Grapevine June 9, 2023: A shared history

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

 US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides with FedEx Israel CEO Miryam Tzur.  (photo credit: David Azagury – US Embassy Jerusalem)
US AMBASSADOR Tom Nides with FedEx Israel CEO Miryam Tzur.
(photo credit: David Azagury – US Embassy Jerusalem)

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, who has been his country’s point man in recent months in handling matters related to Israel, was in Jerusalem this week as the head of a Polish delegation. One of the key items on his itinerary was the opening at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center of the Trails of Hope Exhibition, which was initiated by Karol Nawrocki, the President of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance.

The exhibition, which is largely dedicated to Anders Army, which arrived in British Mandate Palestine in 1943, features an extensive series of posters with blown-up photographs, most of which can also be found in an impressive catalog which documents the Odyssey of the march to and for freedom by tens of thousands of Polish citizens, including Jews, during World War Two.

Whereas the text in the catalog is in Polish and English, the text on the posters is in Hebrew and English. No distinction is made between Jewish and non-Jewish Polish citizens – both civilian and military – though in the speeches at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, there were references to “Polish citizens of Jewish descent.”

Many of the thousands of Poles who fled to the West to escape the cruel occupying forces of the German Army, and those of the Soviets, became involved in efforts to free Poland from these yokes of oppression. Some stayed in the countries in which they had found shelter, forged new lives for themselves and raised families. But their attachment to their origins never waned. This was perhaps evident in the huge crowd of mostly senior citizens that attended the opening of the exhibition in Jerusalem.

Events at the Begin Center often start later than advertised due to Jewish meantime and Mediterranean meantime attitudes of many of the participants. But this time, the overwhelming majority arrived early, and maintenance staff had to keep finding ways to put out extra chairs for the overflow attendance.

 The entrance to the Begin Heritage Center. (credit: PAUL CALVERT)
The entrance to the Begin Heritage Center. (credit: PAUL CALVERT)

Israel is one of 50 countries in which the exhibition will be shown.

Nawrocki said that he had visited a small Christian cemetery on Mount Zion which is seldom visited by tourists unless they are looking for the grave of Oskar Schindler, the industrialist who saved many Jews by employing them in “essential jobs” in his factory.

There are also Jews buried in this cemetery, Nawrocki revealed, because they had come to Palestine with Anders Army without disclosing their Jewish identities.

In addition to the Jews in Anders Army, there were 3,000 Jewish soldiers in the Polish armed forces, said Nawrocki, who added that the exhibition brings the shared Polish and Jewish history closer.

Jablonski also saw the exhibition as a means of connecting Jews and Israelis with Poland, and its quest for freedom.

He was particularly pleased that the exhibition was being held at the Begin Center, because he, like Begin, is a law graduate of the University of Warsaw. Begin graduated in 1935. “We consider him one of our own. You consider him one of yours,” Jablonski said of the late prime minister of Israel.

Polish media interviews War of Independence veteran

■ THE EXHIBITION opening was covered by Polish television whose crew was quick to interview Mordechai Palzur, 94, who was born in Tarnow Poland, and arrived in Palestine in 1943. Injured in the War of Independence, Palzur joined the Foreign Service in 1950, and returned to the army during the Six Day War, when he served as a member of the General Staff.

While serving as Charge d’Affaires in Cyprus Palzur rescued Israeli journalists during the Turkish invasion. He subsequently held several ambassadorial posts. Appointed ambassador to Warsaw in 1986, he was the first Israeli diplomat to serve behind the Iron Curtain since the severing of relations in the aftermath of the Six Day War. He later served as Israel’s Chief of State Protocol.

CAMERA hosts Begin Center talk

■ THE BEGIN Center will also be the venue on Tuesday, June 13, at 7.30 p.m. for a panel discussion co-hosted by CAMERA Arabic titled From East to West: The Export of Antisemitism From Arabic Media.

CAMERA Arabic has exposed many subtle and outright expressions of Jew-hatred on Arabic language programs which are part of mainstream media.

Tamar Sternthal, director and founder of CAMERA’s Israel office and founder of CAMERA’s Arabic department, will moderate the conversation. The panel will include Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, who is a leading authority on Palestinian policy and ideology. A representative from CAMERA Arabic, and geopolitical speaker and writer, Ibrahim Abu Ahmad will also be among the panelists.

For further information contact Aviva Rosenschein at

Amir Ohana's emotional trip to Morocco

■ FOR KNESSET Speaker Amir Ohana, his visit this week to the Moroccan Parliament, was not only historic but emotional in more ways than one. Ohana who is of Moroccan parentage, is the first Speaker of the Knesset to officially visit the Moroccan Parliament, so in a sense, it was also a roots trip.

But before leaving Israel, Ohana met on Tuesday with the Chairman of Kazakhstani Senate, Maulen Ashimbayev, and his delegation. The key focus of their discussions was the multi-level strengthening of inter-parliamentary cooperation between their two countries. Each spoke of the importance of the bilateral relationship.

They also discussed the impact of the large-scale political modernization being implemented in Kazakhstan at the initiative of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Ashimbayev also highlighted the potential for increased trade, and the enhancement of economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties. He attached particular importance to attracting direct investment from foreign sources.

Ashimbayev had been scheduled to speak the same morning in Jerusalem at a conference that was part of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Regions, which is one of Kazakhstan’s important peace-directed initiatives. But as there were many other distinguished speakers at the conference, he gave priority to his meeting with Ohana. It also explains why Kazakhstan Ambassador Satybaldy Barshakov was not seen in the front row seats with other dignitaries.

Why use Israel Post when you can pay more for FedEx and actually get your mail on time?

■ IT’S A lot more expensive to send mail via FedEx than by regular post, but many people are choosing to fork out the money in the knowledge that what they are sending will not only arrive, but will arrive on time. The shrinking of Israel’s postal services and the closure of many veteran post offices is making life increasingly difficult for people who want to pay in person for utilities rather than via a permanent bank order, and of course anyone who wants to send a letter or a parcel by registered mail, has to travel a considerable distance to find a post office. Even then, it’s not certain that whatever is sent will reach its intended destination.

Mail deliveries, when they are made, are also problematic. It seems that a lot of people who find reading difficult are being employed for the job. Otherwise, what explanation is there for the frequency with which mail is not deposited in letterboxes, but is either left in a pile beneath the row of boxes, or distributed along a ledge above the boxes, or all stuffed into the largest box.

That’s why a lot of people don’t mind paying for FedEx which was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas, and is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of its worldwide operations. At a meeting between FedEx Israel CEO Miryam Tzur and US Ambassador Tom Nides, the ambassador learned that there are twenty flights each week between FedEx Express in Israel and the United States. Tzur also presented Nides with a model of the FedEx plane.

Germany's ambassador to miss Nides

■ THERE WILL be many people who will be sorry to see the affable Nides leave the country in the coming weeks, among them German ambassador Steffen Seibert, who describes Nides as a “fabulous guy” from whom he learned a lot.

As a long-time journalist before becoming a diplomat, and before that a spokesman for former Chancellor Angela Merkel, Seibert is naturally curious and loves to learn. In his forays to Bnai Brak to sample cholent and freshly baked challah, he has also developed an interest in the ultra-Orthodox community, and recently met a whole group of rabbis, educators, journalists, business people and philanthropists from the ultra-Orthodox community, who were introduced to him by Rabbi Isaak Shapira.

Will Susie Gelman replace Tom Nides?

■ APROPOS NIDES, included among the names on the short list of potential successors is philanthropist and political activist Susie Gelman, who is receiving a lot of flack from right-wing Jewish organizations. Many people who disagreed with Nides politically, were nonetheless charmed by his easygoing, disarming personality. But their dislike of Gelman borders on the vicious, and if she does indeed receive the appointment, it will not augur well for future relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden.

In addition to Nides, several other ambassadors will be completing their tenure during the summer, among them Finnish Ambassador Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen, and Irish Ambassador Kyle O’Sullivan.

Nir Barkat his New York

■ ECONOMY MINISTER Nir Barkat, who was one of the speakers at The Jerusalem Post conference in New York this week, took advantage of his sojourn in the Big Apple to visit Yeshiva University’s Beren campus to discuss the future of technology, innovation and investment.

Barkat emphasized Israel’s significant role in developing technology, including in cybersecurity, AI, food production and adapting communities to desert climates.

Among the many YU students and key administrators who came to hear him were Paul Russo, Dean of YU’s Katz School of Science and Health; Selma Botman, YU’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Anat Katz, Israel Economic Minister to the US.