Grapevine: Cameroon - The Country

CONSIDERING THAT the Republic of Cameroon is the result of a 1961 merger between French Cameroon and British Cameroon, it was only fitting that both French and English were used in the formal ceremony at the Unification Day celebrations hosted by dean of the diplomatic corps and Ambassador of Cameroon Henri Etoundi Essomba and his wife, Esther, in the huge garden of their elegant home in Kfar Shmaryahu. The ambassador addressed his guests in English, while Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, representing the government, spoke in French. In addition to welcoming his diplomatic colleagues, Essomba was happy to welcome Avraham Nir, ambassador-designate to Cameroon, and Jacques Raveh, the Foreign Ministry's newly promoted deputy director-general for Africa. He also made particular mention of a large delegation of visiting Catholic bishops from Cameroon. Although relations between Cameroon and Israel had been strained for 13 years, Essomba recalled, 20 years ago the two countries decided to renew diplomatic ties, and since then bilateral relations have flourished. Essomba expressed appreciation for assistance in rural development and projects of economic significance. Israel is currently engaged in several cooperative ventures with counterparts in Cameroon, he said. He was particularly grateful to Gadi Golan, a former member of the embassy in Cameroon, for the role he played and continues to play in the promotion of bilateral relations, and to the Israelis who are working in a voluntary capacity in Cameroon to ensure the success of a wildlife protection project. Essomba toasted the consolidation of relations between the two countries, and wished for peace between Israel and all her neighbors. Ben-Yizri expressed appreciation for Cameroon's support in the political arena and pleasure at being able to participate in Cameroon's development. Although Israel would like to see some improvement in the volume of trade, on the whole, "we are very satisfied with our relations with Cameroon" he said, adding that Cameroon and its president, Paul Biya, had proved to be good friends. Clusters of red, yellow and green balloons, some in the shape of arches, decorated the grounds and the pool. Recorded music by singers and musicians from Cameroon wafted across the lawns and toward the end of the evening, the night sky lit up with a fireworks display. WRITING IS a family affair in the family of Norman Podhoretz, editor-at-large of Commentary magazine, adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute and this year's recipient of the prestigious Ingeborg Rennert Guardian of Zion Award. In introducing Podhoretz to a distinguished gathering at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem last week, Prof. Joshua Schwartz, director of the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University, noted that everyone in Podhoretz's immediate family is a writer. His wife, Midge Decter, is a prominent intellectual author whose writings have appeared in numerous publications; daughter Rachel Abrams (wife of US National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams) is the associate editor of Policy Review; daughter Naomi Decter, a former editorial writer for The Washington Times, works for The Brunswick Group, a public relations firm. Son John Podhoretz is the author of three books and a columnist at the New York Post and other publications, and daughter Ruthie Blum is a columnist and features editor at The Jerusalem Post. Schwartz went on to say that Norman Podhoretz is a fighter, "but friend and foe would have used more colorful language in describing him." He said that there has been "no greater defender of Israel in our time than Norman Podhoretz." The introduction was lengthy, and when it was finally Podhoretz's turn to stand in front of the microphone, he opened his remarks on a light note, telling his audience: "No one in Israel has anything to worry about any more, because I am watching over you. You can rest easy." Seated at the tables around him were at least five former government ministers: Moshe Nissim, Yaakov Neeman, Natan Sharansky, Uzi Landau and Benny Elon - the only one of the quintet who is still a Knesset member. Also present was Nobel Prize and fellow Guardian of Zion laureate Elie Wiesel, who was honored 10 years earlier, and current Commentary editor-in-chief Neal Kozodoy. MOUNTING A rostrum to receive a prize is no novelty for writer and film director Etgar Keret, whose past triumphs include the Prime Ministers Award for Literature, the Ministry of Culture's Cinema Prize, the Israel Cultural Foundation's Excellence Prize for most outstanding artist and the Alternative Theater Festival Prize. However, until last Sunday he hadn't been singled out as a novice film director. When Keret and his wife Shira Geffen stood in front of a huge audience at the Cannes Film Festival following the announcement that they had won the Camera D'or award given for the best film for first-time directors for Meduzot (Jellyfish), based on a script by Geffen, Keret, sporting a formal suit, white dress shirt and black bow tie, caused a ripple of good-natured laughter when he said: "Everything here is so far from our lives. I haven't worn a suit since my bar mitzva."