Grapevine: Ambassadorial greetings

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

President Reuven Rivlin greets Ambassador of Kazakhstan Satybaldy Burshakiv and his wife. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin greets Ambassador of Kazakhstan Satybaldy Burshakiv and his wife.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
During Wednesday morning of this week, while President Reuven Rivlin was receiving the credentials of five new ambassadors, an official communique was received from Clarence House confirming the participation of Prince Charles as the UK representative in the forum of world leaders convening in Jerusalem next month to commit themselves to fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism. It was actually known well in advance that the Prince of Wales would be coming, and it was published in this column more than a week ago. The Brits didn’t want to make it official until after the elections, possibly because if the vote had gone the other way, Jeremy Corbyn would have opted for no British participation.
In addition to the official communique sent on Wednesday morning, Charles sent a personal letter to Rivlin in the evening, thanking him for the opportunity to participate in the International Leaders’ Forum
The prince made special mention of the work undertaken by Yad Vashem and its ongoing work to ensure that humanity never forgets the horrors inflicted on the Jewish people during the most awful period in human history.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev issued a statement saying, “The presence of the Prince of Wales at this significant event sends a decisive message that HRH Prince Charles believes firmly that antisemitism has no place in our post-Holocaust society, whether in the UK or elsewhere. At Yad Vashem we know that this requires prioritizing Holocaust education as a way to confront the challenges of contemporary antisemitism and Holocaust distortion. Yad Vashem is dedicated to raising awareness of the danger of what can happen when antisemitism goes unchecked.”
■ FOLLOWING THE presentation of credentials to Rivlin on Wednesday, the five ambassadors – Evgeny Semenovich Vorobyev of Belarus, Satybaldy Burshakov of Kazakhstan, Osvaldo dos Santos Varela of Angola, Dr. Hannah Liko of Austria, and non-resident ambassador of Cambodia Khuon Phon Rattanak all went to the King David Hotel for the vin d’honneur, the traditional reception held for new ambassadors to enable them to meet with their colleagues from other countries. There were fewer people than usual in attendance because many ambassadors have already gone home for the Christmas-New Year period, however there was a fairly good showing of ambassadors from African states, and there were quite a few female ambassadors who came to give support to their Austrian colleague.
Including non-resident ambassadors, there are almost 20 female ambassadors accredited to Israel. Of the total, those who came to honor Liko included Thessalia Selina Shambos of Cyprus, Kirsikka Lehto Asikainen of Finland, Hannah Ama Nyarko of Ghana, Elita Gavel of Latvia, Lina Antanaviciene of Lithuania, Cecilia Attard Pirotta of Malta and Andreja Purkat Martinez of Slovenia. Shambos had multiple reasons for attending.
Kazakhstan’s Burshakov is also accredited to Cyprus, and also happens to be her next-door neighbor in Herzliya Pituah. Some countries such as Belarus, Kazakhstan and Cambodia have official ambassadorial attire which added to ceremonial nature of the presentation of credentials. Other than diplomats and business people who are connected with the countries of the new envoys, the Vin d’Honneur was graced by two former government ministers Avigdor Liberman and Sofa Landver.
■ MOST PEOPLE familiar with Zionist history know of the Uganda plan in which the British colonial secretary offered Theodor Herzl a tract of land in East Africa for settlement by Jews persecuted in Eastern Europe. The essence of this offer was brought by Herzl to the Sixth Zionist Congress, but was rejected by delegates because the basic concept of Zionism was to return to the ancestral Jewish homeland. The Uganda plan is a misnomer, because the land offered by the British, was primarily in Kenya.
But it wasn’t the only option given to the Jewish people. In 1946, when David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, was in Paris, another guest at his hotel happened to be Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary North Vietnamese politician who founded the Indochina Communist Party. The two men were prepared to stop at practically nothing in order to achieve independence for their respective countries. They developed a fast friendship and sat together discussing what could be done.
Ho Chi Min suggested to Ben-Gurion that he proclaim a Jewish state in exile and establish the headquarters of its government in Vietnam. To Ben-Gurion this was not a solution to his problem. He wanted to liberate the true Jewish homeland, and inhabit it with Jewish people.
Some years after the establishment of the state, Ben-Gurion broke away from Mapai and in 1965 formed the Rafi Party together with Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres.
A year later, the editor of Maariv, which was not yet part of The Jerusalem Post Group, offered Dayan the opportunity to become a foreign correspondent – not just a foreign correspondent, but a war correspondent in Vietnam.
Dayan made it clear that he wasn’t taking sides in the conflict, even though he was embedded with the American troops in the field.
He simply wanted to see the political and military aspects of the war. Much of what he learned later stood Israel in good stead during the 1967 Six Day War when Dayan was defense minister.
All this came to mind this week at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv where Ambassador of Vietnam Do Minh Hung and Defense Attaché Senior Col. Nguyen Trinh Cong hosted a reception to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Vietnam People’s Army and the 30th anniversary of Vietnam’s National Defense Day. There was a lot of gold and silver braid on uniforms worn by defense attachés of some 40 countries. There were also a number of ambassadors, mainly from Asia and the Pacific, amongst them Pannabha Chandraramya, the ambassador designate of Thailand who will be among the first group of ambassadors to present credentials in the New Year: U Maung Maung Lynn of Myanmar, Saddha Waruna Wilpatha of Sri Lanka , Sanjeev Kumar Singla of India, and Chris Cannan of Australia.
Hung spoke of the history of the People’s Army in Vietnam, of the global relations that Vietnam now enjoys and of its bilateral defense relations with Israel, which Hung declared is one of Vietnam’s important partners in the region.
Cong read out excerpts from the 2019 Vietnam National Defense White Paper, which first and foremost includes building better relations with other countries with aspirations for peace, national independence, democracy, cooperation and development, as well as the right of the Vietnamese people to self-defense while always trying to settle disputes by peaceful means and in accordance with international law. Wherever possible, Vietnam will try not to use force, he said, adding that Vietnam is ready to expand its defense relations and cooperation with all countries for the sake of peace, democracy and social progress. He presented copies of the full text of the White Paper to Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman, who was representing the government of Israel.
Representatives of the Israel defense establishment also received copies.
■ IT’S NO secret that most of the consulates in Jerusalem are there to serve bilateral interests more with the Palestinians than with Israel. In fact, many have several Palestinians on their staffs. In the past the French Consulate, located on Emil Botta Street, around the corner from the King David Hotel, was decidedly more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. But it seems that fresh winds may be blowing. When Rene Troccaz, who was ambassador to Cyprus before taking up his functions as the new French consul general in Jerusalem, sent invitations for a literary evening at his residence this week for visiting French writer Olivier Truc, he emphasized that it would be followed by a kosher cocktail. Furthermore, for the first time that any of the local Francophiles can remember, the consul general’s visiting cards are printed in Hebrew as well as French. He also has some that are printed in Arabic as was the custom of his predecessors.
■ GIMMICKS GALORE are flooding the market to draw attention to various social issues. It’s said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, a factor that is usually associated with romantic connotations. But in this instance, eight leading chefs will be appealing to hearts via stomachs for exactly the opposite reason – to draw attention to women chained to marriage by husbands who refuse to give them a Jewish bill of divorce. The Freedom Feast on December 25, within the framework of the Gourmet Knights’ conference, will unfortunately be for invitees only, which in a sense defeats its purpose. Among the chefs who will be preparing numerous culinary delights are Lior Bar, Yotam Ben Bisset, Tamir Hakim, Amos Yosef, Eran Lankry, Gali Ben Shimon, Keren Kadosh and Orgad Rouache. Special citations will be awarded to chefs Meir Adoni, Ruti Broudo, Karin Goren and Yonatan Roshfeld in recognition of their contributions to Israel’s culinary creativity.