Grapevine: A faux pas or a snub?

Lion acknowledged the presence of each as well as of city council members Hagit Moshe and Laura Wharton, who had been a thorn in the side of Lion’s predecessor, Nir Barkat.

MOSHE LION: The 2019 budget is the highest ever for Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MOSHE LION: The 2019 budget is the highest ever for Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
 It was too obvious an oversight to be considered a mistake, even though it was made by a mayor who’s been in office for only two months. The occasion was a tradition perpetuated by a series of Jerusalem mayors – a New Year ecumenical reception at city hall for members of the three great monotheistic faiths.
It’s a tradition that Mayor Moshe Lion pledged to continue, and indeed this week, together with his wife, Stavit, he hosted a large gathering of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious and lay leaders as well as diplomats.
Lion was the final speaker, following addresses by Mario Bucaro, the ambassador of Guatemala; Muhammad Kiwan, head of the Union of Imams in Israel; Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern; Greek Patriarch Theophilos III; and Custos of the Holy Land Francesco Patton.
In his opening remarks, Lion acknowledged the presence of each as well as of city council members Hagit Moshe and Laura Wharton, who had been a thorn in the side of Lion’s predecessor, Nir Barkat, but further into his address, Lion lauded all the previous speakers, going to great lengths in describing what they do to promote tolerance and peace. But Theophilos didn’t rate a mention. Several people present were shocked. The common thrust in all the speeches had been peace, togetherness and fraternity. But Lion’s sin of omission appeared to be the antithesis of all that had been said.
Asked about it afterward, Lion insisted that he had mentioned Theophilos, then agreed that he’d mentioned him only in passing at the beginning of his speech. He then stated that Theophilos had initially declined to be among the speakers, which is possible, as his name did not appear among those listed on the invitation. But that’s not really an excuse, because prepared speeches can always be amended – especially if they happen to be the last at the event. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is frequently caught on video while amending the printed copy of his speech, and the mayor could have done the same, especially as moderator Dan Kaner had mentioned Theophilos several times.
■ LAST YEAR, US Ambassador David Friedman was the guest of honor. This year it was Bucaro, who peppered his speech with Hebrew expressions. He said that when he looked around the room, the word that came to mind was “ahdut” – togetherness. “We come without prejudice; we come to a city we can be proud of in our own way, in our different languages and religions,” he said. Declaring that he was proud to be in Jerusalem, Bucaro said: “We are delivering a new legacy, if we all come together like this and celebrate a new beginning....
If we can speak together, we will have shalom.” Bucaro noted that in an earlier era, Guatemala was the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, “and now we have come back.”
Speaking in Arabic, Kiwan, who punctuated almost every sentence with the word “peace,” spoke of the common Abrahamic heritage of the three great faiths whose cradle is Jerusalem, and said that 320 imams support the principle of coexistence. He underscored that in hospitals Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses work side by side to revive people. Taking this into account, he asked “Why can’t Jews and Arabs work side by side to revive the peace process?” Lion, in congratulating Bucaro on Guatemala’s return to Jerusalem, stated that he has no doubt that other countries will follow the example set by the United States and Guatemala. He urged ambassadors not to believe the stories they heard about the paucity of land in Jerusalem. “I can assure that whoever wants to transfer their embassy to Jerusalem will receive a site under the best conditions,” he promised.
■ IN ADDITION to representing their countries, ambassadors to Israel also represent their regions.
Thus, there is a Latin American group, a European group, a Baltic group, an African group and an Asia-Pacific group. The groups have meetings on various issues pertaining to their regions – sometimes only with each other and sometimes with various Israeli dignitaries, officials and organizations.
Last week, the Asia-Pacific group of ambassadors went to Jerusalem and met with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and four past and present Supreme Court justices. The diplomats included the ambassadors of Australia, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
The four justices who joined Hayut were Uzi Vogelman, George Karra, Daphne Barak-Erez and Alex Stein. The visit was within the framework of efforts by the Asia-Pacific group to engage with different branches of the government for the purpose of exploring ways of deepening cooperation between Israel and countries within the Asia-Pacific region.
■ LEADERS OF the movement seeking to amend the Nation-State law are scheduled to arrive this Friday morning at Netanyahu’s Caesarea home. While it’s true that the prime minister spends many weekends in Caesarea, there’s no guarantee that he will do so this weekend. A previous plan to demonstrate outside his Jerusalem residence on a Friday had to be changed, and it’s possible that another change is in the offing.
In recent weeks, the demonstrators have been congregating outside the homes of leaders of political parties and prominent figures in the race for the upcoming Knesset elections, and have already spoken to Yair Lapid, Orly Levy-Abecassis, Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz, Moshe Kahlon and Ayelet Shaked, among others.
The demonstrators, who include heads of the Druze community, former senior figures in the defense establishment, and well-known personalities from the business community, academia, and major organizations want the text of the law to be amended so that it adheres to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence – namely, that all citizens of the Jewish state will have equal rights and will enjoy the same privileges as the Jewish majority.
■ APROPOS THE Druze community, which has taken the most vocal and constant stance against the Nation- State Law, many people may be surprised to learn that there is a Druze Zionist Movement affiliated with the World Zionist Organization, which distributes scholarships to Druze students who are studying science. Ninety such scholarships from the WZO Scholarship Fund in the names of Rina and Dr. Nissim Levy will be distributed at a festive ceremony in the Rabin Hall of Beit Yad Labanim in Daliat al-Carmel on Tuesday, February 5.
Attending the event will be WZO chairman Avraham Duvdevani, former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, chairman of the board of governors of the Herzl Museum Dr. Nissim Levy, head of the WZO Zionist Enterprises Department Dror Morag, Druze Yad Labanim chairman and former MK Amal Nasereldeen and, of course, chairman of the Druze Zionist Movement Yusuf Nasr al-Din.
Druze loyalty to Israel is sadly but best reflected in the number of Druze soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice for Israel, and whose names are enshrined in perpetuity in Yad Labanim. This in itself is reason for amending the Nation-State Law or simply abrogating it.
ISRAEL IS this week hosting its first-ever International Judo Federation Grand Prix event in Tel Aviv, as part of World Judo Tour consisting of five grand prix with 379 competitors from 53 countries. Not only is this good for Israel’s sporting image, but it’s also good for Tel Aviv’s hotel industry. Several of the delegations are staying at the Tel Aviv Hilton, including the Russian and Israeli teams. Of course, there will be winners and losers, but the hotel’s pastry shop champions, chef Idan Hadad and assistant Dor Brawn, want everyone to feel like a gold medalist, so they prepared chocolate medals with a gold cover for each of the guests in the judo delegations, to be delivered their rooms.
To add to the excitement for sports fans, the Tel Aviv marathon is being held Friday, which also means more traffic chaos, as cars and buses will be diverted from the routes of the marathon.
IT HAS become a tradition for the Dan Eilat hotel to host the annual Eilat Chamber Music Festival, and for a pre-festival cocktail reception to be hosted for the performers by the management of the Dan chain at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. This is the seventh consecutive year in which the Dan Eilat will be hosting the festival, which is celebrating its 14th year. Ronen Nissenbaum, CEO of the Dan chain, which also sponsors the festival, was pleased to host the festival management and some of the participating musicians and actors.
Guests included Leonid Rosenberg, the director of the festival; actor and writer Dovale Glickman, who will play Bach at the festival (that doesn’t mean he’ll be playing an instrument; rather, he will play a character – namely, composer Johann Sebastian Bach); and fellow actor Vlada West, who will costar in the play The House of Bernarda Alba.
Nissenbaum, who hosted the pre-festival reception for the second time, said that he was very excited to have the opportunity to do so, after having derived so much enjoyment from last year’s festival.
The success of the festival was, of course, due to Rosenberg, who brings the best international artists in the genre to Eilat, which is the premier resort area in Israel, said Nissenbaum, and the Dan chain appreciates working in cooperation with both Rosenberg and Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi to ensure that visitors get the best of the Eilat experience in terms of music, sunshine and hospitality.