Grapevine, November 6, 2020: A right royal gift

AT THE end of this week, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will celebrate the 73rd anniversary of their marriage

QUEEN ELIZABETH and Shimon Peres.  (photo credit: BRITISH EMBASSY IN ISRAEL)
QUEEN ELIZABETH and Shimon Peres.
Generally speaking, people receive gifts on their birthdays and wedding anniversaries. In the British royal family, it seems to be the reverse – at least as far as Israel is concerned. Prince Charles, just in advance of his November 14 birthday, made a private donation to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and on November 20, 2008, his mother, Queen Elizabeth, on the day that she and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary, conferred an honorary knighthood on Shimon Peres, who was then president of Israel. In an audience with the queen at Buckingham Palace, Peres received the Order of St. Michael and St. George, given to individuals who have contributed to comity between nations. Peres was the first and so far, the only Israeli to receive an honorary British knighthood, although Israelis have received significant but lesser honors.
Following his meeting with the queen, Peres said the honor was not bestowed on him personally, but on the entire State of Israel, and that it was a public recognition of the importance of relations between the two countries.
Peres received the decorations attesting to his enhanced status and in return he gave the queen a letter of credence that had been signed in 1949 by her late father, King George VI, and also presented her with a pair of candlesticks encrusted with silver pomegranates.
Following their discussion, the queen escorted Peres out of the room to where his entourage was waiting, and much to their surprise and excitement, was introduced to each of them.
Peres subsequently met with Charles at Clarence House.
Eight years later, in September 2016, Charles came to Israel to attend Peres’s funeral. It was not an official visit, but when he came again in January of this year at the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin to attend the World Holocaust Forum’s international commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the visit was official.
Two years later, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, also paid an official visit, during which he met with senior staff at the Peres Center and with Jewish and Arab children at the Center’s Sport in the Service of Peace programs.
Referring to the donation made by Charles to the Peres Center, British Ambassador Neil Wigan said: “This private donation demonstrates the impact of those visits and the importance of the relationship between Israel and the UK.”
While details of the donation have not been disclosed, Chemi Peres, one of the sons of the late president, who as chairman of the Peres Center is working toward transforming his father’s dreams into reality, said it was a great honor to be the first Israeli nonprofit to receive support from a member of the royal family. It should be noted however, that various Israeli nonprofits have benefited from British organizations that have royal patronage, and the name of a royal in their title.
 The generosity of the Prince of Wales will enable the center to continue with Shimon Peres’s legacy of building a better future for al people, Chemi Peres underscored. This is especially important in the midst of the pandemic, he added. “It is important to reach beyond borders for the sake of a better tomorrow,” without discriminating on issues of religion, gender and nationality, and to nurture and invest in human creativity and ingenuity that drives society toward peace and prosperity, he said.
■ AT THE end of this week, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will celebrate the 73rd anniversary of their marriage. The forthcoming event has already received a lot of attention in the British media, whose reporters on the comings and goings of members of the royal family keep dredging up allegations of marital infidelity on the part of the queen’s consort. No evidence has ever been found to support these allegations, and the fact of the matter is that they have remained married for 73 years while three of their four children have been divorced as have other members of the extended royal family including the queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret.
The British press is also focusing on the possibility that the queen may finally abdicate after Philip’s 100th birthday next June, which is also the official month of the queen’s birthday, even though she was born in April. By then she will be 95, and one of the longest reigning monarchs in history. The British press is inclined to think that Charles, who has been the crown prince since he was three, and is now 71, may opt not to become king, in which case Prince William will be the next to wear the crown.
IT HAS been a custom at Polish Independence Day celebrations in Israel to honor Polish-born Israelis, or Israelis of Polish background, or deserving Poles who are visiting Israel for outstanding achievements in either Poland or Israel or both.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, the gala reception that is usually held at the ambassador’s residence in Udim near Netanya, could not take place this year, but a small ceremony was held to honor five outstanding people.
Lea Ganor of the Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In 1994 she founded the Mashmaut Center in Kiryat Motzkin, where she remains the director. She is a social historian researcher of the Holocaust, Israeli society and IDF.
Ganor has been developing Polish-Israeli projects for more than a decade. She works with Israeli and Polish teachers and students helping in the exchange of delegations and partnerships between Kiryat Motzkin and different cities and regions in Poland. She also collaborates with the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv.
Bene Merito badges from Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were awarded to Tamar Barak, Marek Kies, Vera Korsonsky and Boaz Yardeni.
Barak, who worked as a history teacher in Metrowest School in Ra’anana, organized and conducted exchanges between Polish and Israeli teenagers from Ra’anana and Kolobrzeg. She wanted to eliminate stereotyped impressions and to show Poland as a beautiful, developed country where Jewish people have their roots and belonged to a rich, multicultural society. Her main aim was to help young people from both Poland and Israel to understand each other.
Kies, from Kolobrzeg, who received his award in absentia, conducted a project entitled Young Journalists Bridge between Nations, Cultures and Generations. He also organized Days of Polish-Israeli Friendship and Jewish Culture in Poland. He has been organizing exchanges of Polish youth with Metrowest students for the past 10 years.
Korsonsky has worked for more than a decade in the Sparkpro association, which concentrates on building relations between students, social activists and young business people from Poland and Israel. Its Building Bridges program has trained and connected thousands of Poles and Israelis, who visited each other’s countries and started collaboration. Some of the ties are still maintained.
Yardeni is the founder and director of Sparkpro. His initiative has resulted in Poles and Israelis becoming ambassadors of friendship and of their respective professions.
■ FOREIGN SERVICE is not limited to diplomats. Global business enterprises send representatives abroad for long- and short-term stays, as do military, scientific and religious organizations. Members of the various foreign communities, frequently interact and socialize with each other, making friendships that often endure or at least enable people to remain in touch via social media. That’s what happened to Barbara and Kern Wisman, who for some 20 years were the Baha’i representatives in Jerusalem, before returning to America three years ago. Kern recently took ill and required surgery and long term hospitalization. Barbara posted a message on Facebook requesting people to pray for him, and received return messages from around the world from people whom she had initially met in Israel, while they were doing foreign service in their various capacities. That’s the really good thing about Facebook. By the way, the prayers helped.