Members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet surround Amir Gissin, centre, Israel’s consul general for Toronto and Western Canada. The troupe recently announced plans to tour Israel next month. Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger will also make the trip.
Missions have been bringing Winnipeg Jewish community leaders to Israel for more than 20 years, but in mid-October a who’s who of high-profile Manitobans will touch down in the Holy Land.
Joining the usual contingent of community leaders and major donors will be Premier Greg Selinger, Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick, Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines Dave Chomiak, as well as the acclaimed Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB).
For the ballet, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the trip will mark its first visit to Israel since 1975. At the time, it was the first Canadian ballet company to perform in the Jewish state.
The upcoming mission, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, will see the premier make his first visit to Israel, while this will be Melnick’s fourth trip.
Over the years, Manitobans have developed “a special relationship with Israel,” Melnick said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg.
As minister in charge of water stewardship, she has been instrumental in bringing together Manitoba’s and Israel’s top experts for symposiums on water-related issues, the first in August 2008, the second in January 2010. Melnick hinted there may be announcements in Israel of further joint projects, but she would not elaborate.
Melnick has been a voice for co-operation between the two jurisdictions and has had a special affinity for Israel since her first visit there in 1997 as a backpacker.
“It was great,” she recalled. “I think it’s a fantastic country and the Jewish people are a fantastic people. I went to Israel and had no idea what to expect and found this incredible country and incredible people – the energy, the vibrancy, the intellectual stimulation was like no place I’d ever been before. I’ve been to many countries, but Israel is the only one I’ve been back to.”
In addition to touring, Manitoba legislators will meet Israeli dignitaries to discuss politics and trade, and Selinger will no doubt meet with “top Israeli politicians,” said Amir Gissin, Israeli consul general for Toronto and Western Canada.
The mission “reflects the levels of relationships between Israel and Canada that go beyond the federal level.” It also illustrates that there is more to Israel than merely the political aspect. “We welcome visits that have a cultural flavour,” Gissin said.
The ballet is scheduled to perform seven times in Israel and once in Amman, Jordan. It will also hold a workshop for young dancers in Jaffa as part of the official opening of the Playground for Peace,
The playground is sponsored by the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable, which is Melnick’s brainchild, along with the Jewish National Fund of Israel, the Tel Aviv Foundation and the Jewish National Fund of Manitoba. The Roundtable, which Melnick established prior to entering politics, celebrates fundamental values that link the province and Israel, including “democracy, free speech, public health care and public education, all the values that make for a healthy and civil society,” she said.
The province’s links to Israel go even farther, Melnick continued. The province celebrated Israel’s 60th anniversary with a number of performances at the Pantages Playhouse that attracted 900 people, only about 30 of whom were Jewish, and “we celebrated Tel Aviv’s 100th last year with a visit from the mayor of Tel Aviv,” she said.
Mel Lazareck, president of the Jewish National Fund’s Prairie region, said the mission should leave a positive impression among participants about “the real Israel.
“Invariably, first-time travellers to Israel are simply amazed at this sophisticated First World environment – from the basic accommodations as tourists, to Israel’s accomplishments in just over 60 years, to the high-tech being applied in such fields as medicine, engineering, agriculture, recycling and water technology to name a few.
“I have yet to talk with any Israeli visitor whose views and impressions have not dramatically changed after their visit,” he said.
Kate Hodgert, publicity manager for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, said the company is eager to recapture some of the atmosphere of the 1975 trip to Israel. That visit came in the midst of the RWB’s international touring heyday. “Our company has been defined as a touring company; however, we hadn’t been overseas in several years… We wanted to go overseas and make it with a splash.”
The ballet approached the the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to include the company in the mission, but the ballet credits former Israeli ambassador Alan Baker for getting the ball rolling two years ago. Baker had been moved by a performance of the ballet and suggested it visit Israel again, Hodgert said.
The company will spend three weeks in Israel and Jordan performing, holding workshops and touring.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hodgert said. “All the dancers are thrilled and are counting down the days.”
Quiksee, also known as MentorWave Technologies, allows users to create location-based interactive media content. Its web-based content, the company says, ‘lets you quickly and easily create stunning virtual tours.’
Google is buying its second Israeli startup: Quiksee, based in Or Yehuda. The deal is estimated at $10 million.
Both Google Israel and Quiksee refused to comment.
Quiksee, also known as MentorWave Technologies, allows users to create location-based interactive media content. Its web-based content, the company says, “lets you quickly and easily create stunning virtual tours.”
Two investment groups have put $3.5 million into Quiksee, Ofer Hi-Tech and Docor International, while a number of private investment “angels” have also backed the firm.
Google acquired Israeli startup LabPixies in April for about $25 million.
Quiksee was founded in 2002 by Gadi Royz, Assaf Harel, Pavel Yosifovich and Rony Amira. While the firm’s sales revenues are unknown, the amount is not considered to be very high – for now. But the firm’s technology is regarded as the missing link in Google’s Street View service (used by both Google Maps and Google Earth ), which allows users to view photos along numerous streets around the world.
This event, co-sponsored by IAC and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), will be a great social and networking opportunity for Carleton and uOttawa students. Come enjoy free Israeli wine and Canadian cheese, see old friends, and meet new ones!
Please direct any questions to Emile Scheffel, IAC Events Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org
For More information: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=111336588924853
After years of tense waiting, Jerusalem’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community will finally receive funding from the city’s municipality for its Open House center, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The court criticized the municipality for rejecting the Open House’s pleas for funds, and ruled that it must hand over a sum of $120,000.
In their verdict, the judges wrote that the Open House had been rejected time and again by the municipality and only after appealing to the administrative court did they receive limited funding in the years 2003-2005.
But the victory was short lived, as later the court rejected an appeal for funds in the years 2005-2007. That was when the organization decided to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Justices Esther Hayut, Hanan Melcer, and Isaac Amit wrote in their verdict that the municipality must expand funding for community centers in such a manner that it will include those of the LGBT community and others like it.
“The history of the relationship between the sides reveals that the appellant’s hand reaching out for support has met time and time again with the miserly hand of the municipality,” the judges wrote.
“We cannot but express hope that the municipality will not behave stingily again and that the sides can shake hands without further involving the court.”
Justice Hayut added that the gay community should be granted the special status it receives in other cities in Israel, which would guarantee that funding be provided for its activities.
Justice Meltzer said the municipality was discriminating against the community under the guise of apparently objective criteria, conduct that “has no place in the 21st century”.
Justice Amit stressed that proper behavior towards the gay community was one of the criteria for a democratic state, and what separates Israel from “most of the Mideast states near and far, in which members of the gay community are persecuted by the government and society”.
Amit mentioned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said that there were no homosexuals in his country despite a current plea for asylum in England by an Iranian homosexual who fears for his life.
“It seems that the lack of recognition for members of the gay community as a group that constitutes part of Jerusalem’s public sphere is what brings them time and again to the courts, as their cries go unheeded.”
Yonatan Gher, director of the Open House, said the Supreme Court’s decision would be remembered as one of the community’s great milestones. “The authorities in Israel will no longer be able to ignore the gay community and treat it disrespectfully and a lack of equality,” he said.