing editor David Brinn, deputy managing editor Tovah Lazaroff, former TIME correspondent Robert Slater, Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times Jodi Rudoren, columnist Amotz Asa-El and Calev Ben-David, a Bloomberg senior correspondent who was previously a senior editor with The Jerusalem Post.
On Thursday, November 8, only two days after the US election when the picture will be somewhat clearer, the Israel Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for European Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, both of which are headed by former ambassador Avi Primor, will host a panel discussion at IDC on “Analyzing the US elections.” Panelists include Zalman Shoval, who has twice served as Israel ambassador to the US and is currently running for Knesset with Likud; commentator on US affairs and US Israeli relations Zvi Rafiah; former Israel consul general in New York Colette Avital; and emeritus professor of Diplomatic Studies at Tel Aviv University and senior editor of The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs Aharon Klieman. The discussion will be moderated by Moshe Arad, who is a former ambassador to the US.
Ordinarily, the people at IDC would now be planning for the prestigious Herzliya Conference, which it hosts each year at the Dan Accadia Hotel, but due to Israel’s early general elections, the 2013 Herzliya Conference has been postponed to March 11-14, when it will have more political relevance both locally and internationally. Previous conferences in recent years have been held in late January or early February.
■ TO PARAPHRASE Mark Twain, news of the demise of Yiddish is premature. People have been talking and writing about the demise of Yiddish ever since the end of the World War II. Yet, surprisingly, Yiddish is alive and flourishing, with Yiddish theater, Yiddish writings and klezmer concerts in which Yiddish songs are sung finding a following in many parts of the globe.
Even in Israel, where Yiddish was banned by founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, Yiddish is on the rise, and at Bar-Ilan University, of 400 students enrolled in Yiddish courses, approximately 100 are Arabs. In Poland there is also a growing thirst for Yiddish, prompted perhaps by the various Jewish culture festivals that take place around the country. Yet for all that, Yiddish was classified by UNESCO as a language in danger of extinction.
On becoming aware of this, members of Bnai Brith’s permanent delegation to UNESCO went into high gear and began organizing an international symposium under the heading “Permanence of Yiddish” in conjunction with the Paris Yiddish Center – Medem Library, Israel’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, headed by Ambassador Nimrod Barkan; the United States Mission to UNESCO; the Holocaust Memorial Foundation; the Central representative body of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF); and other organizations. The two-day symposium opens on Monday, November 12 in the UNESCO building.
One of the topics listed for discussion is “digital Yiddish.” Yes, Yiddish, though allegedly dying, has caught up with the 21st century. In addition to participants living in France, papers will be presented by speakers from Israel, Poland, Germany, America, and Australia. Among the Israelis will be Mendy Cahan, the founder and director of the Yung Yidish cultural centers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where thousands of Yiddish books are preserved, Yiddish is taught as a living language and klezmer concerts are a weekly feature.
Cahan is also a well-known entertainer, performing primarily in Yiddish. He will sing at the conference in addition to presenting a paper and will be accompanied by Eric Slabiak, a singer and violinist who founded the group Les Yeux Noirs, which specializes in Yiddish and gypsy music. Cahan and Slabiak have devised a special new program for the occasion.
■ DESPITE THE many criticisms leveled at Israeli tycoons, many of them not only support a myriad of philanthropic projects but also do hands-on work on behalf of specific institutions and organizations and even for the State of Israel. One such person is Raya Strauss Ben-Dror of the veteran dairy products family, who this week received a special citation from the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel in recognition of what she has done to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
For the past six years, Strauss Ben-Dror chaired the Jewish Agency’s Partnership Division, uniting Diaspora communities with communities in Israel. The event in which she was honored was held at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv in coordination with Jewish community leaders from around the globe as well as leading figures from Israel’s industrial sector who have been involved in these partnership efforts. Also present were Strauss Ben- Dror’s husband, Shmuel Ben-Dror, and her brother Michael Strauss.
■ THERE’S NOT much rest for British Ambassador Matthew Gould, who is always either attending a multitude of events in different parts of the country or hosting dinners, receptions, or business, academic or cultural gatherings at his residence. This week, Gould and his wife, Celia, hosted key figures in Israel’s film industry at a dinner in honor of renowned British film producer Lord David Puttnam.
The former chair and CEO of Columbia Pictures, whose movies won 10 academy awards, is visiting Israel as a guest of the British Council and the Sam Spiegel Film School, which has awarded him an honorary fellowship. Dinner guests included Lia Van Leer,Yael Abecassis, Gila Almagor and Yaacov Agmon, Shlomo Bar-Aba, Mosh Dannon, Makram Khoury, Ohad Knoler, Renen Schorr, and Gilead Sher, among others.