It was entirely unintentional, but it seems as if US Ambassador David Friedman will be raining on the parade of Czech Ambassador Ivo Schwarz and Slovakian Ambassador Peter Hulenyi. Friedman will be hosting American Independence Day not on the Fourth of July but on July 3, which is the same date as a gala reception being hosted at the Knesset by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in honor of Milan Stech, president of the Czech Senate and speaker of the Slovak National Council.
This year marks the century of the founding of Czechoslovakia, which, although it separated into two republics in January 1993, continues to maintain a certain ambience of unity.
It was considered fitting for Stech to visit in the year in which Israel is celebrating its 70th anniversary of statehood.
Admittedly, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will both attend the American reception because the president and prime minister of Israel are always both present (and have also both been present at Egyptian national day receptions), will have time to make a showing at the Knesset if invited, because they seldom arrive at the American reception before 7:30-8 p.m., but stringent security precautions may influence many people invited to both events to make a choice.
■ AS AN alumnus of the Hebrew University, it was more than natural that Rivlin should host members of the university’s board of governors on the 100th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstones. At such special events it is customary to present the president with an ornate silver gift, which will actually belong to the state and not to him. But this time, Hebrew University president Asher Cohen gave him something extremely personal – a letter written by his father, Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin, in 1939 to the head of the university’s administration, asking for a raise in salary because his wife wasn’t working and had just given birth to their firstborn son whose name was Reuven.
■ IN ADDITION to his meetings with Rivlin and Netanyahu in Jerusalem on the day of his 50th birthday on Wednesday, Bulgarian President Boyko Borissov also met with a delegation of the World Jewish Congress and received a hand-delivered letter from WJC president Ronald S. Lauder, in which he expressed appreciation for all that Borissov has done and continues to do to address the needs and concerns of the Jewish community of Bulgaria.
In the letter that was handed to Borissov by Dr. Laurence Weinbaum, the national director of the Israel branch of the WJC, Lauder wrote: “Your strong support for Israel sets a shining example for other countries to emulate. My colleagues and I are especially appreciative of your efforts to prevent Sofia from being used by neo-Nazi groups to manifest a message of hate and xenophobia, which is totally contrary to Bulgaria’s long and inspiring tradition of religious tolerance and respect.
“World Jewry will always see Bulgaria as a light that pierced the darkness during the terrible years of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of so many Jews across the length and breadth of Europe. Bulgaria was one of the few countries to act with tremendous moral courage, and for that, the Jewish people, worldwide, are eternally grateful.”
In keeping with that sentiment, and as a reminder of the warm relations between Israel and Bulgaria, the WJC representatives presented Borissov with a menorah as a token of appreciation.
Among those who accompanied Borissov to the meeting with the WJC were Dr. Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria, and the mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Asenova Fandakova.
WJC-Israel executive member Sahar Pinto was part of the WJC delegation.
■ THE BIG question among those who follow Israeli successes in Hollywood as well as the various alleged corruption cases for which Netanyahu is being investigated is who sent Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan to Coventry? Milchan, a celebrated Hollywood film producer who is involved in one of the above-mentioned cases, and who has for years given expensive gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, has also been under investigation, and when interrogated by police has made statements that are not exactly favorable to the Netanyahus, with whom he has had a long and close relationship.
According to reports in Yediot Aharonot, Milchan was excluded from the Salute to Israel guest list of the Israel Consulate in Los Angeles, and was edited out of a documentary on Israeli success stories in Hollywood that had been commissioned by the consulate and initially approved. When local television personality Guy Pines, who produced the documentary, was asked to edit Milchan out, he refused, states one of the reports, and the video was then given to an outside source for editing.
The finished product was screened at a gala event at Universal Studios and contained no mention whatsoever of Milchan, whose legal representatives have written to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to ask him to investigate who gave the order for Milchan to be cut out of the film, considering that he is one of the most successful Israelis in Hollywood, and has done much to support Israel in different ways. That the consulate receives its orders from the Foreign Ministry, and the foreign minister happens to be Netanyahu, cannot be ignored.
■ HAILING ISRAEL’s independence as “a good day for the world,” Berkshire Hathaway chairman, president & CEO Warren Buffett demonstrated his support for the Development Corporation for Israel, commonly known as Israel Bonds, by welcoming the organization back to Omaha for a second event in the global magnate’s hometown and his third with the Israel Bonds enterprise in 18 months. The June 7 event with the internationally renowned investor and philanthropist helped raise $80 million in Israel Bonds investments and intentions to invest, at a gathering at which he met with investors who each had made a new minimum $1m. Israel Bond investment in order to attend.
The exclusive evening with the famed “Oracle of Omaha,” which was held at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, included a dinner reception attended by more than 70 investors from the US and Canada, in addition to Israeli dignitaries and members of the diplomatic corps, including Shai Babad, director-general of the Finance Ministry; Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations; and Dani Dayan, consul-general of Israel in New York.
Buffett, who in 2006 made Israeli tool company ISCAR Metalworks his first major overseas acquisition, spoke warmly of the Jewish state, noting, “I’ve lived through Israel’s entire 70-year history, and I believe it is one of the most remarkable countries in the world. I’m delighted to own Israel bonds,” he declared.
When asked why he remains committed to Israel and the Bonds institution, Buffett stated, “I have nothing but good feelings about what I am doing. The United States and Israel will always be linked. It is a good thing for Israel that there is an America, and it is a good thing for America that there is an Israel.”
Israel Bonds president and CEO Israel Maimon commented on the significant role played by The Israel Bonds organization in the realization of one of Israel’s most remarkable accomplishments - the building of a robust, resilient economy. “Investors the world over, including Warren Buffett, have taken notice,” he said.
■ CANADIAN-BORN international lawyer, writer and executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch – a human rights NGO and watchdog group – Hillel Neuer has been awarded the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, by McGill University, whose chancellor, Michael Meighen, declared it to be “the highest recognition that it is within the power of this university to grant.”
Speaking in front of a thousand faculty members, students and guests, McGill principal and vice chancellor Suzanne Fortier said of Neuer: “He is a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture and injustice.”
She added that Neuer has put his intelligence at the service of society to nurture positive progress. Human rights activists, dissidents and former political prisoners from around the world, together with other public figures, applauded McGill’s award.
In his convocation address UN Watch chairman Alfred H. Moses said: “UN Watch is proud of this honor for our esteemed executive director, and of the recognition by McGill University of the important human rights work of UN Watch.
■ THE ANNUAL Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, the 100th anniversary of Polish independence and the 50th anniversary of March 1968 events in Poland, when there was an acute political crisis, and a large percentage of Poland’s remaining Jews were expelled .
The Krakow Jewish festival was initiated by Janusz Makuch, who over the years has absorbed so much Jewish knowledge and spirituality that anyone who doesn’t know would never know that he isn’t Jewish. He has the aura and appearance of a stereotyped 19th-century Jew and is sometimes called to be the 10th man in a minyan because no one can recite kaddish with the same degree of feeling as is exuded by Makuch. He remains the founder and director of the festival to this day, and can be credited with diluting antisemitic prejudices.
The festival attracts literally thousands of people each year – not only Jews, who come from all over the world, including Israel, but also nonJews from all over Poland.
This year’s festival will run from June 22 to July 1 and, in the typical manner in which Makuch thinks, is dedicated to Zion, “the real one as well as the Zion of dreams, because Zion is solid and eternal.”
As always, the festival includes performers and lecturers from all over the Jewish world, lectures, concerts, Jewish cuisine, incredible opportunities for global Jewish networking, and guided tours.