Grapevine: From Berlin to Davos

Nauru, Micronesia presidents visit, Radio Israel vying with Israel Radio and bash benefits College for All.

grapevine 88 (photo credit: )
grapevine 88
(photo credit: )
Among the people bidding farewell to President Shimon Peres when he left for Germany this week on a special El Al flight was former OC Air Force Eliezer Shkedi, currently CEO of El Al. While it is always a matter of prestige for El Al to have the president travel as one of its passengers, in this case it was doubly so for Shkedi, whose father Moshe is a Holocaust survivor. Shkedi presented Peres with a book containing a prayer for the peace of the State of Israel.
Peres who is representing Israel at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Berlin, is due to address the Bundestag today, and in speaking of the murder of 6 million Jews will refer specifically to his grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, who was burned alive by the Nazis in the synagogue in Vishniev in Belarus where Peres was born.
Peres will not be returning directly from Germany, but will travel to Davos for the 40th anniversary of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum that will convene this year under the theme: "Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild." Haiti will obviously feature on the agenda. More than 2,500 leaders from more than 90 countries representing business, government and civil society will attend.
Also attending is President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, who Peres may try to convince to give diplomatic passports to El Al security teams. The threat to cancel such passports may cause El Al to stop flying to South Africa.
GENERALLY speaking, when Peres hosts a state dinner, there are two presidents present - the host and his guest of honor. But last Thursday, there were not two but three presidents standing in the receiving line to shake hands with the guests as they filed past. Peres was flanked on one side by the president of Micronesia, Emanuel Mori, and his wife Emma, and on the other the president of Nauru, Marcus Stephen. Most of the guests were in one way or another connected with the Pacific Rim.
Japanese Ambassador Haruhisa Takeuchi was quite excited because it was the first state dinner to which he had been invited since his arrival more than a year ago. Antilise George, the wife of Micronesian Ambassador Yosiwo George, who presented his credentials during the previous week, said that she did not want to go back to Washington where her husband is based. A devout Christian, she wanted to remain in Jerusalem, "so I can be among the first to greet the Lord on his second coming."
Marlene Moses, Nauru's ambassador to the UN, was warmly embraced by Danny Gillerman, Israel's immediate past ambassador to the UN, and by Ran Rahav, honorary consul for the Marshall Islands, who has entertained Moses and other representatives of Pacific islands in his home in Savyon. The only Christian clergyman present was Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III, who was seated alongside Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz. Also present was Gideon Remez, who was the foreign news editor at Israel Radio, before stepping down and handing over to Yitzhak Noy, who in turn was succeeded by Oren Nahari. Remez is currently a fellow at the Truman Institute.
RADIO AND television anchors often feel as if they're working in a vacuum for lack of feedback. Only when they've done something wrong do they get an avalanche of response. Positive feedback is rare. Thus it was extremely rewarding to Yaron Enosh, who anchors a search program on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet for the purpose of reuniting people who've lost touch with each other. Last week, Enosh received a call from Danny Davidson of Givatayim. When he moved into his previous apartment some 40 years ago, he found a box that contained high school and university diplomas, photographs, love letters, military service documents belonging to a certain Ben Ami Fish. Davidson made valiant efforts to find him, but without success.
When Davidson moved to his current apartment, he took the box with him, and continued his search and decided to try locating Fish through Enosh's program. What he hadn't been able to achieve in four decades, he achieved in two hours. Fish was driving in his car before the program ended and received a call on his cellphone to call Reshet Bet immediately. By the time he got home, he had received at least another eight calls. He made contact with Davidson, they met and Davidson gave him the box. Davidson was totally fascinated by him and this week came back on the program together with Fish to compliment Enosh and to share the experience.
Fish was born in the US but raised in Palestine. When he turned 18, he was drafted into the US Army. There was a lot of bureaucracy involved, and by the time it was sorted out, World War II was over. Fish was sent to Cairo and later to Casablanca, then to Germany. There was another Jew in the unit, who spent most of his time getting drunk and cavorting with German frauleins. This irked Fish and he took the man aside and told him how ashamed he should be given that so many Jews had been murdered and survivors were still suffering in refugee camps. The man was discharged before him, and they lost contact.
Some years later at a charity do, Fish's sister, who had returned to live in the US, was talking about her Israeli connections when she was approached by a man who said that he'd been looking for a certain Israeli for a long time, and asked her if she knew a Ben Ami Fish. The two men got together again, and it transpired that the man had taken Fish's words to heart and on returning to the US had promptly joined the Hagana and returned to Europe to sail with Holocaust survivors on the Exodus. He and Fish have remained in close contact and he never fails to tell Fish, "You changed my life. You gave it purpose." As for Fish, while he was in the US Army, he aided the illegal immigration efforts. Later he joined the Palmah and afterward served as an officer in the IDF.
ISRAEL BASHERS in Britain were somewhat surprised this week to hear a Beduin speaking out forcefully on its behalf. Ismail Khaldi, the country's first Beduin diplomat, joined the Foreign Ministry in 2004, and has the rank of deputy consul.He is visiting England this week and next as the guest of the Zionist Federation and his agenda includes addresses at Birmingham University, Leeds University and SOAS University North London. The third of 11 siblings, Khaldi rose from being a shepherd boy to holding a master's degree in political science from Tel Aviv University. He served in the Border Police, worked at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, served as political analyst for the IDF and the Defense Ministry and from 2006-2009 was deputy consul at the consulate in San Francisco.
THERE WAS a very good turnout at the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth meeting at the Seven Stars retirement home in Herzliya Pituah. The event featured Jordanian Ambassador Ali al-Ayad who participated in a Q&A session with IBA News anchor Leah Zinder acting as moderator and posing the initial questions. Ayad said that he looks upon his work here "not as a job but a mission." He said it was Jordan's aim to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace negotiating table.
IBCA chairman Austen Science, who had given the event a degree of formality by placing the Union Jack alongside the flags of Israel and Jordan, noted that each had been given equal prominence on the platform.
SOME 500 people, including some of the leading figures in the economy, crowded into Reading 3 for a benefit night for College for All, which identifies potential in youngsters from low socioeconomic backgrounds and provides them with the tools that will take them on the path to academic excellence and from there to professions that will extract them from the cycle of poverty. Sponsors of the event included Pelephone's Gil Sharon, Castro's Gabi Roter and Psagot's Roy Vermos.
Seen in the crowd were Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi, Bank Discount chairman Yossi Bachar, Bank Mizrahi Tefahot chairman Ya'acov Perry and Bank Leumi CEO Galia Maor. Television personality Dana Weiss was the emcee and Yair Lapid, (who may yet opt for a career in politics), Rami Kleinstein and Tamir Harpaz, whose act can also be caught at Zappa, performed gratis.
College for All founder Dr. Shula Recanati added a serious note when she spoke of the importance of education and her vision of involving increasing numbers of youngsters from needy backgrounds in the program. Some of the benefit night participants were born into poverty stricken families and can understand the difficulties of trying to move in the opposite direction. That may explain why the project receives so much support.
THE NAME of Izzy Borovich is usually associated with aviation. He is a partner in Knafaim and a former chairman of El Al. He also has a passion for antique cars and a great deal of empathy for people who are autistic. Borovich, the current chairman of Alut, the Israel Society for Autistic Children, last Friday hosted a benefit for Alut in conjunction with Club 5, which is largely comprised of collectors of antique cars. Borovich, who is usually photographed alongside a plane, was this time photographed alongside the antique cars of various collectors. The cars were on display at the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan. A number of autistic children were also present and were delighted to be shown around by television personality Rafi Ginat, who is also a member of Club 5 and an avid car collector. Borovich goes in for all kinds of antique technologies, including obsolete computers.
ALTHOUGH SHE was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, journalist Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, a member of the family that runs the Yediot Aharonot empire, and the wife of Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, was raised with a strong sense of social consciousness, and for a large part of her life has worked on behalf of the less fortunate. Now she's doing it again via a $100,000 contract that she signed to be the 2010 presenter for Machsanei Te'ura, which specializes in lighting fixtures. JSNM is the president of Hom (Warmth), an organization that cares for children from economically deprived families. The fee that she will receive from Machsanei Te'ura will automatically be transferred to Hom.
AS IF it doesn't already have enough problems, Israel Radio now has to contend with a rival that calls itself Radio Israel. The station, which serves the residents of Judea and Samaria and whose broadcasts primarily relate to local issues, was originally called Radio Yosh deriving its name from the Hebrew acronym for the area. Although the Council for the Second Television and Radio Broadcasting Authority gave the green light to the name change, Israel Broadcasting Authority director-general Moti Shklar wants no confusion between Radio Israel, and the Kol Yisrael (the Voice of Israel) which is Israel Radio's official name. Shklar has threatened to use all the resources at his disposal to prevent the name change from going into effect. He contends that by calling itself Radio Israel, the station is appropriating the reputation and intellectual property of the Voice of Israel.
Radio Israel director Yehoshua Mor Yosef contends that the word Israel is applicable to the whole nation, and therefore anyone has the right to use it. Perhaps the matter can be settled amicably by the IBA's new chairman Amnon Dick. Meanwhile Radio Israel has gone on the air.
LAST WEEK several anchors of programs on Israel Radio and Channel 1 interviewed Finance Ministry and Histadrut negotiators who will be involved in discussions over the eternal subject of Israel Broadcasting Authority reforms. After years of disputes with the union representatives of various groups of IBA employees, management has finally reached some form of accommodation which would signify that at long last the reforms can be implemented. But so far all that is happening is yet another round of intensive talks between the IBA, the Treasury and the Histadrut.
Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein, who is responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law, seems determined to succeed where his predecessors have failed, not only in this area but also in settling the complaints of the Foreign Press Association. Edelstein was engaged in talks this week with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini to ensure that the IBA could continue broadcasting without disruption.
At the IBA they're very unhappy with Kadima MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, who had the audacity to suggest that the IBA should be closed down and that a new broadcasting authority be established. This provoked the ire not only of people within the IBA, but of a sizable number of MKs. For a rookie MK, Shamalov Berkovich is stepping on dangerous ground. As one of the founders of Israel Plus, the Russian television channel, she's not being very collegial.
EDELSTEIN, IN his current role, did the warm-up act for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when he was late in arriving to address mainly foreign journalists and press attaches from diplomatic missions at the annual new year's reception hosted by the Government Press Office, which is now answerable to the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and not the Prime Minister's Office as was the case in the past. Invitations indicated that guests could start arriving at 4:30 p.m. which gave some people the erroneous idea that Netanyahu would address them at 6. They were quickly disabused and informed that the address was to be at 8.
But at the appointed hour, Netanyahu, who had been busy dealing with agrarian reform, had not yet arrived. Edelstein who was already at the microphone and responding to hand signals from one of the PM's staff, announced that he would have to keep on talking because the PM was delayed. Netanyahu finally arrived at 8:15 and gave a very brief address.
Still the occasion provided a platform for reunions. Ra'anan Gissen, who was media adviser to and spokesman for prime minister Ariel Sharon, was there, as were Linda Rifkind, the former foreign press coordinator at the GPO; Renee Singer, the former secretary of the Foreign Press Association; and Jacob Dallal, who was formerly with the IDF Spokesman's Office and is currently director of public relations in the Jewish Agency's New York office. Dallal, who was wearing army uniform, said he was back to do his reserve duty after which he will return to New York.
GPO director Daniel Seaman commented that due to cutbacks resulting from the global economic crisis, plus a stronger reliance on modern technology, there were far fewer foreign correspondents here than in previous years. For all that the banquet hall at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem was full, and the diplomats in attendance were not only press attachés. There were at least two ambassadors: Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda and Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.
NOW THAT Netanyahu has committed himself to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the number of debates from both the right and the left of the political spectrum are increasing. One such debate is scheduled for this evening at 6 p.m. at the Legacy Hotel in east Jerusalem. Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, former PA minister Ziad Abu Zayyad and EU representative Christian Berger will discuss the impact of the EU-funded policy papers on settlements, Palestinian refugees and Gaza on a two-state solution. The event is under the auspices of the Palestine Israel Journal.
The three presentations will be followed by a panel discussion with Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now Settlements Watch; Dr. Adnan Abdelrazek, former UN expert on refugees; and Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin co-CEO of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information.
THE FRENCH Embassy in conjunction with the French Institute will host a special evening for author, human rights and political activist Marek Halter to mark the launch of the Hebrew edition of his book Mary of Nazareth. The Polish-born novelist, who lives in France, spent part of his childhood in the Soviet Union where his family had fled to escape the Nazis. After the war, the family returned to Poland for four years before settling in France. It was impossible for the adolescent Halter to escape the Catholic influences of his native country, and though Jewish, he grew up with a certain fascination for the Virgin Mary. This fascination led to considerable research and eventually a novel.
The book launch will be preceded by a screening of Halter's film Justice which was completed in 1995. The film has English subtitles. After the film, people attending will be able to meet the author at a cocktail reception. The event will be held at the French Institute in Tel Aviv on February 2, at 6 p.m.
THE FIRST week of February will also be marked by the visit of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who, even though he cancelled trips to Denmark and Turkey after he was injured by a deranged man, was adamant about keeping his commitment to Israel. Berlusconi will be bringing eight priceless sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, which will be displayed in the Knesset till just before Pessah. He will also address the Knesset in Italian.
JUST OVER two weeks after launching a NIS 600 million loan fund to help small and medium sized businesses in the Negev and Galilee, the Koret Israel Economic Development Fund has launched a more modest fund to assist moshav members to either start new businesses or to improve or expand existing ones. In an agreement with the moshav movement, Koret has agreed to establish a NIS 12.5m. fund that will give loans of up to NIS 300,000 to moshav members engaged in agricultural and/or tourism enterprises.
Moshav movement secretary-general Eitan Ben-David explains that the new fund is a lifeline for many moshav families, who have suffered badly not only because of the global economic crisis, but also because of a crisis within the movement. Yogev Sarid, the head of the movement's division for economic development, was optimistic the fund will be increased in the future.