The first time he came to Israel two years ago, Horacio Cartes, the president of Paraguay, addressed a meeting hosted by the Israel branch of the World Jewish Congress and the Israel Council on Foreign Relations. On Tuesday of this week, he did so again, prompting ICFR president Dan Meridor to remark that it’s very rare for a president of a foreign country to address the organization twice within a twoyear period.
Underscoring that his visit to Israel was his last trip abroad as president of his country, Cartes said that he loves Israel very much and that he wanted to “put history in the right place” before concluding his term in August, which was why decided to move the Embassy of Paraguay to Jerusalem.
Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga echoed his president’s sentiments and said that according to the Constitution of Paraguay, only the president could make such a decision, which was then implemented by the Foreign Ministry.
Kan 11’s Yaakov Ahimeir, who was also present at the gathering at the King David Hotel, immediately seized on this constitutional right of the president and, in a one-on-one conversation with Cartes, asked him whether it is possible that his successor, Mario Abdo Benitez, might decide to return the embassy to its former address in Herzliya Pituah.
Cartes was quite emphatic that this would not happen.
The previous evening, Cartes, in the company of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who could not have had a sweeter swan song than three embassies moving to Jerusalem in just over a week, witnessed the image of his country’s flag on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, which over the past week and a half have been the historic backdrop for the flags of the United States and of Guatemala.
Although his embassy was No. 3 in the capital and therefore no longer a novelty, Cartes was given the warmest of welcomes by every Israeli dignitary with whom he came into contact. President Reuven Rivlin greeted him not only as an opposite number but also on the basis of their common backgrounds. Each is the former president of a champion soccer team.
■ SINCE BARKAT’S announcement that he would not be running for a third term, there has been considerable speculation as to whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give the nod to Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin to run in the Jerusalem mayoral race as the Likud candidate. Netanyahu is in somewhat of a bind, as Moshe Lion, who was long regarded as Barkat’s heir apparent, is a former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Although no decision had yet been taken with regard to Elkin at the time of going to press, Elkin, in the hope that he will have the prime minister’s support, has already begun campaigning, and spent the long Shabbat/Shavuot weekend in Jerusalem, going from one synagogue to another.
Both he and Lion happened to be at the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation on Saturday. Lion came in the morning and read the Torah, and Elkin came in the afternoon to deliver a lecture on the story of Ruth. Elkin also gave a Shavuot lecture at the Great Synagogue. Neither Elkin nor Lion attended services at Hazvi Yisrael on Shavuot, but Rivlin was there for the whole morning and was called to the Torah.
■ ANOTHER MAYORAL hopeful, not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv, had his hopes dashed even before the election, because his party refused to support his candidature. MK Oren Hazan had already moved to Tel Aviv in order to be eligible to run for mayor, but the local Likud powers that be, after seeing the results of a survey that pointed to a sure win for incumbent mayor Ron Huldai, regardless of who runs against him, decided not to waste time and money by fielding a candidate. Earlier, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis was also weighing the possibility of running for mayor of Tel Aviv, but quickly gave up on the dream. It’s still possible that Hazan may run as an independent.
■ JOURNALISTS DO not have to be diplomats and can afford to make diplomatically incorrect statements, as did Israel Radio Reshet Bet’s Aryeh Golan when interviewing Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely regarding the most recent albeit failed attempt to have the Knesset recognize the genocide perpetrated by the Turks against the Armenians just over a century ago, when they killed approximately 1.5 million Armenian citizens.
Every time there is a crisis between Israel and Turkey, recognition of what is mistakenly called the Armenian Genocide (forgetting that the Armenians were the victims, not the aggressors) is raised by certain members of the Knesset. As continued diplomatic relations with Turkey are of great value to Israel, the proposed bill is invariably defeated by a legislative body that is fully aware that, 73 years after the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish world still have to cope with Holocaust denial. How much more so do the Armenians have to cope with denial of the genocide inflicted on their people.
In concluding the interview with Hotovely, Golan referred to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “haHamasnik totzeret Turkia” (the Hamasnik made in Turkey). There are many on both sides of the political divide who might agree.
■ TO ANYONE who may have watched the royal wedding on television or via their computer and presumed that the influence of the new duchess of Sussex had overexerted itself, the British media soon set the situation straight, explaining that the prince of Wales, the father of the groom, had suggested the gospel choir; and the inclusion of American clergyman Rev. Michael Curry was at the suggestion of Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury. Of course, he may not have bargained for the exuberance of Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church, who delivered a sermon in the best, passionate Afro-American tradition, and went way overtime. It was extremely interesting to watch the facial expressions of the guests, which ran the gamut from deeply pained and embarrassed to interested, amused and delightfully entertained.
Nearly all the media reports reflected the new spirit that has cast antiquated royal traditions asunder.
Prince Charles could not marry his true love, Camilla Rosemary Shand, better known as Camilla Parker Bowles, because tradition required that he marry a virgin, which was how he came to marry Princess Diana. He and Diana subsequently divorced, and Camilla also divorced her husband, and eventually Charles and Camilla married.
Although she was given a title, she can never be queen, even if Charles, who turns 70 in November, ever becomes king. Prince William, who is next in line to the throne after his father, lived with his wife, Kate Middleton, before they were married, and Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, who had been previously married, to someone Jewish no less, lived together before they were married.
Had this laxity been available to Edward VIII in 1937, when he abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth might never have become queen. Her father, George VI, who became king after his older brother’s abdication, died in 1952, whereas the once no longer future king, who till the end of his days was known as the duke of Windsor, died in May 1972. Thus, if Edward had not been forced to abdicate and died childless, the next monarch would have been his brother Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who died in 1974. Prince Henry had two sons, one of whom was killed in a plane crash. That would mean that his younger son, Richard, would have taken his place on the throne.
Just another chapter in the saga of “What if…?” In fact, if truth be known, Queen Elizabeth, who never agreed to allow the Duchess of Windsor to be known as Her Royal Highness, owes a great deal to her. Without Simpson, she would not be Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing her greatgreat- grandmother Queen Victoria, who sat on the throne for 63 years.
■ BUT GETTING back to the wedding, British Ambassador David Quarrey hosted a British-style garden party at his residence, where guests could watch the televised scenes from the event that caused so much joy and excitement in London.
Quarrey said that although Harry had not consulted him about taking an American bride, had he done so, Quarrey, whose partner, Oliver Henriquez, is also American, would have advised him to go for it.
Guests had been asked to wear white, and most complied. Several of the women also wore eye-catching hats, but few could rival the amazing headgear worn by the actual wedding guests.
Now that the wedding is over, royal watchers can focus on the upcoming first official visit by a member of the British royal family to Israel. William is due to arrive sometime in the summer, possibly next month, but without his wife. The excuse given when the visit was first announced was that it was two soon after the birth of their third child, but she seems to have coped very well since the birth of Prince Luis, so perhaps there might be a change of plan.
■ WHILE SERVING as Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, who was the youngest-ever ambassador in Australia’s diplomatic history, made no secret of how much he loved Israel. Many ambassadors who are greatly enamored with Israel during their stay here lose some of that ardor on moving on to their next posting. In Sharma’s case, that didn’t happen.
For one thing, he resigned from the foreign service, in order to give his wife, Rachel, who is also a diplomat and an international lawyer, the opportunity to pursue her career, which she had put on hold while he pursued his. For another, he is frequently called upon by Jewish groups to talk about Israel and the Middle East in general; and perhaps most telling is the fact that while serving here, he asked for an extension, which he received, and when asked by a visiting politician from New South Wales what he wanted him to say if he could put a could word in for him in Canberra, he replied that he wanted to stay in Israel indefinitely. Since his return to Australia, he has written Israel-related op-eds for various publications, and has been interviewed on television about Middle East developments.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, though very positively disposed toward Israel, has made it clear that Australia will not be moving its embassy in the foreseeable future, but one gets the feeling that if Sharma were a politician sitting at the top of the totem pole, he wouldn’t hesitate to move the embassy. Readers can judge for themselves. Below is an op-ed that he wrote for the The Sydney Morning Herald, with the focus on embassy moves to Jerusalem.
“It has been a tumultuous past week in Israel. On May 8, US President Trump announced he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions. Within hours, Iran attacked Israel with a barrage of rockets fired from Syria.
The Israeli response was swift and comprehensive, striking a large number of Iranian military targets inside Syria.
“Less than a week later, Israel finally achieved the international recognition it has long sought for its capital, with the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. On the same day, clashes between violent protesters and Israeli security forces on Israel’s border with Gaza resulted in the tragic and needless deaths of large numbers of Palestinians. The contrast in images was jarring.
“The temptation to draw a straight line linking all these events and tracing them back to a single root cause is understandable but misplaced. As ever in the Middle East, the situation is more complicated than it seems.
“The violent protests and clashes on the Israeli-Gaza border were driven primarily by local factors. Though the split-screen viewing suggested otherwise, they were not directly aimed at the US Embassy move.
“Gazan civil society originally conceived of these protests, which have been running now for several weeks, as a peaceful demonstration against their dire humanitarian situation (for which Hamas bears most responsibility). Hamas, seeing the danger in this for its own rule, appropriated and redirected these protests against Israel. The ‘March of Return’ was a reassertion of Palestinian claims to the Land of Israel, intended to culminate on the 70th anniversary of the date of Israel’s creation, an episode Palestinians refer to as the Nakba (or tragedy).
“Hamas compelled civilians to attend these protests and then went about injecting them with violence and provoking conflict with Israeli security forces (by Hamas’s own accounts, over 50 of those killed were Hamas operatives). Why? Because such clashes, with the widespread international media coverage and inevitable condemnation of Israel they generate, strengthen Hamas’s political hand. Cynical in its disregard for human life, it is an asymmetric propaganda tool which Hamas uses to great effect.
“While it was accompanied with turmoil (and should have been better timed to avoid this sensitive period in the Palestinian calendar), the opening of the new US Embassy need not undermine the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, it may do the reverse.”
In another, related op-ed Sharma notes that the Americans have gone to great pains to note that the establishment of the US Embassy in Jerusalem does not preclude east Jerusalem from being the capital of a future Palestinian state.
■ WHILE THE State of Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa is simultaneously celebrating its 80th anniversary. It has grown from a small Haifa hospital to an internationally acclaimed medical center.
The major celebration of its 80th anniversary will be the Rambam Awards Gala, to be held on Tuesday, May 29, at Rambam’s historic Stone Building.
Honorees at the event include Prof. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology of Rambam Medical Center and director of the stem cell center of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa; Prof. Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham Health in Boston, a Harvard-affiliated hospital; and Adam Emmerich, chairman of the American Friends of Rambam Medical Center and partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz.
Some of the most senior citizens of the Galilee may remember Rambam as it was in 1938, when the British Mandate forces, preparing for war in Europe, built a hospital around a former convent building on the shores of Haifa Bay. The 225-bed hospital, designed by noted Bauhaus architect Erich Mendelsohn, was planned to be the finest medical institution in the Middle East.
From the moment it was transferred to Israeli hands in 1948, Rambam met the challenges of war, immigrant absorption, disease, and rapid population growth. The staff was largely composed of new immigrants, many of them refugees from Europe, including survivors of the Nazi death camps, who teamed up with Israeli-born doctors and healthcare providers to build up the new hospital.
From its relatively humble origins, Rambam has grown to become one of Israel’s leading medical complexes, including a 1,000-bed hospital and the major referral hub for all of Israel’s northern hospitals. It is also the major treatment center for wounded soldiers and casualties of war and interim hostilities in the North. That role was underscored during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Rambam was attacked.
The incident prompted the construction at Rambam of the remarkable Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital, with a parking garage that, within 48 hours, can be transformed into a 2,000-bed, fully functioning facility with surgical stations and support systems. It is believed to be the largest and most sophisticated underground medical facility in the world.
■ IN A New York Times interview, US Ambassador David Friedman hailed the devout support of Evangelical Christians for the State of Israel and stated that their backing was more passionate than that of many in the Jewish community. Friedman endorsed the alliances made by Netanyahu with Evangelicals in different parts of the world, saying: “You’re running a country, you need friends, you need alliances, you need to protect your people.”
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer echoed Friedman’s praise and told the Times that Evangelical Christians “had become the backbone” of US support for Israel. But he also stressed the importance of strong and broad bipartisan support, referring to the need to win back the support of liberal American Jews who are feeling increasingly alienated from Israel with the introduction of more stringent conversion policies and the controversy over an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall.
There were many complaints on social and other media as to the particular Evangelicals who had been selected to speak at the inauguration of the US Embassy. Both were considered by many Jews and non-Jews to be radically intolerant in their beliefs and in their public statements.
■ JEWISH MONITORS of British media as well as non-Jewish friends of Israel and television viewers who expect accuracy in news reports were incensed when Channel 4, in the aftermath of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem, referred to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. A news anchor reporting on clashes between Hamas and the IDF on the Gaza border mentioned Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital. When asked for an apology, the channel’s response was that “according to information provided by the United Nations, Tel Aviv is the officially recognized capital of Israel. This started a Twitter flurry with demands for proof, which apparently was not forthcoming, though we might have missed it.
Small wonder that Ben-Gurion dismissed the UN by saying in Hebrew “Um shmum.”
■ THERE HAVE been a lot of shakeups in the Israeli media, most recently at Israel Hayom, the tabloid created 12 years ago by billionaire philanthropist and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
The common belief was that the newspaper, which has surpassed the readership of Yediot Aharonot, was established to counter the negative publicity that Netanyahu so frequently received in the bulk of the Hebrew media. In fact, that belief was so strong and widespread that the paper was often referred to as “Bibiton,” which is a hybrid of Netanyahu’s nickname “Bibi” and the Hebrew word for newspaper, “iton.”
However, following the appointment of current Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth, the paper took a less sympathetic attitude to Netanyahu than it had in the past, and those people who believe that the numerous police investigations into alleged corruption on the part of the prime minister will lead to an indictment and the closure of the paper are mistaken on at least one of those counts. Israel Hayom will not cease publication.
The new publisher is Dr. Miriam Adelson, an Israeli expert in the treatment of drug addiction. The Adelsons are on a frequent commute between the US and Israel, and are likely to visit even more frequently so that Miriam Adelson can have a more hands-on role as publisher.
Longer and more frequent stays in Israel will also enable the Adelsons to keep a closer eye on what is done with the tens of millions of dollars they have donated to Israeli causes, primarily Yad Vashem, Birthright and IDC Herzliya.
Women are not permitted by Jewish law to function as spiritual heads of congregations, but Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, an Orthodox rabbi who is the head of Ohr Torah Stone, found a way around this by giving women titles that acknowledge the level of their Jewish scholarship without actually calling them “rabba,” in contrast to female spiritual leaders in Conservative and Reform congregations.
Earlier this month he conferred the title of spiritual leader and halachic teacher on three women at the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halachic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum of Ohr Torah Stone.
The ceremony was conducted in the presence of some 250 enthusiastic people who share Riskin’s conviction that one can be simultaneously Orthodox and progressive.
The three women, whom he personally tested, are born leaders and experts in halachic decision-making.
They are Rabbanit Navit Tzaddik, mother of nine children, with a BA and a teaching certificate in education and Judaism; Rabbanit Amira Raanan, who teaches in advanced Torah institutions; and Rabbanit Yael Shimoni, who is currently head of the Meshivat Nefesh project of the Beit Hillel rabbinic organization, and has been given the opportunity to realize her lifelong dream to establish a new yeshiva for women so that they will be Jewishly informed wives and mothers.