Grapevine: An open wound

Hitler and Hermann Göring saluting at a 1928 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg (photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN / HEINRICH HOFFMANN / US NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION)
Hitler and Hermann Göring saluting at a 1928 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg
Twenty seven years after the attack on the Israel Embassy in Buenos Aires, the anguish caused to the families of the victims and the scar left on Argentina’s legal system, which has failed to bring the perpetrators to justice, will not go away.
Notwithstanding the passage of time, certain Argentine officials believe in the importance of honoring the memories of the victims. One such official is Argentina’s Ambassador to Israel Mariano Caucino, who this week hosted a commemorative gathering at his residence to recall the events of March 17, 1992.
At the time of the attack Ambassador Daniel Carmon had been consul and administrative officer at the embassy in Buenos Aires, and as a survivor of the tragedy, shared his memories of the nightmarish event.
“The chronological distance does not soften the pain,” said Carmon, who emphasized that the attack was not only an attack against Israel but also an attack on Argentina.
Carmon described the moments before and after the explosion. He was wounded and hospitalized for a few days. His wife, also present at the embassy at the time of the attack, did not survive. A few days later Carmon flew home to Israel, where he stayed for 28 days, and then returned to Buenos Aires to complete his mission at the embassy, where he worked for three more years, in various positions.
Referring to the attacks against both the Israel Embassy in 1992 and against AMIA in 1994, Carmon said: “Some people try to distance the two attacks, even though the two share elements and perpetrators and ideologists. Therefore, we must look at the two as a continuity”.
Caucino had invited several diplomatic colleagues as well as prominent representatives of the Argentine community in Israel and Israeli diplomats, who shared their experiences and views on terrorism and the need to fight it with strength and determination.
Among those present were Argentine soccer player Rodrigo Javier, Chile Ambassador Fernandez Gaete, Colombia Ambassador Carlos Morales, Mexico Ambassador Pablo Macedo, Spain Ambassador Manuel Gomez Acebo, Honduras Ambassador Mario Castello, and Dominican Republic Ambassador John Guiliani.
 Also in attendance were representatives from the embassies of Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as a 12-member group from Argentine Jewish institutions, headed by president of DAIA (Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations), Jorge Knoblovits.
Representing Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry were deputy director-general for Latin America Ambassador Modi Ephraim and director for South America Ambassador Shmulik Bass.
Dorit Shavit, a former Israel ambassador to Argentina, and Jaime Aron, a former Israel ambassador to Colombia, were also among Caucino’s guests. Aron said that he and his family miraculously avoided death when his Bogotá residence was devastated by a bomb attack.
Caucino and all present emphasized the importance of working together to combat terrorism in its changing forms. Caucino also praised Carmon’s strength of character and thanked him for his valuable testimony. He credited the idea of hosting the remembrance event to his Israeli counterpart in Argentina, Ambassador Ilan Sztulman, who headed a similar gathering in Buenos Aires attended by members of the Argentine Cabinet of Ministers.
■ AS HAS been mentioned previously in this column, dates commemorating important events have become flexible, with the result that milestone anniversaries are celebrated a year early or a year late, and national days are celebrated within a week to a month of the actual date, and sometimes even longer.
Not everyone is conscious of history when they select a date for an event, and at the Hungarian Embassy, organizers of the National Day concert and reception forgot or overlooked the significance of March 19 to Hungarian Holocaust survivors living in Israel.
March 19, 1944, was the date of the beginning of the Nazi occupation of Budapest. Deportations to Auschwitz began in May and more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews did not survive the Holocaust.
On the other hand, those who did and who live in Israel may take satisfaction in the fact that on March 19, 2019, Hungary also opened a trade office in Jerusalem. Likewise, for National Day, which actually commemorates the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the date is March 15, so the celebration was within the realm of accepted flexibility.
Invitees were requested to come an hour early for security reasons, due to the participation of Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. But in fact, there was no security and no checking whether the people who walked in to the auditorium of the Tel Aviv Conservatorium of Music were actually invited, which is most unusual at a diplomatic affair. Anyone could have walked in off the street.
Another surprising factor was the absence of any representative of the Israeli government, and the only member of the Foreign Ministry in attendance was Hungary Ambassador Yossi Amrani.
However, most of the ambassadors whose countries are members of the European Union were present, and prominent among those whose countries are not part of the EU was Russian Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov.
The highlight of the event was a concert recital by Hungarian piano virtuoso Adam Gyorgy, who launched Hungarian cultural year in Israel. In actual fact, it had already started on March 11 with the Gala Operetta, but officially it started on March 19.
Both Hungarian Ambassador Levente Benko and Szijjarto spoke of the cultural cornucopia that will include classical music, opera, folk dancing, a post-Eurovision party hosted by the Hungarian delegation, a Hungarian film festival, art, ballet, theater, literature, jazz, a circus and more. Diplomatic relations between Hungary and Israel were renewed in 1989 and Budapest entered into a twin city relationship with Tel Aviv.
So in addition to celebrating Hungarian National Day and the launch of Hungarian Cultural Year in Israel they were celebrating the 30th anniversaries of diplomatic and Tel Aviv ties. They were also proud that Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl had been born in Hungary, as was Zsolt Vattamany, the mayor of Erzebetvaros, a district of the Pest side of Budapest. Vattamany, who is Jewish, made a point to visit Herzl’s grave and place a stone on it. All three made a point of mentioning the European Maccabi Games that will be held this year in Budapest from July 28 – August 7.
Szijjarto also spoke of the renaissance of Jewish life in Budapest, which he said has the largest Jewish community in Central Europe, and which will host the annual Jewish Cultural Festival from August 31 to September 7. The main venue for the event will be the Dohany Street Synagogue in the historic Jewish Quarter. Jews are protected in Hungary, he said.
Following the concert, guests were treated to Hungarian cuisine, which included goulash and piquant sausages, as well as other Hungarian delicacies.
■ “MUSIC HAS charms to soothe the savage beast,” wrote British author Wiliam Congreve more than 300 years ago.
But music is also a vehicle that can literally help to heal the heart.
Case in point was the Facebook friendship between two musicians – Galilee resident Glen Tamir, who is originally from New York, and Siraj Nepal of Nepal.
Siraj and his wife, Roji, were very worried about their one-year-old daughter Avita, who had been born prematurely and coincidentally shares a birthday with Tamir.
Avita was born with a congenital heart defect called PDA. Premature, underweight and exhibiting blue baby syndrome, Avita spent her first four months in intensive care in a hospital in Kathmandu. When her parents were told that Avita would have to gain 8 kg. in order to undergo lifesaving surgery, they began to search for other means of care.
Siraj shared his concerns with Glen. Although they had never met, they had been brought together by a mutual friend who connects musicians from around the world, and had been Facebook friends for seven years.
Siraj is one of the world’s greatest esraj players. An instrument similar to a sitar, the esraj originated in India and was transferred to Nepal. It is played by less than 10 master musicians throughout the world.
God works in mysterious ways, and it just so happened that not long after learning of Avita’s condition, Glen’s wife, Debby, attended an event honoring mega philanthropist Morris Kahn whose extensive generosity includes Save a Child’s Heart (SACH). When she told this to her husband, Glen wasted no time in contacting Simon Fisher, the executive director of SACH.
Not long after, Avita became the first Nepalese child to be operated at Wolfson Hospital, where SACH is based. As a result, Nepal became the 59th country from which children with heart defects have been brought to Israel and given a new lease on life.
Israel’s Ambassador to Nepal Beny Omer farewelled Avita and her parents at the airport when they left Kathmandu, and the Tamirs welcomed them at Ben-Gurion Airport and took care of them during their stay in Israel.
While recuperating from her surgery, Avita, who is due to go home this Sunday, was visited by Nepal’s Ambassador to Israel Anjan Shakya. The ambassador also hosted a musical get-together in her home, in which Avita’s father played together with Israeli musicians. The event was attended by diplomats from Asia and the Pacific countries.
Shakya is thrilled that Avita’s operation was successful, enabling the little girl to live a normal life and grow into adulthood. She is also pleased that music, Avita, and SACH have brought Nepal and Israel closer together. She hopes the relationship will enhance even further by a visit to Israel in the summer by Nepal’s prime minister, who is waiting for the outcome of Israel's elections before finalizing the details. She is also planning for the state visit to Nepal next year by President Reuven Rivlin in celebration of 60 years of diplomatic relations.
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