Grapevine February 19, 2023: A united effort

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 PHILIPPINES AMBASSADOR Pedro Laylo with Tourism Minister Haim Katz. (photo credit: PHILIPPINES DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM)
PHILIPPINES AMBASSADOR Pedro Laylo with Tourism Minister Haim Katz.

While Israeli search and rescue teams are deserving of all the praise that has been showered on them for what they have done in the aftermath of the Turkish earthquakes, what was been largely overlooked is the monetary contributions by Keren Hayesod and, in particular, philanthropist Alexander Machkevitch, whose donations enabled the transfer of Jewish survivors from Antakya to Istanbul, where they are being housed in a Jewish nursing home and are being supported by members of the Istanbul Jewish community.

Arrangements have been made for the Istanbul Jewish community to provide the survivors with food and clothing during the period in which they cannot return to Antakya.

Machkevitch said he was honored to be in a position to be able to help, adding that his heart goes out to the Turkish people.

Echoing Machkevitch’s sentiments, Keren Hayesod Global Chairman Sam Grundwerg said that Keren Hayesod continues to work tirelessly around the globe to provide assistance where needed.

■ ISRAEL’S POPULATION has multiplied itself many times over since the founding of the state, but it is doubtful that there were ever as many people in the country as during the past week. Aside from regular tourists, foreign students and foreign businesspeople on a frequent commute, there were some 9,000 participants in the OurCrowd Global Investors Summit in Jerusalem, as well as more than 750 representatives of more than 40 countries at the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) at Expo Tel Aviv. 

Most of the Israel-based ambassadors of those countries were present at the opening last Tuesday, in addition to tourism ministers, hoteliers, travel agents, airline executives, marketing personnel, tour guides and, in fact, representatives of all the many professions within the tourist industry. Among the ambassadors in attendance was Philippine Ambassador Pedro Laylo, who presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog only a month earlier. He was among the ambassadors who personally got to meet Tourism Minister Haim Katz.

Some of the members of the various delegations wore the national costumes of their countries, which added to the color and excitement of the event.

Although this was Laylo’s first time at IMTM, it was the ninth consecutive time in which his country was participating.

A delegation of senior diplomatic and tourism officials arrived from Manila and London. Also in the delegation were famous Filipina singer Princess and her band.

The number of Israeli tourists to the Philippines is expected to increase significantly in 2023, rising from the immediate post-COVID figure of 9,711 from February to December 2022. The record year was 2019, when 22,851 Israelis visited the Philippines.

■ ONE COULD not help noticing in a television interview that opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid gave from his study, that there was an old-fashioned portable typewriter with paper in the roller on the sideboard behind him.

■ IT’S BEEN a tough week for President Herzog, who exerted his energies in trying to get the coalition and the opposition to sit down and dialogue instead of continuing with the hostilities that have divided the nation. With all the tension and excitement that pervaded the Basketball State Cup final on Thursday night, Herzog in all probability preferred watching a game in which there was a relatively short outcome than having to play honest broker between the leaders of the coalition and the leaders of the opposition.

 President Isaac Herzog speaks on Israel's judicial reform on February 12, 2023 (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO) President Isaac Herzog speaks on Israel's judicial reform on February 12, 2023 (credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

■ INASMUCH AS he loves Israel and tweets a Shabbat Shalom message every Friday, US Ambassador Tom Nides is also well disposed to the Palestinians, and is very gung-ho about efforts to help them achieve a viable economy and improve their quality of life. On Tuesday evening of last week, he joined members of the Board of the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, which was the vision of former New York congresswoman Nita Lowey. Also at the meeting were members of USAID West Bank/Gaza. Demonstrating eternal optimism, MEPPA together with USAIDWBG have over the past five years facilitated the transfer of $250 million to build peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.

EARLIER IN the day, Nides, when speaking at the OurCrowd Global Investment Summit in Jerusalem, said the Abraham Accords made Israel a stronger, democratic, Jewish state. He also underscored that early adopters of the Abraham Accords – UAE, Bahrain and Morocco – “created an unbelievable message to the world.”

■ AT THE end of this month, Nides will again be among the speakers at the 16th annual international conference of the Institute for National Security Studies. Also among the speakers will be British Ambassador Neil Wigan, who though very eloquent and erudite, does not make nearly as many conference appearances as Nides. Tzachi Hanegbi, in his new role as national security adviser and head of the National Security Council, will also be among the speakers as will be former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. The legendary Sima Shine, who heads the Iran Program of the INSS, will share insights related to the strength of the Iranian threat. Also among the speakers is Danny Danon, whose other hat is that of chairman of World Likud.

■ AFTER ANNOUNCING her candidature in the US presidential race, Nikki Haley, who is considered to be among Israel’s best political friends in America, released a campaign video in which she is seen with Danon, Israel’s former permanent representative to the UN. Whether this will help her in securing the Jewish vote is at this stage merely a matter of speculation. Danon, who is currently a Likud MK, had expected in view of his ranking in the Likud primaries, and his previous positions, to receive a ministerial portfolio. Needless to say, he’s still waiting, and is unlikely to be compensated, given the projected downward spiral in the economy and the fact that the government is already top-heavy with needless portfolios.

■ EVEN AFTER they have suffered permanent injuries while serving in the IDF, veterans are willing to face challenges, and can usually triumph. This can be seen at the Paralympic Games, in which many team members are IDF veterans with a variety of disabilities. Some of them took up athletics in different sports as part of their rehabilitation process, and discovered that they had abilities that they did not know they possessed. In fact, a great many of them proved to be champions and came home from the Paralympics with medals they had won.

Now, some of them are preparing for a life-changing experience, and are planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Aided by the Friends of IDF Disabled Veterans and Clal Insurance, the group comprises mainly veterans who because of their injuries during active service, were unable to take the traditional post-army trip abroad.

The group got together last week in the offices of HiBob in Tel Aviv where they were greeted by HiBob CEO Ronni Zehavi; Liron Bauchner, the CEO of the Friends of IDF Disabled Veterans; and Gali Schved, deputy head of marketing strategy at Clal Insurance.

PARTICIPANTS FROM the US, Israel, Australia, Canada, UK and South Africa are among the first 27 educators and academics selected for the launch of the Rabbi Sacks Scholars Program, under the auspices of the Rabbi Sacks Legacy organization, which seeks to expand on the teachings of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks by delving into his philosophy and sharing his message with wider audiences.

The program will begin with a retreat in Jerusalem that will provide access to high-level Israelis in many spheres, and also provide a platform for participants to interact with each other and improve their professional skills.

Each scholar will develop a project that will embody the values and qualities of Rabbi Sacks.

The program will feature 10 monthly online seminars taught by global Jewish leaders in education, academia, politics and media.

“Rabbi Sacks was a master communicator, distilling complex Jewish concepts into understandable insights for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Joanna Benarroch, chief executive of the Rabbi Sacks Legacy. “His timeless messages continue to inspire and guide communities of faith, and society as a whole.”

■ AT THE Alber Elbaz-inspired exhibition of creations by Shenkar fashion students at the Holon Design Museum last week, scholarships for continued study at Shenkar were awarded to four young designers by members of the Elbaz family. The four scholarship recipients are Neta Bonfil, Ron Shahar, Shahar Elias and Daniel Kodriavtsev – names that may one day become household words.

■ ANYONE WHO has heard a female cantor or a woman’s choir singing liturgical songs in a Conservative or Reform synagogue can vouch for the fact that they not only do as well as men, but are sometimes even better. A mixed choir of male and female voices with an even broader vocal range is better still. Choir conductor Hadas Levmore refers to her Zimrat Haaretz choir as an “egalitarian hazanut choir.” Together with the Inbalim and Kol Rina choirs, it will be performing at Moreshet Avraham Synagogue, 22 Adam St., Jerusalem, on Tuesday, March 14 at 8:30 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

This seems to be the season for choral performances in Jerusalem by choirs specializing in liturgical music. This includes both Sephardi and Ashkenazi choirs.