Grapevine: A diplomat with a kick

The Australian ambassador enjoys a game of soccer with locals.

Chemi Peres and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel display a copy of Shimon Peres' autobiography  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chemi Peres and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel display a copy of Shimon Peres' autobiography
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan on Friday proved that despite all the cocktail parties to which ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic community are subjected, there’s still plenty of kick in him. Cannan, who played Australian rules football in his younger days, led the Australian Embassy staff at the annual casual Australian Football League Tournament at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on Friday morning.
Aussie expats just love this opportunity to kick the ball around and to play a game more familiar than soccer. The event is so informal that individuals are organized into teams at literally the last moment before the games begin. Israelis and immigrants from other countries who have Australian friends have caught on to the game and some were among the players on Friday.
■ THOUGH IN Israel last week primarily to attend Watec 2017, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it his business to call on the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, to share a few memories with Chemi Peres and members of the center’s staff who had worked with Shimon Peres during his presidency.
Emanuel met with Peres and his staff on several occasions during the time that Emanuel was White House chief of staff during the Obama administration and also when previously visiting Israel as mayor of Chicago.
At his most recent meeting with Chemi Peres, Emanuel said: “I am very connected with the activities and values of the Peres Center, and I am happy to cooperate with you in order to promote dialogue and peace.
It is important for us to advance cooperation with Israel, and we are proud of our universities and leading research institutes that are the top in the world. I support and promote Israeli business and academic initiatives in Chicago.”
Emanuel added that he would work to promote the benefits of cooperation with Israelis: “I call on Israeli companies to extend their cooperation to Chicago. Our doors are open to Israeli hi-tech professionals, researchers and entrepreneurs. I believe that joint investment will lead to bringing people together as well as promoting peace and dialogue.”
Peres presented Emanuel with a copy of the recently published autobiography of Shimon Peres and said, “My father left behind a legacy that looks to the future, and he taught us to strive for peace and to promote innovation.”
■ EXACTLY ONE week ago Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, who was a big hit in Israel for several years before answering the call to return to America to take up the position of president of Yeshiva University, celebrated his investiture.
The ceremony, held at YU’s Wilf campus in New York was attended by a crowd of 2,000 people, including New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan, former senator Joseph Lieberman, former ambassador Danny Ayalon and Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon.
Yeshiva University Board of Trustees chairman Moshael Straus asked the audience to join him for a moment of solidarity with the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, before he and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Board of Trustees chairman Rabbi Joel Schreiber presented Berman with the charters of the university and RIETS, respectively. Board of trustees chairmen emeriti Dr. Henry Kressel and Morry Weiss, as well as past YU presidents Dr. Norman Lamm and Richard M. Joel, joined Berman on stage, where they conferred the Presidential Medallion upon him.
In his emotional introduction of the new president, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, university professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought, said, “Today we celebrate a new chapter in the history of our extraordinary university, and we welcome to its roster of great, transformative leaders a man of great learning, great depth, great thoughtfulness, great passion and great sensitivity, a president whose greatness has been forged in the libraries and in the batei midrash of this very institution.”
“Most new presidents of universities need to learn the story of their institutions to understand their narrative and its purpose, but I do not need to read a history book to understand Yeshiva University – it is in my heart and it is in my soul,” said Berman. “In an era in which there is a breakdown of civic and civil conversation, Yeshiva University is uniquely positioned to address the most pressing moral issues of the day. Moving forward, we will continue to be steadfast in bringing to bear our vast, interdisciplinary resources on these fundamental issues, both for the general public and also internally for our students. We stand proud as educators, thought leaders and moral voices for our generation.”
The investiture ceremony was not confined to New York. It was also beamed to Jerusalem, where it also included a lecture by Michael Oren, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, who spoke on Israel’s centrality to the Jewish people.
■ IN ADDITION to heading a veteran hospitality network and one of Israel’s most important manufacturing and supply companies of defense equipment, Michael Federmann is also a generous philanthropist and social activist involved in various educational, cultural and social welfare projects. He has been chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University since 2009. He is also a great supporter of the Israel Museum and the Jerusalem Foundation, and in the past headed the Israel Hotel Association.
In recognition of this, he has been selected by B’nai B’rith International to receive its 2017 Distinguished Humanitarian Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated dynamic leadership through a commitment to philanthropy and to the communities they serve. This is the first time that an Israeli has been chosen to receive the award. If Federmann had entertained any hope of attending the Balfour Dinner in November for which Lord Rothschild is specially coming to Israel, he will just have to be content with hearing about it from friends, as the dinner for his award and the Balfour Dinner are on the same night – November 8.
Federmann will receive the award during a dinner reception at where else but one of the hotels in the Dan chain of which he’s the chairman. He will be at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, while just down the street, at the Tel Aviv Hilton, Rothschild will be joining British expats and a select number of Israelis and Brits working in Israel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
Both events promise to be sellouts.
■ A SPECIAL guest in Israel last week was Roderick Lord Balfour, who is the fifth Earl of Balfour. He was here for the From Balfour to Brexit conference, which was held at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem.
At a dinner on the first night of the conference, Balfour, who has a delicious sense of humor, said that he’d been overwhelmed by the number of selfies for which he had been asked to pose, and then told of his first visit to Israel in the mid-1990s. A friend was driving him around, and he told his friend that he had an appointment and gave him the address. The friend did not immediately put two and two together, and when the car drew up outside the President’s Residence, the friend asked him if he was sure he had the right address. Balfour replied that indeed he did and that he was having afternoon tea with the president, who happened to be Ezer Weizman, the nephew of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, who had influenced Balfour’s ancestor Arthur James Balfour.
The younger scions of the Balfour and Weizman dynasties were having a great time talking on many subjects, when their conversation was interrupted by a phone call. The president excused himself, saying: “I would like to talk to you all afternoon, but there’s this new Prime Minister Netanyahu, who’s not behaving very well, and I’ve to call to tell him he must do something, because he’s not running the country well.” The revelation was met with howls of laughter.
■ ALTHOUGH HE’S had very little to do with Britain in terms of personal history, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was interviewed at the Balfour Brexit conference by Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who was delighted to perform the task because, ever since he was a boy, Sharansky has been one of his heroes.
Among other things, Pollard was interested in learning how much of Anatoly Sharansky has remained in Natan Sharansky, to which the reply was: “My Anatoly life is as natural a part of me as Natan.” Given that Sharansky is his hero, Pollard wanted to learn who Sharansky’s heroes might be.
Sharansky didn’t have to ponder over the question for even a moment. “I have two,” he said, “King David and my wife.”
■ ALSO AT Mishkenot, Sunday afternoon, the Jerusalem Press Club will host the launch of the book Goddess of Battle by journalist Gwen Ackerman, which tells a story of Israeli- Palestinian reconciliation despite the odds.
Helping to spark interest in its publication will be Miri Ben Raphael from the Family Forum – families that have lost loved ones on both sides of the conflict and have turned to tolerance instead of hate, and Ruth Ebenstein, who will talk about the friendship she forged with a Palestinian woman from the West Bank as they both fought breast cancer.