Grapevine: O Canada

The Canadian Embassy celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary at Beit Hasmachot in south Tel Aviv this week.

Ayoub Kara with Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ayoub Kara with Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
More or less in tandem with Canada’s 150th anniversary, Canada’s most famous import from Israel, world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, was made a recipient of the National Order of Quebec.
His famous buildings in Quebec include Habitat 67 from l’Expo 67, La Musées de la civilisation de Québec and the Jean-Noel Pavillion of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Safdie was not yet 30 years old when his controversial, award-winning Habitat 67 came to international attention. He also designed the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and Vancouver Library Square.
Among his best-known projects in Israel are the Mamilla Mall, David’s Village, the David Citadel Hotel, and Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum. He also has major projects in other countries. Among his previous awards are Companion of the Order of Canada and the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
Getting in more than a week ahead of time, the Canadian Embassy this week celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary at Beit Hasmachot in south Tel Aviv. Canada Day is actually on July 1, but because July 1 is a Saturday, there had to be a certain degree of flexibility as to the date of the Canada party.
Several embassies have been flexible in celebrating the national days of their respective countries. The Russians also celebrated ahead of time, although they did have a concert in Jerusalem on the correct date, and the Americans will be celebrating on July 3 instead of July 4. Part of the reason is the upcoming historic visit to Israel of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is expected to arrive on July 4. As it is customary for both President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as government ministers, members of Knesset and chief rabbis to attend the American Independence Day celebrations, the date of the reception was linked to their availability.
National Day receptions are usually fairly formal – at least during the official ceremony of the singing of the anthems and speeches by the ambassador and a representative of the state or the government of Israel. But Canada’s Ambassador Deborah Lyons, who in another life might have been a great stand-up comedienne with loads of oomph, has a unique style of her own and, even when reading a speech, sounds as if she is engaged in a conversation.
Canadian patriotism was at its height, with nearly all the women from the embassy dressed in what some people might term tomato red, but it’s actually Canada red, to conform with the shade of red on the flag. The ambassador chose a dress in red lace. Some of the men sported red ties, and among the guests there were red shirts and tee shirts, and one exquisitely dressed woman wore elegant red culottes and a white sleeveless top. There was even a Canadian Mountie in the red serge dress uniform, with whom many guests wanted to be photographed.
According to a well-informed Canadian source, the Mountie is one of several Canadian officers who are part of Operation Proteus, and represent Canada’s contribution to the office of the United States security coordinator in Jerusalem. The Proteus Task Force provides training for the Palestinian Authority Forces and helps them to develop logistics capabilities. Task Force Jerusalem also works closely with other Canadian government personnel in the region to promote peace and to help develop the ability of the PA to provide a safe and secure environment for its citizens.
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara had been scheduled to represent the government but, due to a family emergency, was unable to do so. To his credit, however, he did not merely send a message of apology but, on the way home, came early to congratulate the ambassador and to explain why he couldn’t stay.
Instead, greetings were delivered by MK Anat Berko, who, together with Yoel Hasson, is co-chairwoman of the Israel-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Group. Berko thanked Canada for its support in public forums.
To make up for the absence of Israeli references to economic cooperation, which are usually part and parcel of national speeches, Yossi Daskal, a 25-year veteran of the IDF where he was one of the leading Intelligence officers, and who is currently president of the Israel-Canada Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Bombardier Israel, a branch of the Canadian company which is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of trains and planes, said the company has a wonderful transportation partnership with Israel Railways. Although the economic relationship between Canada and Israel is good, there is always room for improvement, and Daskal said that he would like to see bilateral economic relations on the same level as political relations.
Lyons, alternating between English and French, began her address on an informal note, saying: “Don’t you just love a party, especially because all the Canadian women bring out their red dresses?” She paid tribute to the six-member band known as Blue Moon, which is a group of 18-year-olds from the Thelma Yellin College, and said that some of their classmates will next week be playing at the Toronto Jazz Festival. Blue Moon’s repertoire naturally included a Leonard Cohen selection. Cohen, one of Canada’s most beloved and talented artists, died in Los Angeles last November.
A 150th anniversary, said Lyons, gives Canadians the opportunity to reflect on what they are and what they have accomplished.
Then, dropping her voice to a whisper, she apologized. “I’m sorry,” she repeated several times. Then, raising her voice again, declared: “But we really are awesome!” Canadians built a country that is one of the most innovative, most successful, most diverse and open in the world, she said.
“Canada is built on diversity and inclusion and is socially the most cohesive country in the world.” Its population of 36 million includes 200 ethno-cultural groups, and it has a gender-balanced government. Last year, Lyons said proudly, Canada accepted thousands of Syrian refugees.
Acknowledging that Canada is nonetheless not perfect, Lyons spoke of challenges to the “deep and abiding friendship” that Canada has with Israel, and said that she was most disturbed by the Canada-sponsored ice hockey club in Metulla that is used by people of all faiths in the north of the country. The Israeli ice hockey team was invited to play a tournament in Quebec – “and they beat us! Israelis beat Canadians at ice hockey! That’s destabilizing to world order. That’s a redline. Don’t tell the Russians or the Americans, because we beat them for fun.”
A sign of the warmth that Canada feels for Israel, regardless of the ice hockey, was the fact that Lyons joined in the singing of “Hatikva.”
In the raffle, at which the prizes were Canadian whisky and an illustrated book on Canada, two of the winners were Israeli soldiers. But everyone went home with a gift of a bottle of maple syrup and a small thermos flask in a red tote bag with a white maple leaf logo. The only jarring aspect was that the manufacturers label stated in English and French “Made in China.”
There's a flurry of excitement running through the Irani Corporation, which is one of Israel’s leading importers of international brand-name apparel and accessories. Founder and CEO Roni Irani is thrilled to be hosting Roberta Armani, who will next week visit Israel for the first time and will be feted at the launch of the Armani Exchange flagship store in the Gindi TLV Fashion Mall.
Armani is the director of public relations and roving ambassador for her uncle Giorgio, who started his famous fashion company in Milan more than 40 years ago. She travels the celebrity circuit all over the world and counts many Hollywood stars among her best friends, especially those who have been dressed by her uncle.
Among local fashion celebrities who will be on hand will be Shlomit Malka, Michael Lewis, Galit Gutman, Yael Goldman, Sandra Ringler, who is the fashion consultant to Sara Netanyahu, and several other wellknown personalities.
Veteran British rocker Rod Stewart, who was in Israel last week to prove that good entertainers, like wine, are better when they age, is known to be a keen football fan. He’s also a swimming enthusiast, at least as far as one of his sons is concerned, and is training him to be an Olympic swimmer.
He’s also an avid collector of toy trains and exact models of vintage trains.
So he was delighted when British expatriate Jeffrey Levi and his wife, Susie, who run an antique toys gallery in Tel Aviv, visited him in his hotel suite and brought him a model of a 1938 London North Eastern Liner class Mallard A4 locomotive. The two men spent half an hour talking about trains.