He met Peres, too

Very few of the heads of state dining at the table of President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night had the privilege of meeting his immediate predecessor Shimon Peres.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and French President Emmanuel Macron share a warm embrace on Wednesday in Jerusalem (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and French President Emmanuel Macron share a warm embrace on Wednesday in Jerusalem
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Very few of the heads of state dining at the table of President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday night had the privilege of meeting his immediate predecessor Shimon Peres.
Among those who did meet with Israel’s ninth president was Australian Governor General David Hurley, who met him when Hurley served as commander in chief of the Australian Defense Forces.
While visiting the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Tuesday morning, Hurley told the late president’s son Chemi Peres of that meeting and expressed interest in the projects that are being undertaken by the center. Chemi Peres, who is chairman of center, presented Hurley with a copy of his father’s autobiography, No Room for Small Dreams.
Hurley also visited SOSA, the Australian launching pad for Australian and Israeli start-ups and venture capitalists who are helping to accelerate tech links between the two countries. He later met on Tuesday with Rivlin, who will be visiting Australia during the last week of February. In the evening Hurley met with Australian expatriates living in Israel, at a reception hosted at the King David Hotel by Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan.
Noting that Australia Day is on January 26, Hurley said that he was pleased during that week to be meeting with Australians in Jerusalem. He also hailed the contribution which Jews have made to Australia since arriving on the First Fleet on January 26, 1788, and singled out Holocaust survivor and prominent businessman and philanthropist Sir Frank Lowy, whom he said had told him that he was retired, but Hurley found him to be full of energy.
Lowy, 89, who was described by Cannan as an Ozraeli, said that although he was born in neither Australia nor Israel, he was proud to be a citizen of both because both value human rights, love democracy and both have a fighting spirit and good people.
Cannan announced a fundraising bush-fire relief event that will be held at Hangar 11 on the Port of Tel Aviv on Monday, February 3, cosponsored by the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Jewish National Fund of Australia together with KKL-JNF, Tel Aviv University and the Israel Australia New Zealand and Oceania Chamber of Commerce.
Coincidentally, Zeev Isaac, who owns Hangar 11, is also Australian said that it would be a privilege to help. Among Australian expats attending the reception at the King David were David Star, Paul Israel, Gary Stock, Arsen Ostrovsky, Danny Hakim, Manny Waks, Lisa Segelov, Harvey Belik, Nathan Cherny, Zvi Ehrenberg, Rodney Sanders, and Greg Maisel, who individually and collectively have brought their professional expertise to tourism, merchandising, diplomacy, law, medicine, martial arts, banking, entrepreneurship, journalism, multi-task organization, community outreach and more to Israel.
On Sunday, January 26, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, as it does with all embassies within its purview, will light up City Hall with the Australian flag in honor of both Australia Day and 71 years of diplomatic relations.
Australian expats who want to spend Passover with family and friends in Oz should be aware that El Al’s inaugural direct flight from Tel Aviv to Melbourne is scheduled for the first week in April.
■ ALTHOUGH THE historic dinner hosted by President Rivlin at the President’s Residence on Wednesday appeared to come off without a hitch, arrangements were still being made and altered till the last minute, and did not run exactly according to schedule.
First to enter the reception tent was the jovial President of Romania Klaus Iohannis, who sat down and was soon joined for a chat by other presidents who waited for Rivlin to conclude a meeting with the President of the Council of Europe Charles Michel.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz was also waiting but initially spent more time on his cellphone than talking to VIPs.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz stood to the side until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered and began circling the room and pumping flesh. He’s a practiced hand at that and everyone began crowding around him.
Gantz took note and began doing the handshake route as well.
Journalists who had pushed beyond the barrier to get closer to the Israeli politicians were pushed back by presidential staff and security. Netanyahu noticed and gradually moved in their direction so that some of his conversations with individual heads of state could be heard.
Rivlin did not emerge, although according to a press release from his office, he was supposed to receive the guests at 6:30 p.m., after which they would be invited to enter the main hall at 7:15. But it was not until 7:20 p.m. when the first loudspeaker announcement was heard urging guests to move toward the main hall. Like ordinary people anywhere else, they took their time without pomp and ceremony.
Before that everyone who thought Rivlin would come to the reception was talking to everyone else and posing for selfies.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein moved around with a strained expression on his face.
Netanyahu eventually sat down with a group of presidents who were obviously delighted.
French President Emmanuel Macron was the last to arrive, and Rivlin stood at the entrance of the reception tent to meet and embrace him after everyone else was already inside the main hall and seated.
■ THE SPEECHES on antisemitism and hatred born of ignorance that were delivered at the dinner by Rivlin and King Felipe of Spain were well received, but anyone inside the hall could not help but notice that everyone present was transfixed by the compelling eloquence of eminent historian Professor Yehuda Bauer, who is the academic adviser to Yad Vashem. Bauer, who has an acute sense of drama in both his body language and the rising and falling cadences of his voice, briefly reviewed the history of Europe that led to the Second World War, comparing Germany’s fears for its existence, to similar attitudes today.
Germany sought a victory over the Bolsheviks, but central to all that was the annihilation of the Jews, based on a mythological belief that Jews were a cabal that controlled the world. “Antisemitism is a cancer that destroyed your nation, your society, and your country,” Bauer told his audience, emphasizing that not only Jews had been the victims of that war, but 29 million non-Jews. “The fight against antisemitism is not to protect Jews, but to protect your society from a deadly cancer,” he declared. “Don’t you think 29 million losses is enough?”
■ PRIZEWINNING VETERAN Jerusalem chef Shalom Kadosh, who serves as executive chef for the Fattal chain of hotels, was in charge of catering the dinner, and after it was over and all the international who’s who returned to the reception tent for group photographs, Rivlin called on Kadosh to join them. Several of the guests congratulated him, and Kadosh, who for more than 30 years has catered for royalty, heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers, was pleased to be living up to his reputation.
He is somewhat of an anomaly in the hospitality industry in which people seldom stay in the one place for more than five years. The Leonardo Plaza Hotel in which he works has gone through several owners, hotel management companies and name changes, but Kadosh remains as an iconic fixture.
■ AROUND THE corner from the Leonardo Plaza is the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, whose general manager Avner On and executive chef Itzik Barak put their heads together over menus for guests attending the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Hungarian President János Áder and Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš came with their delegations. Among the menu items were Hungarian goulash soup, Greek Cypriot classic moussaka and the Czech Republic’s national dessert ovocné knedlíky – fruit-filled dumplings.
It’s a strange thing among Israeli chefs; instead of putting together a Middle Eastern menu for visiting dignitaries from abroad, they want to prove that they too know how to prepare the visitor’s national cuisine. Whatever happened to catering to the adventurous palate?
■ MANY WORLD leaders come to Israel for private reasons and not just for state or working visits. Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, for instance, brings his whole family on vacation approximately every 18 months and only his friends, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his representatives in Israel are aware of his presence.
■ GERMAN PRESIDENT Frank-Walter Steinmeier, before attending the dinner, made a point of meeting with Holocaust survivors, some of whom bore Auschwitz numbers tattooed on their arms. It wasn’t just a cursory meeting. At the Amcha Therapy Center in Jerusalem, Steinmeier sat down alongside several individuals and talked to each of them about their experiences. Giselle Cykowicz, 92, who entered Auschwitz when she was 18, told him she was forced each morning to walk barefoot through the snow to the Auschwitz labor camp. Her feet remain cold to this day. After the war, she said, people didn’t know where to go, and for her and many others the only logical destination was the Promised Land. She did not speak of her experiences until she reached pension age, she said, and then she shared her memories with whoever wanted to know.
Elias Feinsilber told Steinmeier that his revenge on Hitler is in his progeny of 21 great grandchildren.
Steinmeier will be seeing Rivlin again next week in Poland with some of the leaders who were in Israel this week. After that he and Rivlin will go to Berlin where Rivlin will address the Bundestag.
Steinmeier will be back in Israel in April for Independence Day, and will combine that with a state visit by staying on for an extra day after the festivities.
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