Grapevine October 9, 2022: A different Balfour Day celebration

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 NOBEL PRIZE laureate in Chemistry Carolyn Bertrozzi with President Isaac Herzog when she came to Israel to receive the Wolf Prize. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
NOBEL PRIZE laureate in Chemistry Carolyn Bertrozzi with President Isaac Herzog when she came to Israel to receive the Wolf Prize.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

It has been a long-standing tradition on the part of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association (IBCA) to hold an annual Balfour Day dinner on the actual anniversary of the Balfour Declaration or sometime in the first half of November.

As was the case with many other traditions over the past two and half years, they were shelved due to COVID. As flu fears have replaced fears about COVID and people are now queuing up for flu shots, the IBCA is uncertain as to whether there would be a good attendance at a Balfour Dinner this year and has decided to celebrate Balfour Day differently. It has organized a full-day tour of British Mandate Jerusalem on November 2, which is the actual 105th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

As most IBCA members live in Herzliya, Netanya, Raanana and Kfar Saba, a day in Jerusalem is definitely an outing and there’s even a possibility of a Devonshire tea replete with scones, butter, jam and clotted or whipped cream, plus tea that is served in a teapot.

The tour will include Jerusalem landmarks, some of which were designed by British architects. IBCA Chairperson Brenda Katten promises that the Balfour dinner will be reinstated next year, which will be the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

■ WHETHER DIRECTLY or indirectly, several winners of the Wolf Prize have a connection with Israel. The most recent is Carolyn Bertrozzi, this year’s Nobel Prize laureate for Chemistry, who earlier this year won the prestigious Israel Wolf Prize, awarded to her by President Isaac Herzog. It is interesting that Israel Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, Dan Schechtman, and himself a Wolf Prize laureate is currently acting chairman of the Wolf Prize Foundation. The winners of the Wolf Prize are traditionally announced at the President’s Residence and the laureates are subsequently presented with their awards by the President of Israel at a gala ceremony in the Chagall Hall of the Knesset. This year’s Wolf Prize winners received their awards from Herzog.

 President Isaac Herzog reenacts Theodor Herzl’s famous balcony photograph in Basel on August 29, just as his late father and Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, did during his state visit to Switzerland in 1987. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) President Isaac Herzog reenacts Theodor Herzl’s famous balcony photograph in Basel on August 29, just as his late father and Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, did during his state visit to Switzerland in 1987. (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

■ TRADITIONALLY, THE friends and supporters of Musicians of Tomorrow, an institute that encourages young musicians from northern peripheral areas to develop their talents, hosts a concert during the intermediate days of Sukkot with group and individual performers who have been trained by Anna Rosnovsky, a violinist, who graduated from the Moscow Academy of Music. In 1977, she was one of the trickle of Soviet Jews who were permitted to leave but had to abandon her family and leave most of her belongings, including her precious violin, behind. Soon after her arrival in Israel, she auditioned for the vacant position of second violinist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO). She was one of several highly trained Russian musicians looking for employment. Many of them, unfortunately, had no option but to become street musicians, living from the coins thrown into their music cases.

Zubin Mehta, who was then the director of the IPO, quickly recognized Rosnovsky’s talent and upgraded her to first violinist, a position that she held for several years.

In 2006, prior to her retirement from the IPO, she and fellow Soviet-born violinist Maxim Vengerov, who lives in London but spent a lengthy Sabbatical in the Galilee, decided to found Musicians of Tomorrow in a bid to recreate the long-standing Russian tradition of inspiring children to appreciate and create music in Israel. The students, separately and together have performed in concerts in Israel and abroad, and some have gone on to make international careers for themselves. One such student is Mark Karlinsky, a young Russian-born violinist who currently plays in an orchestra in Germany, has returned to Israel to participate in the festive Sukkot concert that will be hosted on Wednesday, October 12, at the Herzliya home of Doreen and Alan Gainsford. Karlinsky has, of course, been trained by other great violinists but one of his early teachers was Rosnovsky.

This is the first such concert in three years and regular attendees are bursting with excitement that it could finally be held again.

Yiddish and sports

■ YIDDISH KEEPS gaining in popularity. Classes are available at some of Israel’s universities, at Beth Shalom-Aleichem (Shalom-Aleichem House), Tel Aviv, and also at Beit Leyvik (Levik House), Tel Aviv, where registration for classes in Living Yiddish taught by Tova Reshtik Davidson, begin on October 24. The classes will be given fortnightly from 10 a.m. on Monday mornings until July 27, 2023. The cost is NIS80 per two months.

IT IS a widely accepted fact that sport is a significant vehicle in helping to overcome national, ethnic and religious prejudices. In most cases, such prejudices are based on brainwashing and ignorance. When people get to know each other as individuals or as groups, prejudice begins to dissipate and is replaced by curiosity, understanding and appreciation.

In Israel, sport is an important factor in breaking down barriers between Jews and Arabs. Martial arts champion Danny Hakim does it with Budo for Peace, in which Jews and Arabs come together not only to compete against each other but with each other in teams.

The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, has long organized soccer games and other sporting events in which mixed teams of Arabs and Jews compete against each other.

The Israel Surf Life Saving Federation holds mixed classes in swimming, surfing and life-saving for Jews and Arabs, beginning with young children and moving into late teens. Deep friendships formed at an early age tend to last so it is unlikely that participants in any of the above will become racists or extreme nationalists as adults.

Another sports area in which Jews and Arabs compete as individuals and in mixed teams is the Freddy Krivine Tennis Center.

Born in England, the late Freddy Krivine, who was a lifelong tennis enthusiast was one of the six founder trustees of the Israel Tennis Centers in 1972 and continued with his involvement after settling in Israel in 1984. His enduring goals were to introduce tennis to Israel’s different communities and see an Israeli Arab play at Wimbledon.

In 1992, he was elected President of the Israel Tennis Association and held the post until his death in 2005.

His daughter Jane continues to perpetuate his legacy and works towards the realization of his dream through the Freddie Krivine Initiative, a charity that she created in 2005.

Jane Krivine is particularly proud of 19-year-old Omnia Esawie from the village of Faradis, who works as a youth counselor and assistant coach. She joined one of the FKI empowerment programs for children in her village when she was eight and has been playing tennis ever since. She says that the program affected her not only in terms of sporting prowess and health, but also in education and socially. When she was still very young, she was determined to improve and to continue getting ahead of herself.

The FKI programs, she explains, are much more than tennis. They are like a family helping everyone to succeed and encouraging everyone with regard to their future plans so that they can change their lives for the better.

The program was also instrumental in boosting her self-confidence.

Today, she is not only a graduate of the program but completed high school two years ago and then joined the Masar leadership program with Edmond de Rothschild partnerships. She plans to begin studying for a bachelor’s degree next year at Tel Aviv University or the Hebrew University. She doubts that she would have come as far without having joined the FKI program.

Based on her own experience, when she works with children, Esawie keeps telling them to take advantage of every minute they are in the program and to make sure they never lose their spot because through the program they will receive all the tools they need to succeed in life.

■ AS BUSY as October is with its many festivals, November is likely to be even busier with elections, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the birthday of Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the memorial ceremony for assassinated Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the memorial ceremony for Israel’s first President Chaim Weizmann, the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Partition of Palestine and numerous conferences. November will also usher in the first early Shabbat, as Israel will be operating in accordance with winter time by then.

Among the conferences is one hosted by the Taub Center on Inequality in Health: Defining Challenges Developing solutions.

This annual Herbert M. Singer International Conference will be held on Monday, November 14 at the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

The first session will be devoted to health inequality in Israel. The Israel speakers at the all-day conference, are overwhelmingly in the majority. Guest speakers include Prof. Sir Michael Marmot of University College, London and Prof. Joreinjte Mackenbach, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam. The Health Ministry, health clinics and Israeli universities are well represented. Ordinarily, the Minister of Health would deliver greetings or an opening lecture but since the identity of the new health minister is not known, nor is it known whether the interim government will remain in place until yet another round of elections, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has not been invited to participate.