Grapevine: All roads lead to Jerusalem

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

FROM LEFT: Prof. Federico Cinquepalmi, director of the international affairs office for university at Italy’s Ministry of University and Education, Italian Ambassador Gianluigi Benedetti and HIT president Prof. Eduard Yakubov (photo credit: TAL KIRSHENBAUM)
FROM LEFT: Prof. Federico Cinquepalmi, director of the international affairs office for university at Italy’s Ministry of University and Education, Italian Ambassador Gianluigi Benedetti and HIT president Prof. Eduard Yakubov
(photo credit: TAL KIRSHENBAUM)
Next week all roads will lead to Jerusalem. Aside from the World Holocaust Forum, which is bringing so many dignitaries to Israel’s capital, Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi will host an evening of Japanese culture at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Yemin Moshe, on Monday. On the same day, WIZO is kicking off its centenary celebrations with a gala festive opening on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, with participants from all countries in which WIZO has branches.
Also on the same day, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion will inaugurate the 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem Marathon at an invitation-only event at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria hotel. This is also the date of the opening of an exhibition with the focus on Yemen at the Bible Lands Museum. This exhibition has special meaning for museum co-founder Batya Borowski, who is of Yemenite descent.
■ TIMING IS everything. Given that a large number of foreign journalists will be coming to Jerusalem to report on the forum and the dinner hosted by President Reuven Rivlin for heads of state, Lion, together with Noam Katz, deputy director-general for public diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, and Ilanit Melchior, director of tourism at the Jerusalem Development Authority, have invited journalists to cocktails and an oriental dinner plus a DJ afterward at Zedekiah’s Cave, which is actually a limestone quarry that runs beneath the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The time is 6 p.m., when many of the journalists will be stationed at the President’s Residence to report on the dinner, or will be glued to television sets to see the live broadcast.
Moreover, because so many Jerusalem streets will be sealed off, shuttles will be leaving from the First Station to transport journalists to the cave. But journalists will have to walk from their respective hotels to the First Station, and once they get there, they have to find the parking lot.
Apropos parking, residents living in areas close to hotels where heads of state will be staying, or close to the President’s Residence or Yad Vashem, will have to find alternatives for their cars, because there are several streets that will not only be closed to traffic, but also to on-street parking.
This week police posted notices in apartment buildings informing residents that from 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22, till 11 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, there will be no parking permitted on Smolenskin or Balfour streets, Wingate Circle, Gaza Road, Brenner Street and Bartenura Street. Vehicles parked in any of these streets will be broken into by members of the police bomb squad, and the vehicles will be towed away. Vehicle owners will have to pay the costs involved.
Russian immigrants from many parts of the country will come to participate in the inauguration of the monument commemorating the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, and some of the heads of state coming to Jerusalem will participate in receptions with resident expatriates from their countries. Due to traffic restrictions in the capital next week, many out-of-town invitees to events in Jerusalem will have to come ahead of time, but will have considerable trouble in finding overnight accommodation.
■ AS FOR events connected with the World Holocaust Forum, some people might wonder whether there has been a change of heart or a change of tune. Entertainment at the dinner that Rivlin will host next Wednesday for visiting heads of state and senior members of their delegations will include David D’Or and Miri Mesika as well as controversial singer-songwriter Amir Benayoun, who was previously banned by Rivlin due to the vile racist connotations in Benayoun’s song “Ahmed Loves Israel.” Benayoun had been scheduled to appear at an event dedicated to Jews expelled from Iran and Arab lands, but hearing the song, Rivlin, who has made reconciliation between the different sectors of the population the flagship of his presidency, would not permit a performance by Benayoun at the President’s Residence.
Benayoun didn’t stop at Ahmed, he also insulted then-US president Barack Obama in another song he wrote. Seemingly oblivious to Benayoun’s proclivity for pushing the wrong buttons, Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, subsequently invited Benayoun to sing at the Israel Mission in the UN building in New York on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. But Benayoun missed out on taking a bite of the Big Apple, because America refused to give him a visa.
No one denies that Benayoun has an incredible, haunting voice, and that he is one of the great musical talents of Israel, but he also has an unfortunate history that doesn’t jive well with a conference that focuses on condemning all forms of racism.
■ VERA WEIZMAN, who was one of the founders of WIZO and who was married to Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, was well acquainted with the difficulties behind the reestablishment of a Jewish state for the Jewish people. She revealed some of those difficulties in her book of memoirs, The Impossible takes Longer. But the secret of the impossible becoming the possible is perseverance and belief in what you are doing.
This is the essence of the success story behind some of the amazing accomplishments of members of Israel’s Ethiopian community, who, with the help of ESRA, the English-Speaking Residents Association, have risen to heights that they themselves never dreamed possible.
Immigration and absorption authorities unfortunately did not pay sufficient attention to integration. Although there were significant numbers of highly educated people among the Ethiopian immigrants, the majority came from villages lacking in educational opportunities.
Thirteen years ago, ESRA, whose acronym means “help” in Hebrew, decided to step in where the government had failed, and established a flagship project titled “Students Build a Community.”
Carefully chosen university students were offered free accommodation in severely deprived areas in exchange for mentoring four elementary school youngsters on their block. The students were and are role models, proving that if you work hard enough at your goals, you can reach them, providing you accept the fact that the impossible takes longer. Because they live on the job, the students are each easily accessible to their charges, over and above the mentoring hours, to chat and for encouragement.
Given some of the discriminatory practices to which Ethiopian Jewish youth are subjected, it is of extreme importance for them to have role models who act as big brothers and sisters, and to whom they can come with their problems and their fears.
ESRA’s annual fund-raiser for this project will be held on Sunday, January 19, at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center, with singer-guitarist Danny Sanderson and his band as the star attractions.
In addition to popular Israeli songs, the audience will also hear from one of the university students, Tarkin Adago, who was born in Ethiopia and who will share his story.
Adago was six years old when he arrived in Israel with his parents and siblings. They had left their small farming village, where his father had toiled his piece of land, to journey to Addis Ababa in the hope of realizing their dream of coming to Israel. They had to wait there for two long years before their dream became a reality.
Adago recently completed a three-year course in sports education at Wingate College. He was a member of the Israeli national athletics team that participated in the European Games, where he won first place in athletics. He is therefore an excellent role model for the youngsters he mentors.
■ EDUCATORS, DIPLOMATS, students and fund-raisers mingled at the celebration of the Holon Institute of Technology, which, like several other institutes of higher learning in Israel, also has students from abroad.
Among those joining in the festivities were Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chairwoman of the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budget committee; Holon Mayor Moti Sasson; HIT president Prof. Eduard Yakubov; executive committee chairman Prof. Adir Pridor; and HIT chairman of the board Pinchas (Pini) Cohen.
HIT opened its doors on November 3, 1969, with the goal of training much-needed engineers. The institute embarked on its academic path by training approximately 100 students in three different engineering programs. Fifty years later, there is an increasing need not only for engineers but also for computer scientists, designers, technology managers and instructional technologists.
Today, HIT boasts 19 academic programs, in cooperation with more than 90 academic institutions in 32 countries; more than 15,000 graduates; and 4,500 full-time students.