Grapevine October 24, 2021: The distaff side of diplomacy

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

FROM LEFT, Gilad Sharon, Eyal Shmueli, head of the Kfar Vradim Council, and Mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshiha Arkady Pomerantz. (photo credit: SHAI SHAVIT)
FROM LEFT, Gilad Sharon, Eyal Shmueli, head of the Kfar Vradim Council, and Mayor of Ma’alot-Tarshiha Arkady Pomerantz.
(photo credit: SHAI SHAVIT)

RUNNING IN tandem with United Nations Day on October 24, is the International Day of Diplomacy which recognizes the contribution of civil servants and their families in shaping the world. As for United Nations Day, October 24, 1946, was the date on which the UN Charter was ratified, and the date is preserved as a permanent reminder of what the UN stands for despite conflicts that still go on around the globe. Diplomacy was initially a man’s profession, though many diplomats asked their wives to use their charms to pry secrets from foreign visitors. Although men still dominate the ambassadorial ranks, women are catching up, and while there are still far fewer female ambassadors and heads of foreign missions, in many embassies there are more females than males of lower diplomatic rank.

Israel’s first female ambassador was Golda Meir, who was sent to Moscow in 1948. But Golda was an exception to the rule in all respects. She was the first female foreign minister and the first and only female prime minister. Although there were a number of female diplomats in the early years of the state, it was not until 1966 that a second female ambassador was appointed. Esther Herlitz was sent to Denmark where she spent five years, and remained a true pro-Denmark activist for the rest of her life. Today, Israel has female ambassadors in many parts of the world, for instance Yaffa Ben-Ari in Japan, Amira Oron in Egypt and Tzipi Hotovely in the UK, plus many more in other countries. Over the years, the most Israeli female ambassadors seem to have been in Norway. As for the countries that have sent female ambassadors to Israel, they number in excess of 40, with Canada and Finland each having three consecutive female ambassadors. Canada’s Lisa Anne Stadelbauer was preceded by Deborah Lyons and Vivian Bercovic; and Finland’s Kirsikka Lehto-Asikainen was preceded by Anu Saarela and Leena Kaisa-Mikkola.

■ ORDINARILY WHEN President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal attend events outside of the President’s Residence, they have to travel by car. But this was not the case last week when they participated in a ceremony to distribute certificates to graduates of the Mandel Foundation’s leadership program, which was held at the Jerusalem Theater.

A section of the presidential estate leads almost directly into the rear of the theater, so there was no problem in walking to their destination.

Among those attending the ceremony were Prof. Jehuda Reinharz, president of the Mandel Foundation, Director-General, Mandel Foundation-Israel Moshe Vigdor, Chief Education Officer of the IDF Brig.-Gen. Ofir Levius and Mayor of Beersheba Reuven “Ruvik” Danilovich. Mandel Foundation Chairman Stephen Hoffman participated via video from his home in Cleveland, Ohio.

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal chat with Mandel Foundation graduates. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal chat with Mandel Foundation graduates. (credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM/GPO)

Herzog, who for many years had known Mort Mandel personally, spoke of his great admiration for Mandel.

“Mort left us a tremendous legacy. He left the State of Israel a huge gift in the form of the Mandel Foundation’s unique activities,” he said, adding that the Mandel Foundation was among the first to internalize and integrate the wide diversity in the Israeli public. He was so happy to see graduates from the various components of the Israeli societal mosaic: from Arab and Druze societies, from the ultra-Orthodox society and from all circles of life that reflect the beauty of Israeli society as a whole. Addressing the graduates directly, Herzog said: “Today you are completing diverse paths as graduates of the Foundation, and you are now becoming pillars of the Israeli public in all the areas that impact on our lives. You are emerging much better qualified towards your goals, and as president, I feel certain that you will be able to exert much more influence and inspire more confidence in the future, after being trained at the Mandel Foundation.”

“The 11 leadership programs of the Mandel-Israel Foundation are spread across different sectors, different areas of practice, and their participants come from all corners of Israeli society,” said Reinharz.

■ IT’S HARD to tell whether organizers of major conferences choose historical dates because they have forgotten or are unaware of their significance, or conversely, opt for these dates, precisely because of their historical significance. For instance, the Israel Conference on Democracy is being held on November 9 which coincides with the anniversary of Kristallnacht – the Night of the Shattered Glass, when Jewish enterprises throughout Germany were attacked and violated by Nazi hooligans. Later in the month, the Improvate International Innovation Forum will bring together global political leaders and investors with Israelis who are at the cutting edge of technology. The date is November 29, the anniversary of the 1947 United Nations Resolution on the Partition of Palestine, which led to the creation of a state which is today known internationally as the Start-up Nation. The first conference which is jointly organized by Haaretz, the New Israel Fund and Zulat for Equality and Human Rights, will be held at Na Laga’at, the restaurant, performance and convention center at Jaffa Port, whose staff are blind or deaf or both. Among the 32 speakers are President Herzog, former prime minister Ehud Barak, former Supreme Court president Dorit Beinish, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Regional Development Minister Esawi Frej, MKs Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, Miki Zohar and Moshe Gafni, former MK Zehava Gal-on who is the president of Zulat and several other well-known figures.

This time, instead of including a token Israeli Arab, almost a quarter of the speakers are Israeli Arabs, and Zohar and Gafni are the token right-wingers. The Improvate conference at the Orient Hotel, Jerusalem will be cohosted by former British prime minister Tony Blair, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and performing artist and tech entrepreneur William James Adams Jr., better known professionally as rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer and as the founding and lead member of Black Eyed Peas who will be giving a special performance at the conclusion of the by invitation only conference to which 300 people have been invited.

■ EVEN BEFORE the two above mentioned conferences is an international virtual conference under the heading of The Road to Resilience on November 2. Organized by Latet, Israel’s largest NGO dedicated to combating poverty, the aim of the conference is to find ways for the US and Israel to share collective intelligence strategies to create groundbreaking and practical solutions to the social challenges facing the two countries in the post-COVID-19 era. Here again, President Herzog will be the introductory speaker. Among the other Israeli speakers will be Itzik Shmuli, former MK and former minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, who was recently appointed director-general of the Israel office of the Jewish Federation of New York. The conference can be seen and heard from 12 noon to 2 p.m. EST and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Israeli time.

November 2, is also a very important date in contemporary Jewish history. It is the date on which Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl arrived in Jerusalem in 1898; it is the date of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the date in 1948 on which Harry Truman was reelected as president of the United States, and on November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter, who played such a crucial role in Israel’s first peace agreement with an Arab country, was elected president of the United States. Coincidentally, it was also the date in 1993, on which Ehud Olmert was elected mayor of Jerusalem defeating the legendary Teddy Kollek who had ruled the city for 28 years, and in New York, Rudy Giuliani was the first Republican to be elected as mayor in 28 years. Perhaps more interesting than that is an event of November 2, 1907, when prominent US banker J. P. Morgan locked more than 40 bankers in his library to force them to find ways of averting an economic crisis that hovered over New York. One suspects that Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman might enjoy doing something similar to solve the many economic crises confronting the Treasury.

■ TO MOST people, the name Gaston Ghrenassia doesn’t mean much. That’s the name under which popular French singer, composer, song writer, actor and guitarist Enrico Macias was born in Algeria to Sephardi Jewish parents.

About to celebrate his 83rd birthday in December, Macias has lost none of his verve.

He first started performing in Israel in the mid-1960s, and has been back several times. He is returning yet again at the end of this month on a one-and-a-half-week tour, beginning on October 30 with performances in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Rishon Lezion.

Stage and screen performers such as Macias and Israel’s nonagenarians Lia Koenig and Yaakov Budo, who are both still both going strong, and octogenarians such as Israel Gurion who will celebrate his 86th birthday on Balfour Day, Yehoram Gaon, who is still singing all over the country, Gavri Banai who performs with his sons, and Gila Almagor who graces the Habimah National Theater stage, will help to change perceptions about aging, and soon it will not be unusual for people to celebrate the centenary of their birth.

■ AMONG THE economic priorities of the present government is the development of the Galilee, an ambition that has several organizational, institutional and venture capital partners. One of the projects that is being promoted is a future Ariel Sharon Industrial Zone in Ma’alot-Tarshiha, in memory of the former prime minister, which will be instrumental in creating dozens of new jobs. To speed up the process, the Mayor Arkady Pomerantz, together with Eyal Shmueli, head of the nearby Kfar Vradim Council, organized a conference to which they invited directors-general of government ministries along with prospective investors. Guest of honor was Gilad Sharon, one of the sons of the late prime minister.

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