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PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee during his state visit to Israel in 2015..(Photo by: MARK NEYMAN / GPO)
Grapevine: Shalom Shaanti Salaam
A round up of news briefs from around the country.
Although the extremely security conscious Indian Government had asked Israel not to publicize the upcoming state visit by President Reuven Rivlin, and Israel’s shoot from the hip media had strangely enough cooperated with the request, the visit is only the second by a president of Israel to the sub continent. Former president Ezer Weizman visited India in 1996. Rivlin will be accompanied by a high profile delegation of defense industry executives, high tech entrepreneurs, agriculture experts and top level representatives of academia. The visit follows that of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who came to Israel in October last year and was the first Indian president to do so. The two presidents will obviously meet again and Rivlin will also meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan among other dignitaries.

Rivlin met Modi in Singapore in March last year when both attended the state funeral of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kwan Yew. Modi had previously met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York in September, 2014.

Cooperation between Israel and India is at an all time high in areas of innovation, defense, counter-terrorism, space exploration, science and technology and other fields. According to the Indian media, Rivlin’s visit may spark off a visit to Israel by Modi next year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and India. There is also a strong possibility that Netanyahu will visit India next year, which is a source of comfort to Rivlin’s people, who are under the impression that after Netanyahu visits Australia next year, the down under establishment will not be interested in having Rivlin visit in the same year.

But if India is interested in having visits from both in a similar time frame, there is no reason for the Australians not to follow suit, especially after Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Rivlin during her visit this year that he would indeed be welcome. If Modi comes to Israel, he, like his president, will make history by being the first Indian prime minister to set foot on Israeli soil. Netanyahu who last Sunday let the cat out of the bag about Rivlin’s visit to India next week, will be the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia, although it will not be his first visit to the island continent.

In 1996, Australian mining tycoon, Chabad Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, popularly known as Diamond Joe, bank-rolled the “Bibi is Good for the Jews” campaign, and in 2001, Netanyahu visited Australia as Gutnick’s guest to attend the official opening in Melbourne of a replica of the New York home at 770 Eastern Parkway of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In July of this year, Gutnick with declared debts amounting to $275 million, filed for bankruptcy.

■ UP UNTIL this week, veteran Israel Broadcaster Aryeh Golan has been signing off with the words “Israel Broadcasting Authority in Liquidation.” Now following efforts by Prime Minister and Communications Minister Netanyahu to bring the IBA back to its former glory, Golan is signing off with “Israel Broadcasting Authority in Rehabilitation.”

■ IT’S FAIRLY common knowledge that Israel’s entertainment industry has a soft spot for disabled and disadvantaged children and is always ready to entertain them or to appear in benefit concerts on their behalf. The same is true in other parts of the world. Variety, the international organization with a branch in Israel, was started by members of the entertainment industry.

Chaim Topol chairs the Jordan River Village modeled to a large extent on Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp; and Gila Almagor founded the Gila Almagor Wish Fund which enables seriously ill children to realize their dreams. Needless to say when Yehoram Gaon was asked to sing at the 25th anniversary celebrations of Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petah Tikva, which is part of the Clalit group of medical centers, he agreed wholeheartedly, and took friends of the hospital and hospital staff on a musically nostalgic trip down memory lane. Moderator for the evening at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv was Dr. Orly Michaeli, who in addition to being a member of the Schneider medical team, is also a broadcaster at Army Radio.

The Schneider Medical Center, is as far as known, the only hospital of its kind in the Middle East, which provides not only for the children in its care, but also for their families in a myriad of ways. It also endeavors to ensure that its patients will not fall behind in their studies. Among the people in the audience were members of the Schneider family, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Director-General of Clalit Health Services Eli Depes. There were also big screen video presentations of the stories of three children in critical condition who had been treated at Schneider, showing them during the worst periods of their respective illnesses when there appeared to be no hope for their recovery. Yet, despite the odds, the care that they received at Schneider produced the miracles for which their parents had been praying. When all three children came on stage, a wave of emotion swept the auditorium, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the hall. Among the stories of the children was that of brothers Michael and Yitzhak Gross whose hearts had been severely damaged by bee sting venom. The boys were hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and an emergency team was rushed from Schneider to assist in treating them.

The boys were subsequently transferred to Schneider where with loving treatment they were restored to health.

■ AT THE American Friends of Magen David Adom’s fourth annual Los Angeles Red Star Ball at The Beverly Hilton last Tuesday, the fund raiser scored a record sum of nearly $14 million, its largest success yet, including a single $5 million contribution from philanthropist and SKYY Vodka creator Maurice Kanbar. All funds raised, support MDA’s lifesaving services and a new blood services center in Israel. The evening included a thrilling performance by Diana Ross.

Stars who came to express their support included Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Camryn Manheim, who participated in the evening’s program, as well as Suzanne Cryer, Beverly Todd, and Ivan Bitton. Celebrity stylist Thia Megia, American Idol Finalist, performed the National Anthem.

The Red Star Ball, chaired by Dina and Fred Leeds, honored David Suissa, president of Tribe Media and publisher of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal with the Humanitarian of the Year Award; Stanley Black, founder and chairman of Black Equities Group, with the Lifetime Achievement Award; and his grandson, Zach Zalben, senior vice president of Black Equities Group, with the Next Generation Award.

Among the leaders from the worlds of business, politics and philanthropy in attendance were event hosts Adele and Beny Alagem, Yossi Dina, Gila and Adam Milstein, Drs. Gitta and Jack Nagel, Robert Shapiro, Daphna Ziman, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Three-time US Olympic water polo player and 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medalist Merrill Moses introduced Yaron Ashkenazi, a member of the IDF who was almost killed by a terrorist attack, and Yair Schussheim, the MDA paramedic who saved him and helped him work toward recovery. In a surprise for guests, the pair celebrated an emotional reunion on stage.

In a second significant moment, family members of MDA youth volunteer Netanel Litman and his father Rabbi Yaakov Litman, who were both killed during a tragic terrorist attack last year on the way to Netanel’s sister’s wedding, were also recognized.

Netanel’s younger brother, Dvir Litman, 16, who acted bravely in the aftermath of the attack that killed his father and brother, was presented an honorary uniform by MDA director-general Eli Bin and a group of MDA paramedics.

■ GENERAL SPEAKING, IBCA, the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association holds an annual dinner in celebration of Balfour Day. The dinner does not always coincide with the November 2 anniversary.

In fact it is often held at Jewish mean time, meaning up to a week or two later. This year, however, there was no dinner and there will not be one due to the funds and efforts being invested in next year’s Balfour Day centenary for which Lord Jacob Rothschild will specially come to Israel.

It will be remembered that the letter from foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour was delivered to Walter Rothschild, the 2nd Baron Rothschild. Even before that, members of the Rothschild family were deeply involved in developing the Holy Land, and continue to do so individually and through the Rothschild Foundation.

The Rothschilds were the founders of Israel’s wine industry; contributed most generously to the construction of the Knesset and the Supreme Court, made meaningful donations to the Israel Museum, developed the city of Caesarea, helped to a large extent toward the transformation of the Presidential gardens and are significantly involved with the construction of the National Library. That’s just a short list of the family’s enterprises in Israel, and one of the reasons that the IBCA thought that the most appropriate person to invite for the Balfour centenary would be Lord Rothschild.

Even though there is no Balfour dinner this year there will be a Balfour brunch, not in November, but in December, on yet another auspicious date – December 25. The venue is the Daniel Hotel, Herzliya.

There will be two speakers. Raymond Cannon will deliver a talk on the Balfour Declaration and Steve Linde the senior features editor at The Jerusalem Post will discuss a matter closer to hand – the outcome of the American elections and their effect on the world.
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