Grapevine: The pulse of Israel

“Most people on both sides want peace. They want to live a good life, to see their children successful and secure."

Shimon Peres (photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Shimon Peres
(photo credit: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Israelis are making inroads in many fields around the world, especially in areas connected with medicine and health. Dr. Inon Schenker is the first Israeli recipient of the Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation award – an international recognition of public health excellence in saving lives of populations in developing countries through global health innovation.
The award was presented to him in Washington, DC, at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health annual conference attended by 1,800 participants primarily from North America, including leading scientists, national institutes of health directors, deans of medical, nursing and public health faculties from around the world and members of his family.
Schenker was honored for “his long distinguished career in public health and for innovations that are saving millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere.” He initiated and developed: “HIV as a Bridge for Peace” – first implemented with Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians, and later in the Balkans; “Operation Abraham Collaborative” pioneer initiative in voluntary medical male circumcision for AIDS prevention; introduction of manikins and simulations in teaching surgical skills to South African community doctors; cartoons in school AIDS education, adapted in 29 countries, including Myanmar, among other public health innovations.
A researcher, manager and social entrepreneur, Schenker was the founding chairman of Jerusalem AIDS Project and is now senior director global public health at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. He is also on the faculty of the Global Health Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
■ DESPITE HIS bad-mouthing of the media, US President Donald Trump will have at least 120 disseminators of allegedly fake news traveling with him when he comes to Israel, according to Government Press Office director Nitzan Chen. At least another 50 to 70 will be arriving independently.
Huge though his entourage will be, in addition to the journalists, it will fall short in size of the one accompanying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he comes to Israel in the first week of July. Altogether, according to President Reuven Rivlin, Modi will be accompanied by close to a thousand people.
Rivlin last week took advantage of the presence at his residence of Ben-Gurion University president Rivka Carmi – who was part of a group of medical scientists, researchers and policy-makers – to pass on a message he had received from the organizers of Modi’s visit. The Indian prime minister is very interested in visiting BGU and particularly wants to see the university’s cybersecurity research center.
Needless to say, Carmi instantly agreed.
■ ANOTHER MEMBER of the group, Prof. Benjamin Geiger, who is chairman of the Israel Science Foundation, which is located in the Van Leer complex adjacent to the President’s Residence, suggested that the wall between the two properties be knocked down.
The remark, made in jest, came after several people in the room had spoken about the harmony that exists between Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses in medical facilities across Israel and the fact that they all treat sick and injured people of any nationality, ideology or faith without discrimination. Geiger, who is also a practicing scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said that the most rewarding research in his career was a cooperative project in which he was engaged with Palestinian and German colleagues, meeting them not only in Israel but also in Ramallah and Bethlehem. “When we are discussing science, all the walls fall, and we are just people discussing science,” he said. “When you remove the wrapping of politics, it’s just science.”
A great deal of scientific research is directed for the benefit of future generations or to add to the quality of life of current aging populations, which may have prompted Geiger to say: “One of the advantages of getting older is that it’s okay to forget the past so long as you don’t forget the future.”
■ APROPOS THE future, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and his wife, Caroline, accompanied by Tony Kay, deputy chief of mission at the British Embassy, Aldo Enriquez, the spouse of British Ambassador David Quarrey, a delegation of representatives from the Anglican Church, St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem and the British Embassy on Thursday visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa. They were welcomed by Chemi Peres, the younger son of Israel’s late ninth president, Shimon Peres, and together they engaged with young leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities, including both Palestinian and Israeli ambassadors for peace from several of the Peres Center’s flagship peace-building initiatives.
Peres opened the discussion, saying: “Most people on both sides want peace. They want to live a good life, to see their children successful and secure. You young people must not wait for an end to the conflict, but must trust yourselves and get together, Jews and Arabs. As more young people meet and move us forward, then the [political] leaders will follow.”
The archbishop said: “We are undergoing great changes in society with science and technology, and there are many opportunities opening up. We must ensure that everyone benefits from these changes and finds their lives more fulfilled.” He and Peres each emphasized the importance of science and technology in moving society forward and promoting peace. They also stressed the importance of maintaining the moral values of dignity, patience and tolerance, and referred to the responsibility that comes with change.
Ron, a participant in the Peres Center’s Hangout Bridges: Bridges for Peace program said: “Projects like these are long overdue. Hatred comes from misconceptions and stereotypes. I learned about the other side’s culture, and now I see them as fellow participants and as friends. Our educators must guide us to work together, because that is the way to peace.”
Toward the conclusion of his visit, the archbishop said: “Shimon Peres always supported and worked for peace initiatives. I am glad that we have people like you – Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, Palestinian and Israeli – who continue in this vision. We need you. You are our future. I will support you.”
Welby is a great advocate for religious freedom and reconciliation, and frequently speaks out against antisemitism.
One of his great friends is Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, who accompanied him to the Western Wall, where they prayed together, and to Yad Vashem, where they paid homage to the victims of the Holocaust.
■ JAPAN AND Israel are currently celebrating 65 years of bilateral ties. Within the framework of those celebrations, Israelis can expect to see a good sprinkling of Japanese cultural diversity. Un Yamada, one of Japan’s leading contemporary choreographers, has been appointed as Japan’s cultural envoy, and is touring the world at the behest of the Japanese government. Currently in Israel, she is working with the Maslool – Professional Dance Program, Tel Aviv, for the second time, to create a world premiere for young dancers. Maslool’s dancer training course is a two-year program for training dancers aged 18-21. Most are serving in the IDF and are recognized as “outstanding dancers.”
Maslool graduates are the mainstay of dance troupes and the independent dance scene in Israel.
Yamada, together with Naomi Perlov and Ofir Dagan, will present a Friday lecture at the Japanese Embassy on the 19th floor of the Museum Tower at 4 Berkowitz Street, Tel Aviv, on Friday, May 19 at 11 a.m. The embassy’s Friday lectures draw quite a large attendance.
Perlov and Dagan are the artistic directors of Maslool and will join Yamada in demonstrating the differences that characterize Israeli dancers and those of Japan. The trio will discuss the intercultural encounters and the challenges they face through their movement in the studio.
■ JEWS LIVING in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem rarely get to see how their Arab neighbors live. Those living in the Abu Tor mixed neighborhood may get a brief glimpse, and of course people living in the Old City rub shoulders with their Arab neighbors all the time, but otherwise, there isn’t much fraternizing.
The opportunity to learn a little more about east Jerusalem, which is home to a large segment of the Arab population, will be presented this coming Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. when Dr. Walid Salem will present “East Jerusalem: An inside look.”
Salem, who is the director of the Center for Democracy & Community Development and a lecturer on democracy, human rights and conflict resolution at Al-Quds University, will speak at the Jerusalem Press Club in the capital’s Yemin Moshe neighborhood.
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