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GRAPEVINE: Baha'i gardens open

By Greer Fay Cashman

(May 24) FINALLY, after years of waiting, the fabulous and fabled garden terraces of the Baha'i World Center on Haifa's Mount Carmel were completed and opened to the public on Tuesday. Though billed as a Baha'i event, the opening was one of the most ecumenical occasions, with people of many races, faiths and nationalities coming together for the festive ceremony.

It was a day in which all roads led to Haifa. Aside from the people of the Baha'i faith, who swarmed in from countries around the globe, there were guests from all over Israel.

Among the early arrivals were Aura Herzog, president of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, who, after fostering the concept of adding garden surrounds to poor neighborhoods and factory premises, would certainly not have missed out on the most beautiful gardens in the world. She was accompanied by one of her sons, former cabinet secretary Isaac Herzog.

Also spotted in the huge crowd which gathered in a mammoth white, airconditioned marqee for a pre-ceremony reception were US Ambassador Martin Indyk, ministers Sallah Tarif and Rehavam Ze'evi, Knesset members Eliezer (Mudi) Sandberg, Roman Bronfman and Gideon Ezra, former Knesset members Moshe Shahal and Yona Yahav, former Supreme Court justices Meir Shamgar and Yitzhak Zamir, Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna, Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jeraise, and many other dignitaries.

Hungarian Ambassador Janos Hovari, who played hooky from a Jerusalem-based conference on Hungary and the Holy Land, was one of the many diplomats who traveled to Haifa.

Guest of honor was Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, whom the Universal House of Justice, the nine-member international governing board of the Baha'i, holds in great esteem. Fourteen years earlier, Peres, then a member of another national-unity government, signed an agreement settling the status of Baha'i in Israel, thus enabling them to begin the project, the completion of which drew world attention on Tuesday.

PERES, who came home from Moscow in time to hit the Haifa trail, will also be on hand next week for the official opening in Jerusalem of the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center, an extension of the newly renovated Mishkenot Sha'ananim.

All ambassadors are busy when dignitaries of their home countries visit Israel, but German Ambassador Rudolf Dressler will really have his hands full at this affair with German participants such as Konrad Adenauer (the younger), Wolfgang Clement, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Eberhard Diepgen, the Mayor of Berlin, Marlies Mosiek-Urbahn, the Hessen Minister of Social Affairs, parliamentarian and former president of the German Bundestag Rita Sussmuth, Erwin Teufel, prime minister of Baden-Wuerttenberg, Dr. Bernhard Vogel, prime minister of Thuringia and chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and Dr. Otto Wolf, member of the Executive Committee of the CDU Party in Germany.

Also due to attend the event is former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday. Kollek in fact turns 90 on Sunday, but the celebrations had to be delayed owing to the Shavuot festival.

AMONG his relatives who flew in from abroad to attend the festivities was public relations executive Vered Kollek, who is relocating from the US, from where she has been commuting to her native Jerusalem for several years.

Her husband, Farrell Meisel, was recently appointed chief operating officer of Media Corporation of Singapore, so Kollek's friends who want to visit her will now have to travel in a different direction.

PRESIDENT Moshe Katsav, having inherited the mantle from someone who had to step down before his time due to a financial impropriety, is very careful about anything related to money in general, and to the public purse in particular. Thus when he learned that the use of the Israel Air Force plane which usually takes presidents and prime ministers abroad would cost the tax payer NIS 1.3 million, he decided that he would take a regular El Al commercial flight for his upcoming state visit to the US.

Katsav and his wife, Gila, will leave for Washington on May 29 and will also visit New York and Los Angeles. They are due to return on June 8.

AFTER 17 years covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, Howard Goller, the popular and personable chairman of the Foreign Press Association, is shipping out. Goller, who has spent 12 years on the FPA board and was anticipating a further few years of involvement, is being transferred to London, where he will be deputy head of the Reuters World Desk responsible for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"We will be back," he promised while delivering his report last week at the FPA's annual general meeting. Goller has a dream for the FPA, and he wants to be part of its realization. In his dream the FPA has a place of its own right on a line straddling east and west Jerusalem.

It has a meeting room suitable for news conferences and a pub jam-packed with Internet connections and satellite TV, beers of all kind and good food.

Goller's FPA dream premises attract Israeli and Palestinian politicians, diplomats from all around, businesspeople, researchers and journalists who come together for speeches and panels and seminars that make news week after week.

In this dream the FPA is so active that secretary Renee Singer needs three coworkers, one of them running a Web site that features a list of coming events, transcripts and audio and video presentations of past events and links to all the local and foreign news media based in Israel.

Goller is convinced that someday the dream will come true.

THE meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance opened with an opera performance of Hansel and Gretel which was preceded by the usual request that members of the audience silence their cellphones. That's a very tall order when it comes to the academy, since its chairman of the board of governors happens to be Cellcom president Ya'acov Perry.

Prior to the opera there was a reception at which veteran piano duo Bracha Eden and Alexander Tamir were plied with congratulatory comments, having been named Worthies of Jerusalem the previous evening.

Other well-known faces at the reception belonged to Israel's fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who also happens to be chairman of the academy's board of directors, Shoshana Netanyahu, David Rivlin, Younes and Soraya Nazarian, Shmuel Toledano, Avner Rothenberg and Professor Chaim Alexander.

Just before the opera started the academy presented its own awards to Victor Stone and Seymour Reich. Because Reich was unable to come from the US at this time, the award was accepted on his behalf by his friend Hillel Ashkenazy.

Notwithstanding his absence, news buzzed around about the glittering fund-raiser Reich recently hosted on behalf of the academy. So if his ears were burning because people were talking about him, he should know that they said only good things.

GIVING credit where it's due. Jerusalem Day has now become something everyone takes for granted, but in its celebrations this week few people were aware of who initiated it. The idea which grew into a tradition was that of Jerusalem lawyer Shmuel Lahiss, who in a former life as director-general of the Jewish Agency made a proposal which was roundly accepted.At least one former member of the Jewish Agency executive called him this week to tell him she hadn't forgotten.

IN its Today in History series, Israel Radio this week featured a 1970 interview with Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who had been given the lyrics of Jerusalem of Gold by the interviewer. The microphone caught Ben-Gurion reading the poem to himself in a tone that didn't have nearly the same emotional appeal as the now immortal rendition by Shuli Natan.

Ben-Gurion asked who wrote the words, and the interviewer told him that it was Naomi Shemer. "Naomi Shemer?" repeated B-G. "Who is Naomi Shemer?" "A native of Kinneret," he was told. "Really? That's interesting." he responded.

Asked whether he wanted to hear the melody, he responded in the affirmative, realizing only after the record began that the song was already familiar to him. He sang along in a cracked and tuneless voice.

Meanwhile the whole world has come to know the name and works of Naomi Shemer, who is still producing wonderfully stirring songs.

BEZEQ has decided to sponsor the Australian delegation and immediate family of the athletes to the 16th Maccabiah taking place in July this year. The sponsorship is valued at around $500,000.

One can't help wondering if the initiative came from former Bezeq chairman Izzy Tapoohi, who hails from Australia.

AUSTRALIAN Ambassador Dr. Richard Rigby has already started making his farewells before he returns home next month. One of his last official duties will be his attendance at the 2000 Trade Awards luncheon hosted by the Israel-Australia, New Zealand and Oceania Chamber of Commerce.

Also flying in for the event is Alan Cook, the non-resident ambassador of New Zealand.

©Copyright 2001, Jerusalem Post

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