Grapevine: Serbia celebrates first anniversary

'It doesn't matter how many times you fall,' Ambassador Isakov tells his guests, 'but how many times you get up and go on.'

IT WAS an extremely emotional occasion for Serbian Ambassador Miodrag Isakov and his wife Jelena, hosting a reception at the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya Pituah. After the restoration of Serbian independence last year, this was the first time that they were actually celebrating Serbian Independence Day, which also coincided with Serbian Armed Forces Day. The actual date for both is February 15, in memory of the Serbian uprising in Orasak on February 15, 1804 which put an end to five centuries of Ottoman Empire domination, and the first constitution of the Serbian principality on February 15, 1835. A journalist and politician, who prior to his appointment was president of the Reform Democratic Party in Vojvodina, Isakov reviewed his country's chequered history until the present day. The first Serbian state, founded well over a 1,000 years ago, evolved into the Serbian Kingdom and Serbian Empire. Modern Serbia became an autonomous principality in 1817, then an independent principality and kingdom in 1878. It subsequently became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and then from 1941 to 1944 was a Nazioccupied puppet state, after which it became a socialist republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1992, with the fall of Communism, it became a republic within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and in 2003, a republic within the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. On June 5, 2006 Serbia proclaimed its independence, and has since been known as the Republic of Serbia. "All our citizens lived in five or six states without ever moving from their villages or their homes," quipped Isakov. The upside of that, he observed, was that they are all multi-lingual. Looking back on the number of times that Serbia lost its independence and its autonomy, Isakov said: "It doesn't matter how many times you fall, but how many times you get up and go on." What bothered him, he said, when reflecting on his nation's history, was "how the good guys became the bad guys." It was a phenomenon that he had also noticed in Israel. He was especially pleased that Minister Rafi Eitan had been chosen to represent the government, "because he is an old freedom fighter, so we are the same, and unfortunately still fighting the same battle." Eitan returned the complement by noting the fact that Yugoslavia, of which Serbia was then a part, had supplied Israel with explosives and ammunition during the War of Independence. He recalled that some of the Yugoslavian-born soldiers in his unit in the Palmach went on to become prominent commanders, and instanced David Elazar, who became chief of the General Staff. He also noted that Serbians had always lived harmoniously with the Jews in their midst, and said that Israel and the Jewish People were indebted to the Serbian partisans for their great struggle against the Nazis in World War Two. Today, Israel's relations with Serbia are very important, said Eitan, and Israel is particularly interested in upgrading the economic relations which have great potential. This week's Serbian reception was very well attended despite the fact that there were diplomats attending a benefit for Schneider Children's Hospital, while others were in the capital at the Jerusalem International Book Fair. Part of the reason for the large turn-out was the Armed Forces Day aspect which attracted military attaches from a large number of embassies. Also among the guests were two former Israel government ministers - Moshe Shahal and Ra'anan Cohen, both coincidentally of Iraqi background. There was no escaping Serbia's national red, white and blue colors. Miniature Serbian flags decorated the hors d'ouevres, while red, white and blue satin ribbons were tied around the edges of round-white-clothed tables, with the ribbons finishing in festive tricolored bows half-way down the table cloth. On top of the tables were bowls of red, white and blue anemones. IN ISRAEL for only two months, Sergei Rychenko, second secretary at the Embassy of Belarus, is getting ready to launch his embassy's website, which he promises will have a mine of information about Belarus. Rychenko will be largely responsible for keeping the site updated. MINISTER COUNSELLOR at the Korean Embassy Won Sup Park, who is also deputy chief of mission, is looking for a summer job for his son who is hoping to become a journalism intern. The young man has spent his high school and college years in the US, where he has perfected his English. According to his parents, he speaks English like an American. When he comes to Israel for the summer, they want him to take on a job where he can learn something - and they figure that the place where he can learn the most at the fastest possible pace is in a newspaper office. AT THE Business and Women convention organized by the financial daily The Marker as a kick start to the annual Women's Festival in Holon, there was discussion on the glass ceiling: whether it does or doesn't exist and, if it does, whether it is of women's making. An instance of the latter possibility was presented by Zahavit Yosef Cohen, CEO of Apax Israel. Before joining Apax, Cohen had a long and distinguished executive career at Israel Discount Bank Cohen and her husband, who is a senior executive at Clal Insurance, somehow found sufficient spare time to go off Thailand. El Al fliers on principle, they settled themselves in business class and waited for the stewardess to come by with her trolley, so that they would have something to read. When the stewardess came, she offered all the financial publications to Cohen's husband, then turned to Cohen and offered her LaIsha and other women's publications. LAWYER TALI Eitan followed her husband to Silicon Valley, but was frustrated and unemployed until the precious Green Card was approved. Her husband's boss Eli Harari was concerned that he might return to Israel CUPID HAS been busy among the rabbinate. There appears to be a glut of weddings in which the bridegroom is a rabbi. This is definitely the season for rabbinical weddings or at least engagements. Last month, Rabbi Abraham Feder, rabbi emeritus of Jerusalem's main Masorti congregation, married Tzipora Ne'eman. Then, early in February, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, married Joelle Medina. Last week Hazvi Yisrael's Rabbi Avigdor Burstein was married at the Great Synagogue, but on Shabbat he and his bride Dina and members of both their families were at Hazvi Yisrael where the congregation honored them with a festive Kiddush. Last week, it also became official that Jerusalem Post columnist and Hanassi Synagogue spiritual mentor Rabbi Berel Wein is marrying Miriam Cohen from Lawrence, New York. The prospective bride had already been introduced to the congregation some weeks earlier. Although rumors were flying, it was not until last week that they were officially confirmed. In all four cases, it's the second time around. With regard to the Ecksteins, Cupid appeared in the form of Dvora Ganani , who heads the IFCJ Israel office which works in close cooperation with Keren Hayesod. Israeli-born Joelle Medina, who grew up in Barcelona and returned to Israel at age 17, worked in the Keren Hayesod Projects Department. Ganani knew that she'd found a perfect match for her boss, and got busy on her project which was to bring about a wedding, which was duly held at Jerusalem's Mount Zion hotel against the backdrop of the Old City. unless a job was found for her. He got her a place in a prestigious law firm in which she eventually became a partner, at which stage she finally got around to asking how come they had so readily accepted an attorney from Israel about whom they knew almost nothing. "You came so cheap, who cared?" was the reply. WHILE TOURISM Minister Isaac Herzog was in America this week to promote Israel as a tourist destination, his wife Michal preferred to stay on home turf - perhaps in order to attend the Women's Festival. She was certainly there for the conference on Business and Women THE DEFINITIVE biography of David BenGurion was written by former MK and famed mystery writer Michael Bar Zohar, who more recently wrote the biography of Shimon Peres that is one of the books featured in the current International Book Fair in Jerusalem. It is somehow fitting that Bar Zohar should be the author considering that Peres was a disciple of Ben-Gurion. Another disciple of and personal assistant to Ben Gurion, Yitzhak Navon, who went on to become Israel's fifth president, has in recent days spoken out on in support of Peres's bid to become Israel's ninth president. Interviewed on Channel One, Navon could not be persuaded to say anything about the Katsav affair, but he did say that the only person at this moment in time who could rehabilitate the institution of the presidency, given the manner it had fallen into disrepute in the international media, was someone who had the respect and admiration of the international community - and that was Peres. Asked about Peres's age, Navon, who will turn 86 in April, said that he was a couple of years older than Peres, still active and still in good shape. He suggested that even if Peres did not complete a full term, whatever time he would give to the presidency would be beneficial to the nation. AT THE opening of the Book Fair, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski noted that this was first book fair without Teddy Kollek. Kollek, who was a driving force behind the book fair when he was mayor and continued to be so after leaving office, used to say that a house without books is a house without windows, said Lupolianski. A MAARIV report this week stated that certain elements within Likud who want to clip the wings of Moshe Feiglin - whose Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction joined the party when it was still led by Ariel Sharon - are quietly recruiting new members in advance of the 2008 municipal elections, so that Feiglin will lose strength in those municipalities that become Likud strongholds. Meanwhile, Feiglin has a large following in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem where he will be speaking next Tuesday, February 27, on returning the State of Israel to the Jewish People. The address, in English, will be at Isralight, 25 Misgav Ladach at 8 p.m. EVERY PRINT journalist knows that it's not the prestige of the owner of the by-line but the nature of the story that determines front page placement. Likewise, Israel has some extraordinarily talented and successful attorneys, but what puts any of them in the news is not their ability, but the nature of the case and, more significantly, the identity of the client. Thus Jacob Weinroth, without intention, has temporarily nudged Zion Amir out of the limelight. The immaculately groomed Amir, it will be remembered, represents President Moshe Katsav. The dark suited Weinroth, with his ever present large black kippa, represents Prisons Service Chief Yaakov Ganot, whose controversial appointment as the next chief of police caused outrage in certain quarters and petitions against the nomination to the High Court of Justice. Weinroth successfully represented Ganot 13 years ago when the latter was charged with accepting bribes, and the two have remained in close contact ever since. The rehashing of the case brought Weinroth back into the eye of the storm. He was interviewed over and over on the day following the appointment - and naturally declared that there was no reason for Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter to rescind his decision. Over the years Weinroth has represented some very high profile personalities including the late president EzerWeizman, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit, former agriculture minister Israel Katz, former minister Tzachi Hanegbi, former foreign minister Shlomo BenAmi, former national infrastructure minister Yosef Paritzky and former minister Salah Tarif among a long list of other well-known people including several Russian oligarchs. WHEN STATE Cup winners Hapoel Jerusalem were invited to Beit Hanassi on Tuesday for a reception hosted in their honor by Acting President Dalia Itzik, the security was not quite as tight as usual. The reason: Gilad Ben Haim, who used to be a senior security officer at Beit Hanassi, is now the chief assistant to Hapoel Jerusalem chairman Danny Klein, and could vouch for every member of the team and key supporters of the club without having to check their credentials. It was almost like old times to see him in the doorway as he gave the nod to one person after another. There was also a slightly d j vu aura about Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes, who is a member of Itzik's regular Knesset retinue that accompanies her from place to place including Beit Hanassi, even though the Beit Hanassi staff are on duty. Pordes was Beit Hanassi spokesman during the Herzog era. IT WASN'T a remark one expected to hear at a Tel Aviv University conference entitled "Homage to Professor Feuerstein - Man, Theory and Life's Work," marking more than 50 years of success in changing the capabilities of the individual: " Reuven Feuerstein is a dangerous person," Ronen Shmuel told conference participants. But before they could express their outrage at such a comment, Shmuel offered the explanation: "He doesn't let you sit back and relax." Shmuel shared his experience of coming to the Feuerstein Center (the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential - ICELP) in Jerusalem one year after suffering severe frontal-lobe brain injury in an accident during army service nearly 10 years ago. "All my social behavior was in a mess." Two years of intensive one-on-one therapy, using the Feuerstein Mediated Learning method, helped him recreate the cognitive and social functions that were lost or impaired to a level that he could enroll at university, while continuing therapy at the center. "Next week, I complete my BA degree in Sociology at this university," he said, and there was no mistaking the pride in his voice. Other speakers from the Ministry of Education, universities and industry as well as families that have been helped, paid tribute to Feuerstein's huge impact on individuals, on education and on society, in Israel and around the world. A young soldier from the Ethiopian community told how, against all odds, she was accepted for work in Galei Tzahal, the Army radio station, thanks to the Amir Program. "We had a major problem with placing non-combatant Ethiopian immigrant recruits during their army service," explained Brig.Gen Nissim Barda, of the IDF's Manpower Division. "They were taking the standard army tests and they were failing. Prof. Feuerstein and his team came up with the solution - the Amir Program. Three cycles of 100 recruits each have done the Feuerstein Dynamic Assessment testing and then a course to develop their learning strategies and thinking skills. This prepared them for admission to training courses for army professions which they could never possibly have reached without such preparation. Their success rate was as good as anyone else's. James Bellanca, President of the International Renewal Institute in Chicago, which is authorized by ICELP to teach applications of the Feuerstein method in the US, compared Professor Feuerstein to an American folkhero: "Like Johnny Appleseed, he started on the East Coast and gradually moved west, with his programs taking root as he moved on. Today there are educational programs in 23 States, including Alaska, where Eskimo children are taught learning skills" "Of all the many awards my father has received," added Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, "he is perhaps most proud of the eagle's feather that the Navajo Indians bestowed on him, together with the title of Big Chief." WHEN AN ambassador is invited to an event that involves his country, he has no choice but to say a few words into the microphone. Thus British Ambassador Tom Phillips, speaking at the annual gala dinner of the Israel-British Chamber of commerce, offered a few remarks about the extraordinary changes that have developed in economic and business relations between the two countries since he last served here, but admitted that he found it somewhat daunting to speak ahead of people who are known for their ability with words. He had recently had to speak ahead of writer David Grossman, which, he admitted, he found challenging, but to speak before Binyamin Netanyahu was something that he found particularly so, he said. Without in any way detracting from Netanyahu's remarkable skills as an orator, it must be said that a series of British ambassadors who have served in Israel have proved themselves to be fine public speakers, whose gifts for language, nicely seasoned with diplomacy and humor, have delighted many Israeli audiences, especially those who were raised in English speaking countries. Two other ambassadors at the dinner were Australian Ambassador James Larsen and visiting New Zealand Ambassador Hamish Cooper. RUMOR IS building at the Channel Two New Corporation where Rafi Ginat is expected to take over the helm. Ginat, who is editor of Yediot Aharonot, may take a few months to wind up his affairs there, during which period Oded Ben Ami will step into the post soon to be vacated by Shalom Kital. Although there is talk that Ginat will not join the News Corporation till January, 2008, there's a strong possibility that once the cracks in the contract are ironed out and the appointment becomes official, the winds of change will move faster than anticipated. One of the stumbling blocks is Ginat's demand for more air time for himself. He already has the Kolbotek expos program, but it is understand that he also wants to appear on news programs, a factor that is causing existing staffers to be anything but happy campers.