Grapevine: The good word about Israel

Grapevine The good word

HEBREW media have been having a field day at the expense of Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, reporting almost gleefully that former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas is in line to replace her and that her predecessor Dan Gillerman has been recruited in the campaign to refute the Goldstone report. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Shalev, 68, who has been in office since September 2008, put a damper on speculation about her future as a diplomat when she said that it had been understood from the very beginning that she would not serve for more than two years, and so it was appropriate that a search for a successor begin now. With regard to Gillerman, she said that the more capable people on board to explain Israel's cause, the better. A professor of law with an international reputation, Shalev, for all her brilliance, is less dynamic than the charismatic Gillerman, and the media has pounced on this again and again. Of the country's 14 ambassadors to the UN, only five have been career diplomats. The articulate and knowledgable Pinkas, who is in frequent demand by major international and local media outlets as a commentator on both Israel and US affairs and who also defends Israel in global panel discussions, has served as an adviser to several foreign ministers, beginning with Shimon Peres. Prior to joining the foreign service, he worked as a defense correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.
  • FOREIGN MINISTER Avigdor Lieberman took time out last week for a little personal business. Together with a group of other proud parents, he came to kvell at the ceremony marking the successful conclusion of an IDF officers' course. Among the graduates in the course was Lieberman's 21-year-old son Kobi. Lieberman, who usually keeps his emotions in check, could not control the glow of pride that spread across his face. Once the ceremony was over, he gave Kobi a warm embrace. To those who may have been somewhat surprised to see the soft side of his character, Lieberman said: "Politicians are parents too."
  • MOUNT SCOPUS Memorial College of Melbourne, the largest Jewish day school in the Southern Hemisphere, is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Rabbi James Kennard, the seventh principal of the school, decided to kill three birds with one stone. He had come to escort a group of 10th graders who will spend several weeks here, living with Israeli families and seeing the country from the inside out, rather than the outside in. Aside from that, he has a son living here, so this was a good opportunity to see him. And in addition, since there are a lot of Mount Scopus Old Collegians here, a 60th anniversary was an excellent reason for a reunion. However in the latter case, Kennard found himself in a rather strange position at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. He was hosting the reunion, but he was the odd man out, because he knew hardly any of his guests. When the idea of a reunion was initially floated, Kennard told the gathering, it was thought that at best, 60 people would show up. In the final analysis, it was more than double that number, with quite a few people who had not previously indicated any interest, turning up on the night. Although this was the fourth Mount Scopus Old Collegians reunion in Israel, there was still a degree of excitement, because the attendees represented the six decades history of the school and included Val Pachman who had been the school's first kindergarten teacher, five of her pupils and two people from the first graduating class: Louise (Goulburn) Israeli and Amiel Gurt, each of whom came armed with photographs from their schooldays. There was also a large contingent of last year's graduates, several of whom are spending a year here before continuing their studies at universities in Melbourne. Surprisingly, Mark Regev, the Old Collegian with the best known face here and around the globe, was able to stay the duration of the evening. Regev, who is one of the busiest spokesmen for Israel, working out of the Prime Minister's Office, is constantly pursued by radio and television stations. A graduate of the class of '77, when he was still Mark Freiberg, he found time to swap memories with former classmates and with others whom he had known in school. Pachman and Jocelyn (Cohen) Goldberg of the class of '64, came with faded Jerusalem Post clippings containing a report of a previous Old Collegians reunion in 1985 at Moshav Beit Halevi, which is home to Old Collegian Denise (Goulburn) Cass of the class of '58. At that time, the school's founding principal Abe Feiglin had been visiting the country, and unlike Kennard, he was familiar with every face in the room, knowing some of those attending since their days in kindergarten. The busiest person at this recent reunion was Jake Livni of the class of '72, who was running around photographing everyone and anyone, and who took numerous group shots for posterity. When Pachman came across lawyer Zvi Ehrenberg, she excitedly told him that she had celebrated her wedding at the New Empire Ballroom in Melbourne of which his father had been a co-proprietor. Garry Stock of the class of' '60, who today heads the James Richardson operations at Ben-Gurion Airport, and whose family remains closely involved with the college, acted as master of ceremonies, introducing Kennard to individuals at floor level and to the entire gathering from the podium. Although there were several lawyers and doctors among the Old Collegians, there were also people in other fields. Esther (Rich) Katzir of the class of '61 works for Emunah, the religious women's organization that runs a network of educational facilities and villages for children at risk; David Stark of the class of '73 works for the Australian Consular Services; Tommy Lamm of the class of '63 was a long-time worker with the Jewish Agency prior to his early retirement; Anita (Klein) Weiss of the class of '61 runs a travel agency with her husband who is an honorary consul for Hungary; and Warren Zauer of the class of '67 deals in real estate. For Paul Israel, of the class of '86 who was one of the key organizers of the event, there was a slight disappointment in that he was the only representative of his class. Organizing and networking comes easily to Paul Israel. It's something he does on a regular basis in his capacity as director of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce. Also disappointed was Tamara (Leibler) Grynberg, who was likewise the only member of her class, but attributed this to the fact that many of her former classmates had seen each other at a recent Bnei Akiva reunion, and therefore did not feel the need to get together again so soon.
  • MOVE OVER Charles Bronfman, Sammy Ofer, Shari Arison, Michael Steinhardt, Lynne Schusterman, Leonid Nevzlin, Dan David, Nochi Dankner and other local and overseas philanthropists who have given generously to numerous and varied projects here. Here comes David Azrieli, who intends to create Israel's largest philanthropic fund. In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Azrieli, the shopping mall tycoon and real estate developer, who divides his time between Canada and Israel, and whose triple complex of triangular, round and rectangular buildings dominate the Tel Aviv skyline, said that he would leave the bulk of his estate to Israel to be administered through the Azrieli Foundation that supports a wide range of initiatives here and in Canada. Azrieli, whose fortune is estimated at around $2.5 billion, said that he would follow the example of Bill Gates and allocate between 75 percent and 80% of his fortune to the foundation, while still leaving a considerable sum for his children.
  • WOMEN WANTING to enter the business world, but in need of a little help from those who are already there, will benefit from a new organization called Yasmin, headed by Ofra Strauss, who chairs the Strauss Group of companies. A nonprofit organization designed to encourage initiative by females, Yasmin held a well attended conference at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa where it also launched the Yasmin Internet portal. Among the guest speakers was Cherie Blair, wife of Quartet envoy to the Middle East and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who established the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women which aims to strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities so they can grow their businesses and become greater contributors to their economies. This is accomplished by working with local partners to provide women with access to business development, networks and finances. Strauss wants to do something similar here for women from all branches of society regardless of ethnic or religious background. Women have a contribution to make to the economy she says, and all they need is the chance to prove their capabilities.
  • OVER THE past few weeks, Israel Radio's Yaron Enosh has been interviewing veteran broadcaster Micha Limor about yekkes - the name given to early German immigrants because they continued to wear their jackets even when engaged in heavy manual labor. A jacket in German is jacke, with the j pronounced as y. These days Limor edits Yekinton, a monthly for yekkes, published by the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin, a nonprofit organization which was established for the welfare of Central European natives. Among the many attributes of yekkes that came up in the course of their conversation was their hardiness of body and mind and their longevity. Generally speaking they live a long life. A few examples are former MK, ambassador to Denmark and founding director of the Center for Volunteer Services Esther Herlitz who recently celebrated her 88th birthday; actress Hana Meron who will be 86 on November 23 and fellow actress Orna Porat, 85, who are both still on the boards and considered to be the leading ladies of Israeli theater; retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, 82; industrialist Stef Wertheimer, 83; peace activist and journalist Uri Avnery, 86; former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post Ari Rath, 83; former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, who on November 9 celebrated his 82nd birthday; famed photographer David Rubinger, 85; Yehudit Huebner, 88, the first president of Emunah Israel and a former ambassador to Norway; plus relative youngsters former MK Modechai Virshubski, 79; Mr. Television Haim Yavin, 77; and spring chicken filmmaker Micha Shagrir, 72. In Germany and Austria there is great interest in Yekinton and in yekkes who can remember pre-Holocaust Europe. Television and radio stations as well as newspapers and magazines are eager to interview them to gain a different perspective of history and the culture of those times.
  • FOR THE third consecutive year, the Menta chain of stores in Delek gas stations sponsored the annual Wheels of Love Bike Ride which gives bike riders a great opportunity to see the country while raising money for the Jerusalem-based Alyn Hospital for children with special needs. Some 600 cyclists from 10 countries participated in this year's ride. Delek Retail CEO Haim Almoznino said that the Menta chain was happy to be a sponsor for such a worthy cause which serves not only the community of disabled children but helps to create social awareness of people with special needs.
  • Thousands of people congregate in the Jerusalem International Convention Center on the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach to commemorate his teachings and his music. Carlebach referred to his followers as hevra. They were part of an extended family that stretches around the globe. They were and are not only part of his extended family, but of each other's. Many of them were far removed from any kind of religious observance. Some were drug addicts; some suffered from psychological problems; some had no sense of belonging to anything - and he took them all under his wing, and in the overwhelming majority of cases brought them back into the circle of Judaism. He was their anchor and their inspiration. Today, his work is perpetuated by Shir L'Shlomo, the Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Foundation, whose 12-member board includes Emuna Witt-Halevi, who not only travels abroad to impart his teachings, but who edits the annual "Kol Hevra" anthology which contains updates of what's happening in the lives of the hevra, shared poignant memories and photographs of Carlebach and tributes to Carlebach friends and followers who have joined him in the next world. Among those remembered in the current issue is Rabbi Mickey Rosen, the founder of YAKAR, an acronym for his late father and noted educator Rabbi Ya'acov Kopel Rosen, but also the Hebrew word for "dear." Indeed Rosen embraced humanity with the same non judgmental love as Shlomo Carlebach; sang Carlebach's tunes at his services and provided opportunities for Carlebach to teach at YAKAR when he was in Israel. The current issue of Kol Hevra is also important because it marks the 20th anniversary of Carlebach's visit to Poland. He gave concerts and teach-ins in Biala, Lublin, Warsaw, Krakow and Katowice and helped many Jews raised as Catholics to rediscover their Jewish roots. As an outcome of this, Rosen pioneered a program for Polish Jews at YAKAR. Some of the young people who participated in this program decided to come on aliya. Others who returned to Poland are sharing their new-found knowledge with their peers. Yachad Witt, the eldest son among Witt-Halevi's 14 children celebrated his bar mitzva on that historic tour of Poland. It was the first bar mitzva to be celebrated in Warsaw in 50 years.
  • SOME DAYS prior to the memorial rally in Kikar Rabin, the life and work of Yitzhak Rabin were commemorated at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon via the Masa-sponsored Budokan Martial Arts and Fitness Program. Participants from several countries spend five months studying Jewish history, Hebrew and martial arts with champion Israeli exponents, such as judo champion Yonah Melnik, who trained soldiers participating in the Entebbe Operation, in self-defense. Amir Offer and Eyal Oren, two of the IDF officers who were directly involved in the daring Entebbe rescue operation in July, 1976, during Yitzhak Rabin's first term as prime minister, recounted their experiences in the dangerous mission in which they rescued hostages taken from a hijacked Air France plane. Danny Hakim, who has won several international karate championships and who is one of the founders of the program as well as one of the martial arts teachers, emphasized the importance of learning history in the context of self defense. The Budokan program is a vehicle enabling young Jews from all over the world to strengthen their Jewish identity, their Jewish knowledge, their physical fitness and their self confidence.
  • FOLLOWING HIS election to the Knesset, Dan Meridor had to give up his position as international chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation. However the position has remained in the family with the recent appointment to the same post of his brother Sallai Meridor. No novice to the international Jewish community or to movers and shakers in foreign governments, Sallai Meridor was Israel's ambassador to the US, prior to which he was chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization. As someone born, raised and educated in Jerusalem, the welfare of the city is close to his heart, and thus the job is more or less tailor-made for him. Meridor is scheduled to travel to the US on a fund-raising and familiarization tour. He probably knows most of the important American donors to the Jerusalem Foundation, but in his previous dealings with them, he was wearing a different hat. He has already boned up on the foundation's projects, and will be able to talk about them from first hand knowledge.
  • JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Haruhisa Takeuchi hosted the Amos Ganor Foundation's awards ceremony at his residence in Herzliya Pituah. More than 60 guests, including Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal and Shimshon Shoshani, director-general of the Education Ministry, braved the heavy downpour to attend. While it's all very well to say that a little rain never hurt anybody, some parts of Herzliya Pituah and areas nearby were flooded. The Ganor Foundation is named for deceased diplomat Amos Ganor, who while serving as ambassador to Japan made an enormous contribution to the enhancement of relations between the two countries. The Ganor Foundation was established as a means of continuing his work and grants scholarships to Israeli and Japanese students whose focal interest is on Middle East issues. Also present at the ceremony were Dalia Ganor, the widow of Amos Ganor, and journalist Akiva Eldar, chairman of the Ganor Foundation.
  • DESPITE AN extremely busy schedule, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made time last Thursday to celebrate the 51st birthday of his wife Sarah. The two had an intimate dinner at one of their favorite restaurants - not in Jerusalem, nor in Tel Aviv, nor even in Caesarea where they like to spend their weekends - but at Decks in Tiberias, located on the Lido beach of the Sea of Galilee, after having first checked in at the Scottish Hotel. That's certainly one way to get away from it all.