Grapevine: Immigrants with diplomatic connections

A diplomatic daughter arrives in Israel - as a new immigrant.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman greets his daughter at the airport as she makes aliya  (photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman greets his daughter at the airport as she makes aliya
(photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
Most of the Israeli media carried the news that Dalia Friedman, daughter of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his wife, Tammy, had come to Israel this week as one of the 233 North American immigrants on the Nefesh B’Nefesh flight.
She is not the first close relative of a US ambassador to come on aliya. In July 2006, Benjamin Kurtzer, brother of former US ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, came with his wife, Melissa, and their five children and settled in Ma’aleh Adumim. The family had long wanted to move to Israel but waited until Daniel Kurtzer had completed his mission here and arrived some nine months later.
Rumor has it that Liat Shapiro, daughter of former US ambassador Dan Shapiro and his wife, Julie Fisher, is seriously considering joining the IDF together with her friends.
The family arrived in Israel six years ago and Dan Shapiro was in office till January 2017.
The family transferred out of the official residence in Herzliya Pituah and moved to a private residence in Ra’anana. Initially, they decided to remain in Israel till the end of the school year, but subsequently opted to extend their stay for at least another year.
Martin Indyk, who was the first Jewish US ambassador to serve in Israel, was born in London and raised and educated in Australia.
He still speaks English with an Australian accent even though he has been an American citizen since 1993. Although his children, Jacob and Sarah, did not come on aliya, Indyk has several cousins living in Israel.
Former Canadian ambassador Vivian Bercovici, who completed her term in 2016, is now living in Israel, but she is not the first ambassador to settle here. Former Colombian ambassador David de la Rosa was actually born in Jerusalem’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood two years before the establishment of the state. When he was 14, an uncle living in Colombia came to visit and suggested that the young David join him in Colombia. De la Rosa’s parents agreed. He joined his uncle’s business and later opened his own successful business.
He became involved in Jewish community affairs, was appointed ambassador, came to Israel – and stayed. Even though more than a decade has passed since he completed his term, he remains on diplomatic corps guest lists.
Former El Salvador ambassador Suzana Gun de Hassenson has spent most of her life in Israel and continues to live here. She was a student at the Hebrew University, where she met her husband, Dave, originally from Finland. She started out as a secretary in the newly established El Salvador Embassy, which was then in Jerusalem and remained one of the last in the capital before bowing out in 2006. From her secretarial job she moved into diplomacy and worked her way up through the ranks until her appointment as ambassador in January 2003. She now lives in Mevaseret Zion. All four of her children have served in the IDF.
One of her good friends, former Costa Rican ambassador Noemi Baruch, has a daughter and grandchildren living in Israel, and is married to Israeli journalist Shlomo Papirblat. Several Latin American countries have sent ambassadors of the Jewish faith to Israel. Most have relatives here and continue to visit, even if they choose to live elsewhere.
■ As part of the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Europe program, which for the first time was held in Israel at the initiative of the NBA, FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) and the Israel Basketball Association, the NBA delegation led by David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs), Omri Casspi (Golden State Warriors) and Anthony Parker (Orlando Magic) this week conducted a special activity at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Players from the world’s premier basketball league participated in several workshops on peace education through basketball, with 150 Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druse young leaders. Language, music, sport and other media were introduced as tools to build mutual understanding. The hoopsters told the youths that in order to succeed in the NBA, people must be able to play together and trust one another.
Also participating were Shay Doron (New York Liberty of the WNBA), Jerryd Bayless (Philadelphia 76ers), Sam Dekker (LA Clippers), Norman Powell (Toronto Raptors) and Karim Mashour (Maccabi Tel Aviv).
In the course of a moving ceremony, Robinson told the young leaders: “It is exciting for me to be in Israel and to see youths from all different faiths come together. Sport is a wonderful way to do it because you don’t have to look alike, you don’t have to be alike, you just have to choose to work together.”
He added that he had learned in the NBA that “in order to succeed, you have to work together, play together and win together.
Sport is a wonderful way to see a person for who they are, and it is a tool that can make the world better.”
Chemi Peres, chairman of the board of the Peres Center, characterized the Basketball Without Borders players as “an international model of true partnership and shared living.” His father believed that sports could “bridge social and cultural gaps,” he said, adding that the Peres Center would continue to utilize sport as a valuable tool in peace education.
■ According to a report in Yediot Aharonot, two former prime ministers – Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert – no longer have security details. Barak revealed on Channel 10 last Saturday that he no longer has a bodyguard and walks around with a loaded pistol.
Olmert doesn’t carry a gun and was photographed in Tel Aviv, walking freely without a bodyguard behind him or at his side.
On the other hand, it appears that security is being beefed up for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and their two sons. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) this week put up notices in the lobbies of the apartment buildings on the two streets that intersect at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, notifying tenants that security exercises would be taking place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on August 24 and 31, September 7, 14 and 25, and October 2, during which times both streets would be closed to pedestrians and traffic.
The notice also stated that the streets would open briefly from time to time and that householders could call the security phone number in their possession to check the situation. Yet the number was not listed – and not everyone who lives on either of the two streets has it. The notice implied that there would be many more security personnel than usual on both streets. On average, there are at least seven security personnel patrolling the streets, plus others in booths.
Generally speaking, when security exercises are held, heavy black screens are draped across both streets to prevent passers-by from seeing what is going on, though people living in upper-story apartments on Balfour Street can catch a glimpse by looking out their windows.
In view of the intensification of security, the question arises yet again as to whether the prime minister should live in a residential area. Neither pedestrians nor motorized traffic are permitted on either street or on surrounding streets when the prime minister is coming or going. Sometimes, traffic on major arteries close by is held up for the length of four blocks and for periods of up to 15 minutes. Moreover, whenever the prime minister is leaving or returning home, his convoy sounds a very loud siren regardless of the hour, day and night. The siren can be heard for a distance of five and more blocks.
A new office and residence are under construction in what used to be a far less densely populated area of Jerusalem, near the new Foreign Ministry building. Construction has been underway for several years, and progress is unbelievably slow – it is highly unlikely that the project will be completed within the next five years. But once it is, the discomfort currently suffered by residents of Talbiyeh, Rehavia and nearby neighborhoods will be transferred to residents of the relatively new neighborhood that stands on the former site of the Foreign Ministry.
At this stage, it’s probably too late to change the venue of the prime ministerial complex, but perhaps there’s still time to construct an underground tunnel for the exclusive use of the prime minister so that he (or she) will be able to come and go without disturbing the neighbors.
■ As for the current residence, the Finance Ministry this week approved an allocation of NIS1.2 million of the taxpayers’ money for renovations to the private living quarters.
This comes after extensive renovations to the public area in advance of the visit to Israel by US President Donald Trump.
Coincidentally, the announcement came at a time when Sara Netanyahu’s unofficial spokeswoman and fashion adviser, Nicole Raidman, who owns an exclusive boutique in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Hamedina, released another Facebook video on the neglect of the building.
Raidman,who visited the residence immediately before and after the Trump visit, previously featured the sorry state of the staff kitchen. This time she showed the mold on a peeling ceiling in the private quarters, as well what she called “a Golda refrigerator” and petit buerre cookies in a tiny container in the oven, which she claimed were left overs from the Olmert era. She also showed parts of the kitchen table, part of whose surface had worn out, declaring that the conditions under which the prime minister’s family live are worse than those of a terrorist in prison.
Raidman is a minor celebrity married to a Russian oligarch who is old enough to be her father. She can command attention simply because she has the money to pay for it.