Grapevine: March 9

ACTING PRESIDENT Dalia Itzik will for the first time on March 22 accept the credentials of new ambassadors. Four ambassadors, one of whom is non-resident, are due to present their credentials at Beit Hanassi on that day. Among them will be the new Russian ambassador, Piotr Stegniy, who in late December wound up his tour of duty in Turkey, where he served as ambassador in Ankara. Before coming to Israel, Stegniy will have an opportunity to be briefed by his predecessor in office, Gennady Tarasov, who left at the end of January to return to Moscow. In an interview with the Turkish Daily News prior to his departure for home, Stegniy expressed sorrow that he and his wife Margarita were unable to take a Kangal dog with them. They have two Kangal guard dogs which they kept at their summer house in Buyukdere, but he would have liked another one from Turkey because Kangals are reliable, friendly and make good companions. However it is forbidden to take them out of Turkey. The ambassador confided that he'd even thought of smuggling one out, but the thought of the ensuing diplomatic scandal in the event that he was caught was a deterrent. Israeli hostesses who entertain diplomats will be pleased to know that the ambassador likes good food, and is willing to eat almost anything that's tasty. THE MEMORY of Philippines ambassador Antonio Modena who died last month while in the Philippines will be honored in November during the 50th anniversary celebrations of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Israel. One of Modena's most important and most frustrated aims was to have official recognition by Israel of the fact that the president of the Philippines had provided a haven for Jews fleeing from the Nazis. Despite the fact that Jews whose lives were saved as a result were and are willing to testify - one of them has even written a book on the subject - Modena made little headway with Yad Vashem or other Israeli authorities. However on the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations Philippines Consul-General Gilberto Asuque, told The Jerusalem Post, a special statue will be unveiled in Rishon Lezion with a plaque that will be engraved with some of the details pertaining to the rescue of Jews, plus a tribute to Modena, who worked so tirelessly for Israeli acknowledgement of what the president of the Philippines had done.. A design competition for the monument has been launched in the Philippines and the winning entry will be assembled there and shipped to Israel. Although it's difficult to ship a marble statue, said Asuque, marble was being given strong consideration, because that part of the Philippines in which Modena lived is known for its high-quality marble. The Philippines, said Asuque, has a vested interest in peace in the Middle East because there are 1.2 million Filipinos in the Middle East, of whom 31,000 are in Israel. During the second Lebanon war, Asuque was a member of the team charged by his government to evacuate Filipinos from Lebanon and Israel. There were 25,000 in Lebanon, of whom 11,000 were evacuated. There were strict instructions to evacuate those Filipinos who lived in the North, "but they refused to go," said Asuque. "They wouldn't leave the elderly people for whom they were caring." FORMER CZECH ambassador Daniel Kumermann, who is currently his country's consul-general in Los Angeles, has good cause at the moment to visit Israel. His son David is a student at Bezalel and will be in Jerusalem for at least four months. David is currently brushing up on his Hebrew, because the course he's taking is not given in any other language. Daniel Kumermann and his wife Jarmila vacationed briefly here during the summer. Their intention was to spend most of their time in the North because they hadn't had a chance to explore it during their tenure. However the war interfered with their plans and they left with unfinished business. Now, if they can take time out to visit their son, they will most definitely go to the North. NIGERIAN AMBASSADOR Manzo George Anthony and Slovenian Ambassador Iztok Jarc left Israel this week to pursue political careers in their respective countries. Jarc's wife Helena and their children are staying on till the end of the school year. Helena Jarc was the next president designate of the International Council of Women, a position to which she had been eagerly looking forward. However that position will now elude her. WHEN HE takes up his appointment as ambassador to India in the summer, Mark Sofer, who is currently deputy director-general for Central Europe and Euro-Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, will be assured of a warm welcome. No, it has nothing to do with enhanced diplomatic ties with India, but with the fact that some 2.5 million Indian citizens are members of the Baha'i faith and the Baha'i World Center is located in Haifa. The number of Baha'is in India represents roughly 40 cent of the global figure. Yitzhak Eldan, the Foreign Ministry's chief of protocol, has introduced Sofer to senior Baha'i representatives here, and they in turn will ensure that he is hospitably received as soon as he arrives in the subcontinent.