Grapevine: People of the book

The festivities celebrating the long-term relationship between Australia and Israel are far from over.

australian grapevine 88  (photo credit: AP)
australian grapevine 88
(photo credit: AP)
WHEN HE came to Beit Hanassi to interview President Shimon Peres for the Independence Day issue of The Jerusalem Post, Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz brought with him a copy of the latest edition of the newspaper's new Front Pages Book, which captures significant days in the history of Israel. Peres not only wrote the preface to the book but also appears on several of the front pages, proving that he did indeed play a prominent role in the nation's history. He immediately leafed through the book, giving it more than just a cursory glance, and according to reports from Beit Hanassi, spent quite a lot of time reading it after the interview was over. MORE THAN 200 people gathered at Ein Yael Park for the annual Independence Day picnic, hosted by INFO - the Israel Newsmaker Forum of Mishkenot Sha'ananim. Leading foreign correspondents based in Israel and their families mingled with Israelis from all walks of life, and with representatives of the Jerusalem Foundation, which is one of the key patrons of INFO. In fact, INFO Director Uri Dromi, in his welcoming speech, pointedly emphasized the support of the Jerusalem Foundation as distinct from the New Jerusalem Foundation. The latter was conceived by Ehud Olmert during his stint as mayor of Jerusalem, when it was made clear to him that although he had won Teddy Kollek's long-reigning position at City Hall, he could not take over from Kollek where the Jerusalem Foundation was concerned. MACEDONIA HAS opened a liaison office in Israel headed by Avirovic Pajo, who hopes that his country will be able to boast an embassy in Israel by this time next year. He is being encouraged in his efforts by Israel's non-resident Ambassador to Macedonia Amira Arnon, who is also non-resident ambassador to Albania. The fact that Arnon is in Jerusalem has at times proved helpful to her Albanian and Macedonian colleagues. MARSHALL ISLANDS President Litokwa Tomeing has plenty to read over the next few weeks. He has just received two books from Israel, one from President Shimon Peres and the other from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. They were delivered by Marshall Islands honorary consul Ran Rahav and his wife, Hila. When the widely traveled Rahav received his appointment a few months back, one of the few places he had never been to was the Marshall Islands. As an extremely active honorary consul, Rahav thought that it was high time that he went to see the country he was representing and to meet its senior officials. The visit inspired him to work even harder on behalf of Israel's good friend in the South Pacific. WHEN THE Texas Jewish community was looking for someone who could adequately represent Israel on Remembrance Day and on Israel Independence Day, it turned to public relations man and Texas expatriate Charley Levine to point it in the right direction. Levine didn't have to look very far. His youngest child, Zvi Levine, 22, whom Charley and his real-estate maven wife Shelly call "our baby," is serving as a high-tech gunner in the navy. Arieh Edel, the son of their in-laws, is serving as a paratrooper and master sniper in the army. Levine sent them both on a whirlwind visit that included meetings with civic leaders, and the Jewish community of San Antonio, where Levine was born and raised and where his grandfather once served as sheriff. The two young men took with them a signed gift book about Jerusalem on behalf of Mayor Uri Lupolianski which they presented to the mayor of San Antonio, who in turn gave them a book for Lupolianski. Aside from meeting officials, and acquitting themselves well at a press conference, the duo also addressed a gathering of a thousand people in the Evangelical Church. In reporting back to his parents, Zvi said he'd never heard so many hallelujahs since reciting Hallel on Pessah. Feedback from the San Antonio organizers of the schedule was also heart-warming. "The best goodwill ambassador we've ever had - humble, intelligent, articulate. What more could we ask for?" THERE WERE a lot of South Africans in Israel last week. Some had come for the Betar reunion. Others had come for the Mahal reunion, and a few were here for both. Some who were in Israel for the first time, or had not been since before the completion of the Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, made a point of visiting. They also visited the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv to participate in the dedication ceremony of a bust of Jabotinsky sculpted by well-known Dutch artist Johan Oldert. The bust, which had previously belonged to Eli Kolnick, a dynamic Zionist Revisionist leader and patron of Betar, was presented by his family to the Institute. Other participants in the presentation ceremony included Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski and Begin's former bureau chief Yechiel Kadishai, both of whom had been emissaries to South Africa, and Harry Hurwitz, the founder of the Begin Center, who had been a Jewish community leader in South Africa before settling here. AUSTRALIAN PHILANTHROPIST and business tycoon John Gandel, who has contributed generously to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and to Tel Aviv University, is reportedly going to part with $10 million to pay for the maintenance of the controversial bridge going up at the entrance to Jerusalem. The bridge may then be named after him. Gandel was honored this week by Yad Vashem, which paid tribute to him and his wife Pauline for their ongoing commitment to Holocaust remembrance and education. The Gandel family, friends, opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, Australian Ambassador James Larsen, Avi Pazner , the world chairman of Keren Hayesod, and Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev attended the tribute ceremony. Shalev expressed appreciation to the Gandels for their commitment to Holocaust remembrance with the establishment of the Gandel Holocaust Studies Program for Australian Educators, to be implemented at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, to "rebuild values, which are the basis for coexistence." Gandel stated that "we are at a critical turning point in remembrance that must be assumed by the next generation." The entire Gandel family is involved in the Gandel Charitable Trust, originally founded in 1978, which, together with the Gandel Foundation, is the main vehicle for the Gandel family philanthropy. Throughout their married life, John and Pauline Gandel have worked together in the community and are known for their generosity and commitment to both Jewish and general causes. They have been patrons, chairs and committee members of numerous fund-raising causes, raising tens of millions of dollars for projects in Israel and Australia. THE FESTIVITIES celebrating the long-term relationship between Australia and Israel are far from over. Australian Ambassador James Larsen hosted a reception at his residence to mark the publication of a booklet, Australia and Israel, featuring a pictorial history of relations between the two countries dating from military engagement in World War I to the present day. The booklet released in recognition of Israel's 60th anniversary is a publication of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Commonwealth of Australia. On the back cover is a photograph of Eliyahu Honig, associate vice president of the Hebrew University, who was the first Australian to participate in the Maccabiah Games. He cam as a one-man team to the Third Maccabiah in 1950. A tennis player, he reached the quarter finals. He returned to Israel in 1955 as a new immigrant. His family, which originates from Jerusalem and Hebron, had moved to Australia in the early years of the 20th century. Honig was not the only veteran ex-Maccabiah participant at the reception. Visiting from England was Dr. Sam Tucker, who was in the South African soccer team at the First Maccabiah. Tucker was here for the Mahal reunion and shared memories of having flown in Israel's fledgling air force with Ezer Weizman. Another former contestant in the Maccabiah Games was someone of more recent vintage, martial arts champion and Budo for Peace founder Danny Hakim, who won two bronze medals for Australia at the 1981 Maccabiah, but has won silver and gold medals in other championships. Hakim made aliya in 2001. Conceived by Alison Drury, third secretary of the Australian Embassy, the booklet - researched and written by Dr. Leanne Piggott of the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney - contains a foreword by Stephen Smith, Australia's minister for foreign affairs, along with some truly historic photographs. One of these is of Abba Eban photographed in 1949 with Australia's minister for external affairs Herbert Vere Evatt, whom he publicly thanked for the contribution made by the Australian delegation to the United Nations to have Israel recognized internationally. "We are deeply indebted to the Australian delegation for its consistent and effective support of our cause in the Assembly and its organs through all the stages of the consideration of our problem by the United Nations," said Eban. Larsen, who was very busy in recent weeks with the visit of the Australian governor general and a top-level Australian trade delegation, will not have much letup. Visits of other high-ranking Australian dignitaries including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are in the pipeline, but Larsen said he did not yet have specific dates. JEWISH PHILANTHROPISTS are supposedly getting off the Israel bandwagon, but according to Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal public relations director Yosh Amishav, this is definitely not so as far as his organization is concerned. Because this is a milestone year in the country's history in which many active Zionists wanted to be here for Independence Day, more than 1,200 KH-UIA donors, leaders and active members from Peru, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil, Chile, France, South Africa, Finland, Mexico, Argentina, Italy and Australia came together last week and held their evening celebration at The Avenue in Airport City and the following day went to Neot Kedumim for a giant picnic. Other Zionist organizations could not boast quite the same numbers, but nonetheless had more of their members here than usual for Independence Day, and some are staying over for the Tomorrow Convention being hosted by President Shimon Peres. US AMBASSADOR Richard Jones and his wife, Joan, hosted the Anti-Defamation League in a special event marking Israel's 60th anniversary in honor of Friends of the ADL. Standing together with Jones and his wife at the official US residence in Herzliya Pituah were ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman and his wife, Golda, who greeted the guests as they arrived. Among those who mingled on the rolling lawns of the residence overlooking the ocean, were former president Yitzhak Navon and his wife, Miri, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan and businessman Gad Propper and his wife, Eti. Also present were Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of American terrorism victim Leon Klinghoffer. Foxman remarked that the occasion marked the inauguration of the Friends of the ADL, which he hoped would help to strengthen the bilateral ties between Israel and the United States as well as the bonds between US Jewry and Israelis. Emcee of the event was Udi Segal, Channel 2's political correspondent, who did not back out of his commitment despite the political scandal over Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's latest troubles. Segal became close to the ADL while based in New York for Ma'ariv. The Jewish-Arab Youth Orchestra performed on a stage erected especially for the evening. They were followed by performers from the Beit Ben-Zvi drama school who delivered powerful renditions of famous Broadway show tunes… in Hebrew. When the sea breeze had turned cold, hostess Joan Jones went into the house and came back with a pile of blankets for the guests to huddle under while enjoying the musical performances. IN THE early 1990s, Israelis of Ashkenazi background were called on to save a single life. In 1991, Jay Feinberg, then a 23-year-old foreign exchange analyst for the Federal Reserve in New York, had been diagnosed with leukemia and was told that the only means of prolonging his life was through a bone marrow transplant. A Friends of Jay organization set about screening potential donors. Responding to the age-old Jewish teaching that he who saves a single life is as one who saves the whole world Israelis lined up in droves to be tested to see if anyone had a match. There was no match in Feinberg's immediate family. Initial testing was done in the US before the campaign to save Feinberg's life extended to Israel. By 1995, more than 60,000 people had been tested, and still no match had been found. Meanwhile, Feinberg's condition had deteriorated to the extent that there was almost no hope for his survival. In desperation, a friend organized one last appeal, and Becky Faibisoff, the last person tested, was found to be a match. The overwhelming response to his situation was ample proof to Feinberg that Jews are indeed responsible for one another. Well aware that many other people are in need of life saving bone marrow transplants, Feinberg launched the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. This year marks the bar mitzva year of his survival from leukemia. For the past seven years, he has held an annual dinner at which bone marrow recipients meet their donors. Although they may correspond with one another, donors and recipients do not meet in person for at least a year - and then only by mutual consent. Such meetings at the Gift of Life dinner, which this year will be held on May 15 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, are emotional experiences not only for donors and recipients but also for the 750 dinner guests who will witness them. Since his own successful transplant, Feinberg has dedicated his life to developing the largest Jewish bone marrow and cord blood registry in North America. One of the institutions that consistently support Feinberg's endeavors is Yeshiva University, which has facilitated more transplants than any other institution via Gift of Life's campus recruitment program. To date, more than 2,500 students have registered, and 23 have already saved lives via their donations. LAST WEEK marked the anniversary of the liberation by American forces in 1945 of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, a highly popular orator, radio and television personality and one of Israel's most widely-known Holocaust survivors, was one of the youngest survivors of the camp. He was among those freed from Buchenwald by the Americans and two months later arrived in Haifa with his older brother Naftali Lavie. Lau will celebrate his 71st birthday on June 1.