Grapevine: Circassian dancers and olive harvests

1) AMONG THE elementary and high-school students who came to Beit Hanassi this week to launch the 13th annual Olive Branch Festival, were a group of Circassian dancers from Galilee who completely entranced President Shimon Peres with their graceful and synchronized dancing, all on tip-toe. Peres, who used to harvest olives when he lived on a kibbutz, joined the youngsters in harvesting olives from the trees on Beit Hanassi grounds. 2) COMMEMORATION CEREMONIES for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin continue during the coming week in which the Gregorian date of his assassination will be marked. Of all the people scheduled to participate in a November 4 commemoration, one wouldn't expect to see Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who would surely observe the Jewish calendar date. However the commemorative event at the Gerard Behar Center has been dovetailed into one of the 40th anniversary events marking the reunification of the city, and it fits well, because Rabin was at that time chief of General Staff, not to mention the fact that he was born in Jerusalem. The keynote speaker will be General (Res.) Ori Orr, and most of the evening will be taken up with community singing. 3) READERS OF Shavua Index, one of the free Jerusalem weekly tabloids published primarily for the religious community, must have been somewhat nonplussed last week to see two conflicting advertisements, each bearing the logo of the Badatz kosher committee and each referring to the Marvad Haksamim restaurants. The smaller advertisement, taking up a quarter of a page, warned that severe kashrut problems had been detected in all three Marvad Haksamim restaurants, and urged the pubic to beware. The second advertisement, spread over a full page, not only had the Badatz logo, but a printed assurance that it was kosher lemehadrin, under Badatz supervision with an attendant kashrut supervisor. 4) REUTH, THE women's social service organization that caters to the needs of senior citizens, the impoverished and victims of terror, is celebrating its 70th anniversary on November 20, and is hoping that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will be able to join in the festivities at Airport City in Tel Aviv. REUTH maintains a number of residential facilities for senior citizens in different parts of the country. These include Beit Barth in Jerusalem, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with the participation of Mayor Uri Lupolianski, retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, Beit Barth executive director Eliezer Jesselson and director Mati Shteinmetz, REUTH executive director Miriam Frankel and of course the residents and their families. 5) THERE WERE mutual compliments when British entrepreneur David Lewis, the owner of the Isrotel hotel chain, hosted President Shimon Peres at a gala dinner at the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat last weekend. Lewis recalled his first meeting with Peres when the latter was defense minister and Lewis and his family had donated a rehabilitation wing for injured and invalid soldiers to Tel Hashomer Hospital. He also recalled Peres's inspiring and extremely well-received address to the British Parliament when Peres served as foreign minister. Peres for his part, had much to say about the sterling contributions that Lewis has made to the development of Eilat in more than two decades. 6) IT'S AMAZING what one learns when surfing the Internet. A search for a certain detail about former government minister and chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak brought to light that he is listed as a public speaker with Grabow of Beverly Hills. There's nothing wrong with that - dozens of Israelis in many walks of life are listed with American speakers' bureaus and pick up a pretty penny on the US lecture circuit. That's how Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak could afford to go back into politics. But what was intriguing about Lipkin-Shahak was a part of the blurb that went with his listing: How to book Amnon Lipkin-Shahak for your next Christmas Party Event. 7) BEING A diplomat or a diplomatic spouse in Israel is the most wonderful adventure because nearly every organization and institution is willing to roll out the red carpet for groups of diplomats, individual diplomats and spouses of diplomats. In the two or more years that diplomats spend in Israel they get to see more things and meet more people than the average Israeli does in a lifetime. They tour whatever part of the country they fancy, and those who are religious often travel to Jerusalem for services. They're also invited to academic, medical and cultural institutions, gala concerts and dinners, and sporting events and political briefings - just name it, they're there. Among the groups that are part of the diplomatic or international community is the Diplomatic Spouses Club, currently headed by Inara Eihenbauma, the wife of the Latvian ambassador. Eihenbauma, who is very involved in almost everything that goes on around her, led a group of diplomatic spouses on their first tour of the Schneider Medical Center in Petah Tikva to give them an understanding of how much love and care goes into the treatment of sick children - not only Israeli children, but any child from the region who is brought there. In addition to meeting at outings and various diplomatic events, diplomat spouses have in-house groups for folk dancing, quilting, book reviews and more. It's like being a multi-national extended family. In addition, as groups and individuals they support several Israeli and Palestinian charities. 8) IF YOU were hoping to see and hear Shiri Maimon in the second series of Bad Girls, you're going to be disappointed. It's not that those responsible for the series didn't want the diminutive, blonde-haired songstress to come back the second time around. It was simply that Maimon is just too busy these days to take up all the offers that come her way, because among other things, she's working on a new album that is due to be released soon. 9) THE HEBREW press made much of the fact that Matthew Bronfman, who has several major investments in Israel, had come here to participate in the celebration of one of his business partners. What most of the Hebrew reports overlooked is that Bronfman is also the chairman of the World Jewish Congress, in which capacity he also attended the opening in Tel Aviv of the Third Global KolDor Conference that took place last week with the participation of some 100 "next generation" Jewish activists from 17 countries. 10) THE FACT that he's retired from politics, does not necessarily mean that former government minister and Meretz leader Yossi Sarid does not engage in political debates. One that's coming up is on November 8, when he will join several Israelis and Palestinians at the Netanya Academic College to discuss joint Israeli-Palestinian civil initiatives. 11) ONE OF the slogans of Interflora, the international florists cooperative, is "Say it with Flowers." In Israel, flower growers and other farmers have given a whole new meaning to the slogan by taking in 160 Darfur refugees and supplying them with work and accommodation. Ya'acov Ganot, the head of the Population Administration, applied to the Israel Farmers Association, and got a positive response. Haim Hadar, the secretary of the Flower Growers Association who is also the employment coordinator in the Farmers Association, said that as always, the farmers were for first to take up a national mission. Even though the refugees have no background in farming, they will be trained to do various jobs on the farms, including flower picking and sorting. The refugees have been taken in by the farmers for an unspecified time period. 12) HISTORY MAY very well be rewritten by Dr Arie Morgenstern, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, whose book "Hastening Redemption' which was published last year by Oxford University Press, has pulled the historic carpet from under the feet of the pioneers of the First Aliya. Contrary to popular belief, Morgenstern's research indicates that the first large waves of immigration to Israel did not begin in 1881 as is commonly believed, nor were they motivated by pre-Herzlian Zionist aspirations or fear of pogroms. According to what he has discovered and set down in his book, the first waves of immigrants were devout disciples of Rabbi Elijah Ben Solomon Zalman the Gaon of Vilna. They came early in the 19th century because they believed that 1840 was the year of Messianic Redemption, and if so they wanted to be in Jerusalem when he arrived. Their enthusiasm, though premature, earned them an important place in history, even though most people are unaware or choose to ignore the fact that they were here several years ahead of the First Aliya.