Education Minister Yuli Tamir took time out from her confrontations with representatives of striking teachers to attend the ceremony at the Azrieli Conference Center in which David Azrieli distributed awards to eleven Israeli students pursuing graduate studies at accredited institutes of higher learning. The awards, part of the Azrieli Fellows Program funded by the Azrieli Foundation, are designed to promote excellence in graduate studies with the aim of creating a cadre of top-flight professionals and academics who individually and collectively will raise Israel's international profile. By providing generous financial support to the best and the brightest of Israel's graduate students, Azrieli hopes to stem the brain drain that is depriving Israel of so much of its home-grown talent. An example of the significance of the brain drain is evidenced in the fact that a Tel Aviv socialite with a serious illness commutes to a certain US medical facility for treatment. When asked why, considering that Israel is not lagging behind in the kind of treatment that she requires, her reply was: "The best Israeli doctors are there." It is somewhat ironic that Azrieli, who is himself an example of the brain drain having studied architecture at the Haifa Technion before moving to Canada in 1954, is now trying to ensure that other Israelis do not follow his example. Then again, had he not gone to Canada, he might never have made the fortune that enables him to be so generous. Although he lives in Canada, Azrieli is frequently in Israel, keeping an eye on the progress of his many malls and other business interests and spreading his philanthropy in many directions. He is probably best known here for the three skyscrapers near the Ayalon freeway: One is round, one is triangular and one is square. The three shapes are also featured in the logo of the Azrieli Foundation. IF ONE could be sure that cloning would include one's brain and not just one's physiology, I might be tempted to sign up. The thought hits me whenever I receive several invitations for events that are taking place on the same date at more-or-less the same time. Occasionally I'm lucky, such as one day last week when I went to three functions in Tel Aviv at different times, and two of them were within easy walking distance of each other. But that's a rare occurrence. Usually one is in Jerusalem and another in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Herzliya Pituah, Kfar Shmaryahu or Ra'anana. Sometimes, two or even three are in Herzliya Pituah, and even if there is a time overlap, somehow or other it all works out. But when the President invites you to a State dinner in Jerusalem for the visiting President of the Ukraine and The Society of Danes invites you to Beth Hatefutsoth to commemorate the October 1943 rescue of Danish Jews, it's impossible to accept both. Although I usually respond to invitations on a first come first served basis, it's just not done to refuse an invitation from the President. So I missed out on hearing a two-generation discussion between Rabbi Bent Melchior, the Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Denmark, and his son MK Michael Melchior, a former Minister for Diaspora Affairs, who though he lives in Jerusalem, is Chief Rabbi of Norway. Rabbi Marcus Melchior, the father of Rabbi Bent Melchior and grandfather of Rabbi Michael Melchior, was Chief Rabbi of Denmark, and from 1943-45 the leader of refugee Jews from Denmark who had been given a haven in Sweden. Rabbi Joav Melchior, the son of Rabbi Michael, is continuing the family tradition and is ministering to congregations in Norway. JAFFA'S CALIPH Club was the scene toward the end of last week for a gathering of well known figures, some of whom are icons of Israel's entertainment industry. The occasion: the 30th birthday of vocalist and fashion model Maya Buskila. Invitations had been issued to some 150 of the singer's nearest and dearest, but at least an additional 50 guests showed up. One of the highlights of the evening was a joint performance by Buskila and two of her closest friends Maya Dagan and Adi Ashkenazi. Among the guests were Zvika Pik, Michal Ansky, Ido Tadmor, Tzvika Hadar, Harel Skaat, Agam Rodberg, Yuval Caspin, Orna Datz and many others. With so many celebrities on hand, it would have been a perfect opportunity to put on a show for charity. But a milestone birthday is a milestone birthday, and none of the abovementioned shirk their obligations to charitable causes, especially those involving children. ON THE other hand, members of Israel's business community, sporting personalities and other well known figures made a somewhat unique contribution to the Jaffa Institute, or as it is formally known, The Institute for the Advancement of Education in Jaffa. Instead of, or in addition to, any financial contribution they cared to make, they agreed to auction off their talents on behalf of this worthy cause in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The auction was kicked off at a gala dinner on Tuesday at the Avenue in Airport City, with minimum bids announced before the auction. Most of the perks that were auctioned started off at $1,000 to $1,500, but anyone who wanted to play tennis with Shahar Pe'er discovered that it would be a little more expensive to get into that racquet - the little adventure on the court was available for an opening bid of $5,000, with the added bonus of an autographed tennis racquet. Some of the other 'items' for auction were an intimate evening for up to 50 people with former General Security Services (Shin Bet) chief Yaacov Peri, who might have been a professional trumpet player if he hadn't decided to be a Middle Eastern James Bond. The opening bid for Peri's playing was relative chickenfeed - only $1,500. Divide that by 50 and it comes to only $30 per head. For those who wanted to do a little running around, there was the chance to bring four relatives and/or friends to shoot hoops with Tal Brody or to play soccer with Avi Nimni. Here again, the opening bid of $1,000 was really way too low. For the less energetic, who would rather exercise their teeth than their feet, there was the opportunity to have celebrity chef Israel Aharoni prepare a gourmet meal in their homes. Here, there were no bargains at the start. The opening bid was $5,000. It was double that to commission Menashe Kadishman to paint the portrait of the winning bidder, who will discover him/herself to bear an uncanny resemblance to a sheep. And for those who've dreamt of the chance for a face-to-face meeting with Maestro Zubin Mehta, this too was on the auction block along with two tickets for a performance by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The nature of the game made it just that much more fun, and created a very positive spirit of competition. THERE MUST be something special about Israel that appeals to French actress Fanny Ardant, who is appearing in yet another Israel-oriented film after her much-lauded success in Avi Nesher's Secrets. The French movie star arrived in Israel two weeks ago with Gerard Depardieu, to begin shooting an Israeli-French co-production about a French new immigrant couple. Titled Hello-Goodbye, the film comes at a time when aliya, tourism and real estate investments from France are on a strong upward curve. However, integration into Israel proves to be too great a challenge for the main characters in the film. Ardant will remain in Israel until at least the end of the month. Depardieu, who has other commitments, is commuting. THERE'S AN Israel connection to a film currently being screened at Israeli cinemas. Resurrecting the Champ is directed and produced by Israeli-born American director, screenwriter and former film critic Rod Lurie, who is the son of internationally syndicated cartoonist Ra'anan Lurie. Unlike so many expatriate Israelis or offspring of expatriate Israelis, Rod Lurie did not come to Israel to do his army service. Instead, he went to West Point and served as an Air Defense Artillery officer in the US Army. Now resident in Pasadena, California, he grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut where his parents still live. SINGER, GUITARIST and composer Yehuda Poliker, who has done so much to imbue Israelis with a love for Greek music, has yet another creative side as visitors to Beit HaOmanim (Artists' House) in Tel Aviv have discovered. Poliker's attempts at portraits are hanging on the wall, and while they have appealed to some viewers, others have not been shy to comment that they might not have been accepted had Poliker not already achieved fame in another field of the arts - yet another example of one man's meat being another man's poison.