Grapevine: A doctor in the house?

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

   Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei (center) and KKL-JNF world chairman Daniel Atar plant a tree this week in Jerusalem. (photo credit: EYAL MARGOLIN GINNY)
Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei (center) and KKL-JNF world chairman Daniel Atar plant a tree this week in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: EYAL MARGOLIN GINNY)
Ongoing Guatemalan friendship with Israel can be seen in the fact that even prior to his inauguration on January 14, Guatemala’s President-elect Alejandro Giammattei chose to pay a five-day visit to Israel, primarily as the guest of KKL-JNF world chairman Daniel Atar. After touring the country, in jeans, during which time he thoroughly enjoyed planting a tree, Giammattei concluded his first visit to the country at a dinner hosted by the management of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem where Atar thanked Giammattei for being a brave and unrelenting friend to the State and people of Israel. Others attending the dinner included Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Guatemalan ministers, Guatemala’s Ambassador to Israel Mario Bucaro, senior adviser to US Ambassador to Israel Aryeh Lightstone, KKL-JNF deputy chairmen Zeev Noyman, Ernan Felman and Shlomo Deri, along with Latin American ambassadors and dignitaries from KKL-JNF branches in Latin America.
In his address, Giammattei, who this time wore a suit but no tie, said: “We must acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to their homeland, especially after 3,500 years of fighting which has made the Jews into a strong and amazing people. ”
■ WHEN A new ambassador arrives, many names on the guest list of his predecessor are crossed off. Among those that remain constant, especially on the Kazakhstan list, is that of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was a personal friend of former Kazakhstan ambassador Doulat Kuanyshev. He walked into the banquet hall of the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, waiting to congratulate the new Kazakhstan ambassador designate Satybaldy Burshakov on the 28th Anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. Olmert was warmly embraced by Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov with whom he had a luncheon appointment the following day.
Olmert told Viktorov that he had made reservations at a good restaurant. Although he was not inclined to queue jump, Olmert and Viktorov were both ushered to the front of the line to convey their greetings to Burshakov. Viktorov subsequently embraced former minister and MK Sofa Landver, who remains on the guest lists of former countries of the Soviet Union, and had an intense discussion with her in Russian. He had an even more intense discussion with Environment, Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
Olmert was caught up in several conversations but spent the longest period talking to Yair and Dassi Stern. Yair Stern is currently director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.
Greek Patriarch Theophilos III, who is a frequent presence at diplomatic events, was also among the invitees. When asked about the concerns of people who had purchased their apartments on land that had belonged to the Greek Patriarchy but was now under another ownership, Theophilos said that he was working on a solution and that he hoped to soon resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction.
In his address to his guests, Burshakov said this had been a milestone year for Kazakhstan in that President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had guided the country with wisdom and great leadership since it had gained independence, had stepped down in March of this year in order to allow a new generation to develop the country further.
Under Nazarbayev’s leadership, said Burshakov, Kazakhstan had developed close partnerships with the international community. He also credited Nazarbayev with ensuring the peaceful and stable development of Kazakhstan, and was confident that Kazakhstan will continue to consistently implement a policy of stability under current president Qasym Jomart Toqayev, and will also improve its position in international economic ranking.
He noted that Kazakhstan provides the most favorable conditions for foreign investment and will continue to minimize existing barriers.
With regard to bilateral relations, he listed the visit to Kazakhstan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December 2015, as a major contributing factor in drawing the two countries closer together.
As part of Kazakhstan’s efforts toward global peace, Nazarbayev had introduced the international forum of world and traditional religions, bringing together people of all faiths and not just the great faiths. The next such congress will convene in Astana in 2021, said Burshakov.
Elkin, who is a regular on the Kazakhstan guest list, was also there in his capacity as a representative of the government. He recalled that Israel had been among the first countries to recognize and establish ties with Kazakhstan in 1992. But long before that, he said, there had always been good relations between Kazakhstan and the Jewish people. In fact, Kazakhstan had provided a haven for many Jews, including members of his own family during the Holocaust. Had his family not fled to Kazakhstan, he said, “I might not be standing here now.”
■ RADIO AND TV personality Yigal Ravid in 1999 was co-host at the Eurovision Song Contest. In Jerusalem. Twenty years later, he was back in Jerusalem to host a no less prestigious event, albeit not an international one – the EMET Prize awards, considered to be the Israeli Nobel Prize. The event at the capital’s capacity crowd Henry Crown auditorium at the Jerusalem Theater differs from the Israel Prize, in that the latter is often for life achievement, whereas EMET prizes are awarded for excellence in art, science and culture.
The EMET Prize awards are conducted in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office. Because Netanyahu was otherwise engaged, he was represented at the awards ceremony by Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who said the prize recipients were people who had exercised their potential, and in so doing had influenced the lives of all Israelis. She repeated a parable that was indicative of all of them in that they represented the story of the mother who did not ask her children, “What did you learn in school today?” but “Did you ask a good question?”
■ SOME WEEKS ago, Tel Aviv-based peace activist Alice Krieger had a nasty fall and gashed her leg so badly she needed a skin graft, which necessitated a protracted stay in Ichilov Hospital. Krieger kept friends informed of her progress by posting bulletins on Facebook, including photographs of her visitors, some of whom she named, and others whose likenesses she left on screen to remind herself later of who had come to see her. There has been a steady stream of people – Arabs in traditional attire, well-known public figures, people from Tel Aviv’s Bohemian circles, people from the peace camp and a few celebrities.
There was one that she felt that she didn’t need to name because he is so well known. Among the comments and replies that she received was an incredulous query: “Is that Topol?” Indeed it was beloved actor Chaim Topol, a very long-time friend. To prove it, Krieger posted another photo from their much younger days, so that any doubting Thomas would realize that their friendship really does back a long way.