Grapevine August 26, 2022: Happy anniversary

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides (right) looks at the nano-Bible at the David and Janet Polak Visitors Center, alongside Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan.  (photo credit: Rami Shelush, Technion spokesperson’s office)
US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides (right) looks at the nano-Bible at the David and Janet Polak Visitors Center, alongside Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan.
(photo credit: Rami Shelush, Technion spokesperson’s office)

Featuring then-and-now photographs of their romantic wedding and their current happy smiles, former US ambassador Dan Shapiro tweeted a 30th anniversary message to his wife, Julie Fisher, and to all who follow them on Twitter: “30 years later, I would do it all over again. Here’s to the next 30. Happy anniversary.” The Shapiro family, which arrived in Israel in 2011, stayed on after Dan Shapiro had completed his term of service in order not to disrupt the education of their daughters, and they are still in Israel. Fisher has been extremely active in helping refugee women from Africa to maintain their dignity, to earn a living and to have a community environment in which they can feel safe and respected.

US Ambassador to Israel as an influencer

■ CURRENT US Ambassador Tom Nides, who is a frequent Twitter bug, especially on Fridays, just before Shabbat, is arguably the most affable marketing man in Israel’s food and tourism industries. Roaming all over the country as part of his ambassadorial role, he enthuses about places where he’s eaten and is photographed with management and staff. He is equally enthusiastic about the cities and towns he visits, and the people he meets in institutions, hi-tech companies and local authorities. Obviously, he can’t take a salary from the Israel government for the great promotional work he does, but maybe the Jewish National Fund in conjunction with the Tourism Ministry can plant a grove of trees in his name in whichever part of Israel that he designates.

Nides meets with Haifa's mayor

■ NIDES WAS recently in Haifa, where he spent a whole day seeing the sites, and meeting and greeting people. He marveled at Haifa’s beauty and diversity. In the course of the visit, he met with Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem, as well as with people in business, education and community work. Landmarks that he visited included the Baha’i Gardens, the new Haifa cable car and, of course, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, where he was greeted by President Uri Sivan. A pioneer in Israel’s institutes of higher education, the Technion, which was founded in 1912, is this year celebrating its 110th anniversary. Nides arrived at the Technion campus via the new cable car, had a brief tour and then chatted with Sivan and various faculty members. 

 Former Meretz head Zehava Galon with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on August 8, 2022 (credit: ZEHAVA GALON) Former Meretz head Zehava Galon with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides on August 8, 2022 (credit: ZEHAVA GALON)

Nides recalled that he’d first heard about the Technion when he was 14, and he was very impressed by the fact that it was founded before the establishment of the state and had made an extensive contribution to Israel’s development. He also noted that the Technion is the cradle of the Start-Up Nation.

One of the things that fascinated him during the visit was a nano-Bible.

The focus of conversation was on research collaborations with partners in the US, and the importance of human diversity in academia. Nides is a dedicated advocate for diversity.

125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress

■ APROPOS AMERICANS, there were five at the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897. There will be a lot more representing the American Zionist Movement in Basel this coming Sunday, August 28, at the 125th anniversary celebration of the Zionist Congress, which was initiated by Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, who later wrote that in Basel, he had established a Jewish state, and predicted that within 50 years everyone would know that. Indeed, in 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the partition of Palestine, and in May 1948, the Jewish state evolved from a dream into a reality, and has been represented at Zionist Congresses since that time. At final count, there will be some 1,200 representatives of Zionist organizations in attendance. The American Zionist Movement, headed by Deborah Isaac and Herbert Block, comprises 41 national Jewish organizations representing diverse ideological, political and religious beliefs and practices, but united in support of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Israeli contingent, which will be headed by World Zionist Organization Chairman Yaakov Hagoel, will include among many others, representatives of the Jewish People Policy Institute, whose president, Prof. Yedidia Stern, will be among the speakers and will discuss unity and solidarity among the Jewish people. He will focus on differences between Israeli and Diaspora Jews in their perceptions of the purpose and future of the State of Israel; and the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews, which over the years has changed course.

The congress will give a major boost to Basel’s tourism industry. There were a little more than 200 participants from 17 countries at the first Zionist Congress. There’s a huge increase 125 years later.

Meretz's new lineup 

■ THE VICTORY this week by Zehava Galon, who returned to politics to save Meretz from possible exclusion from the next Knesset, was not unexpected. It was not at her own initiative that she had returned. She had been urged to do so by Meretz members and supporters, many of whom regard Yair Golan as some kind of infiltrator who wanted to take over the party and impose his own rules. The fact that Galon romped in by a landslide in the Meretz primaries and Golan came in fifth on the Meretz Knesset list should make him understand that he’s not exactly popular in the Meretz ranks.

On Friday of last week, a quarter page advertisement was published on the front page of Haaretz, informing readers that Galon is the right choice to head Meretz. Among the many signatories were former Meretz leaders, past and present ministers and members of Knesset, diplomats, academics, entertainers, writers, journalists and other well-known personalities such as Yossi Beilin, Avraham Poraz, Esawi Frej, Naomi Chazan, Daniel Ben- Simon, Collette Avital, Yossi Yona, Etti Livni, Tsali Reshef, Alice Shalvi, Hilel Mittelpunkt, Orna Banai, Oded and Ella Gera, Liora Rivlin, Ilan Baruch, Dorin Frankfurt, Rachel Elior and Alex Levac.

It is known that outgoing Meretz chairman and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz also worked quietly on behalf of Galon.

Hebrew poetry award

■ THE WINNER of this year’s Gardner Simon Nechama Rivlin memorial award for Hebrew poetry is Hava Pinhas Cohen, who was notified this week by Michal Herzog, the wife of the president, that she is the recipient of the NIS 50,000 prize that was established in 2018 by the Administrator-General’s Office in conjunction with Nechama Rivlin, who was a great lover of the visual and creative arts. She was particularly fond of Hebrew poetry, and when presenting the award for the first time, she said that she congratulates lovers of language and words – and the writers who do wonders with them. She expressed the wish that the world will always have people who turn words into poetry.

The prize was established to encourage poets to enrich the world with their talents by enhancing Hebrew poetry, and thereby advancing Israeli culture.

Following Rivlin’s death in June, 2019, it was decided to add her name in perpetuity to the award. Runners-up were poets Yitzhak Cohen and Raphael Weichert.

Israel Bar Association celebrations

■ IN CELEBRATION of the start of the new law year, the Israel Bar Association will, on Monday, September 5, host its 11th conference on Judaism, democracy and equality. Among the participants at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv will be Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Bar Association head Avi Himi, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara and Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai. It is not certain whether President Isaac Herzog, who is a lawyer by profession, will attend in person to deliver greetings or whether he will send a video, as he frequently does to various conferences.

Non-round anniversaries

■ WHEN AN anniversary is not a round number, the excuse for celebrating is a double number. Kedumim, on the northern side of the West Bank, which was founded during Hanukkah 1975 by members of Gush Emunim, is celebrating the 55th anniversary of what it calls the “liberation of Samaria.” Among the festivities is a concert this Sunday, August 28, which coincides with the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, which among other things is a month of reconciliation. Hassidic singer Avraham Fried is a firm favorite in Zionist right-wing circles – Aviv Geffen, less so. In recent years, Geffen, once a professional rebel, who comes from a family with a strong left-wing, secular background, was persona non grata among right-wing religious Zionists – but animosity on both sides has dissipated, especially since Geffen, who has previously shared the stage with Fried, composed a song of hope during the pandemic, which he dedicated to the residents of Bnei Brak who had suffered greatly.

Geffen’s gesture was surprising, because he had previously been among left-wing entertainers who had spoken out against the ultra-Orthodox society and had refused to appear in the disputed territories.

Following an interview on Channel 12 about why he had dedicated the song to residents in Bnei Brak, he found more than 400 thank you messages from Bnei Brak on his cell phone after the broadcast. To be showered with so much goodwill, was a truly emotional experience for him. Last year, in an appearance with Fried at Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, Geffen apologized for all the nasty things he had said about haredi society over the years, and, subsequently, recorded a song with Fried. The two have now become a symbol of Jewish unity despite differences in background and outlook.

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