Grapevine December 11, 2022: Beyond blarney

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 OUTGOING TOURISM MINISTER Yoel Razvozov with Kazakhstan Ambassador Satybaldy Burshakov. (photo credit: SILVIA GOLAN)
OUTGOING TOURISM MINISTER Yoel Razvozov with Kazakhstan Ambassador Satybaldy Burshakov.
(photo credit: SILVIA GOLAN)

Eventually all roads lead to Jerusalem. Just over a year ago, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney gave an address in Jerusalem hosted by the Israel branch of the World Jewish Congress. In June of this year, Irish Ambassador Kyle O’Sullivan was among Irish expats, friends of Ireland and fans of renowned Irish author James Joyce, who gathered in the Dublin Pub in Jerusalem for the Bloomsday Festival in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the famous Joyce novel Ulysses.

This week, on Tuesday, December 13, Ireland-based historian, author and broadcaster Yanky Fachler will be at Jerusalem’s Hibba Center, to address the Israel branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England on the 1904 Limerick Pogrom, and next week the Irish ambassador will again be in Jerusalem for the presentation to the National Library of the 22 volume Genealogical History of Irish Jewish Communities compiled by Stuart Rosenblatt, president of the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society. The latter event organized by the Israel Ireland Friendship League chaired by Malcolm Gafson, is supported by the Embassy of Ireland. Israel and Ireland do not see eye to eye on a number of issues, but when Coveney was in Israel last year, he gave assurances that despite their differences, Ireland is a friend of Israel.

OF ALL the former presidents of the US, the one who has paid the most visits to Israel is Bill Clinton, who developed a personal friendship with both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Clinton, who will receive an honorary doctorate on Monday from the University of Haifa, will not be coming to Israel for the occasion, but will be honored at a ceremony in New York. Clinton visited Israel four times during his two terms as president, and came again for the 80th and 90th birthday celebrations of Peres, and for the funerals of Rabin and Peres. At the Peres 80th birthday bash, Clinton made international headlines by joining young Israeli singer Liel Kolet in singing a duet of John Lennon’s immortal song “Imagine.” Clinton also came again on one or two other occasions, one of which was as the guest of Israeli-American entrepreneur Haim Saban, who is a long-time supporter of the Democratic Party, and on another occasion for the opening of an educational facility named for Peres. 

There is a strong likelihood that he may come to Israel again in August 2023, when the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Israel’s longest serving member of Knesset and the only person to have served as both prime minister and president. According to Yona Bartal, the founder and director of the Shimon Peres Friends Circle, which is headquartered at the Peres Center, plans are afoot for a number of memorial events aimed at inspiring people to pursue their dreams just as Peres had done. 

Clinton said of Peres that he inspired by refusing to lose hope. “I was always in awe of his endless capacity to look beyond even the most crushing setbacks in order to seize the opportunities of each new day,” said Clinton in eulogizing Peres.

 YASSER ARAFAT reaches to shake hands with Yitzhak Rabin, as Bill Clinton stands between them, after the signing of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles, at the White House on September 13, 1993. (credit: GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS) YASSER ARAFAT reaches to shake hands with Yitzhak Rabin, as Bill Clinton stands between them, after the signing of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles, at the White House on September 13, 1993. (credit: GARY HERSHORN/REUTERS)

■ TOURISM MINISTER Yoel Razvozov, who is also the head of the Israel-Kazakhstan Joint Economic Committee is going through a swan song series, representing the government at various diplomatic and other receptions on an almost nightly basis. On Wednesday of last week, he represented the government at the reception at the Dan Hotel, Tel Aviv, hosted by Kazakhstan Ambassador Satybaldy Burshakov and his wife, Maira Karakeshova, in celebration of the 31st anniversary of the Independence of Kazakhstan and the 30th anniversary year of Israel-Kazakhstan diplomatic relations. Burshakov noted that Israel had been one of the first countries to enter into diplomatic relations with Kazakhstan after his country had gained its independence. He was also appreciative of the participation of Israelis of different faiths including chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that took place in September in Astana, the Kazakhstani capital, which was known as Nur-Sultan from March 2019 until September of this year, in deference to the country’s first and long-standing former president.

Kazakhstan

Although Kazakhstan has undergone many reforms in its 31 years of independence, it is still looking for its place in the global economy in a world of aggressive confrontations, said Burshakov, adding that Kazakhstan is promoting integration into international organizations.

As for Israel, there is cooperation on many levels, and a desire by Kazakhstan to expand economic cooperation as well as cooperation in hi-tech, cybersecurity, medicine, health care, agriculture and more.

Diplomatically, Kazakhstan has made great strides, and currently has diplomatic relations with 180 countries, and a clear foreign policy in which the priority is cooperation, along with justice, equality and the protection of human rights.

Razvozov said the bond with Kazakhstan goes far beyond 30 years to the period of the Holocaust. Israel will never forget that during the Holocaust, when most states closed their doors to Jews, Kazakhstan opened its heart and provided a haven, he emphasized. Fast forward, Razvozov noted that in modern times many Israelis choose to travel to Kazakhstan, and he hoped to see more visitors from Kazakhstan coming to Israel. He also hoped to see direct flights between the two countries in the near future.

Among those present was a group of eight young Kazakh musicians from the Kazakhstan University of the Arts. Dressed in national costume, they had been brought to Israel not only for the reception but also for performances in Jerusalem and Netanya, courtesy of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress President Dr. Alexander Machkevitch. Also in attendance was former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was in high spirits and posing for endless selfies. When asked how he could still be smiling after his recent loss of a defamation case that was filed against him by the Netanyahu family, Olmert replied: “They got only 7% of what they asked for.” For Liliane Haim, the new director of the Protocol Department of the Foreign Ministry, the evening was one of endless introductions, as her boss Gil Haskel, the chief of state protocol, kept introducing her to one ambassador or chargé d’affaires after another. But it was a great way to meet them.

■ THERE IS no doubt that antisemitism in its diversity keeps Jews actively engaged in fighting it and in forming local, national and international networks for the exchange of information about increased verbal and physical aggression against Jews, means of combating such manifestations and what is needed to protect Jewish communities from assaults. Strangely, the social negativism that brings all this about helps to identify and develop Jewish leadership potential, which finds outlets not only in the struggle against antisemitism and boycotts, but also in other avenues of Jewish life and even in the broader community. If all the antisemites realized that what they do helps to develop Jewish leadership – they might stop delegitimizing and persecuting Jews. On Thursday, December 15, the World Zionist Organization and its Department for the Struggle against Antisemitism and the Boosting of Jewish Resilience, will hold its annual conference on the Challenges of Fighting Boycotts Against Israel.

The event, which will be held at the ANU Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University, will examine the situation from legal, economic and social perspectives. There will be three separate panels, with panelists including inter alia several academics such as Prof. Rafi Melnick, the president of Reichman University, Prof. Oded Murdoch of Ariel University, Prof. Asa Kasher, emeritus professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and one of Israel’s most consulted experts on ethics, and Prof. David Enoch, of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law.

The day’s discussions will be summed up by Mark Regev, the head of the Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy at Reichman University, and Prof. Albert Pinhasov, the rector of Ariel University.

Regev who writes a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post, is a former Israel ambassador to the UK, where he frequently encountered antisemitic and anti-Israel attitudes.

One of the highlights of the event will be a one-on-one discussion on the legitimacy of a boycott in which Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a British-born lawyer by profession, will talk with controversial American lawyer Prof. Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of the Harvard University Law School.

■ ON MONDAY, December 19, the World Jewish Congress, Israel and its diplomatic corps are bringing together leading figures from many spheres in Israeli society to discuss and promote equality in leadership. Participants will explore where Israel stands today, and will examine ways in which the younger generation in particular, can advance equality in Israeli society.

The half-day event, which begins at 8.30 a.m., will be held in English at the Raya and Josef Jaglom Auditorium on the campus of Tel Aviv University. A panel discussion on how equality in political leadership can improve Israeli society, will include former ambassador and MK Colette  Avital, who now chairs the  Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel and is a member of the WJC Executive Committee; Ronny Leshno-Yaar, former ambassador of Israel to the EU and NATO; Yofi Tirosh, vice dean of the Faculty of Law at TAU; and Nitzan Senior Shneor, founder and CEO of Young Women Politicians. There will also be another panel discussion on the benefits of equality from a business perspective and a keynote address on Women’s Leadership in Conflict Zones by journalist and documentary filmmaker Itai Anghel, who has personally witnessed the actions of women in leadership in conflict zones.