Grapevine May 8, 2022: A different kind of birthday present

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 GERMAN AMBASSADOR Susanne Wasum-Rainer (left) with Colette Avital.  (photo credit: GERMAN EMBASSY)
GERMAN AMBASSADOR Susanne Wasum-Rainer (left) with Colette Avital.
(photo credit: GERMAN EMBASSY)

■ FORMER DIPLOMAT, member of Knesset and child Holocaust survivor from Bucharest, Romania, Collette Avital, who sits on the boards of various organizations and institutions and currently heads the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, was honored last week, when German Ambassador Susanne Wasum-Rainer, on behalf of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, presented her with one of Germany’s highest civilian decorations. As it happened, Avital also celebrated her birthday last week, so the decoration was a somewhat unique birthday gift.

■ NO ONE IS surprised when all the recipients of honorary doctorates or fellowships conferred by an all-female educational facility are also female. But somehow, one doesn’t expect that from a co-ed university. But Bar-Ilan University decided to make it a women-only cap and gown night (other than participating faculty members) when it confers its honorary doctorates on Sunday, May 22, on eight women from diverse fields that include music, sport, science, education entrepreneurship, writing, information technology and philanthropy. The women who are being honored are Chava Alberstein, Yael Arad, Prof. Ruth Arnon, Rabbanit Malke Bina, Dr. Orna Berry, Julia Zaher, Gail Propp and Galila Ron-Feder Amit. 

The question is: why after making such a strenuous effort to show that the distaff side of the population is intellectually equal to the male, why spoil it all by having a male entertainer. Shlomi Shaban is a consummate entertainer, but he’s a guy, not a gal. There are so many talented female singers and musicians, that it’s almost insulting after elevating the status of women to bring in a male entertainer.

■ ONE OF the reasons that being an ambassador in Israel is so interesting and often exciting is because so many organizations and institutions are eager to make international connections and are keen to show diplomats from other countries what they are doing in the hope that these meetings will lead to enhanced bilateral and multilateral relationships. An example was the visit by Indian Ambassador Sanjeev Singla to the Central and Northern Arava Research and Development Center to see where there might be opportunities for cooperation in agricultural R&D between India and Israel. 

In the course of his visit, he was given an in-depth briefing by Aylon Gadiel, the CEO of Central and Northern Arava R&D, who took Singla and deputy head of mission at the Indian Embassy Rajiv Bodwade on a tour that included laboratories, fields and the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training.

 INDIAN AMBASSADOR Sanjeev Singla (left) with Aylon Gadiel.  (credit: ARAVA R&D) INDIAN AMBASSADOR Sanjeev Singla (left) with Aylon Gadiel. (credit: ARAVA R&D)

According to Gadiel, global agriculture is in the process of undergoing change that will become much more evident over the next decade. This is already becoming obvious with the sharp rise in the cost of agricultural products and food, due, to a large extent, to climate change and scarcity of water, as well as the diminishing agricultural labor force. It has therefore become critical for solutions to be found through R&D.

■ ON ANOTHER agriculture-related issue, representatives of fruit, vegetable and poultry farms met with Labor MK Ram Shefa at Moshav Netua in the North of the country, to voice their concerns over the proposed agricultural reforms that will allow for greater competition of produce from other countries with local poultry and crops grown and harvested in Israel. The farmers are afraid that because production costs and taxes in many other parts of the world are much lower than in Israel, that local farmers will find it impossible to compete, even though the quality of their produce may be better and certainly fresher than that which is imported. Among the people whom Shefa met were Yaron Belhassan and Moti Elkabetz, CEO and secretary, respectively, of the Poultry Farmers Association.

■ SENIOR REPRESENTATIVES from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Israeli hi-tech industry met recently with Israel Scholarship Education Foundation (ISEF) students from the “Science Building a Society” program, which is a joint venture between the Prime Minister’s Office and the ISEF Foundation to support technology and engineering students (STEM) who live in the social and geographical periphery. The aim is to help them develop academic excellence. The program, now in its fifth year, has been working successfully, and this year, some 200 students are participating in undergraduate to doctoral studies at a variety of academic institutions throughout the country.

The students are also encouraged to volunteer for various community projects, and along with their significant volunteering activities in peripheral areas throughout the length and breadth of Israel, students in the program receive essential tools such as vocational guidance for the hi-tech industry with various courses that will help them at a later stage. 

In the last five years of the “Science Building a Society” program, the Prime Minister’s Office and the ISEF Foundation for Education have awarded scholarships and assistance to students amounting to approximately NIS 22 million. The program offers a window of opportunity for those young people who are seeking a promising future in Israel’s hi-tech and academic circles. Speakers at the event included: Ben Mayost, deputy CEO at the Prime Minister’s Office; Galit Caspi Cohen, CEO of the ISEF Foundation; graduates of the ISEF Foundation who have become senior executives in companies in Israel’s hi-tech industry – Eyal Elhayany, founder and chairman of the Tarya Fintech Group; Itzik Elbaz, co-CEO and co-founder of Artlist; Inbal Israeli Gaffa, CEO and co-founder of InBe Tech. Also present at the event were: Nati Amsterdam, NVIDIA Israel’s general manager; Drorit Steinmetz, head of senior budgets and projects at the Prime Minister’s Office; Bat Chen Eylot, director of national projects at the Prime Minister’s Office; and Prof. Nir Kedar, chairman of the executive committee of ISEF Israel and dean of Sapir Academic College.

■ THE ISRAEL Conservatism Conference has become so important that it has even attracted the Tel Aviv International Salon to Jerusalem for this year’s conference, which will be held on May 26 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. The conference, hosted by the Tikvah Fund and the Friedman Center for Peace through Strength will feature some 50 speakers, among them former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, former national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, former professional basketball player and captain of the Israel national team Omri Casspi, Tikvah Fund chairman Elliott Abrams, former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Arab social activist Nael Zoabi and many other well-known personalities. Cost of participation is NIS 250. 

Participants will be given a broad perspective of choices available to Israelis, and will see that they are people of faith, even if not all are religious. Israelis across the board have more children than others in the West because they consider the world to be a good place to live and thrive. Most Israelis have high civic involvement – they serve in the army, hotly debate politics and vote based on the love and appreciation they have for the Jewish state (if they are Jewish), and for the State of Israel if they are non-Jewish loyal citizens. Israelis establish communities, charity projects and civil society organizations because they believe in the good that comes in building from the ground up, based on familiarity and solidarity with others. In that spirit, come together for a day of vision, community, and discussion about culture and policy that may help determine the shared future of the nation.

■ DENTAL PROBLEMS have been with us for centuries, and even today with a host of advanced technologies that enable people to have perfect or near-perfect sets of teeth, there are many people whose smile is somewhat off-putting because their teeth are in such bad condition. Implants are among the most amazing solutions to rotten teeth, but unfortunately not everyone can afford them. 

Unlike dental bridges in which false teeth are usually too close together, and therefore betray the fact that they are not real, implants can be positioned to look absolutely genuine. The best way to tell is when looking at documentaries featuring well-known figures in their younger years and also in their later years. Late president Shimon Peres, who in photographs and films as a young man had uneven, somewhat decaying teeth, in later years had a radiant even-toothed smile, thanks to implants. 

Apropos Peres, applications for the Shimon Peres Prize established by the German Foreign Ministry in 2017 to honor the memory of Peres, who did so much to bolster relations between Israel and Germany, close on May 15. The prize of €10,000 each is awarded to a young German and a young Israeli working on digital face-to-face projects that inspire cooperation. Full details are available on the German Embassy in Israel’s Facebook page.

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