Grapevine: Prince Charles’s 3rd visit to Israel

The prince, who has now taken over many of his mother’s duties, was previously in Israel in September 2016 for the funeral of Shimon Peres, and before that in 1995 for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin.

FROM LEFT: Tzipi Livni, Swiss Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch and Gideon Hamburger. (photo credit: DROR EITAN)
FROM LEFT: Tzipi Livni, Swiss Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch and Gideon Hamburger.
(photo credit: DROR EITAN)
Among the royals who have indicated that they will come to Israel next month for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is Britain’s Prince Charles, who will be visiting Israel for the third time. The prince, who has now taken over many of his mother’s duties, was previously in Israel in September 2016 for the funeral of Shimon Peres, and before that in November 1995 for the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin. Even if the queen, now 93 and somewhat frail, were still making official visits abroad, it is doubtful that she would have accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin, even though she and other members of the royal family, including Charles, have visited Arab countries in the region, and the queen has hosted banquets for Arab leaders visiting England. During his previous visit to Israel, Charles also paid his respects to his paternal grandmother who is buried in Jerusalem, and who saved a Greek Jewish family during the Holocaust.
■ UP UNTIL this week, the American delegation to the commemorative conference at Yad Vashem was tentatively to be led by US Vice President Mike Pence, but all that could possibly change following US President Donald Trump’s triumphant and widely publicized pro-Israel speech last Saturday to the sold-out event hosted by the Israeli-American Council. If Trump should decide to head the American delegation, it would create a frenzy among Israeli hoteliers and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). There are no luxury hotel rooms left in Jerusalem, yet it is inconceivable that the US president who recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the embassy there should be accommodated anywhere but in the capital. The Shin Bet already has its hands full with security arrangements for more than 30 heads of state. Still, Israel has proved time and again that the impossible is possible, so to quote Trump’s most frequently uttered expression: “We’ll see what happens.”
■ ON THE Friday prior to the British elections, Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Grodzinski Bakery in Golders Green and served customers as photographers frantically snapped for campaign shots and for posterity. Johnson also proved to be a dab hand at making doughnuts and frosting them.
Although his presence at the bakery was obviously campaign related, it also had something to do with his DNA. In an interview that he gave to the Jewish Chronicle a few years back, Johnson said: “I feel Jewish when I feel the Jewish people are threatened or under attack. When I suddenly get a whiff of antisemitism, it’s then that you feel angry and protective.”
Well, there’s more than just a whiff in Britain these days, and it’s not just a matter of Johnson’s conscience to side with the victims of antisemitic incidents – it’s in his blood. His maternal great-grandfather, Elias Avery Lowe, was a Moscow-born Jew, whose father was a textile merchant. Johnson confirmed this to the JC in 2007. According Johnson’s sister, Rachel, Elias was a rabbi. Johnson’s stepmother, Jenny Sieff, was also Jewish.
Boris and Rachel came to Israel for the first time in 1984 and volunteered for six weeks at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi.
On a somewhat less public appearance on the same day as his doughnut venture, Johnson dropped in to Jewish Care to bring a little cheer to the people in the building.
■ EVERYONE’S APPEARANCE changes over time. Some people remain recognizable at any age, while others change so drastically that it is almost impossible to reconcile a photograph of a young man or woman with someone who is middle-aged or older. A case in point is Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who at 47 is just approaching middle age, but whose appearance has changed vastly from the days in which he was a rookie soldier. On a visit to an induction base this week, the almost bald Bennett was presented with a photograph taken on the day that he was assigned to an elite commando unit in the IDF. He was, of course, somewhat slimmer in those days, and he had a thick mop of hair. It would have been very difficult to pinpoint him in a group photo.
■ DESPITE HER humiliating exit from the political arena, former foreign minister and justice minister Tzipi Livni remains in high demand as a public speaker both in Israel and abroad. Livni was last week the guest and keynote speaker at a luncheon at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv hosted by Gideon Hamburger, the president of the Israel-Switzerland-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and president of Harel Insurance and Finances.
Among the 100-plus people who came to listen to Livni speak on the challenges of modern democracy in an era of globalization, nationalism and liberalism was Swiss Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch. Some of the others present included Liv Halperin of the Swiss Embassy and Zurich Insurance representatives Bruno Braem, Raymond Sauteur and Andreas Itten.
In thanking Livni for her thought-provoking comments, Hamburger said that such meetings help to strengthen relations between Switzerland and Israel, because in addition to speakers sharing their perspectives on numerous issues, they bring together business and finance representatives of both countries who can network with one another in a friendly, informal environment.
■ THE MIFAL HAPAYIS national lottery provides substantial finance for projects related to health, education, recreation and the arts – even more so under the tenure of the present chairman, Avigdor Yitzhaki, who is particularly interested in promoting meaningful social activities.
Yitzhaki and his professional team work closely with local authorities and philanthropic entities such as the Rothschild Foundation. In the latter case Mifal Hapayis works with the Edmond de Rothschild Partnerships, established in 2016 to train young people with leadership potential to take their places as leaders in their respective communities – particularly in peripheral areas of the country, and to give them the opportunity to help close social gaps and to adopt humanistic world views. Most recently, Yitzhaki and his team visited such projects in Kiryat Yam and the Arava.
Anat Nehemia Lavee, the CEO of Rothschild Partnerships, stressed the importance of public organizations and institutions working together to benefit society.
■ MORE THAN 20 of the 100 works by Israeli artists were sold prior to the opening last weekend of the Sweetart exhibition and benefit sale at the Nahum Gutman Museum with proceeds designated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The festive opening of the exhibition and sale was attended by artists, curators, collectors, businesspeople who contribute to many charitable endeavors and, of course, specialists in juvenile diabetes such as Prof. Orit Hamiel and Dr. Amir Tirosh of Sheba Medical Center. Among the many people who came to view and to buy were Shulamit Nus, who is in charge of the art collection of Israel Discount Bank, along with chairman of Pharmocann medical cannabis and former ambassador to the United Nations Danny Gillerman and his wife, Janice, whose daughter Karen, a professional photographer and artist, had created and donated one of the artworks.
■ MANY CELEBRITIES and affluent members of Israeli society go to Mykonos for special occasion events, but some are increasingly drawn to the ancient city of Safed, which is the highest point in the Galilee and which throughout the centuries had an uninterrupted Jewish presence, albeit a very small one at certain times. Last weekend actor Zion Baruch and his wife, actress and model Yanna Yossef, chose to celebrate her 31st birthday in Safed and enjoyed the local fare at the Esther and Yehonatan Restaurant. Actors Guy Zu-Aretz and Yael Bar Zohar chose to spend a family weekend with their three children in Safed and stayed at the Galilee Villa, where a letter of welcome from Mayor Shuki Ohana was waiting for them. How did he know they were coming? In recent months Zu-Aretz has been the presenter in commercials for the city of Safed, and he simply fell in love with what he was doing. In his letter Ohana wrote that there is no place in the world like Safed.
In the past people came to Safed for the art, the spiritualism and the mysticism. Now they also have the possibility to bump into the stars.
■ AFTER A series of farewell events, Mariano Caucino, the Argentine ambassador, last week hosted his own farewell party at his residence, just a few days prior to his return home. Among those who came to wish him well were Modi Efraim, who heads the Latin American division at the Foreign Ministry, along with the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, Cyprus, Chile, Peru, Norway, Paraguay, Mexico and diplomatic representatives of other countries. A change of presidents in Argentina means that the terms of all politically appointed ambassadors come to an end. Thus, after slightly less than two years, Caucino had no option but to complete his mission.
When he came to Israel, he said, he was determined to rebuild the bilateral relationship which had been damaged as a result of certain decisions taken in Argentina’s recent past, especially the signing of the memorandum of understanding with Iran. Caucino said that in his view, the signing of the memorandum was undoubtedly a wrong decision which had disturbed the political framework required for bilateral relations between Argentina and Israel to flourish.
He reminded his guests that relations between the two countries began in 1948 when president Juan Domingo Peron appointed a Jewish community leader, Pablo Manguel, to serve as ambassador to Israel. Caucino noted that Manguel was the first ambassador from Latin America to serve in Israel.
Caucino underscored that the Argentine judiciary had ruled that the memorandum was unconstitutional and that even then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who is now vice president elect, had admitted in her memoirs that she had been in error in trusting the Iranians. President-elect Alberto Fernandez said at the time of the signing as well as afterward that the memorandum had been a serious mistake. Other prominent political figures expressed similar views.
Caucino also referred to the significance of the Argentine community in Israel and the Jewish community in Argentina which collectively contribute to the bilateral relationship.
Recalling the terrorist attacks of 1992 and 1994 against the Israel Embassy and AMIA, Caucino stressed the need to respect human dignity and to fight terrorism and antisemitism. The two terrorist attacks, he said, were the gravest in South America, “and serve as proof that no country is safe; no country is isolated,when it comes to global terrorism. In those brutal attacks, 100 Argentines lost their lives.”
On the brighter side of his mission, he had been delighted to receive high-level delegations from Argentina, and was heartened by the visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Argentina, Mexico and Colombia, which Caucino said was “a concrete demonstration of Israel’s interest in our region and its goodwill towards it.”
■ EDUCATION MINISTER Rafi Peretz is getting an education in the pronunciation of Asian names. Although written in Roman characters, some of these names are difficult enough for native speakers of English or romance languages, but for Peretz, it’s an ongoing valiant struggle. A couple of weeks back, he very carefully pronounced the name of the Korean ambassador at the Korean national day reception, but it took far more effort for him last week to pronounce the name of Thai Ambassador-designate Pannabha Chandraramya at the Thai national day reception at the Sheraton Hotel in Tel Aviv, whose chefs have become quite adept at catering various kinds of traditional Asian cuisine.
The Thai reception almost always includes displays of the exquisitely carved and sculpted fruits that are sometimes in an assortment of geometric patterns, and sometimes look exactly like flowers, and have to be touched, to ascertain that they are actually vegetables.
Although the present king of Thailand’s birthday is different from that of his late father, Thailand’s national day is still held on December 5, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who, as the ambassador explained, during his seven-decade reign initiated more than 4,000 projects for the well-being of his people, and is regarded as the father of the nation. Therefore, Thailand’s national day is also Father’s Day.
Chandraramya, who arrived in Tel Aviv on November 13, immediately plunged into work to oversee arrangements for her first national day reception in Israel.
The present monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, has devoted himself to caring for his people through important initiatives of his own, she said.
Chandraramya noted that this year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Israel, and said that she aspires to further strengthen cooperation with Israel. Regarding trade relations, she referred to a memorandum of understanding that was signed in Israel last June between the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce. Since then, she said, Thai businessmen have increasingly come to Israel to seek business opportunities, especially in food and agriculture and in the innovation sector. In 2020, she plans to bring an Israeli business delegation to Thailand.
“We are also looking forward to enhancing cooperation with Israel on research and development in technology and innovation, in line with the Thailand 4.0” strategy, especially on how to transform ‘results in the lab’ to ‘profits in the market,’” she said. As Israel is known as the Start-Up Nation, her country is interested in greater Israeli investments in Thailand.
Chandraramya voiced appreciation for Israel’s cooperation in the placement of 25,000 Thai workers, and thanked Israel for taking good care of them. She also mentioned the large influx of Israeli tourists to Thailand.
Peretz, who represented the government, also commented that Thailand is a favorite tourist destination for Israelis, and pointed out that last year close to 200,000 Israelis, representing 2% of the population, visited Thailand and enjoyed the country’s warm hospitality, rich culture, beautiful scenery and authentic cuisine.
Over the years, he said, Israel and Thailand have enjoyed a flourishing friendship. One of the signs of this is in a sharp increase this year in the number of business delegations from Thailand, coming to learn more about investment opportunities and Israeli technologies.
He was also happy to see prominent figures from Israel’s hi-tech industry involved in Thailand’s initiative to move forward to the new era of a digital economy, under the title “Thailand 4.0.” There are still tremendous opportunities to be explored and huge potential to further promote bilateral economic cooperation, he declared.
Israel has always been happy to share knowledge and experience with countries with which it enjoys diplomatic relations, and in some cases with countries with which diplomatic relations have not yet been established. Most of this knowledge-sharing is done through Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. More than a thousand Thai citizens have participated in Mashav courses related to water management, agriculture, education, public health, rural and urban development, technology and innovation, he said.
This exchange of knowledge has been going on for many years, said Peretz, recalling that Israel was honored to be one of the first foreign governments invited to become involved in the Hubkapong Royal Project, the first Thai-Israeli joint agricultural project initiated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1964.
As far as Thai workers are concerned, Peretz said that Israel was pleased to have so many come to work in the agricultural sector. This not only provides them with a stable income, he said, but also with good professional knowledge and experience to take home with them at a later stage. He added that Israel hopes to soon finalize a new agricultural workers’ arrangement.
As he concluded his remarks, it was obvious that there was no way that Peretz could pronounce the name of the current king in full, and therefore in expressing the good wishes of the State of Israel, referred to him by his abbreviated title King Rama the 10th.
■ IF YOU’VE never heard of YOKOPAS, it’s an acronym for Youth Organized Collaboration on Peace and Sustainability, which is an initiative of the students of the Eastern Mediterranean International School (EMIS) at the Kfar Hayarok youth village in southern Ramat Hasharon. Students at the school are aged from 16 to 18 and come from 50 different countries, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If you ask the Israeli and Palestinian students how to resolve the Israeli conflict, they will tell you that all it requires is mutual goodwill. Similar replies will be received from fellow students coming from countries that are also in conflict or in which conflicts have already been resolved.
At its annual conference, YOKOPAS hosts students from conflict areas as well as from countries that enjoy relative peace and quiet, such as Denmark, which this year sent a delegation. There were also youth delegations from the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Shir Sivan, from Moshav Hayogev near Afula, who is in her second year of studies at EMIS, said that the students from the West Bank had told her that this was the first time they had ever come into contact with young Israelis who were not in army uniform. They also said that they enjoyed the kind of dialogue that they had previously believed to be impossible, and they were pleased to discover that there are alternatives to conflict. One of activities that brought Israelis and Palestinians to a harmonious relationship was working together on an exhibition highlighting peace and sustainability.
Several diplomats also attended the conference. They included EU ambassador Emmanuel Joffre along with fellow ambassadors Rumyana Bachvarova of Bulgaria, Rodrigo Fernandez of Chili, Anjan Shakya of Nepal, Bardhyl Canaj of Albania and Mario Bucaro of Guatemala. There were also attachés and counselors from other embassies.
■ THE AMBASSADORS’ Club of Israel makes a point of hosting new ambassadors to help them get to know other ambassadors from their region as well as members of the business community who are in engaged in economic and trade relations in or with the country represented by the new envoy. In the case of Georgian Ambassador Lasha Zhvania, this was hardly necessary, as this is his third stint in Israel, and his second as ambassador. He speaks Hebrew fluently, and has many friends throughout the country.
But every new ambassador has a fairly full itinerary, almost from day one, and doesn’t always have the time to accept the hospitality of the Ambassadors’ Club. As it turned out, Zhvania did have the time, and the inclination to use the occasion to promote his country’s business interests, and invited all the guests who had congregated in the Jaffa Port penthouse apartment of lawyer Erez Na’ana to visit Tbilisi and check out the many opportunities for themselves. He offered to arrange for them to meet with parliamentarians and businesspeople.
Zhvania is very savvy about Israel, and to prove just how savvy he is he surprised his host and everyone else present by announcing that the penthouse was up for sale and that the asking price is NIS 56 million.
In addition to the diplomats and businesspeople in attendance, guests included well-known husband and wife theatrical personalities Sassi Keshet and Yona Elian. When Elian was a child growing up in Jaffa, the city was a mix of Arabs and poor Jewish immigrants. It has since undergone dramatic gentrification. She and Keshet met in 1972 on the set of the movie Nurit, and they’ve been together ever since. He is currently the director of Yiddishpiel Theater and she enjoys close to a 30-year association with Beit Lessin, which officially opened its newly renovated home in September, and whose name has been extended to now be known as the Baruch Ivcher Beit Lessin Theater, to perpetuate the name of the Peru-based billionaire who donated NIS 25m. to facilitate the theater’s face-lift.
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