Grapevine: The silver lining in the cloud

60 years of ties with Canada marked with joint stamp, new Czech ambassador is 2nd-generation envoy and Austrians here mark Herzl’s 150th.

celeb grapevine (photo credit: )
celeb grapevine
(photo credit: )
CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to former prime minister Ehud Olmert andhis wife Aliza, who despite the legal problems confronting them,nonetheless have reason to smile as their family keeps growing. Theirson Shauli and his wife Vardit recently presented them with a newgranddaughter, and their daughter Dana expects to give birth to herfirst child in the near future. Aside from that, their son Arielcompleted his studies at the Sorbonne and returned home.
OTHERTHAN the justice minister who almost always has a law degree, even ifhe hasn’t necessarily been a practicing lawyer, most cabinet ministersdo not have the professional backgrounds to give them a foundation ofknowledge for the ministries which they head. One of the exceptions tothe rule is Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, who prior to becomingan MK and a member of the government, was a senior member of thefaculty at the Technion.
Ministers are often parts of groups ofdignitaries distributing scholarships and university degrees, but whenHershkowitz briefly returned to the Technion this week, he was on thereceiving end. He was one of scores of veteran faculty and staffmembers who received special citations and a gift from Technion vicepresident and director-general Avital Stein for having been employedthere for 25 years or more. In the course of his career, Hershkowitzwas also dean of the Faculty of Mathematics. He actually has a muchlonger association with the Technion, which was not only his place ofemployment, but also his alma mater.
INDIAN AMBASSADOR NavtejSarna and his wife Avina last week hosted a well-attended reception inhonor of historian and author Dr. Ramachandra Guha, who was here todeliver the keynote address at the Ninth Asian Studies Conference atthe University of Haifa. His books and essays cover a wide range ofsubjects including political history, environment, anthropology andcricket. He has been widely translated and is the winner of severalawards, including the UK Cricket Society’s Literary Award and theLeopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History. Heis, most recently, the author of India after Gandhi: The History ofWorld’s Largest Democracy. Foreign Policy magazine included Guha in itslist of 100 most influential public intellectuals in 2008.
Atthe reception at the ambassador’s residence Guha delivered an addresson “The world’s most unnatural nation? How India survives,” followed bya lively interactive session with the audience. Among those presentwere: Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Esther Hayut, MKEinat Wilf, Ambassadors Baija Nath Thapala of Nepal, Petronila PenaGarcia of the Philippines and Andrea Faulkner of Australia, as well asIssa Sarid, the grand niece of Hermann Kallenbach, Mahatma Gandhi’sclose Jewish associate during the period he spent in South Africa.
GETTINGREADY for an important August wedding is Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi YonaMetzger. No, he hasn’t been approached by some prominent family to dothe honors. This time the groom is his son Moti, who celebratedIndependence Day by announcing his engagement to Tehilla Silberson ofBnei Brak. Metzger, with the input of his wife Ofra, is now busycompiling a guest list. When you’re a chief rabbi, the list tends to berather long.
At his induction ceremony in Jerusalem seven yearsago, Metzger, who has faced some severe criticisms in his career, set awonderful example for his son to follow in terms of spousal respect. Hepublicly thanked his wife “for walking with me in the wilderness.” Suchpublic acknowledgements are rare in the sector that Metzger represents.
CANADIANAMBASSADOR Jon Allen and his wife Clara Hirsch celebrated the 60thanniversary of Canadian-Israeli friendship and diplomatic relationswith the launching of joint Israeli-Canadian commemorative stampdesigned by Karen Henricks, Yarek Waszul and Miri Nistor featuring thenational symbols of both countries – the Maple Leaf and the Star ofDavid, which are represented by human figures making up the separatenational groups and then blending with each other. The stamp alsofeatures the flags of the two countries. In Israel it is worth NIS 4.60and in Canada C$1.70, reflecting the strength of the Canadian dollar inrelation to the US dollar.
Allen disclosed that he’d been quiteenthusiastic when Yaron Razon, director of the Israel PhilatelicService, told him that the anniversary must be commemorated with astamp, but the Canadian authorities put a damper on his ardor, tellinghim that there was no way in which they could produce a joint stampwithin six months. It would take at least two years.
However,according to Avi Hochman, president and CEO of the Israel PostalCompany, the project was saved by Ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv, whowas celebrating her birthday on the day that she had to meet withMinister of Transport John Baird who is also the minister responsiblefor Canadian post. “It’s my birthday,” she told him, “and you can’t sayno to anything I ask.”
Hochman, who was in Ottawa last week forthe Canadian launch of the stamp, said that it had been a mostimpressive ceremony hosted by the Canadian Parliament. CommunicationsMinister Moshe Kahlon commented that nothing was more fitting tosymbolize the good relations between the two countries than a stamp. Healso noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is “thefriendliest Canadian government in memory.” Kahlon likewise had highpraise for Allen, who he said was doing “a great job” toward theenhancement of bilateral relations. MK Yohanan Plesner, who heads theIsrael-Canada Parliamentary Friendship Association, said that Canadahas an important moral voice in the world and that its relationshipwith Israel was warm and getting warmer.
Nearly all speakersreferred to the fact that Canada was one of the 33 countries that votedin favor of the partition of Palestine at the fateful United Nationsvote of November 29, 1947. Allen also announced the publication of acommemorative coffee table book in French, English and Hebrew whichhighlights points in the relationship including exchange visits byhigh-ranking officials.
RARELY IF ever was the ratio ofJerusalemites among the guests at a reception hosted by the Frenchambassador as high as it was last Thursday night. The reason: Two ofthe four honorees who were being conferred with the title of Chevalierde l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres were Jerusalemites – though onlyone, Yossi Tal Gan, director of the Israel Festival, is a native of thecapital. James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, is a transplantedNew Yorker, who has lived in Jerusalem for 15 years.
TheJerusalemites who cheered them included family, friends, colleagues andstaff. Snyder’s friends also included someone who works in Jerusalem,but doesn’t live there – Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, whocame with his wife Rhoda, and whose presence was commented on byAmbassador Christophe Bigot, who was particularly appreciative that hehad taken the time and trouble to attend. The other two honorees wereDubi Lenz, music director at Army Radio, and internationally acclaimedFrench Israeli filmmaker Raphael Nadjari. All four have importedvarious aspects of French culture to Israel.
Although there hadbeen no discussion between the honorees, the embassy and the guests asto color coordination, it was quite amazing how many people had chosento wear shades of violet, lavender, lilac and magenta. These are thesignature colors of Lia Van Leer, founding director of the JerusalemCinametheque and a previous recipient of French honors. Looking at herand comparing his own tie to that of Bigot’s, which was almost anidentical shade of lavender, Snyder exclaimed: “We’re in the samepalette!”
For Tal Gan, the occasion was particularly movingbecause he was a second generation Chevalier. His father, Gavriel, hadbeen sent at 14 in 1925 from Jerusalem to Paris where he spent fouryears of study. The experience turned him into a lifelong Francophile.He had been a student at the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Parisand later taught at and headed the Alliance school in Jerusalem. Hiscontribution to French culture here was recognized by the Frenchauthorities, and now his son is carrying on the tradition.
CZECHAMBASSADOR designate Tomas Pojar is a second generation diplomat and asecond generation Czech ambassador to Israel. His father Milos Pojarwas the first Czech ambassador after the renewal of diplomaticrelations 20 years ago, and after concluding his tour of office, hasreturned at least once a year. The senior Pojar was a panelist lastFriday at the resumption of the Czech Embassy’s discussion series“Czech the Issues.”
Other panelists included Yoel Sher, thecountry’s first ambassador to Czechoslovakia as the Soviet Union wascrumbling, and Moshe Arens, who was then foreign minister. Pojar notedthat his grandson was also in Israel, and voiced the hope that 20 yearsfrom now, he would be the third generation Czech ambassador here.
Therecan never be a discussion about Czech-Israel relations withoutreference to the training provided by Czechoslovakia to the nascent IAFin 1948 or to the arms and military equipment that it supplied duringthe War of Independence. Hugo Marom (Meisl), a living witness to thatperiod, was among the people in the audience. Marom, one of thecountry’s top pilots, was born in Czechoslovakia and was sent on akindertransport to London. He later went to what was then Palestine andjoined the air force of the fledgling state.
GUESTS ARRIVING atthe Ramat Gan residence of British Ambassador Tom Phillips for thecelebration of the 84th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II could hear thesound of bagpipes long before they reached their destination. Asalways, some of the ambassador’s neighbors came into the street towatch the kilted piper marching up and down. Some of the politicians,diplomats, businesspeople, journalists and members of Israel’s vibrantAnglo community arrived late, having first attended a lecture at TelAviv University by Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda.
CanadianAmbassador Jon Allen and his wife Clara came after deferring an IsraelBritain and the Commonwealth Association event that had been scheduledat their residence. Considering that Canada is part of theCommonwealth, Allen could hardly ignore the queen’s birthday. Asidefrom that he’s a good friend of Tom Phillips’.
A specialconsignment of smoked salmon that has annually been flown in fromScotland for the event had to be cancelled due to the volcanic ashcloud. Guests were probably unaware of the absence, because residentchef Emmanuel Tellier still had a stock of smoked salmon in his pantry.This was the last queen’s birthday celebration that Phillips and hiswife Anne hosted here. They are due to wind up their posting in fourmonths, but it was obvious from the way that Phillips spoke that theywill be back to visit.
Representing the government was theambassador’s friend and neighbor, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom,who referred to the ups and downs in bilateral relations, but alsoremarked on the legacy that the British left at the end of the Mandate.He said that like the English, Israelis are extremely keen on PremierLeague football. He regretted that Israel was not participating in theWorld Cup in South Africa, but assured the ambassador that he wouldsupport the British team. Shalom is known to be an ardent football fan,so it was not an idle promise.
The national anthems were sung byveteran embassy staff member Marilyn Lyons, who on a previous occasion,honoring members of the Yishuv who had served with the British forcesduring World War II, had sung the songs of the era to the great delightand participation of all those present.
WELFARE AND SocialServices Minister Isaac Herzog had a twofold reason for being in Chinalast week. He was representing the government at the opening of theShanghai Expo 2010, but he also had an extremely personal reason: Heattended the launch of the Chinese edition of his late father’s bookLiving History: A Memoir which was prominently displayed in the largestbookstore in Beijing. Chaim Herzog, who was the sixth president, in1992 was the first Israeli head of state to visit China.
Thestore manager told Herzog that the Chinese are very interested inhistory and that his father’s book had aroused considerable curiosity.Uncertain as to whether this was merely polite small talk or whether itwas true, Herzog decided to investigate for himself, and in the eveningafter the launch, returned to the store on foot to see whether the bookwas still featured in the showcase. Indeed it was, while inside thestore, there was little doubt that the book was selling well becausethe pile of copies had been considerably depleted.
DESPITE THEspecial relationship between Germany and Israel, it is not too oftenthat Israel bestows honors on German citizens. Among the Germancitizens singled out for honors is Eva Luise Koehler, the wife ofPresident Horst Koehler. For the past five years, she has been thehonorary president of the German Friends of Sheba Medical Center, whoseannual events take place at Schloss Bellevue, the official residence ofthe presidents of Germany.
For her efforts on behalf of Sheba,Koehler was invested with the Sheba Humanitarian Award which was givento her last week by President Shimon Peres and Sheba CEO Ze’ev Rotsteinin the course of her private visit to see the progress of the medicalcenter and to learn of its current needs.
IN ADVANCE of EuropeDay, May 9, Ambassador Andrew Standley, head of the European Uniondelegation here, will be among the speakers at a symposium at theHebrew University sponsored by HU’s European Forum and the KonradAdenauer Foundation. Standley will speak on “The European Union, Israeland the Challenges of the 21st Century.” Lior Herman of the EuropeanForum will look back on “Helmut Kohl, the Reunification of Germany andthe Economic and Monetary Union.” There will also be a short videoshowing President Peres congratulating Helmut Kohl on his 80thbirthday, and a screening of the French film Welcome to the Land ofShtis.
ALTHOUGH ZIONIST visionary Theodor Herzl was born in Budapest on May 2,1860, the Austrians also lay claim to him because his family moved toVienna when he was 18, and Vienna was an important influence on hislife. Thus it stands to reason that Austrians here and people withAustrian roots will participate in the rounds of celebrations markingthe 150th anniversary of his birth. The Austrian birthday party will beheld at the residence of Ambassador Michael Rendi on May 26 within theframework of the Red and White Clubbing Nights that Rendi introducedtwo years ago, to enable young Israelis of Austrian background toreconnect with their roots.
Rendi held a press conference on Herzl’s actual birthday which happenedto coincide with Lag Ba’omer, to announce details of the upcoming eventwhich will be attended by Austrian Vice Chancellor Josef Proll, who byhappy coincidence will be on an official visit. Among the youngclubbers will be Sagi Eckhaus, grandson of Gideon Echkaus, the chairmanof the Central Committee of Austrian Jews in Israel.