South African exodus CONTRARY TO reports that South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane has been recalled, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that he has been asked to come home for briefings, which could mean that hopefully he will be back in Israel to host the African Unity Day reception at his residence at the end of the month.

Ngombane is Dean of the Africa Group of the Diplomatic Corps and leads a group of ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions from Angola, Cameroon, Congo DRC, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia. There have been several attempts by BDS movements in South Africa to have Ngombane recalled, and he had in fact completed his tour of duty last year, and announced at the Freedom Day reception that this would be his last Freedom Day in Israel. But it wasn’t. Amid calls on the home front for South Africa to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Israel, Ngombane was asked to stay on.

Despite South Africa’s condemnation of the Gaza death toll resulting from Israeli resistance to attempts by Gazans to break through the fence and enter Israel, South Africa does not want to mar the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, without whom apartheid might still be in force and there would be no Freedom Day.

Chances are high that Ngombane will be back in Israel relatively soon.

■ SOUTH AFRICA launched a series of Mandela centenary events last year on the 27th anniversary of his release from prison and will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth in July.

Former US president Barack Obama will deliver the annual Nelson Mandela lecture for 2018 on July 17 at the Ellis Park arena in Johannesburg. His topic will be “Renewing the Mandela Legacy.” The lecture is one of the flagship programs of the Mandela Foundation. A popular saying of Mandela’s was: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

■ APROPOS OBAMA, Ehud Barak, in his new book My Country My Life published by St Martin’s Press, reveals a discussion that he had with Obama in 2012 with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat. In 2011, Israel was already considering pre-emptive military action against Iran. The Americans were opposed to the idea, but proved their commitment to Israel’s security by having US radar provide Israel with early warnings of incoming Iranian missiles.

Barak knew Obama from the days when the latter was a senator and even then they had disagreed over Iran. They discussed Iran again after Obama moved into the White House, and although Obama was determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, he continued to favor diplomacy over military action, arguing that the latter would be harmful when it came to exerting economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran.

That didn’t mean that Obama would indefinitely postpone American military action, but for him the situation was not nearly as urgent as it was for Israel. Whereas Obama was taking a wait-andsee attitude, Barak, who grew up in a tiny country surrounded by enemies, was much more security conscious. He told Obama that while Israel appreciates the support it has received from the US in manifold areas and is also conscious of American interests in the Middle East, when it comes to critical issues of Israel’s security and the future of the Jewish people, Israel could not afford to delegate responsibility even to her best friend and closest ally.

■ FOR THOSE of us who are fortunately able to walk, sit, run and jump, it is difficult not to take such activities for granted. After all – everybody’s doing it. Well, not exactly everybody. Some people are born with physical disabilities that cause them to be confined to wheelchairs from babyhood onward, and some people are beset with physical disabilities in their youth or their adulthood, sometimes to the extent that they can no longer function independently.

Among the worst cases are those people who can’t even sit up – but modern technology has produced a solution that has brought smiles to staff and patients alike at Herzog Hospital. More than 150 people from four different organizations from across America came to Herzog Hospital to donate 118 custom-designed wheelchairs for children and adults in Herzog’s Children’s Chronic Respiratory Department and Adult Respiratory Department.

Spearheaded by the Forster Family Foundation, these wheelchairs have enabled children who had spent their whole lives lying in bed, to sit up and gain a whole new perspective of the world. They can now be taken outside to breathe fresh air and absorb the beauty of their environment, while still attached to their respirator. Dedicated trained volunteers traveled from the US to assemble each custom- fitted wheelchair. The youngsters who benefited from what for them is an amazing gift now have an expanded horizon in their lives.

Among those present at the moving ceremony in which neither parents nor children could believe what was happening as a result of this new development, were: Herzog Hospital CEO Dr. Yehezkel Caine; Herzog Hospital chairman of the board Shamai Keinan; Forster Foundation and Miracle Mission chairman Bill Forster; Children’s Chronic Respiratory Care Department director Prof Rena Gale; Dr. H. Dean Haun of Harvest of Israel; Israel Board Project chairman Hank Rich; Joseph Les Feldman of Hope Haven; and Rabbi Greg Hershberg, representing GITZEL.

Eveyone present then went on a tour of the Children’s Chronic Respiratory Care Department in the new Medical Pavilion. None of the children who have been the beneficiaries of these new wheelchairs had ever been to the Western Wall, but one had always dreamed of going. That was made possible thanks to the new wheelchair.

A child living in what seemed to be a hopeless situation experienced two miracles within a short time span. Another miracle is on the way. A foundation in the US has committed to fund 50% of the cost of the purchase of a new urgently needed $360,000 oxygen generator to meet the increase in the number of children and adults on respirators at Herzog Hospital. The oxygen generator supplies a continuous source of oxygen to the hospital’s patients without the need to rely on external sources.

The $180,000 gift is conditional on Herzog’s ability to raise another $180,000 by June 15.

■ MIFAL HAPAYIS, the state lottery, in conjunction with the Givatayim branch of the Perach project whereby students from institutes of higher education tutor elementary and high school pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds with a view to start closing social gaps from an early age, this month distributed 50 scholarships to students enrolled in institutes of higher learning.

In order to be eligible for the scholarships, the students have to meet with pupils at least twice a week for two hours at a time. These meetings are preferably held in the homes of the pupils, so that the tutor can gain an impression of the child’s home environment and reassure parents that no harm is coming to their child. When circumstances do not allow for meetings in the home, other venues include libraries and community centers.

The 50 Givatayim scholarships were presented at a special ceremony where they were distributed by Mifal Hapayis CEO Omri Lotan and Givatayim Mayor Ran Konik.

■ DURING HIS his recent trip to Ethiopia, the first by a president of Israel, President Reuven Rivlin was accompanied by an academic delegation headed by Prof. Galia Sabar of the Ruppin Academy and including Prof. Sibylle Heilbrunn, Dr. Irit Back, Prof. Avi Sagi, Prof. Shimon Shamir, Dr. Simcha Gathon, Dana Manor, Prof. Zvi Bentwich and Dr. Jennifer Shakabatur.

The delegation was interested in advancing cooperation between Israel and Ethiopia in various areas of research and development. Toward this end, several memoranda of understanding were signed and people-to-people contacts were made been Israeli and Ethiopian academics.

■ IN DIPLOMATIC circles, the end of the year is in June, not December. Why? Because consideration is given to the fact that diplomats may have young children who need to say farewell to friends, adjust to their new surroundings, and be enrolled for the new school year, which in many countries begins in September.

Thus the members of Diplomatic Spouses Israel, headed by Aradhana Sharma, the wife of Indian ambassador, and Susanne Weiss, the vice president of DSI and the wife of the Austrian ambassador, is holding its last event for the year 2017/2018.

DSI’s annual charity event will be held on May 29, at 10:30 a.m. on the terrace of the Sharon Hotel, Herzliya. This includes a fun brunch at 10:30 a.m. with some highly varied and interesting raffle prizes that run the gamut from cooking lessons to a dance class and lots of other interesting things between. For those who socialize in the diplomatic community, it’s a chance to say goodbye to those who are leaving and hello to new arrivals.

Proceeds from the event will be directed towards Shanti House for youth at risk. Mariuma Ben Yosef, who founded Shanti House, was herself an abused and neglected child who often slept on park benches and more than once was sexually assaulted. When her fortunes improved, she started opening her home on Friday nights to youngsters such as she had been to relieve their loneliness and give them a sense of community.

Eventually, at age 21, she set up Shanti House for youth at risk. She gave them food, a bed, a willing ear and a shoulder to cry on. Because of her, many went on to rehabilitate themselves and live productive lives.

She will be present at the event, and will share not only her own story, but those of youngsters whom she persuaded to choose life by changing their lives.

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