Carmel Mountains, Israel
By: Raphael Rothstein
Bet Oren, Carmel Mountains, Israel
It's not surprising that there's a hill near here called "Eden," because if there was ever a "Gan Eden" on earth, it's here at the Carmel Forests Health Spa.
Located in the afforested hills of the Carmel Mountain Range, the resort is a serene haven of health treatment, rest and exercise, nature trails and lovely terraces overlooking the Mediterranean town of Atlit where in 1945, 1946, and 1947, the British imprisoned refugees from the concentration camps arriving from European D.P. camps.
There are other reminders of pre-statehood struggles: the Haganah trained in the area and nearby, in Zichron Yaakov, the Aharonsons spied for the British against the Turks during World War I.
During a recent stay, your reporter encountered participants in the Israeli Bridge Federation Tourney including Ilan Hartuv, a retired diplomat from Jerusalem who was among the Entebbe hostages, along with his mother, Sara Bloch. It was she who was left behind in a Ugandan hospital and died. With bitterness, Hartuv said all the film versions of the 1976 Entebbe rescue were distorted and inaccurate and he hopes that one day a new film will set the record straight.
In the commodious hot tub we reminisced about the last Israeli Ambassador to Rome, Zvi Scheck. At the time of Pope Pius XII's funeral, elaborate arrangements were being made in the vatican and Scheck was told he would be seated among foreign heads of state - "A most honored place."
Scheck protested to the Cardinal in charge, saying that as Jerusalem's envoy, he should be assigned a place among the diplomats. "But Israel is not officially represented in the Vatican," the Cardinal explained. Scheck pointed to the crucifix with Jesus hanging above and said incredulously, "We're not represented! You want to tell me we're not represented?"
Scheck was, indeed, placed among the diplomats.
Winnipeg, Mannitoba, Canada
At his spacious and elegant home near this prairie city's Assiniboine River, Izzi Asper maintains a shrine to George Gershwin. Asper, who owns a major communications network and is one of Manitoba's leading business figures, as well as a prominent member of Jewish Community, has letters, photos and many other artifacts relating to various aspects of the late composers career. These include Gershwin's first recording agreement, 17 pages of the original score of "Porgy and Bess," a model of the set of Cat Fish Row from an early production of that opera and Ira Gershwin's Rhyming Dictionary.
Asper who is a staunch supporter of Israel causes, recently told Guess at an Israel Bonds evening he and his wife Rose hosted, that Gershwin was the first great musical artist to create a distinctly American art form, fusing jazz, popular and classical music.
The Aspers are extraordinarily hospitable and community minded people and Izzy delights in displaying a spectacular set of glass door room dividers which are modeled on the windows of the Gershwin residence on Manhattan's West 103rd Street. Carved into the glass are directions of the composer at the piano in Carnegie Hall, a scene of the now vanished Lewisohn Stadium at CCNY where, in the 1950's, Oscar Levant played "Rhapsody in Blue" every summer and a fanciful imagining of the Asper family sitting in a box at Carnegie Hall at a Gershwin Concert.
Izzy related that once Cole Porter, a non-Jew, asked Gershwin how he captured his distinctive and profound blues tone in his compositions. "Go to Shul," Gershwin advised Porter. "It's right there in the chanting - plaintiff and melancholy go to Shul."
The Aspers served a visiting New Yorker a portion of the sensational dessert called "Winnipeg Shmoo Cake." The hazelnut cream and chiffon concoction, topped with caramel sauce, is a favorite at Winnipeg simchas. And, according to experts on Canadian Jewish life, the Winnipeg community is famous for its fabulous Bar Mitzvah baking.
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