Grapevine: African ambassadors are a family

AMBASSADORS OF the various African states showed up in force to listen to Kenyan Ambassador Felistas Vunoro Khayumbi, who addressed the English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University not only on aspects of her own country, but on the whole of the African continent. When fielding questions, Khayumbi referred to her ambassadorial colleagues, saying: "Ask my brothers." She also mentioned that tourism to Africa was not what it could and should be because too many travelers are influenced by the negative images portrayed by CNN - something that Israelis in the audience could empathize with. Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan is scheduled to address the group on May 16. EVERY AMBASSADOR wants to be involved in a new bilateral activity that is destined to become a permanent feature in relations between two countries. One aspect of the relationship with Ireland is that our sixth president, Chaim Herzog, was born there, and every Irish ambassador maintains close contact with the Herzog family. Another is that some of the immediate family members of Robert Briscoe, the first Jewish lord mayor of Dublin, also live here. Now, there will be an aspect of a more academic nature when Irish Ambassador Michael Forbes participates in the May 8 launch of the annual Samuel Beckett lecture series at Tel Aviv University. The first lecture will be delivered by Jackie Blackman of Trinity College, Dublin, who will speak on "Samuel Beckett and the Holocaust." Beckett had a staunch relationship with Ireland's Jewish community. WITH REGARD to the Herzogs, an embarrassing incident was narrowly avoided at the annual Beit Hanassi Independence Day reception for IDF commanders from 1948 to the present, heads of the defense and intelligence establishment and past presidents and prime ministers. Over the past decade, Aura Herzog has represented her late husband, who was not only a former president, but also a former head of military intelligence and the first military governor of the West Bank and chief of Southern Command. "Where am I?" asked Herzog when she arrived a few minutes in advance of the traditional group photo with the president, prime minister and defense minister. The chairs with name cards had already been set out, but there was none with hers. Beit Hanassi events coordinator Aviva Reshef Shutz rushed to repair the damage and brought a chair to the front row so that Herzog could sit next to the fifth president, Yitzhak Navon. AS FOR Navon, Acting President Dalia Itzik, whom he helped in the early stages of her political career, remarked in private conversation with him and then publicly via the microphone on the huge wave of applause he had received the previous evening at Mount Herzl, when he was called on to light one of the beacons to usher in Independence Day. IT WAS an extremely busy day for Itzik, who hosted three events before participating in the Israel Prize awards. The last of the three was the annual Independence Day reception for the diplomatic community and heads of churches and religious communities. Former chief of protocol at the Foreign Ministry Uri Halfon was there in that capacity after having also been at Beit Hanassi in the morning at the ceremony honoring 120 outstanding soldiers. On that occasion he was there as the grandfather of outstanding soldier Cpl. Mor Hasson. At the diplomatic event, Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Assem Ibrahim Mohamed warmly embraced the president's political adviser Avi Granot, with whom he maintained a genuine friendship when they were serving their respective governments in Ethiopia. BEIT HANASSI staff members were kept busy on Independence Day and in the period leading up to it, but few more so than the president's aide-de-camp Brig.-Gen. Shimon Hefetz, who through the Defense Ministry organized a Six-Day War photographic and map exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary and who personally contacted all the Six Day War commanders still living to make sure that they would attend the morning reception. THE RECENT massacre at Virginia Tech had thousands of parents of university students with their hearts in their mouths. Among them was single mother Larisa Miculet, ambassador of Moldova. Her only son Eugeniu, 19, is a student at Clark University. Miculet has been on the phone to the US with greater frequency since the Virginia Tech tragedy. Although her son assures her she has nothing to worry about, Miculet will be able to satisfy herself that he is telling the truth when she goes to Clark next month to attend the commencement exercises.