Grapevine February 24, 2023: Celebrating Kosovo’s independence

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 FROM LEFT: Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Gil Haskel, Ines Demiti and MK Boaz Bismuth. (photo credit: SARAH DAVIDOVICH)
FROM LEFT: Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Gil Haskel, Ines Demiti and MK Boaz Bismuth.
(photo credit: SARAH DAVIDOVICH)

When diplomats living in Herzliya or Kfar Shmaryahu host their National Day receptions, they usually do so in their residences or in a hotel in Tel Aviv or in the Rabin Center which is also in Tel Aviv. But when Charges d’Affaires Ines Demiri of Kosovo hosted a reception this week to celebrate the 15th anniversary of her country’s Independence, she chose a hotel which was literally a hop, skip and a jump away from her embassy.

Both Information Minister Galit Distal Atbaryan and Jerusalem Deputy-Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum emphasized that Kosovo was the first European country to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Hassan-Nahoum also noted that Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country, and quipped that when Israel celebrated its 15th anniversary, it also had a population of around two million. (The population today is on the verge of 10 million).

Geography was not the only difference between the Embassy of Kosovo and other European countries. When the latter host a national day reception, the overwhelming majority of guests arrive exactly on time or even earlier. In Jerusalem, whose denizens are noted for keeping Jewish Mean Time, the banquet room at the Leonardo Hotel, filled up only an hour after the official start of the reception.

But one thing that guests at receptions in Herzliya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have in common is a lack of respect for a performing artist. The reception included a recital by distinguished pianist Artemida Qarri-Haxhiaj, who somehow managed to ignore the buzz of conversation around her. But she’s not the only performing artist who has to compete with voices coming from all directions. In a concert hall, anyone disrupting a performance is made to leave. But at a diplomatic reception the most anyone would dare to do, would be to ask for quiet. That’s actually what happened on this occasion. Other than the music emanating from the piano the room fell silent – for less than half a minute, and then the cackle of voices started again.

In general, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the speeches were certainly better than what is usually heard at events of this kind.

The hotel also has to be commended for taking vegans and vegetarians into consideration. There was a meat-free buffet on one side of the room, and a buffet that included both salads and meat on the other side. The food was also very tasty.

Demiri, in her address, said that freedom and independence had been long in coming to her country. She expressed appreciation to all those who had brought it to fruition. She also declared that Kosovo will never forget and will be forever grateful to Israel for hosting Kosovo refugees during the war of 1999.

Since gaining independence in February 2008, Kosovo has been recognized by more than a hundred countries including the majority of EU and NATO states.

Relating to the reason for the reception, Demiri said: “No-one understands better than Israel the challenge of building a modern democratic country.”

After opening the Embassy in March 2021, Kosovo has signed several agreements and Memoranda of Understanding with Israel, and more are on the way.

Bilateral cooperation between Kosovo and Israel grows daily, said Demiri.

Among the agreements is one with Yad Vashem for promoting Holocaust education.

Demiri, whose father is the head of Kosovo’s Jewish community, was pleased to announce that a Jewish Cultural Center is being built in Kosovo.

To emphasize the speed with which bilateral relations between the two countries have developed, Distal Atbaryan noted that Israel’s ambassador to Kosovo presented her credentials very soon after Israel’s recognition of Kosovo. The minister added that Israel and Kosovo are cooperating in diplomacy, economics, cultural exchanges, education, medical training and more, and said that an exchange of trade delegations is also in the offing.

Israel was very touched by the fact that both the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo lit the first Hanukka candle together with the Israeli diplomatic delegation, she said.

Hassan-Nahoum who enjoys a close relationship with Demiri, said that Demiri is not only the Charge d’Affaires of Kosovo, but has become part of the fabric of Jerusalem and has become involved in everything in the city.

Seen among the guests were Chief of State Protocol Gil Haskel, Stephanie Hallet, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy; Dan Oryan, director of the Balkan Department at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Laurence Weinbaum, director-general of the Israel branch of the World Jewish Congress; Yitzhak Eldan, president of the Ambassadors’ Club of Israel; and Likud MK Boaz Bismuth.

Gilad Kariv

HOW SAD that MK Gilad Kariv, who is also a Reform rabbi had to once again use his Knesset immunity to smuggle a Torah scroll into the praying area of the Western Wall for use by the Women of the Wall who have been congregating there on a monthly basis since 1988. In an era in which women have become heads of government, foreign and defense ministers, heads of global companies, world-renowned scientists, presidents of Supreme Courts and more, it is almost ridiculous to deny them the right to pray freely at a designated site at the Western Wall where they can wear prayer shawls and collectively read the Torah aloud. At a time when the rift among Jews in Israel is growing ever wider, Women of the Wall are a unifying factor because they include Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Masorti, Renewal and Reconstructionist women who all have a strong sense of Jewish identity but come together from slightly different directions.

Instead of reviling them, they should be held up as an example. There is a certain hypocrisy among people who profess to be ultra-Orthodox, but who curse and physically attack the Women of the Wall, given that among the reasons for the destruction of the Second Temple is the public humiliation of someone who was inadvertently invited to a banquet, and cruelly disinvited by the host.

This kind of public humiliation in some ultra-Orthodox circles extends way beyond Women of the Wall. It can be seen in the refusal by prestigious Ashkenazi yeshivot and seminaries for girls to refuse to enroll Sephardi youth. Do they choose to ignore the fact that the Rambam and many other great sages were not Ashkenazi? Nor for that matter were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

And then there are the ultra-Orthodox hooligans in Mea She’arim who burn tires, overturn garbage bins and do serious damage to local shops in the area whose merchandise does not meet with the approval of the so-called modesty police.

All these people put a stain on the many wonderful ultra-Orthodox Jews who are exemplary in their generosity of spirit and their kindness to and acceptance of others, including those who do not follow their life style.

■ TODAY, FRIDAY, marks the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which most other countries have condemned as a violation of human rights.

The killing of more than 8,000 civilians and the injury of more than 13,000 civilians is nothing short of genocide. The question is why they thought they would get away with it. The answer according to international human rights activist Prof. Irwin Cotler is indifference and apathy.

Citing as examples, Russia’s wars with Moldova, Chechnya, Georgia and Crimea, during which the world at large remained silent, Cotler, opines that Russian President Vladimir Putin believed that the same would happen if Russia invaded Ukraine. But the courageous and determined response of the Ukrainian people was a wake-up call to the world that this was not just a regional conflict but a global threat.

The Ukrainians are still fighting for survival, and Russia, while continuing with the war, is enhancing its relations with Iran, which is a very serious red alert.

ONE CAN’T help wondering to what extent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will try the patience of the public. Over the past few years, he asked for immunity from being charged with corruption. Then he asked for immunity from standing trial. Then, after he was ousted from office, he was adamant about returning despite being on trial on several charges of corruption. Then, realizing that he could not return to the official residence of the Prime Minister which has been gutted from the inside, he has turned his private apartment a couple of blocks away into his official residence. But he also has a home in Caesarea, the expenses of which he expects the taxpayer to fund. People who are well acquainted with Sara Netanyahu, say that she does not want to return to her former abode. Some suspect that this is because she does not want to leave it again. She’s already done so twice, in addition to which cracks have begun to appear in the structure of the present government, which means that it is unlikely to live out a four-year term. It’s fair enough for the PM to receive the same perks in his Jerusalem apartment as he received in the official residence. But there is absolutely no valid reason to cover his expenses, beyond security, in his home in Caesarea. After all, he wanted to be prime minister. No one forced him and told him that he must return. He could have very easily stepped down from the Likud leadership to give another potential leader a chance. But he didn’t – aside from which he has considerable wealth of his own.

If he wants to increase his comforts, let him pay for them.

As for the official residence, when one sees the speed with which multi-story luxury apartments are going up in Jerusalem, there is no excuse for the tardiness in renovating the official residence of the prime minister.