Grapevine: A joyful caravan of embassies to Jerusalem?

Costa Rican farewell, culture-filled capital, a Rothschild aliya and a new man in Dublin.

fashion model 311 (photo credit: Courtey)
fashion model 311
(photo credit: Courtey)
IT’S NOT often that one sees an ambassador at a formal luncheon who is too overcome with emotion to speak, and who has to brush away tears in the process. This is what happened at the farewell luncheon hosted last week at the King David Hotel Jerusalem by Foreign Ministry Inspector-General Victor Harel in honor of Costa Rican Ambassador Noemy Baruch, who is leaving toward the end of this month after almost eight years of tenure.
El Salvador Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson, who is one of Baruch’s best friends, was simply unable to read the inspiring Irish blessing that she had prepared, and passed it on to Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General Pinchas Avivi to read on her behalf.
Gun de Hasenson, who presented her credentials two-and-a-half months after Baruch presented hers and was previously first secretary in her embassy, used to come with Baruch to many Jerusalem-based events that were not necessarily attended by other diplomats. For a long time they were the only two ambassadors based in Jerusalem, until their governments decided almost four years ago to move their embassies to the coastal plain, where all other embassies are headquartered.
Farewells are part of diplomatic life,” said Harel. “We come, we go, and sometimes we come back.”
It is uncertain whether he was alluding to Chilean Ambassador Irene Bronfman Faivovich, who, after completing her term, recently made aliya, or to former Colombian ambassador David de la Rosa, who also made aliya after completing his term and has been living in Israel for several years.
In an era of Internet, Facebook and Twitter, some people ask whether diplomats are still needed, said Harel, who has been in the foreign service for some 40 years. Facebook notwithstanding, he declared, face to face contacts are still needed, and in that respect, Baruch had done a great job in representing her country.
He suggested that the general public has a false impression of diplomats, whom they see all the time at cocktail parties and dinners. The real situation is quite different, he said, and special skills are required to overcome certain difficulties.
Among those sitting around the large table was Israel’s new ambassador to Costa Rica, Danny Saban. Harel hinted that Israel would probably have two ambassadors there, as Baruch would certainly be of the utmost help to him.
As far as Baruch’s Israeli husband journalist Shlomo Papirblat is concerned, the event was a double farewell. He had just taken leave of Yediot Aharonot, where he had worked for 32 years, and will now be the Latin American correspondent for Haaretz.
Papirblat remarked on the fact that both he and Baruch are the offspring of Holocaust survivors who lived within 40 kilometers of each other in Poland. Her father went to Costa Rica to start a new life, and his father came to Israel. The chances that he and Baruch would ever meet were slim, he said, but destiny was obviously working overtime. Baruch, who has frequently been hailed as the most elegant ambassador in Israel, came to politics and diplomacy from the fashion industry, and has continued to maintain a stylish appearance.
She has no idea what plans the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry has for her, but will serve until retirement age, at which time she will return to Israel, where she has a daughter, Ailyn Eida, two grandchildren and a brother.
Baruch said that Israel was the most exciting place to be for any ambassador, but in her case particularly so because she had arrived during the intifada, had witnessed terrorist attacks, two wars, the turbulence of political life under three prime ministers and the flourishing of the economy, technology and culture, “as if there were no existential problems.”
She had come to one of the last embassies in Jerusalem, she said, and when the embassy moved four years ago, it was because Costa Rica was preparing a place for itself in the “joyful caravan of embassies moving to Jerusalem on the day after the peace agreement is signed with the Palestinians.”
If that level of optimism was shared by Yair Biton, the real estate developer who acquired the land at the entrance to Jerusalem on which the Foreign Ministry compound was previously located, he would probably be building an embassy row instead of a new luxury neighborhood.
Dean of the diplomatic corps Henri Etounda Essomba added his voice to the accolades heaped on Baruch, especially as she was also his deputy dean. That position will now be taken over by Gun de Hasenson.
■ WHEN THE time comes for Essomba to leave, it will be even more difficult for him than for Baruch. He has served as Cameroon’s ambassador since October 1998, after having previously served for several years as charge d’affaires.
■ TEL AVIV may have a reputation as the city that never stops, but Jerusalem is increasingly offering keen competition. Last Thursday night, for instance, some of the entertainment options included: Yoni Roeh at the Mamilla Mall; the marathon Jewish Music Festival at the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mount Zion; the second annual Woodstock revival at the Kraft Stadium; Petite Fleur, an evening of French chanson in the Daniel Garden at Safra Square; and Arkadi Duchin at the Hutzot Hayotzer International Arts and Crafts Fair, where The New Orleans Function jazz band was also featured.
Not everyone wanted to pay the NIS 90 entrance fee to Woodstock, and there were quite a number of people sitting outside or standing on the fence just listening to the music and watching the crowd inside.
The Jewish Music Festival on Mount Zion was unfortunately poorly attended in comparison, especially since the many performers included the cream of the crop of Jewish soul music. Rabbi Eitan Ben Avraham sang a song that he had specially composed for Gilad Schalit, but the best of the best was undoubtedly Benyamin Steinberg, a Carlebach exponent, who not only sounds exactly like Shlomo Carlebach but respects him sufficiently not to put his own spin on Carlebach melodies by changing the arrangements. Carlebach frequently sang at the Diaspora Yeshiva during visits to Israel, and Steinberg often sang with him.
■ ALMOST 16 years after his death, Carlebach’s popularity continues to grow, so much so that the Yiddishpiel Theater has temporarily abandoned its usual format and is currently featuring Carlebach Hai (Carlebach Lives), a musical largely presented in Hebrew with a smattering of Yiddish that tells the story of his positive influence on people all over the world.
Written by Avi Koren and directed by Yoel Zilberg, with musical direction by David Krivoshey who is also on the keyboard throughout, the production features Shlomi Goldberg as the narrator. Goldberg, who is familiar to television viewers as the somewhat nerdy host on Channel 1’s religious program on Saturday nights, surprises with his ability to loosen up and also sing and dance. Golan Azulay appears as Carlebach but lacks his special charisma. He would come across well to anyone who didn’t know Carlebach, but for those who did, there’s something missing. Other members of the cast include Ilan Leibovitz, Gil Kepten and Israel Rand, who seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves when singing and dancing, and they succeeded admirably in conveying the Carlebach spirit.
Last week, they put on a pre-premiere run-in performance to a packed house at ZOA where audience response was enthusiastic, though not to the extent of dancing in the aisles, which is what happens when true Carlebach devotees get together. Still, they did join in the singing, particularly towards the end.
Yiddishpiel founder and director Shmuel Atzmon, who was standing in the lobby after the show was over, was beaming at the number of congratulatory comments, which may mean that the show will have to go beyond its scheduled run of 25 performances.
■ JAFFA’S ARAB residents are not the only ones who are unhappy about what they perceive as the nouveau riche invasion. Some of the Jaffa artists are equally unhappy but not necessarily for the same reasons. The Arab concerns are largely demographic. They feel themselves being displaced. The artists’ concerns are more about history and character. They are afraid that the ongoing destruction of historic old buildings to make way for the new will ruin the character of Jaffa and make it even more commercial than it has already become.
Moshe Amar, one of the first artists to move into Jaffa, remembers when it was brimming with artistic talent. Most of the artists have either died or moved away, he said, because the Jaffa of today is not the place they initially came to. Amar was voicing his frustrations while at an exhibition of “Ancient Lands” Australian Indigenous Art in Israel that is currently on view both in Studio Shifron in Jaffa and at the Hutzot Hayotzer arts and crafts fair, where Australia is participating for the first time.
Gallery owner Ayal Shifron recalled that a little over 30 years ago, the Tel Aviv City Council wanted to destroy old Jaffa, and the artists, who included the late flamboyant and influential Dahn Ben Amotz, mounted a huge and effective protest. But there aren’t enough artists living in Jaffa these days to stop or at least modify its transformation.
Amar was also angry that government bodies that support cultural organizations and projects are not doing enough to help young artists. There’s an enormous amount of talent around, he said, but it isn’t being encouraged.
■ SHIFRON, WHO is an artist, paints during the winter months and makes his space available to other artists in the summer. He was extremely proud and moved to be hosting an exhibition of indigenous aboriginal art in his space, he said.
“It looks as if it belongs here,” he added, indicating the sea outside the window. “It’s like having a Mediterranean caveman.”
The beauty of art, he said, is that it can juxtapose across the world and still look as if it belongs. He was tremendously impressed by the way in which aboriginal artists maintain their ancient traditions, and said he was thrilled to meet Solomon Booth, a prize-winning artist from the Torres Straits, who while leaning on tradition is also a contemporary artist.
Booth was busy explaining aboriginal art to gallery visitors last Friday and to visitors to Hutzot Hayotzer during the rest of the week.
Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner commented on what a treat it was to see such high quality Australian indigenous art in Israel, while curator Anthony Murphy, who is just winding up a 13-year stint as director of the Injalak Arts, described the exhibition as “vibrant, strong and robust” and noted that aboriginal art has the longest continuous tradition of all art. The aborigines have lived in harmony with the land for 40,000 years, he said, adding that a paleontologist had recently discovered a rock painting of a dinosaur that was 50,000 years old, with formations similar to those used by aboriginal artists today. The exhibition will remain on view till August 19, and visitors to Hutzot Hayotzer will be able to see the aboriginal art till August 14.
■ CARTOONISTS OFTEN exaggerate an image, particularly one based on a real person. Thus, a cartoon that appeared in Yediot Aharonot this week, depicting a very roly-poly Rani Rahav telling a spaghetti-thing Eyal Arad that as a media adviser he would suggest that Arad file a complaint with the police in order to strengthen confidence in the fact that he (Arad) is indeed a media consultant, shows that the cartoonist was either working on an old image or was placing Rahav’s stature above that of Arad. In the flesh, Rahav is now solid, but certainly not overweight. Exercise and a controlled food intake have made a new man of him.
Hundreds of people had the opportunity to see him at the launch of the Castro fall/winter collection on Sunday, as he networked the total floor space of the reception area of Hangar 11 at Tel Aviv Port exchanging pleasantries with all the invitees. Rahav and his wife Hila have been handling Castro’s publicity for just under 20 years.
■ BECAUSE THERE was so much of the best of déjà vu in the show, the reception area was furnished a la fifties, including ballerina figures, box radios and clocks, living room suites of a bygone era, and even metronomes swinging gently on vintage dressers.
One of the walls was used for a repetitive screening of the best of Castro from the 1970s to the present day, and contained photographs by former fashion photography icons such as Mula Eshet and Sami Ben Gad.
Video teams from Walla, NRG, and YNet plus others from television channels were busy interviewing anyone who wanted to talk, but the video team that caught everyone’s attention was that of Hador Haba (the next generation), represented by a small in stature but big in ambition couple named Ruthie Parti and Yossi Segal.
The two, though obviously well into the third age, are contemplating a fourth, which is why they call themselves Hador Haba. Everyone they talked to thought they were cute or sweet and gave them all the time they wanted. They figure that, because they’re unusual compared to the svelte twenty-something men and women with unlined faces who are talking about fashion on television or the Internet, some visionary television producer will decide that maybe they have viewer appeal.
Castro Co-CEO Etti Rotter, who invariably wears a garment from the new collection at every new season’s unveiling, chose a slim fitting, sleeveless black leather princess line dress and said she was very proud that Castro creations are rooted in Tel Aviv. She also expressed full confidence in her design team, which was living up to the motto: “We are the people of this city. We are the people of style. We are the people of love. We are the people of music. We are the people of fashion.”
Her mother, Lena Castro – who, together with her father, Aharon Castro, founded the firm some 60 years ago – sat in the front row.
Shenkar College was well represented in the design team as well as in the audience, including the new president of the college, former MK Yuli Tamir.
■ AMONG THE new immigrants who arrived in Israel last week was Baron Edouard de Rothschild, whose family name is well entrenched in the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland. Baron Edmond de Rothschild was the initial family benefactor, buying up huge tracts of land for Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. Other members of the Rothschild family continued to support Israel in many ways. Among their gifts were the Knesset building by James de Rothschild and some time later the Supreme Court building by Dorothy de Rothschild. The Rothschilds were also generous contributors to the Israel Museum – and that’s just a very short list of what the Rothschilds have given to this country. It should be remembered that Baron Walter Rothschild was the recipient of the document that came to be known as the Balfour Declaration.
Edouard de Rothschild, who is the principal stockholder of the French left-leaning publication Liberation, will be commuting between Tel Aviv and Paris, where he continues to have other financial interests. He is also an avid equestrian and the president of a well-known French horse club. His presence in Israel may revolutionize the Israeli equestrian scene. It was reported that Rothschild was offered the same basket of assistance that is given to all new immigrants – but he politely declined.
■ FOUR YEARS ago, Malcolm Gafson, chairman of the Israel Ireland Friendship League, stood in his Ra’anana living room amid fellow Irish expats to bid farewell to Zion Evrony, who was taking up his position as Israel’s ambassador to Ireland.
Last week, Gafson and his wife Leah hosted a similar event, this time to bid farewell to Evrony’s successor, Boaz Modai, and his wife Nurit. Unfortunately Irish Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly was not present to join in the toasts, as he was back in the Emerald Isle on vacation, but Irish Embassy Charge D’Affaires Conor Long was there to do the honors instead.
Modai said that he was looking forward to the challenges of his new post and thanked Gafson for time spent over the last few months in introducing him to the “tastes and flavors” of Ireland and teaching him to perfect the Gaelic greeting of “Cead Mile Failte a Daoine Uisle” (a hundred thousand welcomes, dear people), which will not only surprise the Irish, but will hopefully endear Modai to audiences of his host country.
Gafson presented him with a Hebrew translation of James Joyce’s immortal work Ulysses, which recalls a day in the life of the most famous fictional Irish Jewish character, Leopold Bloom, and assured him that he would find it so engrossing that he would be rereading it many times over the next four years.
The Modais should have a great time in Dublin which has been recognized by UNESCO as the City of Literature. It is only the fourth city in the world to receive such recognition within the framework of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
In addition to Joyce, names such as Swift, O’Casey, Wilde, Shaw, Behan and Beckett are synonymous with Dublin, and there are reminders of their great literary works throughout the city. Current Dublin writers achieving international acclaim include Colm Tobín, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle and John Banville. The tradition of Bloomsday, which every year commemorates the wanderings of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus throughout Dublin in June 1904, is the most popular literary event in Dublin, and is also celebrated by Irish ambassadors around the world.
■ IT’S RARE for President Shimon Peres to find someone his own age who can equal his degree of energy. But on Monday he met his match at the annual ceremony of the President’s Awards for volunteerism. Moshe Czeszla, a 91-year-old Polish-born Holocaust survivor whose whole family was murdered, came to Ashdod after the war, worked for many years at the port, where he was in charge of the mechanical equipment, and following his retirement devoted himself to the welfare of senior citizens, especially the homebound who live alone. He visits them regularly, brings them food and medication, visits retirement complexes, and today is caring for people who are 10 and 20 years his junior. The straight-backed Czeszla gets around on a bicycle. In addition to what he does for individual senior citizens, he volunteers for Yad Sarah, the Association for the Welfare of Israel’s Soldiers and the Israel Cancer Association.
■ ANOTHER NONAGENERIAN who remains spry and debonair and doesn’t look anywhere near his age is SANO founder and chairman Bruno Landsberg, who turned 90 on Sunday. His family, along with some 300 employees who he treats as extended family, got together at the company’s headquarters to usher him into his next decade. A bigger gala bash is planned for some time in the near future.