ONE might think that while the case remains open against him for allegedly influencing a tender for the sale of Bank Leumi in favor of his friend, Australian billionaire Frank Lowy, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert might keep his distance from Lowy, or vice versa. But since both Olmert and Lowy have insisted that there was no wrongdoing involved, aside from which, in the final analysis, Lowy did not buy the bank, the two saw no reason for avoiding each other, and thus happily posed for photographs last week when Olmert addressed the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies of which Lowy is the chairman. In his speech, Olmert said that wars conducted between armies on defined battlefields are no longer the norm. In recent years, Israel and other Western democracies struggled against terror while regular war remained in the background. Most terrorist activity, he noted, is carried out by terror organizations with extremist Islamic ideologies. The most significant change in warfare is that the focus of war has ceased to be on the frontlines, Olmert said. There is no more meaning to the division between the frontline and home front, he said, and this requires changing all patterns of thinking, preparedness and the division of resources. "The subject that is preoccupying so many of us, especially recently, is the nature of the Iranian threat, its scope and its power," said Olmert, but insisted that Israel is not the main flag-bearer against the quirks of the regime in Teheran. He assigned the solution to the combined efforts of the United States, Russia, China and the countries of Europe.
IT'S NOT politically correct to remark on the dress of a woman doing the same job as a man, because under ordinary circumstances, his attire would pass without comment.
However, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the floral appliquÃ© and embroidery on the exquisite, black gown worn by Kenyan Ambassador Felistas Khayumbi at her country's recent Independence Day reception at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv matched the gorgeous floral arrangements throughout the banquet hall - which were in the national colors of Kenya.
In fact, many of the Kenyan women present were patriotically fashionable, incorporating the national colors in prints and in beautifully constructed ensembles. Women from other African countries also came out in their national finery, which was a feast for the eyes.
Noting that Kenya has a fully liberalized economy and has been recognized by the World Bank as one of the top ten business performers for 2007, Khayumbi urged Israel to strengthen economic cooperation with Kenya, where she said, "investments and trade opportunities abound."
She also expressed appreciation to Israel for allowing Kenyans to train here in a variety of fields, and mentioned Kenya's upcoming democratic elections on December 27.
The new government will be elected for a five-year period. The ambassador was hopeful that 2008 would usher in a period of greater cooperation at all levels between Kenya and Israel, and that 2008 would also be the beginning of a new era of peace and tranquility for Israel and the Palestinians.
Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog recalled that after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Kenya was the only African country to maintain relations with Israel.
Kenya and Israel entered into another dynamic of relations earlier this month when the first group of Kenyan children arrived here under the auspices of Save a Child's Heart.
The children, aged one to seven, were brought here by KLM Aircares and were operated on at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. Their treatment in Israel was initiated by a Kenyan physician who trained at Wolfson.
2008 WILL mark the tenth anniversary of the move of the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, Israel will open up a new embassy in Astana, Culture, Science and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle announced last week at a reception hosted by Kazakhstan Ambassador Vadim Zverkov at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Up until almost a year ago, most diplomatic receptions that did not take place in the residences of the various ambassadors were held at the David Intercontinental Hotel.
But then it became too expensive and too inflexible, in addition to which VIPs who were invited to three or four receptions in the same week were served up the same menu.
The Dan Panorama, by contrast, introduces some of the traditional foods of whatever nation is celebrating its independence day or other national holiday, and the Food and Beverage Department makes sure if there are several diplomatic events in the one week, that there are also significant menu and dÃ©cor changes for each.
Thus the banquet room for the Kazakhstan reception was quite differently laid out than it had been for the Kenyan reception only two nights earlier, and the menu was decidedly different, except for the dessert table which always offers so many choices that it really doesn't matter if it barely changes from function to function.
This was Kazakhstan's 16th anniversary of independence from Communist rule. Zverkov mentioned that earlier in the year, Kazakhstan had celebrated the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Israel, which had been amongst the first of the family of nations to recognize Kazakhstan as a sovereign state.
He also spoke of the efforts made to implement democracy in Kazakhstan, and of the strength of the economy - which was growing at a rate of 10 per cent per year.
He was pleased to report on cooperation with Israel, especially in the area of bilateral trade, which now exceeds $1 billion a year.
Perhaps even more important from an economic standpoint is the fact that Kazakhstan, which is interested in developing new technologies, is investing in Israeli start-up companies.
Guests were presented with a Hebrew translation of a book on the development of Kazakhstan written by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Zverkov said that the translation was facilitated by the generosity of Israeli industrialist Lev Leviev.
PUBLIC RELATIONS guru Ran Rahav, who is arguably the most public figure in PR with a list of clients whose combined fortunes add up to several times the national budget, has just added another feather to his cap.
Rahav is now a quasi-diplomat, having last week received accreditation as honorary consul of the Marshall Islands from the Foreign Ministry's chief of protocol, Yitzhak Eldan, at a ceremony in Jerusalem witnessed by Rahav's family, close friend and client Shari Arison, who is the major shareholder in Bank Hapoalim, Israel's ambassador to the Marshall Islands, Michael Ronen, and Ruth Kahanoff, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific.
It will be interesting to see how many of Rahav's clients are or will be doing business in the Marshall Islands, especially since many of his clients are also personal friends.
GUESTS AT the annual Hanukka Party hosted by the extraordinary and exuberant hostess with the mostest, Alice Krieger, at her home in Tel Aviv, included former chief of General Staff Dan Halutz, prize-winning photographer Micha Bar-Am, poet and lyricist Didi Menusi, celebrated actor Haim Topol, Nigerian Ambassador Sam Azubuike Dada Olisa (who spent a long time talking to Halutz), Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eihenbaums and his wife, Inara, British Consul-General Janet Rogan and the recently arrived first secretary of the Egyptian Embassy, Ahmed Helmy.
Egyptian Ambassador Mohammed Assem Ibrahim had also been invited, but was unable to come because of a spot of bother resulting from an erroneous report in that day's Ma'ariv.
It seems that Egyptian intelligence is really on the ball, because the brief report had an obscure placement in the paper, but it was seen in Cairo some time before anyone at the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv was made aware of it.
The report claimed that Ibrahim had met some days earlier with business tycoon and would-be mayor of Jerusalem, Arkadi Gaydamak, who had raised the question of the Arab vote in east Jerusalem.
Ibrahim allegedly promised to speak to people in high places in Egypt to get them to use their influence to persuade east Jerusalem Arabs to vote for Gaydamak in the elections.
Helmy insisted that Ibrahim had never met with Gaydamak, much less made a promise of this nature. In fact, Ibrahim had spent most of the day on the phone trying to put out the diplomatic fires that had erupted as a result of the report.
After candle-lighting, many of the Jewish guests joined in a lusty rendition of Maoz Tsur, but when someone started on the second verse, Topol protested, saying, "Let's not exaggerate." In fact, he and a few others knew it off by heart, and sang it.
Although he has served in several countries beyond the African continent, this was Olisa's first Hanukka experience, and he said that he had enjoyed it immensely.
ARKANSAS-BORN and Oklahoma-raised artist Sali Ariel, who has been living and working in Israel since 1967, is a fine equestrian, who not only rode horses, but also painted them.
After living for more than 20 years in Jerusalem, she and her husband, cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, moved to Tel Aviv, but it was not until less than a decade ago that Ariel began painting the Tel Aviv cityscape, falling in love with the Bauhaus buildings that now dominate her work.
When her paintings of renovated Bauhaus buildings came to the attention of the Bauhaus Center, she was invited to exhibit there, which was quite a coup.
Since then, she has participated in group exhibits at the Venice Biennale and in Kasel, Germany. She has also had several one-woman exhibitions in New York, Frankfurt and Jaffa, and is currently exhibiting in the gallery of Tel Aviv's Performing Arts Center.
While this exhibition was still in the planning stage, the co-owner of a gallery in Cleveland came to Israel and chanced upon a couple of Ariel's paintings.
She was wildly enthusiastic, and although Ariel didn't really know who she was, she agreed to send several of her works to the US. The upshot was a group exhibition which received mention in the Cleveland press. She is also represented in a group exhibition in Boston. One of the paintings that she had intended exhibiting at the TAPAC gallery was not hung in the final analysis, because it was purchased in advance by Maria Eugenia Goffi Andres, the wife of European Union Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian Uzal to take to Europe this week as a gift.
The two women are part of a group started by Clara Hirsh, the wife of Canadian Ambassador Jon Allen.
The group travels regularly to Netanya to teach English to Ethiopian immigrant girls. Even though they'd made their purchase, Andres and Uzal showed up at the opening, as did one of Ariel's long-time friends, advertising executive and freelance journalist Rachel Neiman, who earlier in the day had run in the Beit She'an half-marathon.
IT WOULD be interesting to learn exactly what it was that Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak said to the Likud mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal, last week to persuade him to rescind his resignation.
In an extraordinarily long and empathetic interview with Ayala Hasson on Israel Radio on Thursday, Moyal said that he had received "thousands" of phone calls after announcing his resignation on air the previous day in an interview with Esti Perez.
Binyamin Netanyahu had phoned him from Paris, he revealed. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vinai had called him. Former defense minister Amir Peretz, a resident of Sderot, had not called him. As for Barak, Moyal would neither confirm nor deny that they had spoken. Later, after retracting his resignation, he said that Barak had ordered him to return to reserve duty, and that this was an order he could not refuse.
RECIPIENTS OF The New Israel Fund's $15,000 Israela Goldblum Memorial Prize are Dina Lee of Jaffa and Michel Elraheb of Ramle, the driving force behind the Jaffa Bookshop and CafÃ©.
They received the award on Tuesday night at Beit Hanassi in the presence of President Shimon Peres in recognition of their contribution towards Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.
The Jaffa Bookshop and CafÃ© was originally just a bookstore, but one which was known as an authentic cultural meeting place in Jaffa. It was the first bookstore since 1948, to sell books in Arabic in Jaffa.
Over the years, it became an institution in that it sold books in both Arabic and Hebrew as well as English translations, and as such became a meeting place for readers and scholars in both Semitic languages.
It specializes in translations from original Arabic texts into Hebrew and English, stocks numerous books that deal with a variety of issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as books that discuss Arab and Israeli cultural affairs.
It hosts many readings, discussions, lectures, musical performances, and other events aimed at promoting harmony between Arabs and Jews. The premises serve as a popular meeting point for people of all nationalities, artists and writers, and social and political activists who debate with each other, initiate projects, and build new contacts.
The New Israel Fund hopes that this will serve as a model for similar ventures in other Jewish-Arab mixed cities.
The Israela Goldblum Fund was established by the New Israel Fund, family and friends of Israela Goldblum, who died last year after a long and painful battle with cancer.
Goldblum was one of the founders of Peace Now, and a board member of The New Israel Fund. She was a passionate believer in justice, social equality and peace.
IN HIS inaugural speech in the Knesset, President Shimon Peres emphasized his intention to be the president of all the people.
Almost immediately after taking office, he participated in the conclusion of the writing of a Torah scroll. Since then he has received a Druse delegation, hosted a dinner for a Moslem delegation, toured Beduin villages in the south and Arab villages in the North, received a delegation of Reform Jews, lit Hanukka candles with new immigrants, and the list goes on.
Though president for less than six months, Peres has hosted or visited numerous special interest groups and strata of society, environmentalists, business people, cancer researchers, Air Force personnel, et al.
With the energy of someone half his age, Peres goes touring all over the country, and more than just once a week. He also works on Fridays, and this coming Friday will travel to Kafr Kasim to join in the celebration of Id al-Adha, which signifies the end of the hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca.
AS FAR as birthdays go, 53 is not a very significant number. But this is the birthday that the seemingly ageless cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum will celebrate on December 30.
She's decided to combine it with the launch of her new beauty academy in Haifa, which gives her a valid excuse for a grandiose party. Rosenblum also has another reason to celebrate.
She's on the cover of the current issue of the Israeli edition of Fortune Magazine as one of the most powerful women in the Israeli economy.
Some of the other public figures celebrating birthdays in December are former president Moshe Katsav, who shares a December 5 birth date with the King of Thailand, former foreign minister David Levy, who celebrates his 70th birthday on December 21, Aura Herzog, founder of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, whose birthday is on December 24, Yaffa Yarkoni and Vice Premier Eli Yishai, whose birthdays are on December 26, and former defense minister and foreign minister Moshe Arens, whose birthday is on December 27. The late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, was born on December 25.
SOMETIMES IT needs a famous person to be stricken with a terrible illness to draw attention to the need for more research into how that illness can be arrested and hopefully cured.
Until Israel Prize laureate Dov Lautman, the founder of Delta Galil and an executive member of various educational and social welfare bodies, became a victim of ALS, hardly anyone in Israel except those directly concerned with it in one way or another had ever heard of it.
When Lautman and a couple of other famous ALS sufferers went public, Israel became aware, and opened its heart just over a month ago, when Channel One screened the remarkably inspiring story of Hanni Karni Aish, who was struck with ALS at age 25, and despite the pessimistic medical prognosis decided to have children and to find a job. Notwithstanding her disabilities, she is a great mother and a phenomenal worker.
Popular singer Yehuda Poliker has agreed to help the cause and will be performing at a gala event on Saturday evening, December 22 at Kibbutz Yagur.
Tickets can be purchased by phone by calling 04-8252233. All proceeds will be devoted to ALS research.