Grapevine December 5, 2021: Tradition defuses tension

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 Poland's President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupants in Warsaw, Poland July 31, 2021. (photo credit: MACIEK JAZWIECKI/AGENJA GAZETA VIA REUTERS)
Poland's President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi occupants in Warsaw, Poland July 31, 2021.

FORMER POLISH ambassador to Israel Marek Magierowski, whose tenure concluded on November 7, and who was not given a proper farewell due to his recall over disputes between Israel and Poland, has already taken up his new posting in Washington, but continues to tweet to friends and acquaintances in Israel, including a video of what has become a tradition in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw: the lighting of Hanukkah candles by President Andrzej Duda, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich and Chabad’s chief emissary to Poland, Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler, who four years ago presented Duda with a menorah with a Jerusalem engraving. Duda’s wife is the daughter of a Jewish father. In 2007, Stambler held a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony in the Polish Parliament. Tweeting in Polish and English, Magierowski wrote that the lighting of the menorah at the presidential palace followed a long-standing tradition of interreligious coexistence and tolerance in Poland. Among the tweeted replies was one from Yuval Rotem, a former Foreign Ministry director-general who wrote: “Beautiful. An impressive event.”

POLISH AMBASSADOR to Israel Marek Magierowski.  (credit: NOAM FEINER)POLISH AMBASSADOR to Israel Marek Magierowski. (credit: NOAM FEINER)

■ PARLIAMENTARY AND other campaigns in Israel promoting social equality, have certain exemptions – for instance in the diplomatic corps. Generally speaking, the presentation of credentials to the president takes place in accordance with the chronological order of arrival of new ambassadors designated. Quite a number of new envoys have arrived in the country in recent weeks, but the one who will be presenting his credentials to President Isaac Herzog today (Sunday), will be US Ambassador Thomas Nides, who arrived in Israel only a few days ago. The Americans are always allowed to queue jump in matters of diplomacy; So much for equality. It has long been a tradition to present credentials in the morning, but in a departure from the norm, Nides will be presenting his in the late afternoon. Moreover, it is not customary for ambassadors to deliver statements to the press at the conclusion of the credentials ceremony and the ambassador’s tete-a-tete with the president. But when it’s an American ambassador, both the president and the ambassador make statements. The same goes for a visit by the US Secretary of State. Other foreign ministers meet with the president and then leave. But the Secretary of State gets special treatment, though as far as other countries are concerned, statements to the press are the prerogative of visiting heads of state when they make official state visits.

There is a similar rule when visiting prime ministers meet in Jerusalem with Israel’s prime minister. It’s true that America has been Israel’s greatest and most powerful and most consistent ally since day one, but it’s a slap in the face to other countries which have supported Israel in public forums over the years and which continue to do so, when Americans are allowed to leap frog and ignore protocol.

■ THE FACT that travel restrictions have been imposed by so many countries on so many countries, does not mean that tourism ministries and branches of the tourist industry have been idle. The Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau has been sending out press releases throughout the pandemic. A tourism promotion event was recently held by the Philippines Embassy. In Tel Aviv, billboards are advertising the attractions of Taiwan, and last week, the Bulgarian Embassy held a tourism promotion event at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Among those attending were representatives of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, travel agents and journalists and marketing personnel who had been on press tours to Bulgaria during the past year. Several countries organized press tours even in 2020 to keep interest alive via the media. One journalist told Bulgarian Ambassador Rumiana Bachvarova that he was totally in love with her country.

The ambassador, for her part, was delighted to be at an in-person event after being cooped up in front of her computer to communicate with colleagues and others via Zoom. The promotion for the main part was done by people who had been on the press tours because their impressions, accompanied by video clips and still photos, were considered to be more effective than anything that people connected with the Bulgarian Embassy might say, other than to provide statistics.

The event was initially organized by Bulgaria’s Tourism Ministry, but because of the latest travel restrictions, it was left to the embassy to see it through.

Bulgarian Honorary Consul Moni Bar, noted that the majority of Israel’s adult population is inoculated and not afraid to travel. Bulgaria is a popular destination with Israelis, he said, because it gives good value for money, and because it is known that during the Second World War, Bulgaria refused to give up its Jewish population.

There is a huge potential for Israeli tourism to Bulgaria, he said, citing pre-pandemic outgoing Israeli tourism figures that indicated that more than eight million Israelis traveled abroad each year. Moreover, Israelis like to travel to places that are not too far from home and which have good, inexpensive hotels. They also enjoy short visits of 72 hours or less.

People who had been on the press tours were enthused about the beauty and contrasts of the landscape, the spa hotels, the hot springs, the ski slopes, the golf courses, the cuisine, the Opera House, the National Theater and the culture in general. Of course, every tour group from Israel is taken to the impressive synagogue in Sofia, which was built in 1909 and is the largest in the Balkans and the third-largest in Europe, despite the fact that the Jewish community of Bulgaria numbers less than 6,000 people, and was also small before the Second World War.

One of the traditions of Bulgaria is to greet guests with freshly baked bread dipped in salt and honey. Although it was not offered personally, invitees to the event were immediately directed to a table in the lobby outside the event hall where there was a tray of loaves and a bowl of honey, and asked to partake before going inside. The Bulgarians are apparently great believers in hospitality. There were ample refreshments before the presentation, and a proper buffet dinner afterwards.

■ CELEBRITY CHEF Shalom Kadosh, who was seriously injured in March of this year when giving chase to a man who tried to rob him while he was refueling his car in a Jerusalem gas station, is well and truly on the mend. Kadosh spent five months at Hadassah University hospital, before being discharged and is considered sufficiently recovered to go home. He had fallen during the chase and suffered a critical head injury. He had consistently been one of the star chefs in the annual Taste of France culinary festival in Israel, whereby leading French chefs came to cook with their Israeli colleagues in restaurants and hotels around the country. He wasn’t up to cooking this year but at the end of last month, in the presence of other leading Israeli chefs, he was given an award by the French agricultural minister in recognition of his use of fresh agricultural products in his preparation of quality cuisine.

The award was presented to him by French Ambassador Eric Danon at a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Jaffa, in the presence of several other leading Israeli chefs who were delighted that Kadosh, 74, was back on his feet. Aside from being a master chef who has excited the palates of kings, presidents, prime ministers and film stars from around the world, Kadosh is unique in that he has been working in the same hotel for nearly all of his professional career, despite several changes of ownership and management. He began working at the Leonardo Plaza in Jerusalem when it was known as the Jerusalem Plaza and was under the management of Canadian Pacific. It is now part of the Fattal chain, whose founder David Fattal appointed him as executive chef of all the Fattal hotels in Israel.

■ THE CHANGING of the guard has become a frequent occurrence in the Dan chain, which in the pre-COVID era prided itself on the long-term service of its executives and senior staff. The latest changing of the guard is due to become effective on February 1, 2022, when Shlomi Tahan will take over from Ronen Nissenbaum as CEO of the Dan Hotels chain. Around four months ago, when Amir Hayek was appointed Israel ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, thus vacating the position of president of the Israel Hotels Association, Nissenbaum, after many years abroad, and four years with Dan, thought he had a good chance to fill the vacuum and gave notice of his intention to leave. But in the final analysis, he was not elected and opted to spend more time with his family who reside in the United States. Tahan has a thirty-year background in Israel’s hotel industry, and has held several executive positions. Most recently, he was general manager of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Herzliya. Before that he was deputy general manager and the representative of the hotel’s owner. Before that he was general manager of the Brown Hotel Group, deputy operations manager of the Isrotel chain, general manager of the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat and general manager of the Alrov Jerusalem Hotels – the David Citadel and the Mamilla hotels. Tahan said that he was delighted to be joining Israel’s most veteran and highly respected hotel chain.

■ ONE OF the oldest and among the largest Jewish Day Schools in the Southern hemisphere is Mount Scopus College, many of whose former students now live in Israel, including some who were in the first class when the college opened its doors in 1949. There have been occasional mini-reunions in Israel among former classmates, but there have been only two major reunions – one many years ago with the founding principal – the late Abe Feiglin – and another more than a decade ago, with current principal Rabbi James Kennard. In Melbourne, it was thought that it was time for a third reunion in Israel, at the end of 2022 or early 2023. Old Collegians who are interested in attending should be in touch with Rebecca Tuszynski ([email protected]).

Among the earliest students in the school who are living in Israel are Daniel and Sonia Lew, Amiel Gurt, Louise Israeli (nee Goulburn), Ruth Ainee (nee Goldenberg) and Peter Medding.

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