Bahai News - GRAPEVINE: Building bridges 20 Heshvan 5762 02:10Tuesday November 6, 2001

GRAPEVINE: Building bridges

By Greer Fay Cashman

(November 11) IN introducing Canadian architect Harvey Wolfe, the new chairman of the World Board of Trustees of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, at a dinner held in his honor in Jerusalem, Keren Hayesod chairman Avi Pazner commented on the fact that he and Wolfe bear such a strong physical similarity to each other that people often take them for each other, especially when approaching them from the back.

"We not only look alike, we also resemble Sharansky," he said.

To which Mendel Kaplan, the honorary president of Keren Hayesod, responded: "Now Harvey, you can go on CNN, and then we'll have Avi do his real job at Keren Hayesod."

The articulate Pazner, who spent many years in diplomatic service and as an adviser to prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, is one of Israel's key spokespeople and is frequently interviewed by foreign networks. Among those attending the dinner were Dov and Sara Tadmor, Batya and Ido Dissentshik, Doris and Bob Small, Pnina Herzog, Gad Ya'acobi, Alfred Akirov and Mark Leibler.

WHERE would you see real estate and shipping tycoon Yuli Ofer munching happily on an apple? Believe it or not at a diplomatic reception. Vivacious Kazakhstan Ambassador Byrganym Aitimova celebrated her country's 10th anniversary of independence by bringing in crates of delicious apples from her homeland. Staff at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv arranged them attractively on a very long buffet above which was a huge ice sculpture spelling out Kazakhstan.

Ofer was not alone in eating the apples, but not everyone bit right into them. Raya Jaglom, always the lady, put her apple on a plate and sliced it into thin pieces. Yael Banayan, Minister Counsellor and deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's protocol division and her husband, Shmuel, accepted Aitimova's invitation to take apples home, but Banayan was too embarrassed to take more than one.

Others present in the huge crowd included Mexican Ambassador Andres Valencia Benavide, retired diplomat Esther Herlitz, who earlier in the week celebrated her 80th birthday, Romanian Ambassador Valeria Mariana Stoica, former president of the Hebrew University Hanoch Gutfreund, the ever effervescent Feigie Zimmerman and her husband, Reuven, and many other dignitaries who stood to attention for a recorded version of the Kazakhstan national anthem followed by the Hatikva. The latter recording broke down about three quarters of the way through, but the Israelis present who had been singing the anthem kept on without music. It was really quite moving.

Afterwards some of the guests went on to the Herzliya Pituah home of Zvi Levy, honorary consul-general for Ireland who was hosting a welcome reception for Irish Ambassador Patrick Hennessy.

IT was a smaller crowd than usual this year at the Turkish Republic Day reception hosted by Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu and wife Isil. The preponderance of men was due to the fact that most of the guests who were professional colleagues and acquaintances of the ambassador are employed in areas in which men outnumber women. Invitations had been sent out sans spouse. Not everyone noticed and some invitees did take along their significant others. One of the spouses who accompanied her husband was Sheila Kurtzer, wife of US Ambassador Dan Kurtzer. Asked whether the invitation was addressed to Mr. and Mrs., she simply couldn't remember.

RAIN poured down for much of the day on the date of the Czech national day reception and friends of Czech Ambassador Daniel Kummerman and his wife, Jarmila, were all praying for them that it would stop because there just wasn't enough room in the house for everyone who showed up. As it happens the rain cleared up, so that guests gathered both inside the house and in the garden. Lashes of smoked salmon and huge wooden boxes of chocolates kept making the rounds, and food and drink buffets inside and outside were heavily laden. The hosts are so popular that some people such as South African Ambassador Johann Marx and his wife, Theresa, who happened to be in Eilat, made a special effort to be present and drove back just in time to make the party. Also attending were Mordechai Palzur, a former Foreign Ministry chief of protocol, German cultural attache Hans Schafer and his wife, Gerlinde, Bahai representatives in Jerusalem Kern and Barbara Wisman, British embassy counsellor Nicholas Marden and his wife Melanie, British Council director David Elliott and his wife Jan, Judaica collector Bill Gross and his wife, Lisa, who is an artist, Czech expatriate Hana Greenfield and her husband, Murray, who spend a lot of time building bridges between the Czech Republic and Israel and Elena Bogdanova, the wife of the Russian ambassador, whose quiet elegance has been enhanced by her new svelte image.

CROATIA scored a double first this week with the visit here by Croatian President Stejpan Mesic, who is the first Croatian president to come to Israel. Mesic and his retinue were escorted by Svejtlan Bercovic, Croatia's first ambassador to Israel. Bercovic presented his credentials in December, 1997, the year in which diplomatic relations between Israel and Croatia were established - and he's still here, though by no means the longest-serving head of a foreign mission.

AMBASSADORS from several countries attended the opening of the World Jewish Congress plenary in Jerusalem. Among them were US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, who, as he always does when addressing visiting groups to the capital, welcomed them to Jerusalem and told them how important it was for them to be here at this time. Kurtzer has strong connections with Jerusalem, where he not only has relatives but was once a student at the Hebrew University. Other ambassadors on the scene included Australian Ambassador Ross Burns, Finnish Ambassador Pasi Patokallio, Slovakian Ambassador Maros Sefcovic, French Ambassador Jacques Huntzinger, Austrian Ambassador Wolfgang Paul, Canadian Ambassador Michael Bell, and Colombian Ambassador David de la Rosa Perez.

MANY of the guests, including Industry and Trade Minister Dalia Itzik, had to make a quick getaway from the farewell reception which Shraga Brosh, deputy mayor of Ramat Gan and the new chairman of the Israel Export Institute held in honor of his predecessor Amir Makov, who is returning to the world of private business. The event had originally been planned for the previous week, but had been deferred out of respect to the memory of assassinated minister of tourism Rehavam Ze'evi. The trouble was that the new date coincided with the wedding of Einat Porat, assistant to the director of the IEI's public relations department, and nearly all the guests in the Brosh home, among them Amir Haik, director-general of the I&T Ministry and himself a former chairman of the IEI, were also invited to the wedding. Makov is not entirely disappearing from the scene. Manufacturers Association president Oded Tyrah said Israel's industry was still in need of his services, so no doubt he will soon be called upon again.

ANYONE who reads a newspaper or watches television knows that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is Israel's most frequent flyer. But Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior is also doing well in the travel department, and like Peres is finding himself more popular abroad than at home. During a recent trip to Mexico and Argentina, Melchior was scheduled to pay a brief courtesy call on Argentianian President Fernando de la Rua, who had himself delayed a visit to Madrid due to his country's congress elections, the results of which did not exactly make him happy. Nonetheless, he not only welcomed Melchior, but gave him well over an hour of his time. Terrorism and anti-Semitism were among the subjects they discussed. Melchior told de la Rua that some months ago - when he was in Geneva for a preparatory meeting for the controversial UN conference on racism in Durban, and the Israelis were objecting to the wording of resolutions - the Chinese suggested a compromise whereby there would be a resolution deploring anti-Semitism in Europe. But the Argentinian ambassador in Geneva was indignant over the discrimination. "What about Latin America" he asked, "particularly Argentina?"

Unlike Queen Victoria, de la Rua was amused.


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