AS A courtesy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is allowing certain items for use as mementos to be taken aboard shuttle mission STS-129. The Peace Preschool at the Jerusalem International YMCA has been given the opportunity to send a banner into space. It's in the shape of a spacecraft. This would involve the children and connect with YMCA visionary Dr. Archie Harte, who long before the YMCA became a Jerusalem landmark could envision it as a place where people of different faiths and ethnic origins could walk through the doors, exchange their ideas and appreciate one another regardless of background. When an astronaut looks back to the Earth from space say those who have been there, they see the Earth looking so peaceful because from where they are, they do not see the borders, the strife or conflict. The goals of the YMCA, particularly the Jerusalem YMCA, are to eliminate human conflict and the borders that act as barriers between different human beings. The Peace Preschool, directed by Adena Levine, provides a framework for coexistence and mutual respect from the earliest and most impressionable age.
ON SUNDAY, after attending a memorial ceremony for his brother Yoni who was killed in the Entebbe rescue operation in July 1976, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attended a Sheva Brachot ceremony for Ya'acov Sinai and his wife Margalit, the newlywed granddaughter of Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. All the Shas ministers in the government were in attendance, as well as Ehud Barak, Silvan Shalom, Moshe Ya'alon, Isaac Herzog, Israel Katz and Gideon Saar, along with other ministers and MKs. Netanyahu, who was given a triumphal welcome, was asked to recite one of the seven blessings, and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, was given a rare honor. She was approached by Ovadia Yosef's daughter-in-law Yehudit Yosef, who said the rabbi wanted to bless her. Occasionally men enter the women's section at segregated Orthodox events but seldom do women enter the men's section. This was an outstanding exception. Yehudit led Sara to the head table, where Ovadia Yosef duly blessed her. For the often maligned Sara Netanyahu, it was a supreme compliment.
THERE WAS a lot of hugging and kissing at the dedication ceremony last week of the Max Fisher Square, a roundabout between Binyenei Ha'uma and Mishkenot Ha'uma, the new neighborhood under construction at the entrance to the city. Aside from Fisher's daughter Jane Sherman, who is a member of the Jewish Agency executive, the main recipients of the embraces were former Jewish Agency chairmen Sallai Meridor, who had proposed the construction of the square, and Ze'ev Bielski, during whose period of tenure the project had been implemented.
Fisher, who died four years ago just short of his 97th birthday, was a successful Detroit-based businessman, a generous philanthropist who gave to numerous causes in the US and Israel, a leader of almost every major Jewish community organization in the US, the founding chairman of the Jewish Agency board of governors, and a close adviser to US presidents and Israeli prime ministers. President Shimon Peres, who knew him well, said, "He was a leader that found the secrets of balanced wisdom, penetrating judgment, pragmatic potential, and natural authority." Carole Solomon, former chairperson of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency, recalled Fisher as a man who was dynamic and "not just tall, but a larger-than-life person" who exerted tremendous influence on the Jewish Agency board of governors. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat saw the square as a celebration of the love that Fisher had for Jerusalem. Barkat never met Fisher, but he's had a lot to do with Sherman, who is no less passionate about Israel or less generous a benefactor than her father. "From the apple, I learned a lot about the tree," he said. Bielski commended former mayor Uri Lupolianski, who had the project approved in record time.
AN INTERESTING example of interfaith and international cooperation was the recent opening at the Austrian Hospice on the Via Dolorosa of an exhibition honoring the great Austrian Jewish novelist, essayist and psychologist Manes Sperber, who wrote extensively on politics, philosophy, psychology and literature. The exhibition, entitled "Manes Sperber - A 20th-century European," was on loan from the Jewish Museum, Vienna, and was shown under the auspices of the Austrian Cultural Forum Tel Aviv, which is directed by Dr. Arad Benko. The exhibition, which can be seen daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., will remain open until August 23.