IF VARIETY is the spice of life, The World Federation of Moroccan Jews is certainly doing its bit to add to the variety. It keeps changing the venue for its central Mimouna event in Jerusalem. A couple of years back, it was the David Citadel Hotel. Then last year it was the Jerusalem Great Synagogue. This year it was the View Banquet facilities in Talpiot, where Mayor Nir Barkat was persuaded to don a djellaba and a tarboosh and to join in the dancing. Several Moroccans on the presidium donned similar outfits, which they shed after a few minutes, but Barkat kept his on for most of the evening. One of the joys of not having the affair at a hotel was that guests would not be denied the moufletas, which are integral to the Mimouna celebration. Hotels keep Pessah for an extra day to accommodate the religious requirements of guests from abroad. But here, volunteers carrying trays of moufletas kept moving among the tables and made sure that President Shimon Peres got a moufleta or two before he set out for Sderot.
SUCH TERRIBLE things have been heard about the infamous medical experiments carried out in Auschwitz by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, who was obsessed about using twins as his guinea pigs, that it does the heart good to find twins who have managed to emerge from the Holocaust intact. Lia Huber and Iudit Barnea were among the beacon lighters at the opening of this year's Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at Yad Vashem. Born in Transylvania in 1937, the identical twins were liberated by the Red Army in January 1945 and came to Israel in 1960. Both their parents survived, and the whole family came on aliya. The two sisters married and between them have five children and 12 grandchildren. They made a strong impression on President Shimon Peres who, after the ceremony, made a point of meeting them and posing with them for photos. Among the bittersweet revenges of Holocaust survivors are family continuity and the fact that they can live with millions of other Jews in the Jewish homeland. Being photographed with the president of Israel was a little icing on the cake.
ON WEDNESDAY friends of Israel - Jews and non-Jews from across Europe and around the world - gathered in Geneva to stand with Israel as its very legitimacy came under attack within the framework of the pernicious perversion of Durban II. Those who gathered to stand with Israel and to demonstrate their support for what they regard as a democratic, multicultural and humanitarian society that respects human rights and the UN Charter also came to listen to Natan Sharansky, one of the world's foremost proponents of human rights, who was the keynote speaker at the rally. The focal point of his address was "Israel, Democracy, and the Search for Peace." Sharansky is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's choice to become the next chairman of the Jewish Agency. Considering that aliya has always been the raison d'etre of the Jewish Agency, it would signify an appropriate closing of a circle for him to be elected to the post, considering his own long struggle to come on aliya, and the role of the Jewish Agency in bringing Russian Jews to Israel. In an interview with Israel Radio on Tuesday, Sharansky said that it would be wrong to dismiss Iranian President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel remarks as nothing more than hyperbole. Those who compare him to Hitler, said Sharansky, are not talking about the Hitler of 1943 but the Hitler of 1933. The implication was that if more people had taken note in 1933 of what Hitler was saying, there might not have been a Second World War.
ISRAEL DEMOCRACY Institute president Arye Carmon is generally known for his efforts toward having Israel adopt a constitution. When he isn't pushing that, he's pressing the button on his camera. In fact, he's such an avid photographer that an exhibition of his photographs of South America has been mounted in El Al's King David VIP Lounge at Ben-Gurion Airport in conjunction with the launch of El Al's new South American routes. The exhibition is also on view at Kennedy Airport in New York, Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle in Paris, and will remain on view for the next three months. According to El Al CEO Haim Romano, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then Carmon's photographs convey much more than any words could say.
Carmon will be in the limelight again next week when the IDI will be awarded the Israel Prize for Life Achievement in recognition of its special contribution to state and society. The prize will be awarded within the framework of the closing event of Independence Day.
In making its recommendation, the Israel Prize Committee wrote: "IDI is the center with the greatest professional and public influence on the constitutional and democratic discourse in Israel. The diverse segments of Israeli society recognize it as an institution that has acquired the authority to facilitate dialogue at the critical nodes of Israel's social divisions. The impact of IDI's work is evident in legislation enacted by the Knesset, in structural reform within the executive branch, and in curricula of Israeli secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. Throughout its 18 years of activity, under the leadership of Dr. Arye Carmon, the institute has established its programs and activities on the seam between the world of policy makers and elected officials and the realm of ideas and opinion. Over the years, IDI has developed a cluster of programs, the most prominent of which include the Caesarea Economic Forum, the Prime Minister's Forum, the Army and Society Forum and the crowning endeavor Constitution by Consensus.
For all these accomplishments, the committee has found IDI worthy of the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement - Special Contribution to Society and State for 2009."
AFTER YEARS of comings and goings between London and Jerusalem, philanthropists Fred and Della Worms, who own an apartment in a building next door to the King David Hotel, have decided to make Jerusalem their permanent abode. Their neighbors will be seeing a lot more of them than they did before, and the couple will be seeing more of their philanthropic projects than they did before.