Grapevine: Remembering Yitzhak Navon

On December 24, there will be an evening of anecdotes about the former president told by members of his family and friends, at the Ladino Festival in Jerusalem.

Former president Yitzhak Navon (photo credit: Courtesy)
Former president Yitzhak Navon
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Among the many positions held by former president Yitzhak Navon in a very long career of public service was that of head of the National Authority for Ladino. So, few things could be more fitting, a little over a month after his passing, than for him to be somehow included in the two-day Ladino Festival that is being held at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem on December 24 and 25.
On Thursday evening, December 24, there will be an evening of anecdotes about Navon told by members of his family and friends, interspersed with Ladino songs. All the tickets for the Ladino Festival were sold out almost immediately.
■ TRADITIONALLY, STEREOTYPED images of Asians portray them as individuals who do not betray their feelings. But at the relatively intimate farewell party that Japanese Ambassador Shigeo Matsutomi and his wife, Kaori, hosted at their residence in Herzliya Pituah last Thursday, that image of total self-control was stripped away by both the ambassador and his wife, who during a period of just under a year and a half endeared themselves to Israel, and so much of Israel endeared itself to them. Each gave a farewell speech in which emotions ran raw.
Her voice breaking with sobs in her throat, and tears running down her cheeks, the usually impish Kaori Matsutomi said that most people whom she met in Israel regarded her as aggressive and open. But when she was in Japan, she was quiet and shy, and did not share her feelings with anyone other than her husband. He had been surprised to see her change so rapidly in Israel.
She used to think archeology was boring, until she came to Israel and learned how much history could be gleaned from it. Yet with regard to Japan’s long history, the past seemed to have been cut off by World War II, she said. “But here I see history everywhere I go.” Through the friends she made in Israel, she said, she became aware of not only how Israelis live their everyday lives but how they lived 3,000 years ago. She had been eager to listen to as many stories as possible about ancient and contemporary Israel.
She would not forget the “precious time” with her friends in Israel, she said. “I will not leave Israel behind. Israel and our friends will stay in my heart forever. I will keep the memory of your friendship all my life.
Though somewhat less emotional, the ambassador nonetheless spoke with great feeling, saying that he owed his wife’s transformation to the people she met in Israel.
He also spoke of the recovery of the Japanese economy and its prospects for expansion with new business collaboration with Israel. He was also happy that a bilateral investment agreement was signed by the two governments before he returned home.
He believed it to be good for both Israel and Japan.
Turning to the possibility for peace, Matsutomi said that Israel will be the linchpin for any new equilibrium and stability in the region. He also referred to Israel’s offshore natural gas deposits, saying that Leviathan has brought Israel out of the desert and put it in a new place in the international arena.
As for the time that he and his wife spent in Israel, “Our life has been full of surprise, rich culture and a learning process,” he said. “Without you, our life would not have been as beautiful and enjoyable,” he told his guests.
Referring to an interview that he gave to The Jerusalem Post earlier in the year, Matsutomi recalled that he was asked about his dream, at which time he replied that his dream was to be able to drive a car from Tel Aviv to Tehran. But now that he’s leaving Tel Aviv, he would like to reverse the order and drive his Lexus from Tehran to Tel Aviv, “because if I come to Tel Aviv to see you, I may find it difficult to leave again.”
Both the Matsutomis received warm applause and were engulfed in affection, as guests – including a significant representation of the Japanese business and diplomatic community – lined up to embrace them.
■ ON THE day following the Japanese reception, Michio Harada, the counselor of the Japanese Embassy, went on vacation to Hong Kong to join his wife and their young son. Unable to work in Israel, his wife moved to Hong Kong, where she works in real estate. The Haradas take turns in visiting each other.
■ INDIAN AMBASSADOR Jaideep Sarkar, who was among the guests at the Japanese farewell reception, is also leaving soon. He is in a strange position, in that he has actually completed his tour of duty in Israel but has not yet been advised of his next posting, and is holding the fort for his successor. Also among the diplomats at the reception were new friends of the Matsutomis, Netherlands ambassador-designate Gilles Arnout Beschoor Plug and his wife, Louise.
■ IN THE course of his first visit to Bar- Ilan University since assuming his diplomatic post in Israel, British Ambassador David Quarrey announced his intention to further strengthen scientific cooperation between the UK and Israeli universities. At a meeting with Bar-Ilan leadership, Quarrey said he would work to boost the academic relationship by increasing academic scholarships, research budgets and collaboration in a variety of disciplines.
Bar-Ilan University president Rabbi Prof.
Daniel Hershkowitz praised the ambassador’s initiative in the face of repeated calls for academic and scientific boycotts against Israel. The British government is opposed to boycotts against Israel.
■ TRAVELERS FROM Israel to Lapland can now fly direct to Rovaniemi Airport from Tel Aviv. The news was imparted to Ambassador Leena Kaisa Mikola of Finland by Yoram Mutay, the CEO of Kishrey Teufa, at a meeting between the two in the ambassador’s office.
Mutay told Mikola that the route was introduced in response to growing interest by Israelis in visiting Lapland, as a result of which he intended to develop the route in summer and autumn, and not just in winter.
The new route also serves to enhance relations between Israel and Finland.
■ WHILE STAFF at the Tel Aviv Hilton were in the throes of preparations for the hotel’s 50th-anniversary year, thousands of documents were removed from remote archives and scanned. Among them was a newspaper clipping from 1973 of a soldier and his bride.
In 1973, soldiers who had fought in the Yom Kippur War got married soon afterward, and in appreciation of what these soldiers had done for national security, the Hilton management hosted the newlyweds in a series of free honeymoon weekends.
The clipping that was found does not give the names of the married couple, but as in the case of others who benefited from the hotel’s largesse, they assured the management that this honeymoon gesture of goodwill would be forever engraved in their memories. The current management of the Tel Aviv Hilton would like to give them another free weekend within the framework of the hotel’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
So if anyone recognizes them and makes them aware of the hotel’s offer, Motti Verses, the Hilton Israel head of public relations, who is headquartered at the Tel Aviv Hilton, would love to hear from them.
■ BDS NOTWITHSTANDING, celebrities both Jewish and non-Jewish keep flocking to Israel. Coming up next week is film producer Nancy Spielberg, sister of Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer Steven Spielberg, who will be the guest of honor at the first-ever Birthright Israel Cinema Day featuring Israeli and Jewish cinema. She will address some one thousand Birthright Israel participants from around the world.
Other celebrities who are expected to attend include screenwriter Gal Uchovsky (Walk on Water) and director Talya Lavie (Zero Motivation). Lavie and Uchovsky will show segments from their films and will discuss Israeli culture through its portrayal in cinema.
Spielberg, who made the tribute film Above and Beyond mostly to honor American pilots who served as volunteers in Israel’s War of Independence, will discuss the process of filmmaking and the creation of her well-received documentary, which was screened at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in July 2014. At that time, she came to Israel for the screening. She had another good reason to be in the Holy Land. Her daughter, singer Jessica Katz, happens to live in Tel Aviv.
In addition to the young people in the audience at the event, which is set to take place at Cinema City Glilot on December 28, Birthright’s key philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson along with Gidi Mark, the International CEO of Birthright Israel, will also be part of the crowd.
■ CURRENTLY THE subject of controversy in relation to the projected Freedom Pyramid tower that he designed together with Israeli architect Yigal Levi to fill the space where the Eden theater in Jerusalem had once stood, internationally acclaimed Polish- American and to some extent Israeli architect Daniel Libeskind may find it easier to work in Poland’s capital than in Israel’s.
In Poland, together with Polish architects, he has designed a residential complex twice the height of that of the Freedom Pyramid, and has incorporated some of the ideas that were in the original design for the Freedom Pyramid before it was amended. Both skyscrapers will have floor-to-ceiling windows to allow for a maximum of natural light.
The Polish skyscraper, in a project known as Zlota 44, will have 54 floors and 251 fully furnished and equipped apartments plus a swimming pool, sauna and spa.
Libeskind missed out on designing the Museum of Polish Jewish History, even though he was born in Poland, is Jewish and spent part of his youth in Israel. Zlota 44 may not have the cultural impact of the museum, but it stands much taller on the Warsaw skyline, and its unique architectural details will make it a talking point in international architectural circles for many years to come.
Among Libeskind’s most significant designs are Berlin’s Jewish Museum, New York City’s World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial, the Century Spire in Manila, the Wohl Center in Israel, and the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.
■ TZAVTA, IN Tel Aviv, is one of the most frequently chosen venues for birthday and memorial tributes to celebrities who are still in the land of the living and to those who have left their mark on the country and deserve to be remembered.
Sculptor Dani Karavan, an Israel Prize laureate, has most definitely left his mark on some of the country’s most significant buildings, such as his Jerusalem City of Peace wall relief in the Knesset, the Memorial to the Holocaust at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, and the Negev Memorial Monument in Beersheba, to name but a few.
A native son of Tel Aviv, Karavan celebrated his 85th birthday on December 7, and a birthday tribute was held for him at Tzavta last Friday, with guests including Tamar Karavan, the intriguing photographer who happens to be the sculptor’s daughter; President Reuven Rivlin; best-selling author Amos Oz; Tzavta chairman and former MK Avshalom Vilan; artist and former director of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque Yair Garbuz; actress Gila Almagor and her husband, director Yaakov Agmon; and former education minister Aharon Yadlin, who is 89.
■ IN ISRAEL to visit relatives and friends is New Yorker Amy Klein, a former editorial staff member of Post, who last Friday invited some of her old friends to the restaurant in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in order to meet her husband, Eyal Solomon, and their baby daughter, Lily, who is their prime source of joy after three years of infertility, four miscarriages and 10 doctors (not including Klein’s current obstetrician).
Realizing that many other couples were having experiences similar to those that she and her husband were undergoing in their desire to bring a child into the world, Klein wrote an honest and courageous weekly chronicle of her journey into motherhood that was published on the Motherlode Blog of The New York Times. She wrote of how devastating it was to have one miscarriage after another, of all the things she learned while having fertility treatments, and what it was like to be a first-time mother after the age of 40. In doing so, she gave hope to countless women, both in her age group and below, and in addition to giving them hope, gave them many insights into aspects of fertility treatment and motherhood that they did not know before.
■ THERE HAS been a lot of talk in recent months about the usurping of the traditional role of the Foreign Ministry. In the same time span, there have been countless articles in the media claiming that the ministry has become dysfunctional because it cannot function as it should without a full time minister. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu currently holds the Foreign Affairs portfolio along with a handful of other portfolios. Many of his critics are demanding that he divest himself of the Foreign Affairs portfolio and appoint a fulltime minister.
The question of the importance of the Foreign Ministry will be debated at a conference hosted in the Jerusalem auditorium of the Knesset on Monday, December 28, beginning at 10 a.m. Participants will include opposition leader Isaac Herzog; Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, who is a former foreign minister; Kulanu MK Michael Oren, who is a former ambassador to the United States; Dr. Nimrod Goren, the founding president of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, which is hosting the conference; former MK Colette Avital, who is a former ambassador to Portugal and former consul-general in New York; Mahali Wahabi, a former deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry; Prof. Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to the prime minister; Prof. Yossi Shein of Tel Aviv University; Eran Etzion and Victor Harel, both former department heads at the Foreign Ministry; and Barak Ravid, Haaretz political correspondent.
■ MUSIC LOVERS Evelyn and Howard Ross of Herzliya Pituah were present at the gala concert by the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra last week in honor of Frank and Shirley Lowy. Also in the audience was former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who as usual gave no sign of the troubles looming over his head and chatted amiably with all and sundry. The Lowys are major supporters of the IPO. Frank Lowy, who recently turned 85, was feted by the orchestra and subsequently by Alfred Akirov.
Although they frequently attend IPO concerts, the real musical love in the lives of Evelyn and Howard Ross is Musicians of Tomorrow – talented young Israeli children, who are being trained by Anna Rosnovsky.
Many of the youngsters cannot afford to buy their own instruments and Friends of Musicians of Tomorrow, with the aim of encouraging them to continue to play, purchase instruments and other equipment for them.
Musicians of Tomorrow have toured overseas and have played in front of many Israeli audiences, including at the President’s Residence.
It is important for them to have an audience, says Evelyn Ross, who together with her husband has opened their home in Herzliya Pituah for concerts by the young performers. They are doing so again, this coming Monday, December 28. Although the concert is free of charge, they are hoping that those who attend will be sufficiently impressed to make a contribution toward what these young musicians need in order for their school in Migdal, near Tiberias, to be able to continue.
Musicians of Tomorrow was founded 10 years ago. Not only do the youngsters give much pleasure to many music lovers, but they also help to enhance Israel’s image abroad. For some of these children, music is a life-changing experience. It not only offers them a positive outlet to express themselves, but it instills passion, increases their self-esteem, expands their life opportunities and inspires those around them to follow their dreams Money is needed not only for instruments but for teachers; transport for children to and from lessons; a daily hot meal, as the children arrive hungry after regular school; rent and maintenance of the building that houses the project; and also to enable extremely talented children to attend master classes abroad each year.
■ AFTER ALL the hype, including full-page advertisements in the Hebrew press and sexy television promos about Ayala Hasson taking over the Friday night news and current affairs program Shishi on Channel 10, her debut on commercial television was disappointing and lacking the electric spark of the rival program that she previously hosted on Channel 1.
The only good thing that can be said is that the makeup artist at Channel 10 was kinder to Hasson than the person who attended to her makeup at Channel 1. In her former broadcasting habitat, Hasson’s makeup artist applied too much eye shadow, making Hasson’s eyes look like slits; too much rouge, which is common to clowns but not to current affairs anchors; and harsh red lipstick, which was far from flattering.
At Channel 10, the makeup artist chose to make the most of Hasson’s facial features and used soft pastel tones, which gave Hasson a fresh, new and attractive image. The slight change in hairstyle also helped – but she will have to work a lot harder to live up to what her Friday night show used to be.
■ IN MANY synagogues that are populated by immigrants from similar backgrounds, they bring with them the style of prayer that was used at services in the old country.
In synagogues in which there is no permanent cantor, the style may change depending on who is leading the service.
Certainly the tunes to the liturgy tend to change.
British Jews living in Israel may recall what was known as “Minhag Anglia.”
Those who are interested in reviving memories of what may have been Jewish Britain of their childhood will be able to learn about the development and decline of Minhag Anglia from Rabbi Daniel Roselear of the Alei Zion Congregation in Hendon, London, on Tuesday, December 29, at 7:45 p.m. Roselear will be speaking under the auspices of the Jewish Historical Society of Israel which is a branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England. The meeting will take place at the Hatzvi Yisrael Congregation on Hovevei Zion Street, Jerusalem, which is a departure from the society’s usual venue at Beit Avi Chai.
■ BE CAREFUL of what you wish for, goes the old saying; but in the case of the Mayanot Chai fund-raising campaign toward the construction of the Mayanot World Center near the entrance to Jerusalem, they should have perhaps wished for more. In a 24-hour matching funds campaign, organizers had hoped to raise $1,800,000. What they actually got – including the tripling of each donation by a generous matching funds set of three separate philanthropic groups – was $2,307,044.
Well, it’s like the old story of showing someone a finger and they take the whole hand. The initial success of the campaign prompted a second round, and once again, all money raised will be matched by three separate philanthropic groups.
The Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies is headed by Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner and offers a variety of programs for both males and females.
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