Grapevine: Uri Lubrani retires after a glorious career

Lubrani, who celebrated his 89th birthday in October, felt that he had given as much as he could to the state and wanted to relax a little in his twilight years.

URI LUBRANI with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
URI LUBRANI with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
After working in numerous capacities with a series of prime ministers from David Ben-Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu, Uri Lubrani – who has served as a political secretary, adviser on Arab affairs, counselor, ambassador, coordinator of Israel’s armed forces in Lebanon, adviser to the Israel defense establishment on matters related to Lebanon and Shi’a Muslims, coordinator for the Operation Solomon airlift from Ethiopia, chief negotiator for the Hezbollah prisoner exchange, and undertaken a host of other public service activities – met in Jerusalem last Sunday with Netanyahu to announce his retirement from public service.
Lubrani, who celebrated his 89th birthday in October, felt that he had given as much as he could to the state and wanted to relax a little in his twilight years. Netanyahu commended him for his wide-ranging service to the state, listened intently to some of Lubrani’s reminiscences and said that it had been an honor to meet him, especially on November 29, a day that has so much meaning for Israel.
Prior to the establishment of the state, Lubrani spent four years in the Hagana. As a diplomat, he spent five years from 1973 as head of the Israeli mission to Iran and forecast the fall of the Shah, though at the time he failed to convince the Israeli and American administrations.
■ IN AN INTERVIEW from Berlin with Israel Radio’s Aryeh Golan, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who was on his first-ever visit to Germany, said that with all his experience in public life, as a Jew, an Israeli and the son of Holocaust survivors, he could not help but be emotionally moved in seeing the Israeli flag in the German Bundestag and in addressing the Bundestag in Hebrew. As far as he was concerned, it was not only a moment of triumph for the Jewish people but also proof that if there could be reconciliation between the Germans and the Jews and Germany and Israel, then there could be reconciliation with all disputing peoples, including the Israelis and the Palestinians.
■ INFINITY INVESTMENT Group chairman Amir Ayal, whose firm manages funds totaling approximately $7 billion on behalf of a broad range of clients, including institutional and private investors, was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Israel-Philippines Chamber of Commerce in Manila, where he asked his audience where they were on investment and the future.
The meeting was attended by members of the Israel Embassy, members of the Philippines government and business community as well as commercial representatives of India, Taiwan, Ireland, Turkey, Singapore, China and other countries.
Ayal dealt with the international macro economy in real terms and real time, forecasting economic trends and, of course most importantly, presenting Israel as a unique, developed and promising market.
It is a matter of interest and a great compliment to Israel’s market reputation that Israel has conducted and is conducting economic relations with countries with which it does not have diplomatic ties, and some of those countries were represented at the meeting.
■ JUST AS diplomats go from one country to another, so government ministers go from one ministry to another. In some cases, diplomats maintain regular contact with people whom they met in the countries in which they served, and likewise some politicians who move on to become the caretakers of another ministry or find themselves in the opposition retain an interest in former ministries.
A case in point is former health minister MK Yael German, who doesn’t see eye to eye on many health issues with present incumbent Ya’acov Litzman. German has been invited by the Labor Party circle for the improvement of the health system to share her views, and will do so on Sunday, December 13, at 6:45 p.m. at the Labor Party branch office at 15 Brodetsky Street, Tel Aviv.
■ IN A world of “tell all” culture in which we are constantly exposed to new information – not much of which is complimentary – about people in the public eye, it was interesting to learn from the man himself that Daniel Taub, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Kingdom, is a direct descendant of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, who is also known as Ba’al Hatanya after the book on hassidic philosophy that he authored.
In essence, his relationship to Schneur Zalman also makes Taub a direct descendant of the famous Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Judah Loew, who was the great-great-grandfather of Schneur Zalman, although this was not mentioned by Taub, who briefly shared details of his pedigree at a yodtet Kislev event in Jerusalem organized by Rabbi Eli and Chanie Canterman, directors of the Chabad Center of Talbiyeh.
As far as Taub was aware, the Cantermans did not know of his family connection to Schneur Zalman when they invited him to be one of two guest speakers at the event.
■ IT IS generally known in Israel, that ZAKA rescue and recovery organization volunteers have a special mission to honor the dead.
This includes rescuing body parts that may have been severed during explosions, car crashes and terrorist attacks. But they also go to extraordinary lengths, along with Chabad, to ensure that Jews who have died in a totally non-Jewish environment, and who have no relatives to take responsibility for their burial, will be buried in a Jewish cemetery. The following is but one example of how far they will go.
On a recent Saturday evening in November, ZAKA chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav received notification that a Jew by the name of Michael Osborne had died in a hospital in the remote Philippines island of Negros.
With no one to pay his hospital bills, his body had been transferred to a morgue in a local church, to await cremation in the event that the fees remained unpaid.
After intensive but futile efforts by ZAKA to locate relatives of the deceased in London, Meshi-Zahav recruited the assistance of the nearest Chabad envoy, Rabbi Nir Donenfeld in Cebu City – 10 hours journey from Negros.
Donenfeld managed to persuade the authorities to delay the cremation and an autopsy, but the church refused to release the body without a death certificate from the hospital, which in turn refused to issue one unless it received payment for Osborne’s hospitalization.
In a combined effort, Donenfeld received the agreement of the Jewish community leadership in Manila to bury the deceased free of charge, while Meshi-Zahav turned to Rafi Aharoni, the president of ZAKA, Hong Kong, Macao and China, for financial assistance.
In a most generous gesture, Aharoni donated the thousands of dollars that were required to cover all the costs to release the body and of the flight to Manila for a proper Jewish burial. With the logistics arranged, the next step for Donenfeld was traveling from Cebu City to Negros. It was not an easy task.
He experienced two very difficult days, with little food or sleep. The journey, by bus and boat, should have taken only 10 hours, but the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere, and it took hours for a replacement vehicle to arrive. As a result, Donenfeld missed the boat to Negros and was forced to wait at the port until the following morning for the next ride. But in the final analysis, Osborne’s body was flown to Manila, where he was buried in accordance with Jewish law and tradition in an example of extraordinary Jewish networking and cooperation.
Meshi-Zahav not only goes to great lengths to follow the letter of the law with regard to deceased Jews but also follows another injunction less observed by other members of the haredi community. Judaism also teaches that one must not humiliate or embarrass other people, especially in public, and that it is often more appropriate to commit a minor sin on the side of respect for human dignity than to humiliate the other.
Thus, last week at a reception hosted by the Japanese ambassador, when a female put out her hand to shake hands with him, Meshi-Zahav unhesitatingly shook hands with her rather than cause her embarrassment.
The woman, who is Jewish, should have known better, but Meshi-Zahav gave her the benefit of the doubt and the most fleeting of handshakes.
■ IT WOULD appear that two multimillionaires are taking control of downtown Jerusalem.
Laurent Levy, the French tycoon who owns one of the world’s largest chains of optical centers, recently opened his Jerusalem flagship store in what used to be the central Jerusalem branch of Bank Leumi in Zion Square.
This week he also opened another optical center in the capital’s Talpiot neighborhood, and has become an extremely competitive force for Optica Halperin, which until Levy came on the scene was the largest chain of optical stores in Israel.
Levy also owns a large chunk of property in Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva, where he built the Music Center, and more recently purchased a commercial building in Jaffa Road on the corner of Luntz Street.
Levy first came to public attention when he refused to renew the contract of the proprietors of the Restobar (now the Paris), unless they became kosher and were closed on Shabbat.
Another millionaire who is changing the face of Jaffa Road and environs is Amir Biran, who is buying up stalls at the front and back entrances of the Mahaneh Yehuda market in order to facilitate the construction of his twin tower massive building project that will include residential units, commercial outlets and a hotel. In addition, he has received permission to build a second story over the market, and according to Kuti Fundaminski, a member of one of the city’s oldest families, who writes for Yediot Yerushalayim and is extremely savvy in matters of Jerusalem real estate and property development, Biran is negotiating to buy up more market stalls.
Veteran stall holder Yaron Tzidkiyahu and other members of his family are leading a campaign against the project, saying that it will harm the image of the market and put many people out of business. The building permit was granted without the knowledge of most of the market stall holders.
An Agrippas Street stallholder selling costume jewelry is closing shop, and this week was selling every item for NIS 20 a piece.
Many of the items on display were worth a lot more. When asked whether he had sold out to Biran, he was shocked to learn about the project. He knew nothing about it, he said, and was grateful for the information.
His immediate neighbor closed up his business a week earlier, he said, citing terrorist attacks for lack of shoppers in the market. Indeed, it was lunch time, but there were very few people sitting in the restaurants and coffee shops. Usually, it is almost impossible to find a seat in the Aroma café at any time of the day on any day of the week, but on Sunday of this week, there were plenty of vacant seats. Batsheva and Reuven Kantor, who live very close to the market, had a similar experience the previous week when they decided to go to Aroma for coffee.
They had no trouble fining a seat and a table, something that had not happened to them before.
■ HANUKKA IS the miracle festival, but for Save a Child’s Heart doctors and nurses at Wolfson Medical Center, every day is a miracle day. Last Sunday morning, little Dorice from Tanzania was taken to the operating room to undergo open-heart surgery. Dorice was brought by Save a Child’s Heart to Israel, with her mother, for a life-saving operation.
While sitting by the operating theater in the waiting room, her mother began to feel ill. She had a hard time breathing and strong pains in her stomach. After a while it was determined that it was not only stress and concern that were the cause of her distress, and she was rushed to Wolfson’s emergency unit, where doctors quickly realized that she was in labor. It was common knowledge that she was pregnant, but everyone thought, like she did, that she still had time.
She was then rushed to the delivery room, and after an hour or so she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Meanwhile, the doctors down in the operating room were still struggling to save little Dorice. After several hours, Dorice’s surgery was successfully completed, and she was taken to the hospital’s intensive-care unit.
All three are now doing well. Dorice is recovering nicely from her surgery and her mother can’t stop smiling and thanking everyone for the two miracles she received in one day. She called her new baby Laura, after the hospital’s house mother, who had been at her side throughout.
■ THE RESIDENCE in Herzliya Pituah of the head of the European Union delegation, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, and his wife, Jean Murphy, was the venue last Friday of a bazaar organized by the Diplomatic Spouses Club with the cooperation of members of the International Women’s Club, to which most of the DSC people also belong.
The DSC makes it a point each year to hold a special fund-raising event for a worthy cause, and this year it was the Beit Uri Residence for the Mentally Challenged. Being mentally challenged does not mean that one cannot be creative, and some of the Beit Uri residents are extremely gifted in their arts and crafts creations, which were on sale.
The upshot was that the event brought in close to NIS 60,000.
Beit Uri was chosen as the recipient of this year’s fund-raiser after several diplomatic wives – including Maria Kuglitsch, the wife of the Austrian ambassador, who has since returned to Vienna; Murphy; Ane Vahr; Kaori Matsutomi and Mary Knight, spouses of ambassadors from the EU, Denmark and Japan, and the US deputy ambassador, respectively – had visited there.
Nechama Rivlin, the wife of the president, had been invited but was unable to attend. However, she did send a message in which she said that when visiting Beit Uri, she had been moved by the loving and nurturing environment.
The bazaar featured an impressive variety of crafts, foods and artistic creations, produced at Beit Uri by the residents themselves.
The designs were their own, the workmanship their own, and even many of the raw materials were cultivated at Beit Uri. Many of the people who attended the bazaar commented on the high quality and artistic expression in products like candles, handmade paper, ceramics, baskets, wood carvings and weavings, and Beit Uri residents themselves competed with one another for sales, in friendly play with shoppers.
A special feature was a joyful and heartwarming performance by Beit Uri residents singing and playing instruments. They were led by choir master Elina Durian and Beit Uri director Yossi Shachar. There was hardly a dry eye in the house among those who watched and heard them, and it proved that given the chance, all human beings can either contribute to or inspire the quality of life.
Beit Uri opened in 1969 on a large tract of land in Afula, and today is home to more than 100 youth and adults with a wide range of mental and physical challenges.
Residents, aged 6 to 60, live with hearing and visual problems, behavioral disorders, Down’s syndrome, autism and other compromised abilities, but they positively thrive with the education, caregiving and myriad activities that are accessible to them at the village.
Beit Uri’s On the Hill Café is a unique project managed at the residential home on Afula’s Givat Hamoreh, where relatively high-functioning residents prepare and serve delicious meals at the dairy kosher café daily for both individuals and groups.
Over the last two years, the café has welcomed its nearby neighbors from the business community, and educational constituents.
It has also catered to diplomatic visitors as well as to Rivlin, who has made it her goal to promote the interests of mentally challenged communities. At a meeting at the President’s Residence with supporters and residents of one such community, Rivlin underscored that we all have disabilities of one kind or another.
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