Grapevine: A tribute to Leah Rabin

The British ambassador meets with haredim, Poland marks Armed Forces Day and recognition for a hi-tech high-flyer.

peres rabin center 248.88 (photo credit:)
peres rabin center 248.88
(photo credit: )
LONG BEFORE he become one of the leading figures in the public relations industry, Ran Rahav developed a very special relationship with Leah Rabin. It began when he worked as an in-house spokesman for the Dan Hotels chain, and over the years Rahav, his wife Hila and their son Royee became part of the extended family of Leah and Yitzhak Rabin. The close connection between the Rabin and the Rahav families was intensified after the assassination of Yitzhak, and remained so after Leah died 10 years ago.
While Dalia Rabin devoted herself to the creation of the Rabin Center for Israel Studies in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park, there was little of major significance that bore the name of Leah Rabin, who was so much more than the wife of. To mark the 10th anniversary of her death, it was decided to dedicate the auditorium in the magnificent shell-roofed complex designed by Moshe Safdie in her name.
Ran and Hila Rahav hosted the reception prior to the ceremony which Rahav moderated. Rahav could not bring himself to use the words “in her memory,” in reference to the naming of the auditorium, because as far as he’s concerned there are still so many living signs of her presence. Instead, he said, it was in her honor.
Looking out at the throng of more than a thousand people who came last Friday to the Rabin Center for this special event, Dalia Rabin exclaimed: “Only Rani Rahav could have brought all these people together!” Indeed the age group ranged from people in their 90s to infants not yet a year old.
Aside from the Rabin family, there were Nobel and Israel Prize laureates, members of the judiciary, politicians, philanthropists, bankers, businesspeople, academics, cultural figures, diplomats, people linked with the many causes with which Leah Rabin had been associated, entertainers, fashion models, ex-Palmahniks, media personalities and of course paparazzi galore. There were just too many well-known faces for photographers to miss the opportunity to capture their images.
Among them were Ruth Dayan, Raya Jaglom, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz, Avishay Braverman, Isaac Herzog, Shari Arison, Dalia Itzik, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau who affixed the mezuza, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Michael Strauss, British Ambassador Matthew Gould, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi, Eitan Ben-Eliahu, Idan Raichel, Ofer Nimrodi, Meir Shamgar, Galit Levy, Gilat Ankori, Sassi Keshet and Yona Elian.
President Shimon Peres noted that Leah Rabin was a unique personality in her own right, with a well developed taste in literature, a person who maintained her connections with world leaders to whom, in a very personal way, she explained Israel’s mission and challenges, and a woman who was deeply involved on many levels with what was happening here. She was a perfect foil to her husband, who was bashful by nature, said Peres, because she found it easy to talk to people and to network, and in that way she helped him to overcome his shyness. She was also fiercely loyal to his memory.
His voice almost breaking with emotion, Rahav spoke of Leah Rabin as his best friend, a larger than life personality, who devoted herself to the welfare of autistic children whom she made a point of meeting individually. She was popular on the international lecture circuit, and she never hesitated to speak her mind regardless of whether she was talking to a journalist, a member of Knesset or a prime minister. If she were still alive, declared Rahav, no one would dare try to deport the children of foreign workers.
Rabin’s eloquent granddaughter, Noa Ben-Artzi Rotman, shared vignettes of a beloved, wise, yet funloving and fashion conscious grandmother, who even in her final days in a hospital bed, with her strength visibly ebbing, remained well groomed and was thumbing through couture magazines.
The fact that her mother died within days of the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death, symbolically reunited them, said Dalia Rabin.
Each always complemented the other, and in remembering them together, there was always a sense of joy tinged with sadness, she said.
■ BRITISH AMBASSADOR Gould, who will be the keynote speaker tonight at the annual Balfour Dinner hosted by the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, is not letting the grass grow under his feet in his efforts to familiarize himself with the manifold layers of life here. The religious tabloid network Kav- Itonut last week gave extensive coverage to his meeting with a representative group of members of the haredi community. The meeting was initiated by philanthropist and international businessman Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the son of the late millionaire, MK and Agudat Yisrael leader Avraham Yosef Shapira, whom Gould reportedly met in London on the advice of his predecessor Sir Tom Phillips. Yitzhak Shapira has been an adviser on haredi affairs to a series of British ambassadors, and is now carrying on the tradition with Gould.
Among those attending the meeting in Shapira’s North Tel Aviv home were Bnei Brak Mayor Yerahmiel Boyer, Eliahu Schlesinger, the rabbi of Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood; Rabbi Shmuel Jakobovits, son of the late chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth Lord Immanuel Jakobovits; Moshe Gerlitz, editor of the haredi magazine Mishpacha; Yosef Wallis, director general of the Arachim organization; Yehezkel Fogel, director of the haredi academic campus in Kiryat Ono; Modi’in Illit Mayor Ya’acov Guterman; Yitzhak Pindross, deputy mayor of Jerusalem; Yitzhak Goldknopf, secretary of the rabbinic committee on matters related to the Sabbath; Matityahu Tenenboim, of the editorial board of Hamodia; Ya’acov Levy, a member of the Netanya City Council; Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, chairman of ZAKA; Moshe Rose, editor of the English language edition of Hamishpacha; Avraham Kreuzer, communications consultant and strategist; and veteran communications expert Arye Frenkel, who had been the parliamentary aide to Shapira’s father.
Gould was the only clean-shaven person in the room, but noted that his grandfather, who had been an Orthodox Jew in Poland, would have been proud to see the company that he was in. Gould was keen to learn their attitudes to the State of Israel and how they would run the country if they were in power. According to reporter Avi Rosen, no one, especially the Holocaust survivors in the group, voiced any anti-Zionist sentiments, but if it was up to them, it would be a state based on Torah values, they said.
■ LAST YEAR, Latvia celebrated the centenary of Sir Isaiah Berlin, who though he left Latvia as a child, remains symbolic of the manifold contributions that Jews made to life there prior to World War II. This week, when celebrating Latvia’s Independence Day at Tel Aviv’s Einav Cultural Center, Ambassador Martins Perts brought in the exhibition detailing Berlin’s life. Although many of the guests, the majority of whom were Latvian expatriates, were already familiar with the history of the noted philosopher, they eagerly crowded to read the texts and examine the photographs which related not only to Berlin and his family, but also the Latvia of their times, and the fact that the Riga Polytechnic, because of its very liberal attitude toward Jews, attracted many young Jewish students from all over Russia.
Shenkar College president and former education minister Yuli Tamir was a protégé of Berlin and studied with him at Oxford. Her absence was a pity, because she is one of the few living Israelis who actually knew Berlin well. Berlin, spent the greater part of his life at Oxford, first as a student, and then as a distinguished faculty member, but during World War II, served in an important diplomatic role at the British Embassy in Washington. He returned to academia after the war, and though a fervent Zionist, rejected an invitation from prime minister David Ben-Gurion to become the director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
The exhibition, though relatively small, contains a lot of information about Berlin and his extraordinary ability to make connections with the most important people in almost every field. It will remain on view till the end of November.
■ SOME AMBASSADORS host their country’s national day ceremonies in their residences and some prefer to go to hotels, especially when they have a large number of guests. Polish ambassadors have chosen to celebrate in their various residences, which over the years moved from Ramat Gan to Herzliya Pituah to Kfar Shmaryahu, but this year in honor of the 20th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic ties, Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska and defense attache Col. Ireneusz Drazyk decided to celebrate Polish Armed Forces Day at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Magdziak Miszewska had practiced her opening address in Hebrew, and after delivering it without a single mistake in pronunciation, breathed a huge sigh of relief as she switched to English.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and the ambassador underscored the level of friendship between Poland and Israel that will be emphasized in February when the governments of the two countries meet in Jerusalem at a meeting headed by the two prime ministers. This will be the first meeting in which the government of an Eastern European country will be conducting a dialogue not only here, but in Jerusalem.
Although Poland’s embassy is outside of Jerusalem, it conducts and participates in events inside Jerusalem more than most other countries.
Three of the guests at the reception were conferred with special awards for their contributions to Poland in the fields of culture, education, preservation of history, restoration of graves, building of monuments and heroism during the war against the Nazis.
They were Dr. Jack Fliderbaum, an honorary consul of Poland, who received the highest decoration from Poland’s minister for foreign affairs; dual national Krzysztof David Majus, a translator who has dedicated himself to the restoration of Jewish and military cemeteries in Poland; and Samuel Guss, who served with distinction in the Polish army during World War II and who is active in the Association of Polish Veterans here.
Magdziak Miszewska noted the presence of a number of former ambassadors to Poland: Mordechai Palzur, the first ambassador following the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, Gershon Zohar, Szewach Weiss and David Peleg. All, with the exception of Peleg, are Polishborn, and Peleg comes of Polish parentage.
After completing his tour of duty in Poland, Peleg left the diplomatic service to take on the role of director- general of the World Jewish Restitution Organization. He has since led efforts to obtain the restitution of looted Holocaust-era property, particularly in Poland and Lithuania. In this capacity, he has welcomed the passing of the first reading by the Lithuanian parliament of a bill that will provide compensation for Jewish community property confiscated by the Nazis.
Last July, when Avigdor Lieberman paid the first ever visit to Vilnius by an Israeli foreign minister, he met with Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and told him that Israel appreciates the efforts being made by the Lithuanian government to find a solution to the problem of restitution of Jewish property. He also delivered an invitation from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Kubilius to visit. That invitation will be taken up in December. Discussions with the Lithuanian premier are expected to go beyond bilateral relations and to include the progress being made on the draft law.
■ YOU DON’T have to be an adult to start a hi-tech company. In fact the exposure from an early age to hi-tech equipment triggers initiative among many teenagers to find solutions to as yet unresolved problems. An example is Yossi Dahan, a 12th grader at the Beersheba Amit Yeshiva, who has launched Upmobile, a promising company that develops iPhone applications. Dahan has come up with other useful innovations, and he’s currently working on more.
At a ceremony at Kfar Batya in Ra’anana, Dahan received the Amit Educational Award for Excellence from Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, who is constantly meeting high school students who are on the way to being major players in scientific and technological achievements. Rabbi David Hatuel, head of the Beersheba Amit Yeshiva, says Dahan deserves the award not only for his initiatives, hard work and creativity but also because he is a diligent student who never misses classes, especially Torah studies.
■ THE ANNUAL $1,000 a plate gala dinner hosted at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York by the Friends of the Rabin Medical Center was billed as Best of Israel/Best of New York. Celebrity chef Mikka Sharon was flown in from Tel Aviv to cook for 650 guests. Violin virtuoso Shlomo Mintz gave them food for the soul. There was an exhibition of works by Israeli artists, a fashion show featuring creations by the country’s leading designers and a public auction for equipment for RMC’s Davidoff Center, which according to Nava Barak, president of the Israel Friends of the Rabin Center, treats 20 per cent of the country’s new cancer cases. Members of the Davidoff family specially flew in from Mexico for the occasion and Dr. Eyran Halpern, CEO of RMC, and Pini Cohen, chairman of the Israel Friends, flew in from Tel Aviv with Barak her husband Shalom Zinger.
■ INTERNATIONAL HOTELIER Alexander Tessler, who is based in Germany and owns the Princess Hotel in Eilat, was here for the 20th anniversary celebrations of German unity. Tessler, also active in promoting tourism from Germany, hosted a festive meal at the Princess at which the guests included chef Elmer Werner and a delegation of four students from Berlin who are studying tourism, as well as Tessler’s son Marlon, who lives here and takes care of the family’s local business interests.
Tessler, a prominent figure in the German Jewish community and a former chairman of Keren Hayesod in Germany, has been working in cooperation with Werner for many years to promote bilateral tourism, and each year brings a student delegation to Eilat. He is one of several Jews residing in Germany who own hotels here. Among the others are philanthropists Joseph Buchman and David Teig.
■ GREEK AMBASSADOR Kyriakos Loukakis this week hosted a reception at the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv to mark the 2,500th anniversary of the battle of Marathon, and to unveil an exhibition of 18thcentury book pages and gravures. The exhibition, held in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Sport, tells the story of the victory a handful of Greeks against the vastly superior forces of the Persian Empire.
The battle, with its timeless message of courage and perseverance against all odds, inspired ideological movements in the 18th and 19th centuries, as reflected in the exhibition.
■ THERE WAS quite a lot of excitement at the Foreign Ministry this week, particularly in the African and Protocol departments, due to the arrival of Botswana Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Phandu Skelemani. It’s been a long time since a foreign minister of an African country has visited, said a ministry veteran.