Remembering the right note

The 12th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition will be held at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium.

It's purely coincidental that the gala concert that will herald the opening of the 12th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition is scheduled for Saturday, March 8, which is also International Women's Day. Aside from being a piano virtuoso, the charismatic Rubinstein also had an eye for the ladies, and was always very pleased to meet an attractive woman who was also a gifted pianist. Music lovers who cannot afford the cost of a ticket, but who do have computers with internet access, can watch the whole contest broadcast live from the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv on the Arthur Rubinstein 12th Competition website. When the competition was initiated in 1974, Rubinstein was reluctant to give his name to it, but after assessing the musical caliber of the first contestants, he happily agreed to be immortalized. Rubinstein, who died in 1982 at the age of 95, had one of the longest musical careers in recorded history, performing publicly for almost 80 years. He was a staunch supporter of Israel, and of fellow Polish expatriate Menahem Begin, whom he visited at his official residence in Jerusalem after Begin became prime minister. In those days, security was not what it is today, and scores of Rubinstein's admirers along with Begin supporters crowded outside the front gate in the hope of exchanging a few words with the already frail Rubinstein as he emerged. Some even got to shake his hand. He was as gracious and charming as always. Thanks to modern technology, future generations will be able to listen to his playing, but unfortunately, with the exception of some of the older members of the Arthur Rubinstein Society, few of the people who will be attending the concerts and other events associated with the competition will be able to boast of any personal acquaintance with him. It is doubtful that Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele or Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who are scheduled to deliver greetings at the gala concert on March 8, ever met the ebullient classical musician for whom this magnificent competition is named. AUSTRALIAN GOVERNOR General, Major-General Michael Jeffrey, will be coming to Israel next month for the dedication of the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba, a two-fold project constructed by the Pratt Foundation. The park will commemorate the victorious charge of the 4 Brigade of the Australian Mounted Division against Turkish divisions, thereby paving the way for the liberation of Jerusalem. It will feature a monument by way of a large sculpture of the Australian Light Horse by Peter Corlett. Additionally, it will feature a landscaped recreational park for children with disabilities. It is entirely appropriate that Jeffrey should be Australia's key representative at this high-profile event which will be attended by numerous Israeli and Australian dignitaries, including President Shimon Peres. Jeffrey, the first sitting Australian Governor General to visit Israel, is a highly decorated military officer, who served operationally in Malaya, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam, and commanded all combat elements of the Army from platoon to division, including the elite Special Air Service Regiment. Among the other Australians attending will be Richard Henry Chauval, the grandson of General Sir Harry Chauval, who was the commanding officer of the Australian Light Horse, and Captain John Cox, the son of Staff Sergeant Jack Cox, the warrant officer who led the charge. MANY OBSERVANT Jewish men, who work outside their home towns or cities, do not have time to attend synagogue services in the morning, and say their prayers during the commute. Most would prefer to have a proper quorum. While this is not always possible on buses, it is now a daily occurrence on the train from Jerusalem via Beit Shemesh to Tel Aviv. There are three such quorums or minyanim, as they are known in Hebrew, at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. These services are attended by a total of some 150 men. What was missing, says lawyer David Schapiro, who lives in Beit Shemesh and works in Tel Aviv, was a Torah scroll. After consulting the Beit Shemesh Rabbinate, he was given permission to buy an easily portable Torah scroll, namely one that is only 15 cm high, which was put to use for the first time this week. Schapiro described it as "a historic occasion." THE REHOVOT campus of the Hebrew University is the beneficiary of a $15 million challenge grant pledged by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation to transform the school's Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences. The gift will be the cornerstone of the university's and American Friends of The Hebrew University's "Feeding the Future through Sustainable Agriculture" campaign. The overall reorganization and expansion plan, expected to cost around $51 million, will broaden and accelerate HU's cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in plant and animal sciences, biochemistry, nutrition and environmental studies. New buildings, state-of-the-art laboratories and greenhouses will foster collaborative work between four academic institutes addressing major challenges, among these: hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity and the impact of global warming. In recognition of the Smith Family Foundation's generosity, the Faculty will be renamed "The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences." Robert H. Smith of Washington, DC, a visionary philanthropist, is an exceptionally successful real estate developer who spearheaded the creation of Crystal City, Virginia, among other noted real estate projects. He and his family have been involved with Hebrew University and AFHU for decades. A former chairman and current honorary chairman of HU's International Board of Governors, he also served as president of the Washington, DC chapter of AFHU. In addition to being a driving force in plant sciences, Robert H. Smith and family have contributed to diverse HU initiatives such as the Charles E. Smith National Institute for Psychobiology and the Robert H. & Clarice Smith Center for Art History. HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR Andras Gyenge hosted a reception at his residence in Herzliya Pituah in honor of visiting Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom. Invitees included some of the more prominent members of the 150,000-member Hungarian community in Israel. Among them was a rabbi who was born in the small Hungarian town of Mako, who told Solyom that he believed in miracles. During World War II most of the Jews of Mako had been rounded up for deportation to a Nazi death camp. For some unknown reason, the train they were on mistakenly took them to Vienna, and then back to Mako. During the Communist era, they all left Hungary and settled in Israel. Solyom told the story of this miracle on the evening following the ambassador's reception, at a state dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres. In Hungary, said Solyom, there is a saying in relation to distance that it is as far as from Mako to Jerusalem. And now, he was standing in Jerusalem, the first Hungarian head of state to visit Israel in 16 years, and telling the story of the Jewish community of Mako that had been saved by a miracle.