MEMBERS OF the British royal family are still holding off on official visits to Israel. However, they don't mind contributing to Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, and even participating. According to Jenni Frazer, the news editor of the London Jewish Chronicle, the royal family is granting the UJIA and the JNF the use of Windsor Castle for Israel's 60th anniversary dinner, which will be held on April 7 in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh and with the participation of President Shimon Peres. The event will of course be kosher. While there have been kosher events at Buckingham Palace, UJIA chief executive Doug Krikler is quoted as saying that this would be the first major Jewish and kosher event at Windsor Castle. What the report doesn't say is that on April 7, 1948, the British were still in place in what the following month would become the State of Israel. The dinner for 300 guests is part of a series of 60th anniversary celebrations that include a gala show at Wembley Stadium in May, with the entertainment line-up including American Jewish comedian Jackie Mason and popular Israeli singer Sarit Hadad. Planned for the end of June is London's first ever street parade for Israel, which should attract a lot of media attention given the amount of anti-Israel feeling there is in certain parts of London.
JUST SHY of a month before he goes to England, Peres will pay a state visit to France, where inter alia, he and President Nicolas Sarkozy will award prizes for excellence in science to two young scientists from the Technion - Dr. Shulamit Levenberg for her work in unlocking the secrets of stem cells and Dr. Hossem Haik for his work in early detection of cancer.
The awards ceremony will take place in the Elysee Palace on March 11. Two young French scientists will also receive prizes. Sarkozy is due to come to Israel in the spring, possibly for the major 60th anniversary conference that will be hosted by Peres and attended by numerous international dignitaries, among them US President George W. Bush.
IN HIS first eight months in office, the peripatetic Peres did very little traveling abroad, but from March 2008, he's got a somewhat hectic overseas schedule that includes visits to Europe and the US. There is talk of him addressing the European Parliament and the US Congress.
Lest it be thought that he's neglecting the folks at home, nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from accepting delegations of representatives from numerous sectors of society, he also works on Fridays and Saturday nights, traveling throughout the country to participate in special events.
Last Friday was a case in point. Peres traveled to Kfar Hayarok to participate in the Dairy Festival and to honor some 600 veteran dairy farmers.
Peres, who in the early years of his marriage lived on Kibbutz Alumot in the Jordan Valley, visited there last month and proved that he still hasn't lost his touch with goat kids. At Kfar Hayarok, he again displayed his knack with animals and fed the calves.
FOR CHILD Holocaust survivor Rena Quint, nothing is more important than being surrounded by her family.
Quint, whose parents and siblings were all murdered by the Nazis, found herself completely alone, without any relatives at the end of the war. She had survived several camps thanks to a series of women who had become her new mother for whatever period of time they were together.
Most of these women perished, and each time one of them disappeared from her life, someone else assumed responsibility for her.
Her three daughters, their husbands and children live in Israel. Her son David, his wife Rachel and their three children live in New York, but make it a point to celebrate major family events in Israel.
Thus they are here this week for the celebration of the bar mitzva of Yisroel Yitzhak, the youngest of their offspring.
Although the ceremony took place at the Western Wall on Monday, the bar mitzva was also celebrated on Saturday at the HaZvi Israel synagogue in Jerusalem where the senior Quints are congregants.
In delivering the sermon, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein noted that for Yisroel, who is a Cohen, there could not be a more suitable Torah portion, because the portion for that particular week dealt in detail with the duties and regalia of the Cohanim, the priests.
It was a source of particular pride to Rena Quint to see three generations of her family standing in front of the Holy Ark to bless the congregation.
Yisroel has priestly lineage on both sides of his family, as was revealed by his maternal grandfather Boruch Helman, who was one of some dozen people who came from America for the occasion.
Rena Quint and her husband, Rabbi Emanuel Quint, have taught everyone in their family to do hessed because this is one way of repaying the many kindnesses that were done to Rena Quint during her traumatic childhood.
Now, she considered it yet another kindness from above to be in Jerusalem with her husband of almost half a century, her children, their spouses, her 22 grandchildren, her two great-grandchildren and two more on the way.
Just talking about it moved her to tears. Although several of his friends accompanied Yisroel to Israel, he didn't just spend time having fun with them and with his family.
He spent a day working in a soup kitchen, in addition to which he and his sister, Tzipi, and brother, Yossi, are today accompanying the rest of the family in dedicating a Quint dining room at Beit Elazraki - one of the residential homes run by Emunah for children at risk and those from dysfunctional families.
Tzipi Quint worked there as a volunteer last summer and when she arrived in Israel last week some of her charges were waiting at the airport with welcome placards. The new dining room can accommodate 200 people.
MISS ISRAEL 2004, Gal Gadot, who will celebrate her 23rd birthday at the end of April, missed out on becoming Miss Universe, but she has a very good chance of becoming the female lead in the fourth production in The Fast and the Furious series.
Gadot, who is the female presenter for Castro, was as cool as a cumcumber on Sunday, when modeling the Castro Spring/Summer 2008 collection, while knowing that soon after she would be on a plane bound for Los Angeles to meet up with the male star of the whole series, Vin Diesel, at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
Although she passed the first audition, Gadot's future is still uncertain. She is on the short list of actresses to be reviewed by Vin Diesel himself.
Meanwhile, the Castro show at the Tel Aviv Fair Grounds was a way of getting celebrities out of bed early in the morning. The paparazzi were waiting like vultures and the TV and Internet video camera crews were waiting en masse to pounce on arrivals such as Gilat Ankori, Orna Datz, Sharon Ayalon, Shiraz Tal, Mickey Boganin, Ravit Assaf, Lior Ziv, Sharona Pick and Rona Li Shimon.
Makeover queen Orna Datz has taken a dose of her own medicine and has now crossed the Rubicon from blonde to brunette, which suits her much better. However, the most popular interviewee was actress Gilat Ankori, who though not exactly a spring chicken, is always willing, always pleasant, extremely knowledgeable about fashion and extremely professional, given that she has hosted her own TV shows and is a member of various TV panels.
ISRAEL MUSEUM Director James Snyder spoke glowingly about the commitment of French Culture Minister Christine Albanel to the "Looking for Owners" exhibition of art stolen by the Nazis in France during World War II.
Albanel had promised to come to Israel for the opening on Monday, and indeed she did, arriving at 2 a.m. in the morning and taking off again at 9 p.m.
The historic exhibition with its underlying human story had received so much publicity that despite the cold, rainy weather, dozens of journalists showed up for the pre-opening press tour and more than 200 people attended the official opening.
It was somewhat overwhelming for Albanel, who despite repeated requests by French Ambassador Jean-Michel Casa and other officials for journalists to keep their distance and allow her to see the exhibition, was crowded by cameras, microphones and tape recorders.
The opening was also attended by cabinet minister Isaac Herzog, whose portfolios include the Fight Against Anti-Semitism, but he also had a personal reason for being there in that one of his father's cousins, a French University student, was sent to Auschwitz, where she met her death.
Also present was MK Colette Avital, who was instrumental in the formulating of special legislation to protect exhibits, and who has been active in various spheres on behalf of Holocaust survivors. Herzog introduced her to Albanel as a candidate for the presidency.
Also present were Italian Ambassador Sandro de Bernardin and his wife, Anna, who are staunch friends of the museum, and Joan Jones, the wife of the American ambassador.
The Israel Museum has some highly talented guides, but even so, nothing compares to being guided by an articulate curator of the caliber of Shlomit Steinberg, the curator of European Art. The eloquent and multi-lingual Steinberg took journalists on a tour that went far beyond art, peeling layers of history as one does an onion.
ALL VISITORS to the Begin Heritage Center are important to the center's founder, president and long-timer Begin friend and colleague Harry Hurwitz.
The center is his pride and joy, and any praise, especially from professionals in any field in which it is engaged, is greatly appreciated.
A group of leading international archivists visited the BHC this week and spent four hours with Hurwitz and Begin Center chairman Herzl Makov.
After touring the building, inspecting the archives and other features, they pronounced themselves to be very impressed.
The group included Dr. Yehoshua Freundlich, head of the Israel State Archives, Michael R. Carlson, director of the Electronic and Special Media Records Services Division of the National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, Allen Weinstein, chief archivist of the United States, and Ian E. Wilson, librarian and chief archivist of Canada. They were hosted by Iris Berlazky, head archivist of the Begin Center.
NOT TOO many people can boast of being married for 60 years. Exceptions are congregants and founder members of Jerusalem's Great Synagogue, Rabbi Charles and Ruth Weinberg.
Prior to making aliya, Weinberg was a respected rabbi in the United States and served, among many other functions, as the president of the Rabbinical Council of America.
Since making aliya, Weinberg has been at the forefront of the campaign to preserve the unity of Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.
SHE HAS an eclectic taste in clothes. She dispenses wisdom in a renaissance manner and she's arguably the sexiest female on the staff of The Jerusalem Post.
Which is why it was difficult for her colleagues to come to terms with the fact that Ruthie Blum has hit the half-century mark.
Born on St. Valentine's Day, Blum usually finds a romantic way to celebrate her birthday, but didn't give much thought to it this year, because February 14 fell on a Thursday, which is the busiest day in her week. It is the day she edits Frontlines, the Friday news features.
While it's true that the staff at the JP is very good about honoring birthdays, weddings, et al, Blum figured that with the regular chaos of a Thursday, no one would remember her birthday.
She didn't take into account that her very good friend, Linda Amar, who is assistant to David Horovitz, the paper's editor-in-chief, was not going to let this special day go by without some form of fanfare.
Aside from being a friend from work, Amar - who is the sister of Steve Leibowitz of IBA News - has a close relationship with Blum because she set her up with Leibowitz two-and-a-half years ago, and they've been an item ever since.
Blum didn't invite anyone, because the party was such a well-kept secret that she didn't find out about it, till it was about to happen.
Horovitz said "it is a joy to work with Ruthie," and pointed humorously to her "counter-intuitive" take on almost everything.
In response, Blum said that she enjoyed working with Horovitz because he respected her professionally while pretty much letting her do her own thing.
She also said that it was a little funny being 50, because she felt she was only 19, but then quickly added that this was impossible because her oldest son happens to be 26.
UpFront Friday magazine Editor Amanda Borschel Dan remarked that she regards Blum as an older sister because much of what she's done, Blum did first - like editing UpFront and bringing twins into the world.
Leibowitz, who is extremely sports minded, said that Blum was the best thing that happened to him in the last two-and-a-half years - except, perhaps, when the Giants won the Super Bowl!