Grapevine: Centenary celebrations

HADASSAH WAS not the only organization or institution celebrating its centenary in Jerusalem last week.

Peres and Jordan ambassador Obeidat 370 (photo credit: GPO)
Peres and Jordan ambassador Obeidat 370
(photo credit: GPO)
■ HADASSAH WAS not the only organization or institution celebrating its centenary in Jerusalem last week. The David Yellin Academic College of Education, headed by Dr. Anna Rosso, celebrated its centenary with a gala dinner on its premises. The college was the first in the country in which the curriculum was entirely in Hebrew. In other academic centers, courses were taught in German, English or French, depending on the origins of the group of immigrant academics who founded the institution.
Mayor Nir Barkat attended both centenary events.
There must be something in the air in relation to three digits because earlier in the month, President Shimon Peres hosted a reception for citizens of Israel aged 100 years and more – and there were quite a few. For Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, the David Yellin celebration had special meaning because his late father, Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin, a noted expert on Oriental studies and famous for his translation of the Koran, had been a student and a teacher at the college, in addition to being a faculty member of the Hebrew University, of which David Yellin was one of the founders.
Another student who went on to earn international prestige was Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the late father of the prime minister. Benzion Netanyahu, who died six months ago, was two years old when the David Yellin College was founded.
One of the highlights of the college’s centenary event was the awarding of a citation to Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, a former Commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, who is the founder and chairman of Aleh Negev, a rehabilitative village in the south of the country that enables young adults with severe disabilities to live in a safe environment where they can realize whatever potential they may have.
What’s more, the Levinsky College of Education in Tel Aviv celebrated its centenary on Sunday by giving President Peres an honorary teaching degree.
■ IT’S PAR for the course that visiting heads of state or government plant a tree in the Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest. Rosen Asenov Plevneliev, the president of Bulgaria, who arrived in Israel this week, was no exception. The Jewish National Fund hosted him and several ministers in his retinue at a tree-planting ceremony. His tree will join those of a long line of dignitaries, among them Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon; Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi; Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel; and former president of Germany Horst Köhler.
■ ENERGY AND innovation are the key characteristics of Rabbi Yisrael Goldberg, who is the spiritual leader of the Chabad Center of Rehavia. Goldberg is forever dreaming up new programs and projects to bring in more congregants – and he appears to be succeeding in this ambition.
Chabad in general believes in teaching through joy, and Goldberg even more so. This Saturday night, he is introducing a Kiddush Levana celebration with live music to thank the Almighty for creating the luminaries of the world – not just the moon, the sun and stars but also the people who have set inspiring examples.
Entry is free of charge, and all are welcome. The center is located in the windmill at 8 Ramban Street.
■ AMONG ITS many attributes, New Orleans is famous for its cuisine and wines. The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, which is relatively small and has reorganized itself following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, is in the process of trying to restore its numbers and its energies after half the community headed for parts elsewhere for fear of another destructive hurricane. The federation has always been strongly connected to Israel and has organized frequent missions to tour the country.
A “boutique mission” of 20 participants wound up a seven-day visit to Israel this week. It was different from that of other federation missions not only from New Orleans but from all over the US in that the federation’s executive director, Michael Weil, brought two New Orleans chefs to Israel to join in the mission’s gastronomic experience and thereby pick up new recipes and share some of their own recipes with Israeli counterparts.
Aside from what is considered to be a regular mission program in terms of sites visited and meetings with Israeli dignitaries, this mission was designed as a varied food culture experience. On Monday, the group spent the morning in Abu Ghosh and was engaged in an interactive cooking workshop at Luiza Catering’s kitchen with gourmet chefs Anat Lev Ari and Amit Cohen, where, together with the New Orleans chefs Sue Zemanick and Tory McPhail, they prepared lunch. That’s one way of giving Diaspora Jews a hands-on experience of the taste of Israel.
■ AMONG THE diplomatic traditions in Israel is that all new ambassadors, prior to presenting their credentials to the president of the state, congregate at the King David Hotel, from which each is taken in a Foreign Ministry limousine to the President’s Residence to present his or her letter of credence, along with the letter of recall of his or her predecessor.
After the last ambassador to present credentials is returned to the hotel, there is a lunchtime reception known as a Vin d’Honneur in which the new ambassadors are toasted by the more veteran of their colleagues who come to Jerusalem for the occasion.
Other guests include Foreign Ministry personnel with whom the new ambassadors will be most closely involved during their respective periods of tenure, two or three senior members of the President’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and sometimes other government ministries, heads of parliamentary friendship associations and heads of bilateral friendship associations and chambers of commerce.
Generally, between three and five new ambassadors participate in presentation ceremonies, but this time there were six, two of whom received special media attention. Atef Salem and Walid Khalid Obeidat, the ambassadors of Egypt and Jordan respectively, due to the sensitive nature of the relationships between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan, attracted wide local and foreign media coverage.
The other four ambassadors were Jean Baptiste Gomis, the ambassador of the Ivory Coast; Francesco Maria Talo, the ambassador of Italy; Simon Pullicino, the ambassador of Malta; and Armen Melkonian, the non-resident ambassador of Armenia, who is based in Cairo.
■ PHYSICAL DISABILITY is not a valid reason for excluding physically challenged people from mainstream social and recreational activities. The demand for inclusion is constantly increasing in Israel and North America. With the aim of providing this kind of accessibility to the disabled, Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities and an agency of the Orthodox Union, is bringing its programming to Israel with the opening of a chapter to be based in Jerusalem.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, NJCD national director, this measure has been taken as part of an expansion plan to meet the Jewish community’s ongoing demands for social and recreational inclusive programming, whether in North America or Israel. Yoel Sterman and Lisa Rich serve as the Israel chapter coordinators.
Both have worked in modern Orthodox camps in the US, where Yachad has social and recreational programming.
In this respect, they have extensive experience working for the inclusion of all Jews with disabilities.
Yachad/NJCD is a nonprofit agency dedicated to enhancing the opportunities of individuals with disabilities, promoting inclusion through various integrated activities and ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life.
“Having done extraordinary work in North America,” says Lichtman, “Yachad now brings its expertise and programming to Israel in order to promote inclusion here. We are grateful to be partnering with incredibly talented people in Israel and know that b’yahad, together, we will continue to enhance the lives of not only the members who will be served in this community but also the lives of all of the members of the Jewish community.”