The Jerusalem Post
A series of firsts
Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern was the first minister in the new government to represent it at a national day reception hosted by the ambassador of a foreign country stationed in Israel.
Jorge Cabral, the ambassador of Portugal, looking out at the large crowd of diplomats gathered around the pool in his impressive residence in Kfar Shmaryahu, commented that this was the first function at the residence without the COVID constraints. He was extremely pleased to welcome the many guests who included a large representation of the diplomatic corps, as well as legislators, business executives and people who had some kind of connection to Portugal.
Speaking of the Portuguese diaspora, which he said comprised some five million people of Portuguese heritage who live in many countries including Israel – which Cabral said has the highest number of Portuguese nationals in the Middle East – he attributed the rising numbers of Israeli families with links to Portugal to their acquisition of Portuguese citizenship.
The Diaspora in Portuguese lands, of those who would become known as Sephardic Jews, left a rich and invaluable cultural heritage, which remains very present to this day, he said.
Memorable and illustrious figures, on both ends, stand out for their noble reasons within diverse circumstantial contexts, he continued, singling out, Grácia Nasi known as Dona Grácia; and Aristides de Sousa Mendes,Consul of Portugal in Bordeaux during World War II, “who during one of the darkest moments in the history of the 20 th century, knew how to embody the highest moral values of compassion, human rights and solidarity, saving, with determination and conviction, thousands of lives.”
This memory of this compassion is cherished and kept alive in Portugal, by the Portuguese government through many initiatives, said Cabral, citing as an example the “Never Forget” project for keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and spreading the message of the fight against antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, while advancing values of respect, freedom of religion and tolerance. A clear indication of this policy, he added, is the fact that Portugal has joined the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as a full member.
Cabral also referred to significant developments in Jewish life in Portugal including the fact that Portugal was chosen by major international Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and Bnai Brith International, as the venue for their annual meetings.
A more recent development was the inauguration of the Holocaust Museum in Oporto, which said Cabral, is already among the most visited museums in Portugal, with more than 10,000 visitors during the first month of its opening.
Stern, a first-time minister, was excited to be representing the government so soon after its confirmation by the Knesset.
Even before approaching the microphone to deliver his remarks, Stern was besieged by a bevy of ambassadors who pressed their business cards into his hand. A former paratrooper with the rank of maj.-gen., he seemed to find his venture into the diplomatic arena more daunting than that of the northern and southern battlefields.
He noted that this was his first reception and first celebration since assuming his new status. He also referred to Portugal’s “brilliant” play in the current UEFA European Championships.
Speaking of the diverse levels of cooperation between Portugal and Israel, Stern mentioned a cooperation agreement signed with Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, to provide aid to Africa, and already implemented in Guinea.
He also commended Portugal for allowing Israel Air Force planes to land on its territory during training exercises.
Moving on to the IHRA, Stern said that Portugal’s participation was an important milestone in fighting ever expanding antisemitism.
He also lauded Portugal for the position it took when Israel was under attack from Hamas from Gaza, and underscored Portugal’s successful presidency of the European Union under the most difficult of conditions.
■ IN AN interview that he gave to The Jerusalem Post, a little under two years ago, Georgian ambassador Lasha Zhvania said that after Tbilisi, he loves Jerusalem more than any other place in the world. ,
“I feel every stone, corner and person,” he declared.
Asked if under the circumstances Georgia would move its embassy to Jerusalem, he smiled, and said “in time.”
Asked how much time, he declined to be specific and simply repeated: “in time.”
The embassy is not yet moving to Israel’s capital, but the ambassador is definitely moving his residence to Jerusalem.
Currently serving his third stint in Israel, and his second as ambassador, Zhvania jokes that when he first came in 1998, it took him 40-50 minutes to drive from Herzliya Pituah to Jerusalem. Now, because of all the traffic on the road, it takes more than an hour and a half. As he is frequently in Jerusalem, he thought it wise to move his residence there. The Chinese say that the longest journey starts with the first step.
Zhvania’s move to Jerusalem next week can be regarded as that first step. The connotation is not quite what it would be for ambassadors of other countries. Georgians have lived in Jerusalem for more than a thousand years and built many churches and monasteries in the city, the best-known of which is in the Valley of the Cross.
Zhvania is moving into the Holyland residential complex that overlooks the Malha neighborhood, which he says was once a Georgian village. Aside from diplomatic purposes and saving on traveling time, Zhvania has more personally compelling reasons for wanting to live in Jerusalem. His mother is Jewish, and he is motivated by both his Jewish and his Georgian DNA.
Diplomatic relations between Israel and Georgia were established on June 1, 1992. Next June, the two countries will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic ties. Who knows? By then, not only the ambassador, but the embassy may also be installed in Jerusalem.
■ OTHER AMBASSADORS who are coming to Jerusalem next week, but only for the day, in order to present their credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, are Lisa Stadelbauer of Canada, Jorge Carvajal of Chile, and N.A. Kolo of Nigeria.
This will be the last time that Rivlin will receive the credentials of new ambassadors, and the first time in more than a year in which he will receive them unmasked.
■ RECENTLY, IN In Jerusalem, the local supplement of the Post, there was an item about retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak speaking at a book launch at the Palmach Community Center in Jerusalem in tribute to former Supreme Court judge and attorney-general Elyakim Rubinstein. The date given was incorrect, and reader Chaim Waxman discovered the correct date which is Tuesday, June 22 at 8 p.m. and passed on the information. It is greatly appreciated when readers come to the rescue.
■ ANOTHER VETERAN KAN Reshet Bet program and its presenter bite the dust. Former star sportscaster Gideon Hod, who is also a music expert and has been involved in musical programs on Israel Radio since the 1950s, presents a weekly musical program Pearls for the Sabbath, which includes various genres of music, but dwells heavily on classics. Last Friday he announced that the program will be terminated at the end of the month. The reason he was given, he said, was that there is no budget to keep it going. Hod, 87, and still going strong, is arguably the oldest regular Hebrew-language professional broadcaster. He has been presenting this program for more than 30 years. The writing was on the wall in the first month of 2020, when KAN 11 television axed Seeing the World, which was hosted by Yaakov Ahimeir, a leading political and current affairs journalist and an Israel Prize laureate in addition to other awards he received over the years. Happily, he still contributes to print media.
It is obvious that KAN 11 is gradually getting rid of senior broadcasters and replacing them with fresh young faces, while overlooking the fact that some of these younger journalists do not have radiophonic voices, and although they may be excellent reporters, their voices detract from their professionalism. Probably the best voice still on radio is that of Dan Kaner, who though retired, still presents a weekly musical program of golden oldies, in which he speaks of the backgrounds of singers, lyricists and composers, and also translates the lyrics, with thespian aplomb.
Not only is Kaner’s voice radiophonic, but he is a stickler for perfect enunciation, and puts the correct emphasis on Hebrew guttural sounds, despite the fact that he is Ashkenazi.
Another senior whose broadcasting future is in danger is Avi Etgar, who also presents a weekly musical program. Etgar, in addition to his eclectic musical preferences, is also an experimental cook who shares exotic recipes with his listeners.
It is hard to imagine the early morning program on Reshet Bet without the authoritarian voice of Arye Golan, but for some time now, he has not been broadcasting every morning, and has been replaced by the very pleasant and extremely knowledgeable Ran Binyamini.
Golan, 73, has been a broadcaster for more than 50 years, and started his career on Army Radio, as did so many promising broadcasters. Army Radio is also in danger of being erased from the airwaves. Neither Defense Minister Benny Gantz nor IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi see any reason to maintain Army Radio. They are not the first in their respective positions to try to close it, but unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end.