Summer is a time for jazz festivals around Israel, and some of the countries with good jazz bands are helping to promote them by getting them to play to Israeli audiences. Coming up on Thursday, June 29 at the Targ Auditorium of the Buchman-Mehta School of Music is Discover Thai Jazz. The invitation sent out by the Thai Embassy contains a musical clip to introduce invitees to the sound and the rhythm before they get to the live performance by The Pomelo Town which is reputed to be one of the best jazz bands in Thailand.
Jewish heritage center
■ AFTER A delay of more than a quarter of a century, the Association of Syrian and Lebanese Jews has finally acquired title to land gifted to them by the municipality of Holon for the construction of a Syrian and Lebanese Jewish Heritage Center. Some 30 years ago, the late Rabbi Avraham Hamra, who was chief rabbi of Syria before migrating to Israel, approached then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin with the idea of constructing a heritage center. Rabin agreed and the Municipality of Holon made land available.
But Israeli bureaucracy being what it is, people in the municipality kept holding up the transfer of title, and nothing could be done on the land until the transfer was completed.
That finally happened a few weeks ago, and excavations are due to begin shortly. The NIS 50 million heritage center will be named for Hamra, who with the help of Mossad, was instrumental in getting the last Jews out of Syria, in addition to smuggling out Torah scrolls, religious artifacts and documents dating back to 13th-century Damascus. His son Rabbi Benjamin Hamra, is now the spiritual leader of the Syrian community in Israel.
The center, which will be conveniently located alongside Holon’s new shopping mall, was designed by the late Ram Karmi. The project is now being supervised by architect and interior designer Rivka Karmi, and its funding by Barak Finances.
In Syria, the synagogue was not just a house of prayer, but a community center in its fullest sense. The intention is for the heritage center to also be a broad-based community center with a synagogue, study hall, classrooms and ritual baths.
AACI's Board of Directors successors for 2023-24
■ THE ASSOCIATION of Americans and Canadians in Israel will hold its Annual General Meeting via Zoom on July 24. This ensures that AACI members all over the country will have the opportunity to participate without the hassle of leaving home and traveling to another city amid countless traffic snarls.
The outgoing members of AACI’s Board of Directors unanimously recommend the following five individuals as their successors for 2023-2024.
Marvin Stenge – President; Yehoshua Looks – Treasurer;
Alan Green – Secretary; and Miriam Barth and Lesley Kaplan Board Members.
In August-September, AACI has a 14-night cruise to Iceland, Scotland and Norway, plus two extra days in Copenhagen, in addition to kosher tours to Prague, Georgia and Tuscany; and in October-November to Egypt and Morocco.
Hopefully, the backlog in the issuing of passports will be resolved by then, but if not, according to the latest update, up until December 31, the Interior Ministry will permit Israeli citizens who also hold valid passports from other countries to travel on their foreign passports if their Israeli passports have expired. They should actually travel with both passports in case they run into trouble exiting or reentering Israel. They should also have their Israeli ID cards with them at all times.
Birthdays all around
■ IT’S BEEN an exciting month and a half for Nina Avidar Weiner, the cofounder in 1977 with the late Edmond and Lily Safra of the ISEF Foundation for Education, which empowers young people from peripheral communities to realize their academic potential. Educational opportunities, in general, were far less available then, than they are today. Weiner, who does not look anywhere near her age, celebrated her 90th birthday at an exciting event held at Reichman University. The festivities were produced by artist Dana Avrish. Weiner, who was one of the torch lighters at this year’s official Independence Day ceremony, shared memories at her birthday party of her life’s journey and ISEF’s story. She also put up valuable personal belongings for auction, with all proceeds earmarked for the ISEF Foundation, which for decades has supported thousands of successful students from the periphery, and continues to do so. Dozens of ISEF graduates who now hold senior positions in academia and industry participated in the event, including three current college presidents: Prof. Yifat Biton, president of Achva College; Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka College and Prof. Nir Kedar, president of Sapir College. A long-time friend and admirer of Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, a former journalist, government minister, author and professor emeritus of Radzyner Law School at Reichman University, Weiner presented him with a personal gift four months in advance of his 92nd birthday.
Polish events are always at Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Why?
■ ALMOST EVERY time that the Polish Embassy or the Polish Institute holds an event in Jerusalem that is not in a hotel, the venue is the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
It may have something to do with the fact that Begin was a student at the University of Warsaw, or simply a matter of pride that a former citizen of Poland became prime minister of Israel. But he wasn’t the only Israeli prime minister with a Polish background. Whatever the reason, the Polish Institute will be back at the Begin Center on Tuesday, June 6, for the opening at 7 p.m. of a unique exhibition under the title of Trails of Hope – The Odyssey of Freedom. The exhibition, jointly hosted by Herzl Makov, president of the Begin Center and Karol Nawrocki, president of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance in conjunction with the Polish Institute, features rare photographs of the Second World War period. The photographs, which have been digitally processed through the use of the most sophisticated technology, tell the story of the mass odyssey of Polish citizens – both civilian and military – in a quest for the restoration of Polish sovereignty and freedom. Menachem Begin was part of that odyssey, albeit not necessarily for the aforementioned reasons. He arrived in the Land of Israel in 1942 as a Polish soldier in the army of General Wladyslaw Anders. Admission to the exhibition is free of charge on the condition of preregistration at the Begin Center.
Will he or won't he?
■ BETS ARE on as to when US President Joe Biden will invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. It will have to be some time before POTUS hits the campaign trail in earnest. Whatever his displeasure may be with Bibi, he has to give concrete evidence of the truth of the oft-repeated American bipartisan assurance that the alliance with Israel is strong and unbreakable. Biden has said several times that even though he disagrees with Bibi politically, he loves him. Humiliating him by making him wait so long for an invitation is no way to show love.
■ REGARDLESS OF whether she’s wearing her Peres Center hat as that of Executive Director of the Peres Circle, or that of the Commercial and Industrial Club of which she is the President, Yona Bartal keeps organizing diplomatic events for members of each. In some cases, there are people who are members of both. In recent months they’ve enjoyed a British Tea Party at the residence of the British ambassador and a wine party at the residence of the Spanish ambassador. Coming up on June 19 is a Norwegian Summer Party and Happening at the residence of the Norwegian ambassador But before that, there are a few national day receptions that are being hosted by ambassadors of other countries, and Bartal is on the guest lists of most of them.
All the focus goes to...
■ NEARLY ALL mainstream media outlets in Israel focus on big-city events unless there is something of national interest in the periphery, such as someone winning an international sporting event, a terrorist attack, or a visit by some global celebrity.
But this week the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation decided to send some of its leading radio journalists to Kiryat Shmona for several hours of broadcasts featuring the authentic voices of the northern city.
Among the journalists who were sent was former Shas MK Yigal Guetta, who was born and raised in Kiryat Shmona where his brother and sister-in-law were killed in a terrorist massacre in 1974. Guetta often speaks about Kiryat Shmona in the nightly current affairs program that he cohosts with Ran Binyamini, but returning there for a three-hour broadcast was quite an emotional experience, especially when he talked to high schoolers, some of whom almost moved him to tears. Hopefully, the powers that be at IPBC will continue to broadcast from a different peripheral community on a weekly or monthly basis, so that people who live in these places can share their hopes, their triumphs and also their problems both as individuals and as communities. That may contribute more to national unity than anything devised by politicians.
■ WHEN PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog, Netanyahu, or Foreign Minister Eli Cohen go abroad on official visits, they usually stay away for 1 to 3 days, depending to some extent on distance, but more importantly on the number of meetings they have to attend.
All such visits are at the expense of the Israeli tax payer, which is fair enough, given that all three spend a lot of time convincing their opposite numbers and other senior state and government officials of the dangers of Iran.
But when Transportation and Road Safety Minister Miri Regev paid a recent visit to Morocco, she and her delegation traveled far and wide and stayed away for the best part of a week – again at the expense of the taxpayer. Surely, at a time when so many Israelis are struggling economically, and can barely make ends meet, elected officials could set an example by cutting down on the size of delegations accompanying them abroad, and could also leave their spouses at home. There are very few excuses for a long visit unless a Jewish community abroad picks up part of the tab because it wants to host the Israeli official at two or three Jewish events on consecutive dates.