TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY
Lamb On His Mind
At 50th Anniversary
Story & Photos by Tim Boxer
ETTER brush up on your Chinese. That’s the message conveyed by James Wolfensohn at Tel Aviv University’s 50th anniversary held by its American Council at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
The former head of the World Bank and one-time envoy of the Quartet in Gaza, said he’s pessimistic about the future, and he wasn’t talking about the Israel/Palestinian situation.
Looking 50 years ahead, he saw the economy of China and India growing so fast that "the center of our universe is moving. In fact, we’ll be having our next jubilee dinner in New Delhi or Shanghai because that’s where we’ll be raising our money."
He predicted that in 50 years China will surpass the U.S. to become the largest economy in the world. At the same time "a billion people will be living on less than $200 a year. It will bring great instability on our planet – that and such issues as water, environment and Islam."
The university’s American Council honored Bernard Lewis, Near Eastern Studies professor emeritus at Princeton; Michael Steinhardt, creator of birthright israel and Makor, and Dov Lautman, chairman and chief executive of Delta Galil Industries in Israel who said that "as a shmatta maker, I make you feel comfortable in your intimate underwear."
Lewis, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, remarked, "I will make the usual disclaimer that I don’t deserve this honor and you will recognize my insincerity."
That elicited guffaws from Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff; Harvey Krueger, Lehman Brothers chairman emeritus; Tony Gelbart, founding chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh; Robert Goldberg, chairman of United Jewish Communities (UJC); Israeli Ambassador to the UN Daniel Gilbert; Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Ayalon; Israeli Consul General Arye Mekel; Jacob Frenkel, former chief of the Bank of Israel and now vice chairman of American International Group (AIG), and Nurit Amdur, chief executive of Alex Toys.
Ayalon said when he sees Steinhardt he thinks of a lion. "Steinhardt is king of the jungle."
Of course that reminded him of the apocryphal story of Henry Kissinger’s visit to the Jerusalem zoo. He was astonished to see the lion next to a lamb. "How do you do that?" he asked.
"Easy," the zookeeper replied. "We change the lamb every day."
In keeping with the zoo theme, university president Itamar Rabinovich cautioned, "When you are invited to dinner in the Middle East make sure you are on the guest list, not on the menu."