Grapevine: Bastille Day bash

French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave is hosting his first Bastille Day reception and opening up the festivities to the wider public.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar. (photo credit: Aloni Mor/Sof Hashavua)
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
(photo credit: Aloni Mor/Sof Hashavua)
■ French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave, who took up his post last year after the celebration of the French national holiday, and is next week hosting his first Bastille Day reception, is opening up the festivities to a wider public at the French residence in Jaffa.
His predecessors used to host a reception for Israeli dignitaries, members of the diplomatic community, religious leaders and several representatives of the French community in Israel late in the afternoon, and after the official proceedings would continue with a late-night party for the larger French community and Francophiles.
Bastille Day celebrates the French values of liberty, equality and fraternity, values that Maisonnave wants to share with whoever wants to come to the party. So this year he is splitting the celebration into two separate events on separate days of the week.
The smaller event will be held at his residence, and the larger from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Monday, May 14 in Shabazi Square outside the French Institute, located on 7 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, with singing, music and dancing.
■ The Hebrew edition of Story of a Secret State by World War II hero Jan Karski will be launched on Sunday, July 20 at the Felicja Blumenthal Center in Tel Aviv. The memoir tells the story of Polish resistance against the Nazis in 1944, and chronicles Karski’s efforts to make world leaders aware of what was happening in Europe under Nazi conquest and occupation.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Karski’s birth on April 24, 1914 in Lodz, Poland. He was captured by the Nazis and brutally tortured; he escaped and traveled to England and the US to deliver eyewitness reports on how Jews and others were being subjected to inhuman conditions and subsequently murdered.
Karski was not Jewish, but in recognition of what he tried to do on behalf of the Jewish people, he was made an honorary citizen of Israel and was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Among the speakers at the event, which is under the joint auspices of the Polish Institute and Yediot Publishing, will be Laurence Weinbaum, executive director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, who was Karski’s assistant at Georgetown University in the US.
A short film on Karski was screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2010, and an exhibition on his life will open at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on July 29 and will remain on view until September 1. The exhibition, under the title “The World Knew,” traces Karski’s life from childhood through his death in July 2000.
■ Former mayor of Tel Aviv Roni Milo thinks that it was a bad decision on the part of Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar to issue an edict for the closure of shops on Shabbat in the city that never stops. Interviewed on Israel Radio by Ayala Hasson and Hanan Kristal, Milo said that whereas Jerusalem is the holy city, Tel Aviv is the city of freedom of choice and live and let live. Religious and secular people have lived harmoniously for decades, he said.
Milo said he had read somewhere that Sa’ar was becoming religiously observant and was keeping Shabbat. Milo suspected that it was because Sa’ar is seeking the support of the religious parties when he throws his cap into the prime ministerial ring.
■ Over the past two weeks, all roads have led to Sderot – as diplomats, religious leaders, government ministers, MKs, President Shimon Peres and journalists flocked southwards. One of the earliest visitors following the current barrage of rockets was Australian Ambassador Dava Sharma, who was there on July 1– despite the fact that four rockets had just fallen that morning and 15 rockets had been fired the previous day. Sharma felt it was important to go in person to pass on a message of Australian support and sympathy, and stressed that no people should have to live under such conditions or terror.
Sharma met with Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi and discussed the psychological, economic and other challenges facing residents living under such conditions, touring the plastics factory destroyed by two Kassam rockets the previous Saturday evening and expressing sympathy for the owner. He also visited the town swimming pool on its opening day, which was packed with youngsters on their first day of summer vacation.
Sharma was struck by the resilience of the town and its people, and their amazing strength of character.
This week, a group of journalists from the Foreign Press Association went to Sderot primarily to meet with Peres, but afterwards also met with Davidi, who told them: “Even though Hamas tries to destroy our town, they’ll lose, because we will continue to live here and develop.”
Asked whether he thinks there should be military retaliation against the rain of rockets, Davidi said: “When people try to kill us and our children, we need to destroy them. We can talk about peace later.”
Most of the children of Sderot are traumatized because of the frequent barrage of rockets, he said, and even some his own seven children require psychological therapy.
Last Saturday, he and his family were in the middle of a Shabbat meal when there was a red alert. “Imagine what it was like for my wife and I to run down to the basement with our seven children,” he said In view of the constant danger, journalists were puzzled as to why there is so much construction in Sderot. Why would people want to come and live there? Davidi’s answer was: “Because we are Jews, because we are Israelis.”