Grapevine: ZAKA celebrates 10 years

‘You do a sacred job here and around the world’

Ziv Medical Center chef benefit 311  (photo credit: Yael Shavit/Tikshoret)
Ziv Medical Center chef benefit 311
(photo credit: Yael Shavit/Tikshoret)
■ THERE WERE dignitaries and celebrities galore at the Tel Aviv Port’s Hangar 11, joining emergency response and rescue organization ZAKA in celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event was hosted by the president of the ZAKA International Board of Directors and of the World Congress of Georgian Jews, Russian businessman Michael Mirilashvili. A generous supporter of ZAKA, Mirilashvili donates not only much-needed equipment to the organization (including two fire-fighting ATVs after the Carmel Forest Fire, and most recently – in September – a ZAKA ambulance and emergency medical clinic in Uman to service the Rosh Hashana pilgrims who visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman), but also a lot of his time.
Many of his friends and business associates who were in the country for a wedding the previous evening also attended the ZAKA event and agreed to join the board. Membership included a significant donation to the organization.
The moderator for the evening was Channel 2’s Sivan Rahav Meir, who, looking out at the mixed crowd of secular and religious Jews, Muslims and Christians, rabbis, diplomats, politicians, economists, lawyers and others, remarked on ZAKA’s representing a consensus of all strands of Israeli society. Among those present were Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee Ayoub Kara, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, former minister and MK Tzachi Hanegbi, attorney Zion Amir, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, and British, Russian and Japanese diplomats.
Distinctive in a crowd that included the glitz and bling of the Russian business elite alongside the reserved black suits and modest dresses of the ZAKA volunteers and their wives was the traditionally garbed leader of the ZAKA Beduin unit in the Negev, Sheik Jaffal Abu Sabet, accompanied by Yehuda Lurver, the ZAKA commander for the Negev region. The Beduin unit is one of several minority units within ZAKA, offering a suitable response and sensitivity to the needs of that community. Although English is their mother tongue, both Fischer and Shapiro insisted on delivering speeches in Hebrew.
“We know that ZAKA does a sacred job for the benefit of the Jewish people, yet not only Jewish people, but in Japan and around the world in disaster zones,” said Fischer. “It is amazing that [this] organization set up by the ultra-Orthodox community takes in segments of all society from all over the country, Jews, non-Jews. You have answered all those who say that it is impossible to engage the ultra-Orthodox community in the workforce or in everyday Israeli society. You are accepted by all. That you are expanding your operations around the world in every community among every religion is a fact of which we are all proud and [for which we are] eternally grateful.”
The entertainment was also varied, featuring Dudu Fisher, Kobi Aflalo and Yishai Lapidot, whose styles and repertoires are distinctly different.
■ SEVERAL COUNTRIES are celebrating milestone anniversaries of diplomatic ties with Israel this year and next year. Spain is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and next year India and China will each celebrate the 20th anniversary, Japan the 60th and Korea the 50th.
There’s nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is when the heads of two diplomatic missions stationed in Israel decide to celebrate that milestone anniversary here. Thus Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner and Korean Ambassador Kim Il Soo are celebrating the half-century of diplomatic ties within the framework of the Australia Korea Year of Friendship, with a concert toward the end of October at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv. It will feature the celebrated Australian/Korean Chiri Jazz Trio, whose appearances have generated rave reviews. The trio includes two Australians, trumpeter Scott Tinkler and drummer Simon Barker, and Korean pansori singer Bae Il Dong.
Also, on October 31, together with the Beersheba Municipality, the Australian Embassy will continue with what has become a tradition in recent years – namely the commemoration of the 94th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba. The event marks the fall of the Ottoman-controlled city to British and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops on October 31, 1917. The historic charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade of the Australian Mounted Division played a critical part in this major battle. It also illustrates the long relationship that Australia has with Israel, a relationship that was formalized in January 1949, when Australia was among the first countries to forge diplomatic ties with the nascent state.
The commemoration ceremony gained impetus in April 2008 with the inauguration of the Park of the Australian Soldier. A project of the Australian Pratt Foundation in conjunction with the Beersheba Foundation, the Beersheba Municipality and the Australian government, the park features a playground for children with special needs, an amphitheater for public events and a memorial sculpture of a lighthorseman during the charge on Beersheba, as well as plaques honoring the courage of ANZAC soldiers during World War I.
That opening event was addressed by Australian Governor Gen. Michael Jeffries, on his first visit to Israel, President Shimon Peres and Brig-Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Terner, who was then mayor of Beersheba. There was also a brief address by mega-philanthropist Richard Pratt, for whom this was the last visit to Israel: He died of cancer exactly a year later. The inaugural event, which was also attended by the Turkish ambassador, included visits to the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, where ANZACS who fell in battle lie buried, and to the adjacent Turkish Monument erected at Terner’s initiative to honor the bravery of Turkish soldiers who fell in service to their country. The inaugural event set the tone for future commemoration ceremonies, which include visits to all three sites.
■ TOO MANY cooks spoil the broth? Not always, especially when they’re cooking for a good cause. Haim Tibi, the executive chef of the Muscat Restaurant the Mitzpe Yamim hotel, recruited a bunch of his colleagues to prepare a gala gourmet dinner, the proceeds of which were earmarked for the psychiatric department of the Ziv Medical Center.
All in all, 13 leading chefs contributed to the meal, among them some of the top stars in the country’s culinary constellation. Among them were Aviv Moshe, Omer Miller, Eyal Lavie, Erez Komorovski, Shaul Ben-Edrat, Yaron Kestenbaum, Victor Globar, Golan Gurfinkel, Yusef Hana Zuzu, Avi Shteinitz, Idi Israelovitch and Mika Sharon, who happened to be celebrating her birthday on the same day.
■ JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai may not be on the same side of the political fence, but one thing they do have in common is bike riding. Both are avid cyclists – though it’s doubtful Huldai will join Barkat, Jerusalem Development Authority chairman Moshe Leon, MKs, senior figures in government ministries, and business leaders in launching the new 10-km. bike track from the Jerusalem Park to the Arazim Valley on Friday, October 28.
It’s great that cyclists will have this track, but growing numbers of Jerusalemites are wondering how much longer pedestrians will be able to use the city’s sidewalks and pedestrian malls.
■ THERE WILL, nonetheless, be a lot of walking on the King Solomon promenade in Eilat, which is bordered by a shopping mall on one side and the King Solomon Hotel’s lagoon on the other. On the same Friday, October 28, some of Israel’s leading designers will join forces to show their new fall/winter collections. Among them will be Ronen Chen, Tali Imbar, Tal Beck, Aline, Daniella Lahavi and Alembika. Isrotel King Solomon Hotel general manager Adi Pinto says the fashion show was so successful the first time designers took the initiative that it’s bound to become a seasonal tradition. The added incentive for watching the show is a NIS 50 discount for any purchases of NIS 200 or more made immediately afterward.