Guests invited to join journalist Walter Bingham in celebrating his 99th birthday were informed that he would be holding an Open House between 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Bingham’s apartment is conveniently located in the heart of town and is easy to get to but at least one invitee found the time span inconvenient and came in the morning, bearing a book as a gift. After all, what is an appropriate gift for a 99th birthday, when the recipient is still hale and hearty, straight-backed and working?
The early caller was Israel’s number one citizen, President Isaac Herzog, who was very interested in Bingham’s studio in a well-appointed room just inside the entrance to the apartment. This is where Bingham interviews people for his Walter’s World radio broadcasts aired on Arutz 7. Bingham’s by-line also appears in The Jerusalem Post and its sister publication The Jerusalem Report.
Bingham has been recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s oldest working journalist. He is also a German-born Holocaust survivor who got to England just as the war was beginning, joined the British army and landed in Normandy. He appeared as an extra in a Harry Potter movie and celebrated his 95th birthday by sky-diving. He told Herzog that he plans to break the record for the world’s oldest sky-diver when he turns 102.
Bingham, who regularly attends media events at the President’s Residence, sent an invitation to Herzog but didn’t really expect him to attend. But attend he did, together with his security detail and a couple of staff members, which explains why he came so early.
“Walter, you are a blessing,” said Herzog. “I am very proud to meet someone who fought the Nazis in World War II in the British Army, just like my late father. It’s a special honor for me to come here because your generation, the generation of soldiers of World War II, clearly saved the world.”
Herzog was not the only dignitary who accepted Bingham’s invitation. Others included US ambassador Tom Nides, who has been there before and stayed for a while chatting to people, though his security guard would have preferred to leave sooner, Lithuanian ambassador Lina Antanaviciene and deputy mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan Nahoum.
According to Bingham’s daughter, Sonia, the family has good genes and she had a great aunt who lived way beyond 100. Bingham balked at the traditional wish that he should live to 120.
As he looks around, he sees increasing numbers of people living to triple-digit ages and he’s aiming for 180.
Quite a stir
■ ALTHOUGH THE main focus of the presentation of credentials by new ambassadors on Wednesday was on Turkish Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Torunlar, Australia’s new ambassador, Dr. Ralph King, was also newsworthy in that his appointment was announced on December 20, by Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Penny Wong, following Australia’s announcement in October that it no longer recognizes western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This caused quite a stir in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, in announcing King’s appointment, Wong stated that relations between Australia and Israel are close and long-standing.
She noted that “Australia was one of the first countries to vote in favor of the UN resolution that led to the creation of Israel in 1948, establishing diplomatic relations with the newly formed state in 1949.” She added that the modern-day relationship is sustained by a history of strong personal connections and by the large, vibrant Jewish community in Australia.
Relating to practical cooperation, she listed security, defense and cyber, which continue to deepen, as well as economic relations, which continue to grow with a particular focus on innovation and technology.
Commenting that Israel will mark its 75th anniversary this year, she looked forward to 2024, when Australia and Israel will celebrate 75 years of bilateral relations.
It is highly possible that Herzog, who is scheduled to visit Australia in 2024, will celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations in an address to parliament in Canberra.
King, who is a senior career diplomat, is familiar with the region having previously served as Australia’s ambassador in Riyadh, Cairo and Kuwait, and was deputy head of mission in Hanoi.
■ CHANGE IS definitely in the air. The presentation of credentials by the Turkish and Australian ambassadors plus their colleagues Pedro Laylo from the Philippines, Milton Umana from El Salvador and Kim Jin Han from South Korea, was followed by the traditional vin d’honneur at the King David hotel. But contrary to previous custom, the ambassadors and their spouses did not stand in a line in the reception hall to meet each of their guests individually and exchange a few words.
They instantly mingled and at some point in a departure from the norm, each of them, other than the Turkish ambassador, stood behind a lectern and thanked their fellow diplomats for coming and the President’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the King David hotel for the warm welcome and the efficient handling of the credentials ceremony. Laylo added that he looked forward to working together with the international united community.
That was not the only change. For many years, the main buffet was located at the far end of the room, well away from the entrance. This time, the buffet was right in the middle of the room so that everyone could walk around it and help themselves. Small islands of meat dishes were placed around the walls and served by chefs, whereas the buffet was self-service.
Back on the path
■ IN TANDEM with its 40th anniversary, Elem, an organization that cares for youth at risk, held its annual fundraiser in Smolarz Hall at Tel Aviv University and closed the evening with checks and pledges amounting to NIS 2 million.
These funds will be used for additional Street Vehicles programs, Elem’s night mobility program that operates in 24 cities around the country. On hand to greet guests and donors were Elem executive members: president Nava Barak, CEO Tali Erez and chairman Shlomo Yanai. Also seen at the event were Bank Hapoalim chairman Reuven Krupik, Bank Leumi chairman Samer Haj Yahya, Nova CEO Eitan Oppenheim, Delek proprietor Gil Agmon, Ayalon Insurance Company CEO Sharon Reich, Meitav Investment House CEO Ilan Raviv, and Hod Hasharon Mayor Amir Kochavi.
All those present heard a first-person story by an Elem graduate, a factor that made their contributions more meaningful. In religious circles, when someone becomes non-observant, he or she is described as being “off the derech” (straying from the path). In Elem, the aim is to put youth back on the path – not necessarily a religious path if their background is secular but a path that has meaning and purpose and gives the individual a sense of self-worth and a goal for the future.
People who work for Elem really put their hearts and souls into what they are doing. Among them is Yael Eckstein, president of the Yedidut (Friendship) Association, who was presented with the Yakir Elem award in recognition of and appreciation for her years of service.
Wedding during a funeral
■ THE LAST thing any prospective bride expects is to be unable to attend her own wedding. That almost happened this week to a Bnei Brak bride who had the misfortune of having the date of her wedding coincide with the funeral of Rabbi Shimon Baadani.
Thousands of people attended the funeral and there was no way that an ordinary vehicle could get through the crowds of mourners who blocked many streets. To make matters worse, the bride’s family lives close to the cemetery and she could barely set foot outside.
Aware that United Hatzalah (UH) had provided medical security for everyone attending the funeral, the bride’s brother went out into the street to see if he could find a UH contact person. He came across the local chapter head, Effi Feldman, explained the situation and asked for help. Feldman immediately contacted UH dispatch and asked for permission to transport the bride. It was duly given and an ambulance that had just come off duty was duly sent.
The crowd parted like the Red Sea in the Bible. The ambulance picked up the bride and her family and transported them to the wedding hall at no cost. After the ambulance deposited them at their destination, Feldman said, a call came through about a serious accident on the nearby highway. The ambulance crew was able to respond immediately and take a critically injured person to a hospital.
Youth making aliyah
■ YESH ATID MK, Russian-born Tatiana Mazarsky, who came to Israel at age 17 under the auspices of Naale, the immigrant youth education program, which is a joint endeavor of the Education Ministry, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry for Immigration and Absorption, will initiate a Naale lobby in the Knesset. Yeshayahu Yechieli, Naale’s program director since its inception, revealed this at its 30th-anniversary celebrations, this week.
Before becoming director of two Leumit Medical Centers in Karmiel, Mazarsky, like many Naale youths born in what was then the USSR, worked in immigrant absorption and education. She worked in the At Home Together program of the Jewish Agency and taught Jewish history at the Institute for Jewish Studies.
Later, while working for Leumit, she helped new immigrants find employment and established volunteer groups to support Holocaust survivors and other senior citizens living in Karmiel. She has been a legislator since June 2021. Naale is a Hebrew acronym for Noar Oleh Lifnei Horim (Youth migrate (to Israel) before their parents).