Diplomacy being what it is, speakers at National Day events tend to be echo chambers of each other, with the representative of the government more or less repeating what was said by the head of the foreign mission. Polish Constitution Day was no exception but for the endorsement of Poland as a tourist destination by Moshe Arbel, the minister for the interior and minister of health.
Although Polish Charge d’affaires Agata Czaplinska had made a reference to tourism to Poland, noting that 150,000 Israelis had visited Poland over the past year, and had also announced the opening of a Polish National Tourism office in Tel Aviv, Arbel went a step further and said that last summer he and his wife and their five children had gone for a vacation to Krakow and Zakopane and had a great time. That might sound good coming from a secular Member of Knesset but coming from a member of Shas with a large brood, it was little short of spectacular. There is a small religious Jewish community in Krakow, most visible through a Chabad presence, but Zakopane’s Jews were exterminated by the Nazis. Before the war, there were 129 mostly affluent Jewish families in Zakopane. The Germans killed them systematically. The few that were left in August 1942 were transported to the Belzec death camp. Yet for all that, Zakopane was considered a wonderful vacation spot and still is.
As for the Polish Constitution, it was the second in the world and the first in Europe. It was the great achievement of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth said Czaplinska who when the toasts were made, invited Lithuanian ambassador Lina Antanaviciene to join her, Polish Defense Attaché Andrzej Stanek, Arbel and Gil Haskel, Israel’s chief of state protocol on stage.
At the time that the constitution was adopted, Poland and its neighbors were facing the imperialist threat of Russia. The constitution remained an inspiration for generations of Poles who were fighting for independence, said Czaplinska.
Today, the same holds true for Ukrainians who are fighting against Russian aggression, she added. Poland is helping Ukraine on all fronts and is hosting more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees, said Czaplinska.
Turning to relations between Poland and Israel, which have known highs and lows, Czaplinska said they are strong. She referred to the recent visit by President Isaac Herzog and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier who were in Poland for the 80th-anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and who together with President Andrzej Duda honored “the heroic act of resistance by Polish Jews.”
Czaplinska said that Poland will always stand up against oppression, cruelty, racism and discrimination.
Turning to the recent agreement on student visits to Poland, she said that under the new agreement, students from Israel and Poland will get to know each other better and to understand each other’s history and culture.”
In acknowledging the importance of the Polish Constitution, Arbel regretted that it had been in force for only 19 years.
Despite the ups and downs in relations between Israel and Poland, and between Poland and its Jewish communities, Poland had nonetheless been home to the largest number of Jews in Europe. Jews lived in Poland for a thousand years and at the outbreak of World War II, there had been 3.5 million Jews in Poland.
As far as the links between Poland and Israel go, four Israeli prime ministers – David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres – were born in Poland, said Arbel, adding that together with other Polish-born Jews, they made a tremendous contribution to the Zionist enterprise.
It is impossible to imagine Israel without its Polish chapter, or Poland without its Jewish history, said Arbel, who emphasized that Poland was among the first countries to recognize the nascent state of Israel and that Israel’s first-ever embassy opened in Poland.
He also mentioned that when Poland was seeking to free itself from Communist rule, Israel stood in support of the Solidarity movement which led Poland to independence.
British Israelis to honor King Charles
■ SEVERAL THOUSAND people of British background live in Israel, and a not insignificant number will be raising a toast to King Charles III in honor of his coronation. Some of these British immigrants are first, or second-generation Brits whose immediate forebears came to England from Europe, Asia and North Africa, while others can trace their ancestry much further back and have much more than their British accents or retained citizenship to remind them of their past.
In celebration of the coronation, as of yesterday and up to and including May 8, British expats living in Israel can have free access to all 1.1 billion UK Historical records, says My Heritage genealogy expert Daniel Horowitz.
The collections span several centuries of history and cover England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
They include, inter alia, birth, marriage, and death records, census records, baptisms, wills and probate records, military records and more.
Aviv Gefen writes children's book
■ WHETHER SPELLED with one ef or two, the name Gefen, which means (grape)vine in Hebrew, seems to have an effect on literary forces. Following in the footsteps of his late father Yehonatan Gefen, who died recently, singer Aviv Gefen, just published a children’s book about a train and, like his father, also reads it to children.
The winner of the prestigious Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature is Israeli author Iddo Gefen for his book Jerusalem Beach. Then there is Gefen, the veteran Israeli publishing company that is headquartered in Jerusalem. Most people whose surname is Gefen were originally called Wein or Weiner (which is wine in Yiddish or German). But in the case of the publishing house, it’s a Yiddish acronym for gezunt, parnosse and naches, meaning health, prosperity and pleasure.
Mega pastor gets Friends of Zion Award
■ AMERICAN SOUTHERN Baptist pastor, author, radio host and televangelist Dr. Robert Jeffress, is the recipient of the Friends of Zion Award which was commissioned by Israel’s ninth President and late international Chairman of FOZ, Shimon Peres. It has been given to more than 22 world leaders, including former US presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump and former US vice president Mike Pence.
The award was conferred on Jeffress by FOZ Director Nir Kimhi in a ceremony held at The Friends of Zion Heritage Center and Museum in Jerusalem.
Jeffress is senior pastor of the 16,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas and a Fox News contributor. He is also an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
In thanking FOZ Founder Dr. Mike Evans for the award, Jeffress said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed by receiving this prestigious award. I was at the Oval Office with [then-]President Trump when he received his award, and I know how much it meant to the president. I talked to Mike Pence last night, and he sends his greetings. Pence told me it was the highest point of his career as well, receiving this prestigious award.
“Never in a thousand years would I have dreamed that I too would receive this award. I thought the high point of my ministry was saying the opening prayer for the dedication of the embassy in Jerusalem, on that historic day. But this beats even that, so thank you so much for this prestigious honor.”
Jeffress also had high praise for the museum. “I truly believe It’s important to visit the Friends of Zion Museum because it is a reminder of the link between Jews and Gentiles,” he said. “You see how in key moments in history, gentiles stood with Israel whenever nations wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.
“My prayer is that the USA will continue to be on the side of Israel. The Bible shows us that, he who is on the right side of Israel, is on the side of history, and most importantly the right side of God.”
“I want to congratulate my dear friend, Dr. Robert Jeffress,” said Evans. “He is without a doubt, one of the most influential evangelicals on the globe and without a doubt, one of the most pro-Israel.”
Ilan Greenfeld, Chemi Peres make a book together
■ THE APPLE certainly does not fall far from the tree. Ilan Greenfield, whose father founded Gefen Publishing and Chemi Peres whose father founded the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation got together to produce a book, My Israel – Seventy Faces of the Land, which will be launched at the Peres Center on June 9. Shimon Peres, when speaking and writing of the dreams of the Jewish People for a national homeland, famously said: “We did not dream big enough… ” This new book may indicate that the reality is actually bigger than the dream.
AACI Jerusalem Day event
■ JERUSALEM DAY is only two weeks away, and as always the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel will honor the memories of the fallen. It will also launch the AACI Remembrance Website honoring the memories of members of AACI and other people from English-speaking countries who were victims of acts of terror or who fell in service to Israel.
A livestream event to be held on Sunday, May 21, at 7 p.m. Israel time and 12 noon EST will include the names of Elan Ganeles, Aryeh Schupak, Rina Dee, Maia Dee and Lucy Dee, who were among the most recent victims of terrorism. Participating in the launch of the website which guarantees to grieving families that their loved ones will be remembered in perpetuity, will be US Ambassador Thomas Nides and Canadian Ambassador Lisa Stadelbauer, as well as Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum speaking about The Unity of the Jewish People. For further information, contact email@example.com