The 35th anniversary of the Sam Orbaum Jerusalem Scrabble Club at Tzipori in the Jerusalem Forest proved to be a wonderful reunion. Some of the founding members of the club who dropped out in the course of time were there, along with those who still meet every Tuesday evening at the capital’s centrally located Beit Ha’am Library adjacent to the Gerard Behar Center.
The club was founded by the late Sam Orbaum, who came to Israel from his native Canada in 1981 and was shocked to learn there was no Scrabble club in a country that had English speakers wherever he turned. He organized the first Scrabble tournament in 1981, and in 1983 formed the club. To his delight, he found that new players were showing up almost every week. Orbaum died of lymphoma in 2002 at the age of 46. The club is now directed by David Litke, who was in fine form as master of ceremonies on the night of the reunion, and paid tribute to Orbaum’s former wife, Wendy Elliman, who is one of the stalwarts of the club, and who arranged for all the attendees to receive framed, gold-lettered citations, with individual tributes. Orbaum, in addition to running the Scrabble club, was a features editor and writer at The Jerusalem Post. Although he wrote about many subjects, he most frequently wrote about the triplets that he and Wendy brought into the world or about Scrabble. He was an extremely humorous writer. On occasion, wanting to illustrate how mindsets are governed by our environment, he spoke about his problem with adenoids, to which members of the club invariably reacted: “How much did you score?” The reunion was not only an opportunity to meet and eat, but also to play three games with various opponents. But these were fun games and not registered in the club’s official scores. Some of the players who scored low because they prefer to play literate Scrabble, rather than put down words which cannot be used in speech, kept consulting Scrabble dictionaries through the Internet on their cell phones, because so many of the words with which they were not familiar looked so improbable.
Many Scrabble aficionados, even if not members of the club, consult the club’s Facebook page where new and unusual words are often recorded.
■ THE IRISH Embassy is this year a co-host with Mishkenot Sha’ananim of the Jerusalem International Writer’s Festival. The reason is because acclaimed Irish author Ruth Gilligan is participating in three of the Festival’s events, which means that Irish Ambassador Allison Kelly will be spending more time in Jerusalem than usual. Regardless of whether or not embassies move to Jerusalem, ambassadors come to the capital for so many different events that it is almost laughable when their countries continue in their refusal to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One of the events in which Gilligan will be appearing, a panel discussion headlined “The Dubliners,” will also include opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Herzog’s father, Israel’s sixth president, Chaim Herzog, was born in Belfast but raised primarily in Dublin, from where his own father served as chief rabbi of Ireland, before moving on to become chief rabbi of Israel. Also on the panel will be Assaf Gavron, the son of British immigrants. The discussion among the trio will focus on religion, community and literature and the deep connection between the Irish, British and Israeli cultures.
■ COMING FROM a somewhat further distance than Ireland is Australian best-selling author Graeme Simsion, whose debut novel, The Rosie Project, about a scientific attempt to find a compatible marriage partner gone awry, has been translated into more than 35 languages and has been made into a movie. A former IT consultant, Simsion, had an epiphany at age 50 and decided to change careers and write fiction. It was a gamble that paid off.
■ FOR THE 19th consecutive year, the management of Bank Hapoalim will host a mega art exhibition and sale with most of the proceeds earmarked for the battle against AIDS.
Hosted by Oded Aran, chairman of the bank’s board of directors and CEO Arik Pinto, the exhibition will be held at the bank’s headquarters at 63 Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv on Friday, May 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Six hundred of Israel’s leading artists have contributed a total of 700 works of art, all of which are for sale.
The powers-that-be at the bank see this as an opportunity to promote Israeli art while simultaneously helping a worthwhile cause.
It’s also a good place to see and be seen. Most of the who’s who in Israel’s business community, as well as several socialites and entertainers, show up in the hope of being noticed by the local paparazzi.
■ THE TEL Aviv International Salon that caters to young professionals in the 20 to 40 age group has been addressed by several local politicians and other people of influence. But on Tuesday, May 8, they will be getting an American politician in the person of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will speak on US-Israel relations, Trump, Pence, Hoosiers and more The event, hosted in partnership with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, begins at 7 p.m. at WeWork, 114 Menachem Begin Street in Tel Aviv. There will be a reception beforehand, and during the event there will be ample Q&A opportunities.
After Vice President Mike Pence withdrew from the Indiana gubernatorial race to become Donald Trump’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election, Holcomb ended his candidacy for lieutenant-governor in order to seek the gubernatorial nomination. The Indiana State Republican Committee selected Holcomb to replace Pence as their gubernatorial nominee and he has been serving as the 51st governor of Indiana since January 2017. Holcomb is a Republican who formerly served in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer.
■ JERUSALEM ARTIST Osnat Kollek has returned from Vienna, aglow with the impressive exhibition currently on view at the Jewish Museum in Vienna honoring her late father, legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek. The exhibition will remain in place until November and contains objects and documents, some of which have not been familiar to the Kollek family.
■ FOR ONLY another two weeks, the International Christian Embassy will be able to pride itself on being the only embassy in Jerusalem. After that, the focus will be on the US Embassy, followed by the embassy of Guatemala, and the beginnings of Czech Embassy, and heaven knows how many others. All of that is well and good except that it will drive real estate prices in Jerusalem sky high. They’re very high as it is. Meanwhile ICEJ executive director Jürgen Bühler is hosting a Jerusalem Day reception next week. It seems like just yesterday the country was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and here we are at the 51st, with very little progress in sight toward a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Celebrated Jerusalem-born author Amos Oz, whose voice is among the most vocal in the peace camp, says he’s in favor of all the foreign embassies moving to Jerusalem, provided that across the road there will also be embassies to the “State of Palestine.”
Actually, it would be wonderful to have an Embassy Row on either side of the light rail track in east Jerusalem with the backs of the embassies to Israel bordering Mea She’arim, and those accredited to the Palestinians with their backs toward the American Colony Hotel. It would be a great basis for multilateral cooperation, and would give new impetus to “Out of Zion shall go forth....”
■ APROPOS JERUSALEM , Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a former director general of the Foreign Ministry and a former Israel Ambassador to the UN will on Sunday, April 29, give a presentation on the renewed diplomatic struggle over the city’s future.
The event will be held at the Israel Museum, after which participants can join in a guided tour of some of the galleries. It would seem that the situation is a little less rosy than it looks at face value.
■ GERMAN-SPEAKERS should circle May 7 in their diaries. That’s when former German Federal president Christian Wulff will deliver a lecture in Jerusalem titled “Diversity and Respect in Social Cohesion – Fostering Openness and Commitment.”
The event, under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Siftung, will be held at the King David Hotel. The lecture will be simultaneously translated into Hebrew, but not English.
■ NOT SO many years ago, ANZAC Day commemorations in Israel were attended by ambassadors and military attachés. Some of the countries that used to be represented by one or both have fallen by the wayside and no longer attend. Others send only a military attaché, or in the case of Turkey, the deputy ambassador plus a military attaché. Other than Australian Ambassador Chris Cannan, who hosted this year’s commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Mount Scopus, the only ambassador who attended was Canadian Ambassador Deborah Lyons. Aside from the official Australian Embassy event, ANZAC Day in Israel was also commemorated by Kinneret College in the Galilee, where the ANZACs valiantly fought and won the battle of Somekh, albeit with a number of casualties. Kinneret College has established an ANZAC memorial in the old Somekh railway station.