Grapevine: Obama commends Israeli author

By bringing together the leaders of China and Israel’s private, public, and academic sectors in the same place for the first time ever, this forum will help turn promise into possibility.

The campus of Tel Aviv University (photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)
The campus of Tel Aviv University
(photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)
Interviewers are frequently curious about what people in the public eye are reading, and what they’re recommending. Unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suggested that people should become more familiar with the Bible, President Barack Obama, when asked in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN which of the books that he had read during his summer vacation he would recommend, mentioned two – one of which was fiction, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and the other Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari. In recommending the book it was obvious that Obama had given it plenty of thought and was choosing his words carefully. The slick delivery which usually comes across when he’s making a speech was absent, and his grasping for the correct expressions to describe the book was almost palpable.
The interview can be seen online. For those who prefer to read his comments in print, this is what he said: “It’s a sweeping history of the human race from 40,000 feet. And part of what makes it so interesting and provocative is because it’s such a condensed, sweeping history.
It talks about some core things that have allowed us to build this extraordinary civilization that we take for granted, but weren’t a given.... It gives you a sense of perspective on how briefly we’ve been on this earth, how short [a time] things like agriculture and science have been around, and why it makes sense for us to not take them for granted.... It goes back to keeping the long view in mind.... In the sweep of history, we get a very small moment in time.”
■ SOMETIMES ONE gets the feeling that Israel is becoming a province of China, as major Israeli enterprises are being bought out by Chinese investors and collaborative projects are being jointly undertaken by Israeli and Chinese universities.
Tel Aviv University, which has close links with more than 30 leading Chinese universities and cities, has a particularly close relationship with Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Morningside Group, which was established in 1986 by the Chan family. TAU president Joseph Klafter was in Beijing last week to participate in the launch of what is expected to be an annual China-Israel Innovation Forum. The by-invitation-only event brought together some of the most influential Israeli and Chinese figures from academia, government and industry, who congregated at the Beijing Hong Kong Jockey Club Clubhouse to explore the latest in technological developments and university-driven innovations.
Klafter co-chaired the meeting together with Prof. Qiu Yong, president of Tsinghua University, and Ronnie Chan, co-founder of Morningside and chairman of Hang Lung Properties.
“The China-Israel Innovation Forum reflects the mission of leading universities, like Tel Aviv and Tsinghua, to be global forces for higher education and technological advancement,” said Klafter, adding: “This forum is literally about improving the world. Through the power of partnership and collaboration, we can take life-changing innovations from the lab to the marketplace and bring university discoveries to the general public.”
“After years of fruitful collaboration with Tel Aviv University, the forum takes our partnership to a higher level,” said Qiu. “Tsinghua has always endeavored to cultivate innovative talent capable of tackling global challenges.
By bringing together the leaders of China and Israel’s private, public, and academic sectors in the same place for the first time ever, this forum will help turn promise into possibility and ideas into reality.”
“What we have here are two of the world’s oldest civilizations coming together to transform the world through innovation,” said Chan, who is one of China’s most influential businessmen and a longtime friend of Israel and Tel Aviv University, from which he received an honorary doctorate in 2014. “This platform offers an opportunity to harness the power of China’s relationship with Israel to enrich humanity as a whole.”
The keynote address at the forum was delivered by former Israel ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman.
■ IT’S HUMAN nature, when coming to a strange place, to look for a familiar face. Thus, when Education Minister Naftali Bennett arrived at the WIZO Nir Ha’emek school that is sponsored by WIZO Argentina and WIZO USA, he looked around to see if there was anyone he knew. His face lit up when he saw World WIZO president Esther Mor, whom he had previously met at a meeting of the World Jewish Congress that was held in Buenos Aires in March of this year. In addition to performing his official duties in ushering in the new school year, Bennett took the opportunity to speak to Mor on educational issues of mutual interest. The school has different units, including an agricultural unit. Bennett and his entourage evinced particular interest in what students were doing at the Ivcher dairy farm.
■ AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop not only packed a lot into a twoday visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories but also found time for a run with her athletic representative in Israel, Ambassador Dave Sharma, both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The elegant foreign minister, who looks great even in her running gear, left a very positive impression on people with whom she met.
She asked probing intelligent questions, articulately explained Australia’s positions on Iran and the Palestinian Authority, and made it very clear that Australia’s enduring friendship with Israel is something that will continue to be nurtured. Most of her discussions centered on innovation cooperation, regional security and the Middle East peace process.
President Reuven Rivlin was so admiring of her that, after she left, he predicted to his staff that she would one day be the prime minister of Australia. “She’s very sharp,” he said enthusiastically.
Bishop managed to fit in meetings also with Netanyahu, whom she invited to be the first sitting prime minister of Israel to visit Australia, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, opposition leader Isaac Herzog, MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Bishop also managed to fit in the mandatory tour of Yad Vashem and a visit to Australia’s innovation “landing pad” in Tel Aviv, which helps ambitious Australian entrepreneurs to make the right contacts in Israel’s innovation industry. She also met some Australian entrepreneurs in various fields of innovation who, at the “landing pad,” had been pointed in the right direction.
During her visit to the Palestinian territories (she refrained from calling them occupied), Bishop met with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Economy Minister Abeer Odeh as well as with Australian Awards alumni who have returned to the Palestinian territories to use the skills and knowledge gained in Australia.
On her return from Ramallah, Bishop stopped off at the Australian Embassy for a cup of tea with embassy staff in typical, Australian laid back informality. Staff members took selfies of themselves with Bishop and told her about their work at the embassy. Then it was off to lunch with Herzog and Livni, coffee with Lapid, a stop at the Australian “landing pad” and on to Ben-Gurion Airport en route to Berlin.
Bishop was accompanied by Sharma throughout her meetings in Israel. In addition to the traditional duties of a diplomat, ambassadors have now become the personal photographers of the dignitaries whom they accompany. Sharma was very busy using the camera in his cellphone.
■ THE WAY things look now, it seems as if both Rivlin and Netanyahu will be visiting Australia at different times in 2017, a most appropriate year in that it marks the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, which was primarily won by the Australian Light Horse, and the 70th anniversary of the United Nations resolution on the partition of Palestine, in which Australia was the first member-country of the UN to vote “yes.”
Though much was made of the postponement of Rivlin’s scheduled visit to Australia in March this year, there was less of an outcry when Netanyahu backed out of his July 2014 scheduled visit. There was understanding that he had to be in Israel while the search continued for the three yeshiva students kidnapped by terrorists.
Although he is to be the first sitting prime minister of Israel to visit down under, it won’t be his first experience in the Lucky Country.
Netanyahu was previously in Australia in August 2001 for the inauguration of Chabad House, the construction of which was funded by mining millionaire Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, who in 1996 bankrolled Netanyahu’s initial campaign to become prime minister under the slogan “Netanyahu is good for the Jews.”
Gutnick is also a generous donor to Chabad projects in Israel and has financed the construction of modern mikvaot (ritual baths) and several banquet halls for use by people who have minimal financial resources.
Rivlin visited Australia when he was speaker of the Knesset. He will not be the first Israeli president to visit. That honor belongs to Chaim Herzog, who was there in November 1986. Moshe Katsav visited the island continent in March 2005 but, unlike Herzog, did not avail himself of the opportunity to make friends for Israel along the way. Herzog had the unfair advantage of a so-called presidential plane, whereas Katsav took commercial flights. Herzog’s trip took three weeks and included Singapore, Hong Kong, Fiji, New Zealand, Tonga, Australia and Kenya.
■ WHILE STILL on the subject of Australia, Zionist Federation president Danny Lamm, who is a frequent visitor to Israel, usually comes for meetings of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. This time, he and his wife, Rolene, will be coming to marry off their son Rafi, who at age 39 has finally decided to tie the knot – much to the relief of his family. He will wed Australian lawyer Aliza Shira Labbe at the David Citadel Hotel on September 22. Among guests coming from abroad will be the groom’s 92-year-old grandmother Ilse Lamm from Australia, and the bride’s 90-year-old grandmother Annette Wolk from South Africa.
The Lamm family in general has a distinguished history of community service, particularly with regard to Zionist organizations.
That may account for the fact that so many of them relocated from Australia to Israel.
Though Danny Lamm is a prominent Zionist personality in Australia, the groom is by no means walking in his father’s shadow. A personality in his own right, Rafi Lamm is part owner and CEO of the very successful L1 Capital Group in Melbourne. He has made large contributions to local Jewish causes, including the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia, Mizrachi, and Leibler Yavneh College. He is the past chairman of Young UIA and currently serves on the board as a cabinet member of this organization. He was recently appointed to the board of governors of Ariel University.
He’s not leaving it to the last minute to come to Israel for the wedding. He will be here two weeks ahead of time, not to make final preparations but to lead an Australian business delegation to Israel to investigate investment opportunities in local hi-tech companies. But it won’t be all business. The bridegroom has also arranged for the delegation to visit various tourist sites around the country, including historic locations in Judea and Samaria.
■ ONE OF Israel’s most crucial nonprofit exports is brainpower. Despite the fact that Israel is the “Start-up nation,” many hi-tech scientists, programmers, engineers, analysts, designers, testers, researchers and operators are unable to find jobs in Israel and are heading for Silicon Valley. The Israel Consulate in San Francisco estimates that some 50,000 Israeli citizens are living in the San Francisco’s Bay Area and that more are likely to move there in the near future. Many of those who have already moved there have relatives, friends and former colleagues who are engaged in similar professions and who are tired of trying to make ends meet in Israel. Those who have already settled in the Bay Area and have found good jobs in Silicon Valley are envoys for the Israeli brainpower exodus.
Pao Alto, California-based Aya Levkovitz, a partner in Ogen Relocation, notes that Israel’s attitude has changed with regard to Israelis living and working abroad. Their success in places like Silicon valley often contributes to Israel’s image in the world. It also enables them to improve the quality of their own lives and those of their immediate families.
■ CURRENTLY UNPOPULAR in haredi circles and not exactly a favorite with Netanyahu, Transportation Minister Israel Katz escaped being fired only because the prime minister was unable to muster sufficient support to get rid of his nemesis. Aside from the fact that Katz had attempted to dilute some of the prime minister’s power within the Likud, what probably irked Netanyahu more last Friday was the ministerial popularity poll taken by Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet in which Katz came second after Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, while Netanyahu was second to last on the ladder.
Katz, who will celebrate his 61st birthday on September 21, has a lot of fans in the Beit She’an Valley, where veterans of the Gilboa Elementary School gathered to celebrate the revival of the train service which they used well over half a century ago to get to school.
Katz revived the service, which went out of operation 65 years ago. Katz declared that train rides on the line would be free during the three months running-in period, which will begin on the eve of Succot, and noted that the linking of the train service with places such as Migdal Ha’emek, Afula and Beit She’an would make the center of the country more speedily accessible to residents of these areas.
■ ROMANCE CAN be contagious, as evidenced at the golden wedding celebration of Prof. Alex Deutsch and his wife, Gloria, whose byline appears regularly in The Jerusalem Post Magazine. The couple, who are still as lovey-dovey as newlyweds despite having four adult children and numerous grandchildren, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a gala dinner dance at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya Pituah, where both the food and the service were superb. Hotel staff went out of their way to make this special event as pleasurably memorable as possible.
During the predinner reception, the band played popular melodies of the ’50s and ’60s and older and continued to do so in the banquet hall. The male singer did marvelous impersonations of the top singers of that era.
Among the guests were brothers Stephen and Nick Kopolof, who had been page boys at the wedding in Liverpool in 1966. Stephen still lives in England and specially came to Israel for the jubilee festivities. A nonagenarian who had been at the wedding and now lives in Ashkelon was simply referred to by everyone as Velvel. He also made it his business to be at the anniversary celebration.
Prof. Deutsch is a specialist in colorectal proctologic service, and Nick Kopolof, in making a speech about the Deutsch family, spiced it with numerous witty references to the derriere pipeline.
Deutsch is also the chairman of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association, which was well represented, as was the South Netanya Ashkenazi Congregation, to which the Deutches now belong, having moved around a year ago from Kfar Saba to Netanya.
Also well represented were Alex Deutch’s yachting companions. All in all it was a very British affair.
When the first couples went out onto the dance floor, they hesitated somewhat about getting nostalgic and embarking on ballroom dancing, but as the occasion was a celebration of long-lasting romance, before long the dance floor was crowded with husbands and wives dancing in each other’s arms the way they did half a century ago and more.
Almost every event of this kind has a movie with highlights from the lives of the couple concerned. This one was completely different.
Two of the four Deutsch siblings – Rachel and Tzvicka – created an animated film in which the two characters bore a remarkable resemblance to their parents. They changed the lyrics of “Strangers in the Night” to include a Jewish component plus some Judeo-British humor, and everyone laughed and loved it.
Alex Deutsch, in a half-jocular, half-serious tribute to his wife, said that the first year of marriage was easy because he was interning and home only one night a week and one weekend in three. He said that Gloria had never made any demands of him, and that he’d never had to wash a cup. Gradually, he realized that housework wouldn’t kill him, “but why should I take a chance?” he asked. With self-deprecating humor he said that were it not for marriage, he would go through life thinking that he had no flaws. He credited Gloria with bringing up the children, because he had so many surgical emergencies to which he had to attend, but noted that they had always shared their joys and sorrows together in love, tolerance and forbearance.
The essential difference between this week’s celebration and the wedding, he said, was that this time he knew the guests from both sides.
■ AN INDICATION of the extent to which former president Shimon Peres is still considered to be newsworthy was the extensive coverage given to his having a cardiac pacemaker implanted this week. He could have had it done earlier, but the workaholic Peres had to attend the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy toward the end of last week, and as he felt fine, he saw no reason to cancel.
The Ambrosetti Forum, which Peres has attended for several years, has since 1975 been an international economic forum held at the Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, with the participation of heads of state, ministers, Nobel laureates (of which Peres is one) and business executives, who discuss current challenges to world economies and societies.
■ DIASPORA CONTRIBUTORS to Israel’s development do not receive sufficient credit.
Names of donors on building fronts and wall plaques are usually in English, which means that only people who can read English bother to take note – if at all. Yet almost every Israeli institution and organization has a friends association or society in the United States as well as in several other countries.
Among the institutions blessed by hefty donations from abroad is the Hebrew University, whose American Friends have been supporting it financially for all of its 91 years.
American Friends of The Hebrew University was founded in 1925 by the American businessman and philanthropist Felix M. Warburg.
A national, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization headquartered in New York City, AFHU raises awareness of and support for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s research powerhouse and most comprehensive institution of higher learning.
Hebrew University was born from an idea proposed in 1913 by Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization and later Israel’s first president. Weizmann’s enthusiasm for the project was shared by other visionaries at the time, among them Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud. Three years after the symbolic foundation stones were laid on Mount Scopus in 1918, Weizmann and Einstein set out across the US to promote and raise funds for the university. Seven years later, on April 1, 1925, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem opened its doors.
This year, by the way, marks the 80th anniversary of the conferring of HU’s first doctoral degrees. In the year prior to the conferring of doctoral degrees, HU issued certificates that enabled young European Jews to enter the country to study in Jerusalem. It is impossible to tell how many of those who received certificates might otherwise have been murdered by the Nazis.
AFHU announced that it will honor Marion and Stanley Bergman and Nancy and Kenneth Stein at this year’s Scopus Award Gala. The awardees have been champions of Hebrew University for 40 years. In addition, AFHU will honor Henry Schein, Inc. for its social responsibility initiatives and programs that promote sustainability and help underserved and at-risk communities around the world.
The annual award is given in recognition of commitment to Israel, education and humanitarian concerns, as well as the honorees’ staunch support for Hebrew University and its mission. The theme of the gala, which will take place on Thursday, September 15, at the New York Public Library, is “Celebrating 90 Years of Milestones and Leading Global Change.”
The program will reflect on Hebrew University’s key role in Israel’s growth into a modern state and global leader in science, technology and medicine. The groundbreaking research of faculty and alumni, including seven Nobel Prize winners, has contributed substantially to disciplines such as sustainable agriculture, brain sciences, public health and computer science. Milestones include the development of drip irrigation techniques in the 1950s, numerous lifesaving drugs and medical treatments, the invention of auto-collision avoidance technology Mobileye in 2011 and the launch of a nanomedicine partnership this year with the Cleveland Clinic.
Stanley Bergman is chairman of the board and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., the world’s largest provider of healthcare products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners, which will also be honored at the gala for the global humanitarian work of its Henry Schein Foundation. Dr.
Marion Bergman practiced pulmonary medicine for 33 years and now directs healthcare projects for Miracle Corners of the World, an empowerment-focused nonprofit, in addition to teaching at New York University’s School of Nursing.
Kenneth Stein is a national vice president of AFHU and member of the international board of governors of the Hebrew University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003.
“The Bergmans have a long history of commitment to Israel and the Jewish community and devotion to cutting-edge research at the Hebrew University, particularly at the Faculty of Dental Medicine and the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine,” said Daniel Schlessinger, president of AFHU.
Ambassador Yossi Gal, the university’s vice president for advancement and external relations and a former Israel envoy to France, the Netherlands and the United States, will address the gathering.