Grapevine: Australia makes history

James Larsen's busy month, Moshe Arens' mission to Poland, aliya for Elliot Spitzer's former secretary and a commemoration for Leon Klinghoffer.

greer fay cashman (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
greer fay cashman
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR James Larsen is extremely busy this month making preparations for the annual ANZAC Day ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus, to be followed soon after by the dedication of the Park of the Australian Soldier in Beersheba. The park is yet another project of the Melbourne-based Pratt Foundation, which has set up numerous projects here. Its centerpiece is a life-size bronze memorial by noted Australian sculptor Peter Corlett, commemorating the charge of the Australian Light Horse on October 31, 1917. Corlett is currently here to oversee the installation of the sculpture depicting a mounted horseman with drawn bayonet leaping over Turkish sandbags. The installation is due to take place today, Wednesday. The reenactment of the charge on its 90th anniversary last year captured enormous media attention, especially because there were descendants of Australian soldiers who had been part of the victory against the Turks participating. The park, developed in cooperation with the Beersheba Municipality and the Beersheba Foundation, is specially designed and equipped for children with disabilities and special needs. It will be officially dedicated on April 28 at a ceremony to be attended by President Shimon Peres, Australian Governor General Maj.-Gen. Michael Jeffrey and other Israeli and Australian dignitaries. The event is a real feather in Larsen's diplomatic cap in that Jeffrey is the first Australian head of state to visit Israel while in office. There have been two Jewish governors general of Australia. The first, Sir Isaac Isaacs, died in February 1948, just three months before the establishment of the state, and was already out of office at the time. But he would not have come under any circumstances, because he was a fervent British loyalist who was opposed to Zionism. The second, Sir Zelman Cowen, who is pro-Zionist and who has had an extremely distinguished career in a number of fields, has his name linked in perpetuity with the Hebrew University, but was never in Israel while in office. So in a sense, thanks to the lobbying of the Pratt Foundation, Jeffrey is making history in a very historic place.
  • CORRECTING AN historical omission next week will be Prof. Moshe Arens, who will be in Poland for the 65th anniversary of the of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Most of the historical material related to the uprising documents the heroism of Mordechai Anielewicz and members of left-wing Jewish organizations, but makes little or no reference to the heroism of right-wing individuals and movements. So while Peres, who will also be in Poland next week - both on a state visit and for the commemoration - goes to Mila Street to pay tribute to Anielewicz and those who fought with him, Arens and a delegation of Betar and the Irgun Zvai Leumi (Etzel) will go to Muranowska Square, to what was once the headquarters of the Revisionist led Jewish Military Unit Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy, generally known as the ZZW, to unveil a plaque to the long unsung heroes of the right. Arens has done intensive research on the ZZW. The outcome has been numerous articles and a book which have righted an historical wrong. Arens happened to be foreign minister when Poland and Israel resumed full diplomatic ties in February 1990, following a 23-year hiatus.
  • IN HEBREW, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is literally the Ministry for External Affairs, which is what prompted a headline writer at Yediot Aharonot to come up with "The minister outside, the son inside." The item referred to the imprisonment of Omri Spitzer, the son of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Spitzer, who is serving in the navy, was invited along with several other naval personnel stationed in Ashdod to attend a function hosted by a bank. Before the group left for the reception, its members were warned not to touch any alcohol. But the alcohol was freely available and plentiful, and the sailors couldn't resist. Not only did they disobey orders, but drank more than a little too much. Their commanding officer decided to punish them and sent two of them, including Spitzer, for 12 days in the calaboose. The others received sentences ranging from 14 to 28 days.
  • FORMER SPOKESWOMAN for the prime minister Miri Eisin, who spoke tirelessly and almost endlessly on the country's behalf during the Second Lebanon War, participated in a Hebrew University conference on public diplomacy and disagreed with university academics who argued that there is no point to Israel's hasbara efforts. "It must be understood," she said, "that in times of crisis, Israeli hasbara doesn't try to win, it simply tries not to lose - and that's a great effort."
  • USUALLY ATTIRED in a mannish suit and a high-necked white blouse, lawyer Kinneret Barashi - who sprang to fame as the lawyer who represented Aleph, the Beit Hanassi employee who proved to be the nemesis of all of Moshe Katsav's political ambitions for his post-presidential career - looked somewhat different in the strapless white gown that she wore for her marriage last Friday to chef and restaurateur Elad Harush, who owns a restaurant in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market. Adding to the difference in her appearance was the fact that her usually wild mane of hair was pulled back from her face, although it was difficult to restrain the curls on top of her head. The wedding, held at Ha'uman 17 in Tel Aviv, was top-heavy with members of the legal profession. Nobody seemed to have seen Aleph.
  • WHILE ON the subject of weddings, the rabbi officiating at the wedding this week of Tanya Cawthorne and Doron Strusberg noted that less than a year ago, neither the bride nor the groom had any thoughts of marriage, and would not have imagined themselves standing under a bridal canopy with the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop. Indeed the bride, after a previously failed attempt at aliya, had barely returned to Jerusalem when she met the groom at a concert nine months ago. There were instant sparks of attraction which never faded as time went by. The bride, who is of Australian parentage, was raised in Hong Kong and traveled widely in the world. A British childhood friend with whom she went to school in Hong Kong and with whom she was reunited in New York after they had not been touch for 10 years, made a special effort to come to Israel for the wedding, as did friends from other parts of the world. The bride's mother Zelda Cawthorne, a well known Australian journalist, and the bride's brother Richard traveled the furthest coming from Australia. The bride's father Russell Cawthorne was unable to attend for health reasons, but was there in spirit and raised a glass of champagne down under. The groom's parents Yael and Shlomo Strusberg, along with his siblings were there in force despite the fact that Yael Strusberg cannot move without an oxygen tank. Nonetheless, she dressed to suit the occasion and made a valiant effort to walk to the bridal canopy so that she could be a full participant in the ceremony.
  • DUE TO come on aliya in July is Usha Barat, the secretary of former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who was recently forced to resign when his sexual appetite became public knowledge. The Indian-born Barat, who wanted to come to Israel long before she began working for Spitzer, is now in a position to realize her dream. Though not born Jewish, she always felt drawn to things Jewish in her native Bombay, and 11 years ago underwent a Conservative conversion. She has been living in the US since 1972, and for the past 17 years has worked for the governors of New York. Now 64, and newly retired, Barat has been in touch with Israeli consular officials and Jewish Agency representatives and is getting ready to make the next major move in her life.
  • ALSO COMING, though not as immigrants, are Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American Jew who in 1985 was captured and murdered by Palestinian terrorists after they hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro. The Klinghoffer sisters are coming to participate in an annual memorial service held by the Jewish Agency for non-Israeli Jewish victims of terrorism in all parts of the world.
  • AND A final item of Jewish Agency-related news: In coordination with the Foreign Ministry, the Jewish Agency took a large contingent of diplomats stationed here to the North to familiarize them with the situation of communities under perpetual threat. Traveling with the group, which included dean of the diplomatic corps Henri Etoundi Essomba, were Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski and Foreign Ministry Chief of Protocol Itzhak Eldan.
  • ALTHOUGH ISRAEL is celebrating its 60th anniversary, several of the institutions of and within the state are older than the state itself. One of them is Haifa's Rambam Medical Center, currently celebrating its 70th anniversary. Among the gifts that it received for the milestone event was an underground emergency hospital to be known as the Sammy Ofer Tower. This is in recognition of the generosity of international business magnate and philanthropist Romanian-born Sammy Ofer, who came to Haifa as a child and grew up there before joining the Royal Navy during World War II. Ofer's largesse can be seen elsewhere in Haifa as well as in other parts of the country and abroad. He recently donated £20 million to Britain's National Maritime Museum. The inauguration ceremony for the Sammy Ofer Tower has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 15. Rambam Medical Center is the only major trauma center in the North with emergency wards and surgical departments on call 24/7.
  • AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Michaeli Rendi, like many other European ambassadors, is keen to get to know those of his country's expats or offspring of expats who are living here. To do this in the most positive way possible, he has organized a party to be held at his residence this week to which all the invitees are people of Austrian background. There's a DJ and lots of fun and dancing. The idea is to build a bridge between Austria, its embassy here and young Israelis with Austrian roots and to start what is hoped to be an ongoing dialogue. If the get-together proves to be successful, it will become a regular feature on the ambassador's calendar.