Sunday, April 3, appears to be a popular date for gala events, the most glittering of which will be Kornit Fashion Week 2022, which opens Sunday at Hangar 11 on the Port of Tel Aviv in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry. One may well ask what on earth agriculture has to do with fashion. The answer is simple. Both the fashion industry and Israeli farmers are struggling to keep the Made in Israel brand afloat.
The fashion industry has been competing for years with imports from cheap-labor countries such as China and India, whose output is fast and up-to-date and whose garments retail at less than half the price of Made in Israel. As a result several Israeli fashion companies which used to be among the leaders in the field, have either gone out of business or have taken a back seat.
Farmers are now being faced with agricultural reforms that include massive imports designed to spur improved and cheaper produce induced by competition. As it is, farmers can barely make a profit on what they are producing now. Many Israeli fruits and vegetables are innovative and – unlike the produce of many other countries – they retain their taste and flavor. So the opening of Fashion Week, which is a by-invitation-only event, will include a tribute to Israel’s farmers.
Fashion-wise, there will be presentations of two life achievement awards. One will go to veteran Israeli designer Tovale Chasin, and the other to Dr. Mona al Mansouri, one of the top designers of the United Arab Emirates. The Abraham Accords are entering into every sphere in the lives of the nations who are party to them. It is interesting that neither of the two women has the background for a career in fashion. Chasin is a self-taught ex-kibbutznik, who despite learning problems in her youth had a creative streak which she was able to develop. She launched her career in the 1980s, not by following trends, but by creating her own.
Women who were looking for something different in style, fabric and color, beat a path to her door. She used exquisite fabrics, intriguing prints and embroideries, jewels and beading to produce unique creations. She also wore her own designs, thus becoming a walking advertisement for her brand – and she’s still in business. In 2012, she was joined by her daughter Naama, who did receive a fashion education and is a graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. For some 15 years, Naama Chasin worked as a designer under her own label, but in 2012 joined her mother and the two have worked out some kind of fashion harmony.
Tovale Chasin used to participate in the original Israel Fashion weeks some 30 years ago, which were glamorous affairs held in five-star hotels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat and were dominated by Gottex, whose founder – the late Leah Gottlieb – used to put on Las Vegas-style fashion shows starring supermodel Tami Ben-Ami who died of cancer in July 1995. Fashion Week became dormant for some two decades and was revived in 2011 by Motty Reif, a producer of fashion shows and lifestyle events and former fashion model.
Mansouri is an international fashion designer who has held major fashion shows in London, Moscow, Cairo, Paris, Rome, Bali, Bahrain and many other places. She did not start out as a fashion designer; she is a highly qualified academic with a double major in geological and biological engineering. Before embarking on her fashion career in 1991, she worked as an engineer in the petroleum industry. In her home country, she is regarded as the Queen of Fashion.
Although her own attire follows the Muslim tradition of the region, her creations are very western and highly sophisticated.
■ ON ANOTHER subject altogether, Helen Deller Klein, the ambassador of Ecuador, is hosting a reception in honor of Israeli scientists who participated in the Galapagos symposium and are involved in the continuing cooperation between the Charles Darwin Foundation and Israeli and Ecuadorian universities. The Israeli scientists came from the Geological Survey of Israel, the Haifa Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Haifa, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Tel Aviv University. The reception will be held at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History on the TAU campus.
■ CURIOUSLY, THE same venue has been chosen for another event which is due to begin a half-hour later, though presumably in another part of the building. It’s an almost safe bet to say that some guests will go to the wrong event and will wonder what happened.
Former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies through which he has contributed quite handsomely to projects in Israel. He is doing so again today, with the inauguration of the Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University in partnership with the Sagol Family Foundation represented by Yossi Sagol.
■ AFTER A two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Multinational Force and Observers last week hosted a reception at Riverside in Tel Aviv, in which the mood was not quite as festive as in pre-COVID days – due mainly to the number of people who had fallen victim to terrorist attacks in recent days, and the number of would-be terrorists apprehended by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) personnel and the police. There was a paucity of ambassadors, though Egyptian Ambassador Khaled Azmi was seen, as was former US ambassador Dan Shapiro, who had a spirited conversation with former ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel.
As has been the case with a number of diplomatic, military and religious events, although the invitation specified that entry would be in accordance with Health Ministry Guidelines, barely a handful of guests bothered with masks. Among those who followed the rules were Shapiro and Mazel. The event was hosted by former deputy head of mission at the US Embassy Thomas Goldberger, who is now the representative in Israel of the MFO director-general. Goldberger expressed condolences over the killings in the recent wave of terrorism, and made a point of naming the 11 victims.
■ THE AUSTRALIAN embassy is very good about sending out invitations well in advance especially for important occasions such as ANZAC Day, which commemorates the ill-fated dawn landing in Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand Armored Corps on April 25, 1915. Since then, it has become the time to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fell in combat in subsequent wars, as well as soldiers from allied armies and even the armies of former enemies with whose countries Australia and New Zealand now have diplomatic relations. Initially, commemoration ceremonies took place at dawn but over the years a number of Australian ambassadors around the world – realizing that there would not be much of a showing at a dawn ceremony – moved it to later in the morning. Apparently Ambassador Paul Griffiths wants to move the clock back and to hold the service at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Jerusalem at 5.30 a.m. It would not be surprising if the majority of invitees who responded that they would attend, read the date on the invitation but not the time. Considering that the event is still three weeks away, Griffiths might consider moving it to 9 or 10 o’clock in order to guarantee a better turnout.
■ POLAND’S FORMER ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski who is now in Washington tweeted that Poland has begun to issue ID cards to Ukrainian refugees and has so far issued in excess of 500,000 such cards. Admittedly, Israel is a much smaller country than Poland but even so, it’s considerably easier to absorb 15,000 new immigrants and refugees than half a million. Let’s not forget that two Ukrainians were among the victims of last week’s terror attack in Bnei Brak.
■ THERE ARE literally thousands of children and youth in Israel who are born into economically disadvantaged or dysfunctional families or who are abandoned at birth. These are all children at risk, and in some cases they are so badly neglected or abused by their parents that they have to be removed from their custody by social welfare authorities and placed in youth villages or boarding schools. Some 18,000 live in youth villages run by the Ministry of Education and around 7,500 live in 127 boarding schools under the aegis of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Social Services.
To help such children and to ensure that they receive a good, well-rounded education, hi-tech pioneer, social entrepreneur and philanthropist Avi Naor founded and chairs The Public Forum for Youth Villages and Boarding Schools for Children at Risk. The forum is a partnership between philanthropists, professional educators and social workers, and was established to influence policy, develop professional resources and provide support for residents in youth villages and boarding schools. The Public Forum’s annual conference in Tel Aviv last week, was attended by Michal Herzog, wife of the president, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, Deputy Director-General of the Education Ministry Avi Ganon, Israel Prize laureate Eli Alalouf who is chairman of the board of the Kiryat Ye’arim Youth Village, plus Knesset members, academics and graduates of youth villages
Herzog was pleased to see a full hall of people who obviously care but she was sad to hear some of the painfully heart-rending stories of children who spend their lives from birth to when they join the labor force outside of what should be their natural homes. There was a degree of comfort in that there is salvation for such children in the youth villages and boarding schools, which the Public Forum consistently seeks to improve.