Grapevine: The sanctity of sovereignty

February 1 is the 10th anniversary of the disintegration of the ill fated Space Shuttle Columbia. On board was Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon.

(photo credit: REUTERS/NASA NASA)
TODAY IS a special day for Australian and Indian expatriates and temporary residents living in Israel. For Indians, January 26 is Republic Day and for Australians it is Australia Day. While for Indians Republic Day symbolizes the long march to freedom from British rule, for Australians Australia Day commemorates the unfurling of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Sir Arthur Phillip in 1788 and the establishment of the first settlement which was located at Port Jackson which is now part of Sydney.
Though now independent of British rule, India, Australia and New Zealand are among the 54 independent sovereign states – most of them former British colonies – which are members of the Commonwealth of Nations which was originally known as the British Commonwealth.
■ NON-RESIDENT New Zealand Ambassador Taha McPherson will be in Israel next week for a New Zealand Business Seminar co-hosted by the Federation of Israel Chambers of Commerce in collaboration with the Israel New Zealand Chamber of Commerce and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. New Zealand seems to be taking a greater interest in Israel of late. This week, a group of Kiwi school teachers who are attending a Holocaust Studies seminar at Yad Vashem, were hosted at Mike’s Bar Jerusalem, by a group of New Zealand expats living in Israel.
■ INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST Remembrance Day will be marked by Channel One beyond the actual date. On Monday, January 28, it will screen a documentary Clara’s Last Dance , which is dedicated to legendary Jerusalem ballet teacher Clara Bondi, who grew up in an assimilated environment in Yugoslavia. As a young and promising dancer, Bondi dreamed of opening her own ballet studio. She had never given much thought to the fact that she was Jewish, and only became painfully aware of this side of her identity, when the Nazis uprooted her from her home and sent her to Auschwitz.
Somehow, she managed to survive, but by the end of the war, when Auschwitz was liberated by the Russians, she barely weighed 38 kilogram.
She returned to her village only to learn that her parents had been murdered.
With nothing left for her in Yugoslavia she decided to make her home in Israel. She tried to blanket out the memory of the atrocities that she had suffered by realizing her dream and opened a ballet school in the capital’s Rehavia neighborhood, regardless of that fact that in those days Israelis were more inclined to dance the hora and other folk dances.
She had spoken of her dream on board the ship which brought her to Jaffa, and even then she had been told that Israel was the last place in the world for a ballet school. But she persevered. Soon after her arrival in Jerusalem she married, and together with her husband established a ballet school which proved to be successful beyond her anticipations. It was one of the first three ballet schools in Jerusalem.
The documentary which was filmed over a ten year period illustrates the dualism in the lives of many Holocaust survivors, who on the one hand appear to be normal, doing the various things that are done by members of mainstream society, while at the same time suffering the tortuous memories of the past, regardless of their attempts to blot them out. For Clara, her creativity became her triumph over her past. The film was directed by Nili Kessler and produced by Yehuda Biton.
■ BY COINCIDENCE, International Holocaust Remembrance Day which was designated by the United Nations General Assembly and the birthday of the Knesset, which is on Tu Bishvat , this year fall within a day of each other. Were it not for the United Nations which sought to internationalize Jerusalem, the Knesset might have been established in Tel Aviv, just as Tel Aviv was the venue for the Proclamation of Independence.
Ben-Gurion’s reaction to the UN proposal was to bring Israel’s legislative body to Israel’s capital.
Prior to the opening session of the 19th Knesset on February 5, at which Knesset members will declare their allegiance in the presence of President Shimon Peres, there will be a full day seminar for new Knesset members on February 3. The 19th Knesset will have the largest ever female representation with three parties headed by women and a total of 26 women serving as MKs compared to 23 in the 18th Knesset.
When the first Knesset assembled on February 14, 1949, which in that year coincided with Tu Bishvat, it was still officially known as the Constituent Assembly.
Two days later, on February 16, the Constituent Assembly ratified the Transition Law, changed its name to the First Knesset and elected Chaim Weizmann as the nation’s first president. He was inaugurated on February 17.
The first government was not formed till March 3. Initial Knesset sessions were held in the Jewish Agency Building, then from March 8, 1949 to December 14, 1949,in the Kessem Cinema in Tel Aviv, which today is the site of the Opera Tower. For the following three months, the Knesset returned to the Jewish Agency building and after that moved down the street apiece to the Froumine building which later became the Ministry of Tourism and which is currently occupied by the rabbinate. In 1955, the government approved a plan to build the Knesset in its permanent location. Construction was financed by James de Rothschild.
The cornerstone was laid in October 1958 and the building was dedicated on August 31, 1966. New wings were added in later years along with many modern facilities that were not available in the early years of the Knesset.
■ ALTHOUGH WOMEN are not yet represented in the Knesset in relation to their ratio in the population, and certainly not in the yet to be formed government, women are certainly moving to the forefront in other areas.
The television anchors on all three channels for the announcement of the exit polls in the Knesset elections were women: Ayala Hasson and Geula Even on Channel 1, Yonit Levy on Channel 2 and Tamar Ish-Shalom on Channel 10.
In the business world, Stella Handler is tipped to succeed Avi Gabbay as CEO of Bezeq, and Ravit Barniv, the former chair of Shikun U’Binui, has been tipped to head Tnuva. Let’s not forget that Bank Leumi is headed by Rakefet Russak- Aminoach and the CEO of the First International Bank is Smadar Barber Tsadik.
There are numerous other examples to illustrate the extent to which the glass ceiling continues to be broken.
■ FEBRUARY 1 will mark the 10th anniversary of the disintegration of the ill fated Space Shuttle Columbia as it was reentering at the conclusion of its 28th mission. On board was Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who together with the rest of the crew was killed. His widow, Rona Ramon, continued her close connection with NASA, and has been responsible for the presence of current and former astronauts at international space conferences in Israel.
This year, because of the significance of the anniversary of the tragedy, the heads of 14 space agencies from around the world will come to Israel for the annual Ilan Ramon International Space Conference which is traditionally held at the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies at the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya.
This gathering, which this year will take place from January 29-31, in conjunction with the Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of Science and Technology, is an ongoing living tribute to Ramon., providing an open forum for the national and international space community to exchange information about new technologies, programs and strategies.
The conference is invariably accompanied by an exhibition of aerospace companies, and culminates with the publication of a widely distributed and extensively used conference book. Permanent participants in the conference include NASA, the US Space Command, Cisco, Boeing, and the Canadian Space Agency among others.
There are always top-ranking officials from around the world. including the commander of the Israel Air Force and leading government figures. The importance of the conference can be seen by the constantly increasing attendance. It has grown from 300 participants in 2006 to 2,000 in 2012.
For both Rona Ramon and Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, the chairman of the Israel Space Agency, it is a major triumph to have the heads of 14 international space agencies in Israel at this time.
■ THE GREATEST repository for newspapers and magazines published in Israel is the National Library, located on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Publications dating to long before the establishment of the State can be found in its archives. Prior to the advent of social media, journalism had a different ethic a different responsibility and a different impact.
Now that anyone with access to a computer or a mobile phone can and does enter the media world, traditional news media has found itself in recession, with a domino effect of downsizing and closures. To mark its recent acquisition of the archive of Israel Prize laureate Shalom Rosenfeld, who was one of the founders of Ma’ariv and served as its editor from 1974 to 1980, the National Library on Monday evening January 28 will host a wide ranging discussion on Israeli journalism at the crossroads with the participation of journalists academics and members of think tanks currently or formerly involved with journalism.
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