WHEN LEADING singer and guitarist David Broza was approached by the organizers of the 80th anniversary festivities of British Habonim-Dror, his immediate response was: "Count me in." He could hardly refuse given that his grandfather Wellesley Aron had founded the Zionist youth movement in London in 1929. Some 400 Habonim alumni and current members gathered at Yad Tabenkin in Ramat Efal to celebrate the milestone anniversary of the oldest Anglo-Jewish youth group, which spread to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and North America.
Speaking in flawless English, Broza, who attended the famous but now defunct Carmel College, shared some of his childhood memories. British Ambassador Tom Philips and Lady Ruth Morris, the honorary president of British Habonim-Dror, also addressed the gathering. Some of those present flew in from abroad for the occasion, with a strong gathering from the British kibbutzim of Kfar Hanassi, Kfar Blum, Beit Ha'emek, Amiad, Mevo Hama and Tuval.
Among the illustrious members of Habonim who settled here and helped to forge the nation's history were the country's sixth president, Chaim Herzog; his brother-in-law Abba Eban, who was instrumental in persuading the UN to vote in favor of the partition of Palestine and who subsequently served as fledgling ambassador to Washington and the UN; Avraham Harman, who was a member of the pioneer diplomatic corps and in later life became president of the Hebrew University; Zeev Suffot, who was the first ambassador to China; David Kimche, who served as deputy chief of the Mossad and later as director-general of the Foreign Ministry; Supreme Court justice David Gotein, international lawyer Michael Fox, journalist Eric Silver and many others. The ubiquitous solar water heater that adorns most rooftops in Israel owes its creation to an ex-London Habonimnik, Zvi Tabor, acknowledged worldwide as one of the major pioneers in solar energy.
AMONG THE invitees to the Iftar hosted by Sameh el-Souefi, deputy head of mission at the Egyptian Embassy, and his wife at their residence in Herzliya Pituah was former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, who explained that he had a dietary problem in that he eats kosher. He told Souefi that many Jews who observe the dietary laws are willing to eat vegetarian food on nonkosher premises. Souefi organized a kosher table for Burg and other like-minded guests, but Burg didn't come. He called earlier in the day to apologize, saying that he'd picked up some kind of virus in Italy.
Among the guests who did show up to the rather intimate gathering were Filippo Grandi of Italy, deputy commissioner-general of UNRWA; Yoram Dori, a veteran adviser to President Shimon Peres; Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda and his vivacious wife Nahla along with lesser ranking Egyptian diplomats; MK Michael Eitan and former government minister Ghaleb Majadle with whom Reda seemed to have a lot to discuss. Both the small talk and the big talk centered on Middle East peace prospects and the politics and economics of the region. The consensus was that given the realities on the ground, peace is not yet around the corner.
At the Iftar hosted by President Shimon Peres for Muslim diplomats and spiritual and lay leaders of Israel's Arab communities, Sallah Sliman, a deputy head of the Union of Local Authorities, speaking on behalf of Israeli Arabs, said: "We want peace and we want equality. We want to feel as if we are full citizens of the State of Israel. Permit us to be equal citizens. After 60 years, it's about time."
JUST OVER four decades ago, when Joseph Bodenheimer was a student at the Hebrew University, his teacher, Prof. Zev Lev, put the idea to him that Jerusalem should have an educational facility that combined talmudic and scientific studies. Lev envisaged a facility catering to some 400 students. Bodenheimer joined him in 1969 when he founded the Jerusalem College of Technology also known as Machon Lev. At the time, Bodenheimer was a member of the Department of Electro-Optics. In 1982 he was appointed head of the department and two years later became a full professor of electro-optics. In 1989 he was elected rector and in 1983 was elected president, serving four consecutive four-year terms prior to stepping down earlier this year. When Bodenheimer started at JCT, there were 400 students. Today there are more than 3,000 and JCT keeps growing.
While developing JCT, Bodenheimer still found time to teach, not only electro-optics but also a course in Talmud. He also holds 12 patents, has published more than 80 papers, acts as a consultant to hi-tech companies here and abroad, and was the first to recognize the potential of Ethiopian students, some of whom among the graduates are now working at JCT, where former Soviet refuseniks are also employed. Bodenheimer is also a family man. He and his wife Rachel have eight children, 26 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
It was a sign of the esteem in which he is held that not only one government minister came to do him honor on the completion of his presidency - but two. Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat all came to praise him and to express support for JCT. For Herschkowitz, who is a rabbi and who was a professor at the Technion before taking up a career in politics, JCT represents the fusion of the best of both worlds.
Bodenheimer is currently on sabbatical, but there is little doubt his future will remain linked to JCT, to which he has devoted so much of his life.
TO MARK the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations with Hungary, the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, together with the Israel Council for Foreign Relations and the embassy in Budapest, hosted a one-day conference in Budapest at which Hungarian and Israeli diplomats and academics - several of them colleagues of long standing - were among the speakers. Among the subjects discussed were the current state of relations between Hungary and Israel, relations between Israel and the European Union and the challenges of the Middle East.
Ambassador to Hungary Aliza Bin-Noun and JÃ¡nos TerÃ©nyi, director of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, welcomed participants. Vilmos SzabÃ³, state secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and JÃ¡nos FÃ³nagy, member of parliament, delivered the inaugural addresses. Among the other participants were Laurence Weinbaum, executive director of the Israel Council for Foreign Relations; Rafael Barak, state secretary of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; GÃ¡bor IklÃ³dy, state secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Eytan Bentsur, former director-general of the Foreign Ministry; Istvan Cscjtei, former Hungarian ambassador to Israel; Dr. Shmuel Bar, director of the Institute of Policy and Study at the Lauder School of Government, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya; Sharon Pardo, director of the Center for European Politics at Ben-Gurion University; and Prof. David Menashri, director of the Center for Iranian Affairs at Tel Aviv University.
STATE COMPTROLLER and Ombudsman Micha Lindenstrauss was awarded the Officer's Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland at a reception hosted by Polish Ambassador Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska in her residence in Kfar Shmaryahu. Polish Ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski made a point of coming to Israel to make the presentation. Lindenstrauss was one of two Israelis listed to receive the decoration and its accompanying citation at an international conference of ombudsmen held last January in Auschwitz. The other was Holocaust survivor and former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak.
Lindenstrauss, who lost most of his family in Auschwitz, was unable to attend, but Barak was there and received his award. The award to the two was in recognition of their defense of human rights, and it was given to them in the framework of the 60th anniversary of the declaration of universal human rights.
According to Kochanowski, the award was also given as an expression of Poland's respect for Jewish culture, "which for centuries added to the culture of our country." Kochanowski, also a leading advocate for human rights, told Lindenstrauss: "I hope that we will be able to continue our work for Polish and Israeli citizens." He also told Lindenstrauss that in defending itself against incitement and injustice, Israel could always count on Poland. Lindenstrauss, though visibly proud to be wearing his new medal, asserted that it was not just for him, but also for his colleagues.
MANY OF their friends and colleagues showed up somewhat sad-eyed at the Kfar Shmaryahu residence of Greek Ambassador Nicholas Zapfiropoulos and his wife Lynne to bid them farewell before the popular couple took up its next posting in Spain. Though looking forward to new challenges, Zapfiropoulos admitted that he would return to Israel "in a heartbeat" if the opportunity were offered to him. He had known before coming, he said, that there were similarities between Greeks and Israelis, but had not realized the extent. The longer he stayed here, the more similarities he observed, and the more he felt at home.
He's not going to feel that much of a stranger in Spain, especially with regard to the language. His first diplomatic posting was in Mexico, where he mastered Spanish. His English-born wife mastered not only Spanish but Greek as well, and is also an excellent exponent of Greek dancing. Now, she's going to have to learn flamenco. All their friends have been invited to visit them in Madrid, and bets are on that a significant number of Israelis will be knocking at the door of the Greek Embassy in Madrid.
WITH REGARD to Mexico, one would think that the section of the Foreign Ministry that deals with religious affairs would have informed people at the Mexican Embassy that there is a problem attached to serving wine in a nonkosher environment to a religiously observant Jew. Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi represented the government at the 199th anniversary of Mexico's independence, hosted by Ambassador Federico Salas in his Herzliya Pituah residence. Margi read his address in Hebrew, after which a member of the Foreign Ministry read a translation in English.
When it came to the toasts, Margi clinked glasses with Salas, but didn't take even a tiny sip of wine. Because Margi didn't drink the wine, Salas was also left holding his own glass unconsumed. The wine incident was quickly overcome, when Margi, through an interpreter, invited Salas to visit him in Jerusalem.
As for the speeches, Salas said that tolerance and acceptance of others have become cherished values in his country since it achieved independence from Spain. These values are the essence of Mexico's democratic life, he said. Margi congratulated Mexico for the manner in which it is dealing with swine flu and said that Israel recognizes Mexico as a bridge between South America and the Western hemisphere. He also noted Mexico's large and important Jewish community, that contributes significantly to Mexico's economy.
MEXICO IS one of several Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries in the Americas that celebrated their independence days in recent weeks. Brazil's Ambassador Pedro Motta Pinto Coehlo started the ball rolling, followed by Costa Rican Ambassador Noemy Baruch and her husband Shlomo Papirblat, who celebrated Costa Rica's 188th anniversary at the Kfar Shmaryahu mansion of honorary consul for Costa Rica Jack Allalouf and his wife Ilana; then El Salvador Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson and Guatemalan Ambassador Ricardo Putzeys, who joined forces to have a totally different kind of reception at Beit Issie Shapiro's Friendship Park in Ra'anana to mark the 188th anniversary of the independence of the central American countries; and last but not least, Chilean Independence Day hosted by Ambassador Irena Bronfman.
The Guatemalans try to do something different every year, and when de Hasenson suggested to Putzeys that they introduce the Friendship Park that was specially created for children with disabilities as well as for non-challenged children to people who were unaware of its existence, he immediately agreed. Not only the environment was different, but so was the food - and the waiters and waitresses were charmingly polite, urging guests to taste everything. Because the ambassadors wanted to emphasize the importance of quality of the environment, they invited Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and MK Moshe Matalon, who is the first wheelchair-bound MK.
Matalon assured the people at Beit Issie Shapiro that they already have a lot of friends in the Knesset and said that they would have more after he brought a delegation of MKs to see what has been accomplished.
INDIA'S EMBASSY in Tel Aviv hosted a book launch of the Hebrew version of one of the most famous books on yoga - Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda - which remains a best-seller on yoga after some 50 years in print and has played a major role in popularizing Indian philosophy and culture in the West. Yogananda's work relates his life story, his search for truth, his understanding of the science and philosophy of yoga and his beliefs in the unifying aspects of Eastern and Western religions.
Ambassador Navtej Sarna pointed out that such efforts consolidate people-to-people contacts between the two countries and promote better understanding and respect for each other's culture and traditions. Dr. Udi Bilu and Ronen Kats, who played an important role in getting this famous work of Indian philosophy translated into Hebrew, expressed the hope that the book would satisfy the urge among many Israelis to know more about India's rich philosophical and cultural heritage. The 540-page Hebrew edition has been published in hardcover by Even Hoshen.
Bilu and Kats are students of Dr. Brahama Gopal Bahaduri from Varanasi and are devoted followers of the doctrine of Bhrigu Yoga which they continue to study while spreading yoga philosophy and practice in academia and in selected units of the IDF. They are also engaged in translating important yoga literature into Hebrew and have previously published a Hebrew version of the works of Swami Vivekananda and his teacher Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
NIGERIAN AMBASSADOR Sam Dada Olissa, who was in Nigeria to accompany the visit of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, says the Nigerians - including the Muslim population - loved him and appreciated the fact that he cared enough about enhancing relations between the two countries to come and say so in person.
"I HEAR you wowed the ladies," President Peres said to Spanish singer Julio Iglesias when the latter called on him during his recent visit. The two met previously seven years ago, but they spoke as old friends, and spent time discussing a friend whom they had in common - the late Moshe Dayan. Iglesias, who sees himself as being a partial member of the tribe, given that his mother Maria del Rosario de la Cueva y Perignat was of Jewish origin, said that he loves coming here. His first visit was in 1972.
More than discussing his background, Iglesias, who today celebrates his 66th birthday, was keen to find out what kept Peres so youthful. He asked about his diet and whether he exercises, and said that he was a keen admirer of the president's and had constantly followed his progress. Taking advantage of the singer's enthusiasm, Peres suggested that he come back with a concert for peace to be performed in Jerusalem. Performing artists have enormous influence, he told Iglesias, adding that someone of his stature could bring a strong message to the world that peace is attainable.
IN THE absence of a clear-cut policy on non-Jewish immigrants, especially Israeli-born children of foreign workers, refugees and foreign workers who have legally lived here for at least 10 years, Professors Ruth Gavison, Amnon Rubinstein and Shlomo Avineri, together with jurist Liav Orgad, put together a policy position paper which they presented to President Peres who acknowledged that the whole immigration issue is appalling, shameful and embarrassing. Peres and his guests concurred that policy must be introduced as quickly as possible with the aim of treating non-Israelis who are already here in a humane and dignified manner - even to the extent of granting them citizenship if they had been in the country for a prolonged period. Peres pledged to hold consultations on the subject with various experts and said that he might even host a conference to bring the matter into open discussion.
IT WAS not exactly the kind of birthday present that he would have wanted, but it wasn't something he could evade. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who celebrates his 64th birthday on September 30, begins his trial on a series of corruption charges on September 29. Olmert had appealed to Jerusalem District Court for a postponement, but the request was denied. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who was Olmert's hapless rival in the contest for Likud nomination for mayor of Jerusalem, turned 70 earlier this month.
THERE'S A saying in show business that if you don't want to be upstaged, don't include children or dogs in the show. Veteran stage, screen and radio star Yehoram Gaon has no fear of children upstaging him. In fact he wants them to. Following in the footsteps of Yaron London and the late Uzi Hitman, Gaon is launching a new show on ETV2 - Gaon shel Abba in which he interviews children.
Gaon is in the fortunate position of being able to use his name as a word play in show titles. Gaon means genius in Hebrew, and his fans are still waiting for him to return to his current affairs program on Israel Radio Gaon B'radio. His new show is previewing at the International Children's Film Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque just before going to air. Gaon, who will turn 70 at the end of this year, has also spent time as a politician on the Jerusalem city council and devotes time to a series of social welfare and artistic causes. Now, he believes, it's time to focus on children and to see where their minds are going.