AT THE arrival ceremony of Pope Benedict XVI at Ben Gurion Airport, television cameras focused several times on the eyes of His Holiness, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. all looked a little wary as they stood together during the playing of the anthems. It was also interesting to note who sang Hatikva. The mouths of the president and the prime minister remained clamped shut, while the president's military aide, Brig. Gen. Hasson Hasson, did sing the national anthem as did the Foreign Ministry's Chief of Protocol Itzhak Eldan, who unfailingly sings it at all ceremonial occasions.
AMONG THE gifts that Peres gave the Pope was a statue especially created by leading Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman. The statue is of a shepherd cradling a lamb with some of his flock around him and his crook in his hand. Kadishman told The Jerusalem Post that he was greatly honored to have been chosen. He was inspired by the fact that "Peres is our shepherd and we are his flock, and the Pope is the shepherd of Catholics around the world who are his flock."
The symbolism came naturally to Kadishman, who is famous for his paintings of sheep. Biblical leaders were often shepherds, and Jesus is symbolically considered the shepherd of his people
PRIDE IN one's faith takes different forms of expression. Catholic clergy including the Pope wear large crucifixes. Not to be outdone, David D'Or, who together with Dudu Fisher sang for the Pope, wore a Star of David that was almost as prominent as the Papal cross.
IT'S CATHOLIC week in Israel this week in more ways than one. Aside from the visit of Pope Benedict XVI and the tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims who have come to the Holy Land to participate in Masses conducted by the Pope, another Catholic who is making his mark on the world was honored this week by Bar-Ilan University.
Father Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest who spearheads the search throughout today's Ukraine for the sites of mass murders by shooting of Jews during the Holocaust, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bar-Ilan University in the framework of its 54th annual Board of Trustees meetings that concludes today.
Father Desbois was recognized by the University for his humanitarian work on behalf of the Jewish People, his tenacious efforts to counter Holocaust denial and ensure ongoing remembrance for Shoah victims, and his dedication to religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation.
Through the Yahad-In Unum Association which he heads, Desbois collects information about the extermination of the local Jewish population during the Second World War. To this end, he has crisscrossed the countryside in an effort to locate each and every Jewish mass grave. As part of his commitment to this task, Father Desbois has conducted hundreds of interviews with Ukrainian witnesses. Through his painstaking efforts he has thus far uncovered more than 800 mass graves of Jews in the Ukraine and Belarus.
A consultant to the Vatican on relations with Judaism, Desbois estimates that more than one million victims are buried in more than 1,200 graves in the actual Ukraine. The exact location of most of the graves is largely unknown to Holocaust researchers. Desbois, who has also directed the National Service of French Bishops for Relations with Judaism, says this is a "social and religious emergency" and he does this work to "combat a wave of Holocaust denial being used to deny the legitimacy of the Jewish people."
Father Desbois' book, "The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews," received a Jewish Book Council award in 2008.
IF SHE ever decides to quit politics, perhaps Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver should consider opting for the stage. Her voice rising to a crescendo and breaking down with emotion as she quoted from the Victory Poem, Landver truly endeared herself to the largely Russian speaking audience at the Yad Vashem ceremony marking the victory of the Allied Forces over the Nazis. She spoke in Hebrew and then in Russian, giving the immigrants from the former Soviet Union a renewed sense of pride and honor as she credited them with heroism and courage and the will to conquer the Nazi beast. As usual, veterans of the Red Army, who outnumbered the partisans, the underground fighters and the volunteers from the Yishuv who joined the British forces, came with their multitudes of medals and ribbons. Some were still able to fit into their uniforms and wore them proudly. Here and there they were accompanied by grandchildren in the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces, and the very fact that the victory of the elders had enabled the creation of the State of Israel so that their progeny could wear the uniform of the Israel Army made much of what they had endured worthwhile.
FEW PEOPLE are aware of the role played by Israel's then Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and Gideon Raphael, one of the founders of the Foreign Ministry and an adviser to the Israel delegation to the United Nations, in the ultimately successful effort to end the Korean War. Among those who are acutely aware is Korean Ambassador Young Sam Ma, who is writing an academic treatise on the subject as well as on the involvement of the allied forces. When he tells the story, the ambassador's face lights up like a beacon. "If it wasn't for them," he explains, "I might not be here. I might never have been born, because my parents would have been killed."
Aside from being grateful for the Israeli initiative which was actually tabled at the UN by the Norwegians in order to secure the Arab vote, Young Sam Ma is enormously appreciative of the number of Jews in allied forces who fought in the Korean War from 1950-1953, as well as the number of non-Jews who fought there for freedom and democracy at the risk of their lives. "We have to recognize and respect what they did. Many were wounded. Many died. If we do not recognize our past, there will not be a future. I want to pay my respects and those of my government to the veterans of the Korean War." He wants to do this as a prelude to the 60th anniversary next year of Korea-Israel diplomatic relations. Towards that end, he will host a special celebration on June 25 at his residence in Rishpon, to which invitees will be Jewish War Veterans of the Korean War, representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, plus ambassadors and military attaches of all the countries which sent their military personnel to Korea with the aim of saving the Korean people from tyranny. Anyone living in Israel who is a Korean War veteran is asked to contact Kwak Sam Ju, the First Secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, in order to secure an invitation to the ambassador's reception. The phone numbers are 050-531-3230, 09-951-0318 and the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
AS AN organization, the Lions of Judah, which empowers Ethiopian immigrant women through projects that help them to realize their potential, seems to have a special appeal for wives of American ambassadors - who have unfailingly opened the American residence for Lions of Judah events. Last week Leslie Cunningham did as her predecessors have done and her guests were riveted by a power-point presentation and lecture by Gal Lousky, the founder and CEO of Israel Flying Aid, a non-profit, volunteer-based, non-governmental organization that provides humanitarian, life-saving aid and relief to communities in areas that have been struck by natural disasters or are caught up in territorial conflict. IFA, despite the potential hazards, very often goes to countries such as Pakistan, the Sudan and Indonesia that have no diplomatic ties with Israel, and parts of whose populations are anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. As they leave the places in which they have dispensed aid and goodwill, and where they arrived as Europeans rather than Israelis, Lousky tells the IFA beneficiaries who they really are. It doesn't always help to change negative attitudes towards Israel, but when it does, IFA is performing a dual service.
In welcoming her guests, Cunningham, who was first introduced to the Lions of Judah last year, said: "I love the fact that the Lions of Judah is an organization of women empowering women." She also let drop the information that research indicates that in 2016 women will control nearly 60 percent of the wealth in America. She did not indicate whether this would be by inheritance or based on their own merits.
BRITISH AMBASSADOR to Israel Tom Phillips was guest of honor this week at Bar-Ilan University's "British Day" and inaugural award ceremony for the Katz Family Research Grant Incentive Program. In his address, the ambassador noted that some years ago "Bar-Ilan University was unfortunately among those Israeli institutions singled out in an attempt by a minority of British academics to boycott Israeli institutions." That attempt, and the ones that followed, all failed, he emphasized, adding that it is important to stress that there is no academic boycott in the UK. "My government is very clear on this issue: we are utterly opposed to any type of boycott of Israel. Boycotts are counterproductive, particularly in this region where we should be encouraging as much dialogue as possible." Phillips went on to list a number of examples of academic links and exchanges between Israel and the UK, illustrating once again that all things are relative, depending on whether one looks at the cup that is half empty or the one that is half full.
IN THE diamonds, precious stones and jewelry business, the apples don't fall far from the tree, and offspring often take over where parents and grandparents left off. There are quite a number of third and fourth generation diamond dealers in Israel's diamond industry, so it comes as no surprise that New York born Shiree Odiz, 29, the daughter of diamond merchant Abe Hazan, is a jewelry designer. Not only that, but her vivacious aunt, Dr. Rosie Hazan, is her PR and marketing manager. Odiz launched her new romantic and somewhat exotic collection last week, not in a jewelry store, but in a Tel Aviv night club, where every guest on entering the lobby was given a sachet that contained a key to a safe in which there was a NIS 50,000 diamond pendant. The safe was just inside the entrance to the nightclub, and each guest tried to open it with their key. The person who succeeded was Ayelet Nachmias Verbin, an external director of Ace Auto Depot. The rest of the collection was shown all night on a video screen, which saves the trouble of putting up signs that tell viewers, "Look, but don't touch."
IT WAS in the cards that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai would be among the recipients of honorary doctorates to be awarded next Monday by Tel Aviv University. After all, it is the city's 100th anniversary, and as the mayor, he's collecting the kudos. Among the other 12 recipients of honorary doctorates and honorary fellowships are controversial philanthropist Marc Rich, who received a pardon from president Bill Clinton on the latter's last day in office, and former state comptroller and Supreme Court justice Miriam Ben-Porat, who was the first woman to be to the Supreme Court and who last month celebrated her 91st birthday.
JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Haruhisa Takeuchi is doing the rounds of Israeli universities. Today he will present a lecture on Japan's Contemporary Diplomacy at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem's Abba Eban Conference Room at the Truman Institute on the Mount Scopus campus and on Wednesday, May 27, he will give a similar address at Tel Aviv University's Institute for Diplomacy and Regional Cooperation. With regard to the Hebrew University, the government of Japan has recognized the sterling work of Prof. Zwi Werblowsky in the development of Japanese studies in Israel and the promotion of academic exchanges between Israel and Japan. This recognition will take the form of the conferment of a royal citation by the Emperor of Japan, who at the recommendation of the government of Japan will reward Werblowsky with the Order of the Rising Sun. The conferment ceremony will take place in Israel later this year.
MOST PEOPLE are multi-faceted in their talents and interests, often to the extent that their different talents enable them to flit from one career to another. Brazilian Ambassador Pedro Motta P.Coelho is also a musician, though for the foreseeable future he will put diplomacy ahead of music. However he does love to play the flute whenever he has the opportunity, and on May 21 will give a performance at his residence for members of the International Women's Club. The recital will include works by Johan Sebastian Bach, Cesar Franck and Brazilian composers M.A. Reichert and Pattapio Silva.
SCORES, IF not hundreds of Israeli academics, journalists, former diplomats and other former civil servants are listed with speakers' bureaus of international Jewish organizations as well as overseas speakers' bureaus whose stables are full of people who are or were headline news. Former prime ministers of Israel were also included in these lists and received very hefty fees for imparting their wisdom. However once Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak returned to the political arena, they could no longer rely on this source of income and any public speaking they did had to be on a pro bono basis. But there's no need for concern about the lack of a former Israeli prime minister on the global lecture circuit. The two have been replaced by Ehud Olmert who has signed up with New York-headquartered Greater Talent Network, which bills itself as America's leading speakers bureau. Not only does its website include Olmert among its celebrity speakers, but also features an advertisement in which it states that it is honored to announce the agency's exclusive representation of Olmert. The blurb geared to introduce Olmert to potential clients who will be expected to pay $40,000 to $70,000 for one of his lectures - which is far in excess of what he ever earned as prime minister, and requires much less time and work - describes Olmert as "one of the most influential and respected leaders in Israel's history."
The continuation of the profile reads: "Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister with a courageous vision: achieving prosperity through peace. Born in 1945, Olmert began his career in public service at only 28 years old, serving seven consecutive terms in the state legislature as a member of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance and Education Committees, and as Minister of Health. Even before his first public election, Olmert had earned three degrees in philosophy, psychology and law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; served with the Israel Defense Forces as a journalist and military correspondent; and was at the helm of a successful law partnership in Jerusalem.
"Olmert rose to international prominence when he was elected Mayor of Jerusalem in 1993. During his decade as Mayor, Olmert established the most advanced transportation infrastructure in the country, reformed the education system with hundreds of school improvements, expanded small neighborhoods into hi-tech industrial centers and established a historic budget surplus for Jerusalem's growing economy. Olmert's improvements changed the face of the city, but Jerusalem was constantly confronted with violent terrorism which resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. As Mayor, he made an uncompromising decision: Olmert personally visited the home of every family in Jerusalem who lost a loved one to terrorist attacks...
"After achieving unparalleled success in the legislature and as Mayor, Olmert was appointed by Prime Minister Sharon to serve in his cabinet as Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. Olmert founded historic free trade agreements that bolstered Israel's economy, resulting in a tremendous increase in exports, employment and trade routes throughout the country. For the first time in history, the scope of Israel's exports exceeded imports; and under Olmert's economic and financial leadership, Israel experienced unprecedented growth and regional trade expansion.
"In 2006, Olmert was designated Acting Prime Minister as a result of the serious stroke suffered by Prime Minister Sharon. In the historic election that followed, Olmert was elected the 12th Prime Minister of Israel, resolving to advance the focus on peace, prosperity and international diplomacy. Under Olmert's leadership, Israel reduced casualties from terror attacks to the lowest in decades. With more families employed than ever before, Israel's economic growth exploded even when compared with some Western nations, and his time in office left Israel with a record budget surplus. As Prime Minister, Olmert forged intimate relationships with prominent world leaders George W. Bush, Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel among others, which unified the global community with a shared vision for peace in the Middle East.
"At the podium, Olmert offers an in-depth analysis of the world's most difficult and complex issues, including international security, urban infrastructure, universal health care and education reform."
Even Olmert's best friends and greatest admirers might have trouble digesting all of the above. Despite the potential impact on his availability, the blurb does not mention the former prime minister's ongoing health concerns or his legal difficulties.
ONE CANNOT overlook the passing of one of the founders and partners of Israel's leading law offices, Michael Fox, 75, who with the late Chaim Herzog, who later became Israel's sixth president, founded Herzog, Fox & Neeman, Israel's largest and most prestigious law firm. Following his father's death, Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, who is a lawyer by profession, became the Herzog in the title, although he had to step down from the lucrative practice once he became an MK. The Neeman is Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman, who has also had to step down. London-born Fox was the epitome of a British gentleman. He was courtly, unfailingly polite and considerate. He was also extremely cultured, with a great love for music and literature. His extensive library was evidence of his wide range of interests. As much as he was a voracious reader, he was a captivating writer. Among the various offices that he held was that of chairman of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association. He was also very much involved with supporting the work of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. He battled his illness with courage and nobility.
He and his wife Sheila, who is a retired lawyer, had a wonderfully close relationship, and 18 months ago for their 50th wedding anniversary took 200 of their relatives and close friends for a weekend to Mitzpe Rimon. All the guests took home a souvenir - Fox's then newly published book "Mountains and Molehills" - a collection of the essays he had published in Haaretz. Fox freely admitted that nothing he wrote was submitted for publication before it had passed a reading by Sheila, who fine-tuned his literary efforts. If she didn't like what he'd written, he would start again from scratch. Fox, who was a frequent guest at the residence of a series of British ambassadors, was active in many ways in helping to enhance relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. For this he was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II, who in 2003 made him a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
HOUSEWIVES AND Heroines was the last in a series of seven exhibitions of artist mentors in which an established woman artist exhibited together with an artist who was still finding her way. The difference this time was that there were eight artists who started out four years ago as an email support group for one another. One of the reasons they needed support was that they were engaged in other professions and had difficulty in acknowledging themselves as artists. After two years of email relationships, they finally met and began to show their work to each other and to get feedback. From these meetings came the idea of an exhibition, with Heddy Abramowitz as the guiding light. The other artists were Zavi Apfelbaum, Andi Arnovitz, Hadassah Berry, Sharon Binder, Mindy Edelman, Ruth Schreiber and Mallory Serebrin Jacobs. The exhibition was in the Antea Gallery, a space for women artists that was established at Kol Isha headquarters in Jerusalem 15 years ago. The space is small even for two artists. For eight it was minute, as relatives and friends, some clutching floral tributes, crowded in and tried to get a good perspective of the different media on show. The exhibition and gallery were run by Nomi Tannhauser and Rita Mendes-Flohr. Tannhauser, who initiated the mentors project, announced that she was taking time out, and also disclosed that Kol Isha might be moving from its premises on the edge of downtown Jerusalem, which also means that the future of the Antea Gallery may be in abeyance.