Putin on the Ritz

Ritz has developed a remarkable rapport with diplomats, as a result of which his presence was especially requested for Putin visit.

Vladimir Putin addresses supporters 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool)
Vladimir Putin addresses supporters 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool)
Former deputy general manager of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem Sheldon Ritz, who is currently stationed in Tel Aviv in his capacity as the Dan Hotels’ director of sales for embassies and government ministries, has been temporarily summoned back to Jerusalem and asked to assist with arrangements for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, due to arrive in Israel for a lightning stay on June 25.
Ritz has developed a remarkable rapport with the diplomatic community and with key personnel in government offices, as a result of which his presence was especially requested for the Putin visit.
Blessed with an incredible sense of calm and an ability to instantly solve problems in crisis situations, South African-born Ritz is a good man to have around to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Although Putin will be in Israel for barely 24 hours, the Russians have booked the King David Hotel from June 24-27, and that’s not the only hotel in the Dan chain in which Russian will be the most frequently heard language. The Russians, together with embassy staff, security personnel and representatives from Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, are completely taking over the King David for the three day period, as well as part of the Dan Panorama around the corner..
During that time the King David will be closed to other guests. An advance delegation will be arriving on June 18 to prepare for the visit and will stay at the Dan Jerusalem on Mount Scopus, where a large number of rooms have been booked. Media representatives accompanying Putin will stay at the Dan Panorama. Altogether, some 270 rooms in Dan hotels in Jerusalem will be utilized for the visit.
During his brief sojourn in the Middle East, Putin will also travel to Jordan.
■ MEANWHILE, RUSSIAN Ambassador Sergey Yakovlev and his wife, Nina, on Tuesday hosted the Russian National Day reception at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Every ambassador has his or her own distinct style, but one thing doesn’t change as far as Russian ambassadors are concerned: they definitely know how to throw a party and they never skimp on the food – not in quantity, not in quality and not in variety.
While all ambassadors who celebrate the national days of their respective countries invite compatriots now living in Israel, there are arguably more people with Russian roots living in Israel than from anywhere else. At the national day celebrations of other countries, the common language is English, though the minister representing the government sometimes delivers his address in Hebrew. Not so at the Russian receptions.
With the possible exception of most of the diplomatic corps and a few Israelis, everyone, including the musicians, bartenders, waiters and waitresses, understands Russian. So although Yakovlev speaks English quite well, he spoke in his native tongue, as did Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is an immensely popular figure in Russian circles and was instantly surrounded by people who wanted to be photographed with him, including Russian- speaking IDF soldiers. Both Yakovlev and Liberman were in extremely high spirits, having previously traded jokes in a roped off area with set tables that were occupied by priests and nuns from various Eastern Orthodox Churches – though primarily from Russia; veterans of the Red Army with jackets weighed down by medals and ribbons; current Russian military personnel; Israeli government ministers including Pini Avivi, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy-director general for Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic Countries and Russia. Liberman and Minister for Tourism Stas Meseznikov are regulars at Russian events and Defense Minister Ehud Barak almost always attends the Russian Federation’s national day reception, as he did this week. Nearly all the MKs who were born in the former Soviet Union also put in an appearance, as did some who have no Russian roots. Members of the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra, who are mostly of Russian background, provided the musical entertainment, which was enhanced by internationally- acclaimed piano virtuoso Leonid Ptashka. No one was really interested in hearing about politics, diplomacy, bilateral trade or tourism, said Liberman.
What was really on their minds was the soccer match between Russia and Poland which was taking place that night – “and we all want Russia to win,” he added as he noted the presence of the Polish ambassador in the banquet hall.
■ “WHAT WILL the Chinese say if they find out you were here?” a member of the audience attending the spectacular performance by the Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan at the Israel Opera House in Tel Aviv asked Ruth Kahanoff, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy-director general for Asia and the Pacific. Foreign Ministry personnel are seldom seen at Taiwanese events because Israel and Taiwan do not have full diplomatic relations. Liang-jen Chang, who is referred to as “ambassador” by members of his staff, is officially in Israel as the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, which is a pseudonym for the Taiwan Embassy in many parts of the world where, for political reasons prompted by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China does not enjoy diplomatic ties, but has to make do with economic and cultural ties.
Kahanoff seemed ready for the question. “It’s not politics, it’s culture,” she said.
"Culture has no borders. Culture is universal.” Among others in the audience were Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, MK Nahman Shai, former candidate for Jerusalem mayor Dan Biran, former Tel Aviv City Council member Sheli Hoshen, first lady of the Israeli stage Gila Almagor and her husband, theater director Yaakov Agmon, Tel Aviv Cinematheque director Yair Garbuz, former Education Ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani and Suzanne Dallal Center director Yair Vardi. Special guest of honor was Mei Ching-Chow, the first lady of Taiwan, who Cloud Gate director and choreographer Lin Hwai Min lauded as one of the company’s most loyal and enthusiastic supporters and who came to Israel with the company as a demonstration of her support. Lin Hwai Min said that the company thought based on media reports that it was coming to a war zone, but after experiencing the smiling faces and relaxed atmosphere of Tel Aviv, its members were under the impression that perhaps they had come to California.
The lithe-bodied dancers have an extraordinary grace in which they merge delicacy with passion and contemporary dance with martial arts movements. Cries of “Bravo!” emanated from the audience at the end of the performance and as people exited the hall, they chatted excitedly about how unique a performance this was, particularly because it was almost devoid of music and yet the dancers were able to maintain amazing discipline and synchronization. For those who were not there, it is still possible to attend a performance today at 1 p.m. or tomorrow at 9 p.m.
■ FOLLOWING ALL the media hype about the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to President Shimon Peres and the special dinner that US President Barack Obama hosted in his honor on Wednesday, Obama was back on the campaign trail on Thursday, attending a dinner in New York hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour at the home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker.
Obama’s Israel connection of Wednesday night, will be renewed on a somewhat different scale on June 25 at the Boston Symphony Hall when Israeli hip-hop and Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari will perform.
Ben-Ari. who is an Obama supporter, played at the White House 15 months ago at a women’s mentoring event hosted by Michelle Obama, who had invited 22 remarkable women from different walks of life to mentor and inspire young students. Tickets to the Boston fund-raiser are $250,000 per person for a balcony seat, $10,000 to be listed as an event co-host, $2,500 for a premium seat and $1,000 for preferred seating.
Proceeds are ear-marked for the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
Tel Aviv-born Ben-Ari, who moved to New York in 1993 after serving in the IDF and quickly became a star, has won awards awards not only for her music but also for her work in Holocaust education.
She is a co-founder of Gedenk (Yiddish for “remember”), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Holocaust awareness among the younger generations of Jews.
■ MANY VISITORS to Israel say that they leave a piece of their heart behind when they return home. But some people leave something more substantial. Last week, a group of leading business and communal leaders on a mission to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) dedicated an ambucycle to United Hatzalah in Jerusalem in memory of Benzion Netanyahu and in honor of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and family. Phil Rosen, a long-time supporter of United Hatzalah and the leading corporate attorney with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, board member of the RJC and chairman of the board of American Friends of the Likud, donated the ambucycle.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who attended the dedication ceremony, praised the members of the RJC, who he described as staunch advocates for Israel, generous supporters of great causes and proud Zionists. Metzger also spoke of the special love that Benzion Netanyahu had for the Jewish people and how pleased he would have been to know that a lifesaving ambucycle will be saving lives in his memory.
United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer thanked Rosen and the RJC for their generosity. Several participants in the mission expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn about United Hatzalah’s work and pledged their support.
■ WHEN THE name Zuroff appears anywhere in Israel, it is immediately associated with Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff. But there’s another Zuroff who is fondly remembered by former students of the Yeshiva University High School, AKA Brooklyn Talmudical Academy. Rabbi Abraham Zuroff, who is celebrating his 90th birthday, Efraim Zuroff’s father, was the principal of YUHS for more than 30 years and afterwards became the supervisor of all Yeshiva University high schools.
YUHS alumni living in Israel plan to combine his birthday with a reunion to be held on Friday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m at the Yeshiva University Gruss Center in Jerusalem.
Organizers estimate that there are between 200 and 300 graduates of the school living in Israel, and that most of them will attend. Among the more famous graduates is Prof.
Alan Dershowitz, who, though a frequent visitor to Israel, will not be able to attend in person, but will deliver greetings via video. Other well-known alumni include the late Rabbi Meir Kahane; Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin; Judge Gerald Neugeboren of the Israeli National Labor Court; Rabbi Dr. Stuart Zweiter, head of the Lookstein Center for Education at Bar-Ilan University; Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Frimer, the Ethel and David Resnick professor of chemistry at the Weizmann Institute; Advocate Dov Frimer, well-known Jerusalem lawyer and lecturer at the Hebrew University; Advocate David Martin, an international lawyer based in Tel Aviv and lecturer at the IDC in Herzliya and the Cardozo Law School in New York; Dr. Zev Gerstl of the Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences at the Vulcani Center in Bet Dagan; Dr. Morton Leibowitz, former director of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Meir Hospital; internationally-known psychologist Dr. Irwin Mansdorf, who has written important works on the psychologization of Palestinians; Judge Martin Ritholz of the NY State Supreme Court; Rabbi Elyakim Krumbein of Yeshivat Gush Etzion; Rabbi Dr. Yitz Irving Greenberg; and Prof. Arthur Eidelman, among many others.
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