Grapevine: Cause for celebration

President Shimon Peres joins in Ariel's 30th anniversary festivities; a musical by former president Yitzhak Navon is to be performed in Sacher Park; and Greek singer Glykeria electrifies a benefit for the Make a Wish Israel Foundation.

greer fay cashman (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
greer fay cashman
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
THE CITY of Ariel in the heart of the West Bank is celebrating its 30th anniversary tonight and the guest of honor at the festivities is President Shimon Peres. The fact that Peres accepted the invitation to Ariel is a source of enormous pleasure to Mayor Ron Nachman, a third-generation sabra who in 1973 was one of the pioneers of what was then a settlement outpost on a barren hilltop. In 1977, there were 40 families living in the most primitive of conditions. In 1978, the Israeli government gave the settlement development-town status and then defense minister Ezer Weizman attended the ground-breaking ceremony. In 1979, Nachman was elected chairman of the town council and in 1985 became the first elected mayor. For three decades, then, he has been at the helm of what is now a thriving community of close to 20,000 people, with its own university. Peres is not the first president to visit Ariel. When Moshe Katsav visited three years ago, Ariel's future seemed to be uncertain and there were fears of evacuation. But Katsav urged Nachman and others to be optimistic because because neither the "road map" peace plan nor the disengagement plan from Gaza related to Ariel. Nachman has always been assertive about the future of Ariel, but Katsav had a been a Likud Knesset colleague, and so his words of reassurance did not mean nearly as much as the presence of Peres, which Nachman sees as an expression of consensus over the future existence of Ariel. Nonetheless, there will be a jarring note to the festivities, because Peace Now has received police permission to demonstrate in Ariel against Peres's participation in the event. IT'S BEEN another interesting week for Peres, who received an Honorary Fellowship from the Israel Museum in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bar Ilan University. Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, came to Beit Hanassi for the Honorary Fellowship ceremony, and stood at the back because nearly all the seats were occupied. It was only when a senior Beit Hanassi staff member noticed his presence that he was ushered to the front of the hall, where a seat was quickly found for him. Tomorrow, it will be Peres's turn to honor Navon, when he presents him with the United Jerusalem Award prior to the performance in Sacher Park, Jerusalem of the musical, Bustan Sepharadi (Sephardi Garden), which Navon wrote 40 years ago - an apt finale for Jerusalem Day celebrations. Both Peres and Navon were disciples of David Ben-Gurion, and their relationship is older than the state. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Navon's election to the presidency. THIS YEAR is also the Ethiopian Millennium Year, in addition to being the 17th anniversary year of Ethiopia's independence. Ethiopia's Ambassador to Israel Fesseha Asghedom Tessema, at a reception that he hosted at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv with the participation of Health Minister Ya'acov Ben Yizry and in the presence of Ethiopia's minister for trade and industry, said that Ethiopia has made great strides towards democracy, education and human rights. More than 100,000 people are studying in Ethiopia at the tertiary level, he said, adding that "education is no longer a privilege but a right." There have also been advances in medicine and in the development of infrastructure for technology. Both Tessema and Ben Yizri referred to the historic relationship between Israel and Ethiopia, dating back to the visit by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. They also wished each other peace and prosperity in their respective regions. BEWARE OF Greeks bearing gifts, runs the old adage that stems from the period of the Trojan horse. But there was nothing to beware of at the residence of Greek Ambassador Nicholas Zafiropoulos and his wife, Lynne, who opened their home to the Make a Wish Israel Foundation, which makes dreams come true and adds magic to the lives of children with life-threatening illnesses. The gift was popular Greek singer Glykeria, who came especially to the fundraising event and gave her services gratis. Introduced by well-known broadcaster and Grecophile Shimon Parnas, Glykeria instantly electrified the huge audience. On the tables were sheets of wishes expressed by youngsters ranging in ages from 3 to 16. Some of these wishes have already been fulfilled. Some of the wishes were simple and relatively inexpensive. Others were a little more adventurous and required amounts of up to NIS 30,000. Denise Bar Aharon, who together with her husband, Avi, co-founded the Israel branch of the foundation 10 years ago, announced that in the decade that has passed, the organization has been able to grant a thousand wishes, and that in some cases the anticipation of having a wish come true had helped a child to recover. In cases where it didn't, the child was at least able to realize a dream and know a magic moment. Bar Aharon also involved a group of 15 high school students from the American International School in the project to introduce them to philanthropy, and they took their mission very seriously. Glykeria, singing in Greek and Hebrew, had the audience clapping enthusiastically to the melodies, and a large number of people, including Lynne Zafiropoulos and Inara Eihenbauma, the wife of the Latvian ambassador, got up to dance. When Glykeria paused momentarily to breathe, Parnas told her that not only children have wishes. Adults have them too, and that Tzadik Raphael, formerly of Saloniki, was willing to pay $500 for the privilege of singing a duet with her. "Only $500?" queried Glykeria. "Let's do it for $1,000." Raphael happily agreed, and actually sang several duets with her, his face radiating with joy. Parnas tried to bring the event to an end several times during the evening, but Glykeria kept singing, and more and more people got up to dance. Some of the women doing Greek dancing in stiletto-heeled shoes were amazing. But the best part of all was that another dozen wishes can now be granted, and each of the young beneficiaries will know a magic moment. MEMBERS OF the entertainment industry are frequently asked to perform gratis for one cause or another, and while most of them oblige, they do set limits, because if they didn't, they wouldn't be making any money. Some are so inundated by requests that all they want to do is go and hide. However, when it came to the 90th birthday party of international personality Esther Lucas organized by her son, Yonny Lucas, Herzliya Mayor Yael German and the Herzliya municipality, there was even a complaint from actress Aviva Marks that she had been excluded from the entertainment lineup. Marks was doubly hurt because she is both a friend of the family and like Lucas, came to Israel from England. But Yonny Lucas has a long list of entertainers with whom he has worked for more than 20 years. A drama instructor, speech trainer and actor, he spent 15 years as the IDF's cultural liaison officer for foreign forces stationed in or visiting Israel. Considering that almost every embassy has a military attaché, and that some have several military representatives, he spent a lot of time working out entertainment programs for them and for any military visitors from their respective countries. His close relationship with so many entertainers, especially the Israelis whom he taught to pronounce English and the Russians whom he taught to pronounce Hebrew, made it easy for him to ask them to perform for his mother's birthday. In most cases, they performed one, at the most two pieces. But stand-up comedienne Hannah Laszlo did a whole act and had the audience roaring with laughter. Moreover, her routine included so broad a range of her talent that it was impossible not to enjoy. Guitarist Baldi Olier was also generous with his talent, as was flamenco dancer Ornili Azulay. It was an extraordinary variety show, with performances in English, Hebrew, Russian, French and mime in addition to dance and instrumental recitals. Yonny Lucas, who was a superb emcee, effortlessly juggling Hebrew and English so that everyone who filled the auditorium of the Herzliya Center for Performing Arts would understand, kept telling the audience that if they wanted to see these performers again they would have to pay. German was a little late in arriving, having a celebration of her own at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya where she received her MBA diploma. But when she did arrive, she spoke with great respect and affection about Esther Lucas's multi-faceted and continuing career as an English teacher, as well as being the founder of the Scouts and Guides in Herzliya, and of the many projects that she had initiated. Conceived in Russia in 1918, Esther Lucas was born in Finland where she spent the first two years of her life before her family moved on to England. It was an affluent, highly cultured, strongly Zionist household in which the languages spoken were Hebrew, French, Russian and English. Chaim Weizmann, Moshe Shertok and other well-known Zionist leaders were frequent guests in her parents' Hampstead home. As a child and an adolescent, she traveled frequently to Europe. When it was time to go to university, she went to Oxford, where she read French and German. After graduation, she worked in the press library of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and was seconded in 1945 by the Foreign Office to work in the United Nations Preparatory Commission. She was present at the first meetings of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. She was subsequently sent to Paris for the founding of the World Health Organization. Tempting as all this was, she had already met Eric Lucas, the man who was to be her husband for half a century. He had escaped from Germany just in time and had gone to Palestine. In 1946, she followed, settled with him on Kibbutz Kfar Blum and immediately joined the Hagana. She later worked in the political department of the Jewish Agency. In 1950, Eric and Esther Lucas left the kibbutz and settled in Herzliya Pituah were their sons Yonny (Jonathan) and Samuel were born. Over the years, in addition to teaching English and working in different capacities with youth, she has been active in UNESCO and UNICEF and in the diplomatic community. Hers is a familiar face at diplomatic events and she attends most functions organized by the International Women's Club and leads their folk-dancing group. At the reception following the variety show on the night of her party, she could have easily opened a florist, given the huge number of floral tributes that she received. Instead, she perched on a stool and autographed copies of her memoirs, which had been published to coincide with the birthday party. Several of her relatives came from England to celebrate with her, and other relatives and friends came from all over the country. Yonny Lucas is now in the process of planning a bigger and better event for his mother's 100th birthday - and this time he won't overlook Aviva Marks! MEMBERS OF the International Council of the Israel Museum were given a new treat on Saturday night when they sat sandwiched between the Shrine of the Book and the Second Temple Model to listen to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra String Quartet comprising Ilia Konovalov (first violin), Shmuel Glaser (second violin) Roman Spitzer (viola), and Felix Nemirovsky (cello). The Quartet, founded in 2006, was endowed by the Richter family, whose members were present to hear the Beethoven program, as were Rivka Sacker and Uzi Zucker of Sotheby's, sponsors of the evening recital. The musicians had a hard time combatting the wind. Even though a special screen had been constructed for them, with microphones alongside each instrument, there was nobody to hold down the sheet music, which threatened to fly away and which they had to keep pegging down. What was equally disconcerting was that one of the open air concerts in another part of the city was so loud that every time the String Quartet momentarily paused between movements, the singing from the other concert was clearly audible. It was the first time that the IPO String Quartet had played on the museum campus. Museum director James Snyder was so enamored with the whole concept of the music being played against the backdrop of such an ancient setting in which the present blends with the past that he said he looked forward to doing it again. ITALIAN AMBASSADOR Sandro de Bernardin, who together with his wife, Anna, hosted a magnificent garden party in celebration of Italy's national day, congratulated Israel on its 60th anniversary and noted that this year is also the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Italy and Israel. To illustrate that point was a huge photo exhibition in the garden showing Israeli and Italian leaders in each other's company. But the links between the two countries go back further than that as one of the photographs taken in 1937 testified. It was a group photograph showing Bronislaw Huberman, the founder of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and Artutoro Toscananini, who conducted its first concert. Another photograph taken in 1944 in Florence showed a soldier from the Jewish Brigade with Jewish refugee children, most of whom were war orphans. On a lighter note, there was also a photograph of then Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek riding on an Italian Vespa motorcycle along Jaffa Road in 1983. There was also a photograph of the not-yet-famous writer David Grossman taken in Venice in 1972 and one of Sophia Loren, arriving at Lod Airport in 1964 to begin filming Judith. Photographs of Israeli leaders with their Italian counterparts ranged from Ben-Gurion to Ehud Olmert and from Chaim Weizmann to Shimon Peres, who was the most frequently featured of Israeli leaders. But there's also one of him with a fellow Israeli - a wonderful photograph taken with Ezer Weizman in 1985 as they stood beneath the Arch of Titus. ISRAELI MEMBERS of the International Women's Club decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the state by hosting a luncheon for the non-Israeli women at the charming Herzliya Pituah home of Adina Gottesman, the former honorary consul for Nepal. As a rule, everyone pays for lunch or for dinner or whatever the IWC occasion may be, but this time, only the Israelis paid. Because Gottesman has a built-in stage in her garden, her home is always an ideal venue, enabling the entertainers to stand taller than the audience. Emcee Ann Kleinberg thanked all the women from countries that had voted for the partition of Palestine in November, 1947, as well as those from countries which had since changed their minds and entered into diplomatic relations with Israel. One of Kleinberg's claims to fame is that she writes cook books and articles about pomegranates, in which capacity she has dispelled the myth that there are 613 seeds in the pomegranate to equal the 613 precepts and commandments of Jewish Law. She should know. She took the trouble to count the pips in several pomegranates, and says that the number depends on the size of the fruit. IT MAY be an age thing, given the fact that the majority of the guests were in their late seventies, eighties and nineties, but the dinner party hosted at the Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza by New York philanthropists Stanley and Donna Batkin, who come twice a year to Israel to get together with their Israeli friends and to check out their museum, art and music projects, was devoid of Israel's worst social curse - the cellphone. Not a single cellphone was in evidence, and during the performance by two students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, no one's concealed phone rang rudely. Among the guests was Israel's most consistent party goer, Esther Rubin. Now in her mid-nineties, Rubin was at a concert and reception the previous night at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv, and there were no blanks in her social calendar for the rest of the week. THE WIVES of a series of Nigerian ambassadors have been admired for their extraordinary beauty - and brains. Janet Olisa, the wife of the current Nigerian ambassador, is studying for her MBA at the IDC Herzliya. Not only is she beautiful and brainy, but she's also royalty - at least by marriage. She let it drop casually in conversation that her husband is a royal prince. But she's not destined to be a future queen, because her husband has an older brother. AN ANTHOLOGY of 38 articles about former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, which was assembled by his son, Yair Shamir, and edited by his former aide, Yossi Ahimeir, was supposed to have been launched at the Prime Minister's residence recently. The event was suddenly called off without explanation. But anyone who wants to see the book can do so at the launch of another book on the 75th anniversary of the assassination of Arlozorov by Menachem Sarid. The launch will take place at the Jabotinsky Museum in Tel Aviv on June 23.