Grapevine: Remembering Teddy

A photo exhibit commemorates Jerusalem’s longest-serving mayor, the ‘Post’’s Alexander Zvielli turns 90, and Ben-Eliezer samples mufletas.

By
April 26, 2011 22:11
Alexander Zvielli

Alexander Zvielli 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

ON WEDNESDAY of last week, Kibbutz Ein Gev hosted the annual Ein Gev Festival. On Thursday, Osnat Shalev-Kollek opened a photo exhibition at the Jerusalem Theater in loving tribute to her late father-in-law Teddy Kollek, as an introduction to the former mayor’s centenary year. The exhibition deals with the last decade of Kollek’s life, when he was out of office and had more time in which to enjoy his family. Kollek, Jerusalem’s longest-serving mayor, who died five years ago, would have been 100 on May 27.

The link between the two events is that he was one of the founders of Ein Gev and was also instrumental in the construction of the Jerusalem Theater, which was one of many gifts to the city from the Sherover family.

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Another coincidence is that Israel has just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial. While representing Jewish interests in Europe, Kollek met Adolf Eichmann and arranged with him for a sizable number of Jewish youth to be sent to England.

In a long, varied, colorful and history-making career, Kollek achieved great things for both Israel and Jerusalem. Much of what he did for Israel may be forgotten for lack of monuments; what he did for Jerusalem is another story. Not for nothing was he compared to Herod. The monuments that attest to his vision include inter alia the Israel Museum, the renewed Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the renewed Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Kikar Safra (for which major credit must also go to Uzi Wexler, who was city treasurer under Kollek), the Liberty Bell Garden and numerous other cultural and urban beautification projects – most of which were under the auspices of The Jerusalem Foundation, which he founded.

There are also monuments that bear his name, such as Teddy Stadium, Teddy Hall and the soon-to-be-completed Teddy Park. There’s still a tremendous amount of nostalgia for Kollek among veterans of the capital. In fact, former MK Tamar Eshel, who served as Kollek’s deputy and before that as his political adviser, said she was rather glad that current Mayor Nir Barkat, who had been scheduled to open the exhibition but bowed out earlier in the day, was not present to hear her say that there were many things happening in the city today that made her think Kollek would have done it differently.

It was a privilege to work with him, she said, because in addition to his vision, he was a person who got things done. He was impatient and often yelled at the people around him, “but we always forgave him.”

Veteran photographer David Rubinger emphasized the importance of Shalev-Kollek’s project in enabling people to see another side of the former mayor, and recalled a party that he, Rubinger, had hosted in his home many years ago when Kollek was still serving as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office. The subject of a new mayor had cropped up, and several guests said Kollek would make a good mayor. Rubinger, who had photographed Kollek kissing the hand of Paula Ben-Gurion, was delighted to see, in Shalev-Kollek’s exhibition, scenes of Kollek kissing the hands of his grandchildren. According to Eshel, Kollek didn’t really want to be mayor, and took up the position with a degree of reluctance. At one point prior to 1967, he was seriously thinking of resigning, because being the mayor was boring compared to everything he had done before. But then came the Six Day War, and suddenly mayor of Jerusalem became a job that was both challenging and exciting. “He was the right man in the right place at the right time,” said Eshel.

Rafi Davara, who had been a close senior aide to Kollek and city spokesman, said the photographs gave his heart a twitch because he missed Kollek so much. One of the things Kollek had tried to inculcate in the residents of the city was concern for their human and physical environment. “We have to educate people to care,” was one of the things he frequently said. The Jerusalem Foundation has planned a number of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kollek’s birth.

If the Jerusalem City Council has planned anything, the Kollek family has not yet been notified. The photo exhibition is dedicated to Tamar Kollek, the family anchor. There are several photographs in which she appears, including one solely with her husband at Ein Gev.

■ HE MAY be in line for an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. How many people in the world can say they’ve worked in the same place of employment for more than 65 years and are still going strong at age 90? Alexander Zvielli is one of the very few.

Zvielli was born in Warsaw at a time when every third person in the street was Jewish. His father owned a printing press, where some of the great Jewish writers of the day frequently gathered to look at the proofs of their works or to engage in fierce debate. The young Zvielli had the privilege of meeting luminaries such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, Isaac Bashevis Singer and others almost as famous in his father’s press.

With the Nazi invasion of Poland, all that came to an end. Zvielli lived for six years as a refugee until he secured a job for himself in the printing press of what was then The Palestine Post. He had come to what was then Palestine as a soldier in the Anders Army. He started work on December 1, 1945, initially as a linotype operator and then in a number of other positions before his present role as historian, archivist and columnist. He has known every editor of the Post, from founder Gershon Agron to current editor David Horovitz.

Zvielli has lived through World War II, a bomb attack on the Post, the end of the British Mandate, the War of Independence and all the subsequent wars. He is walking history with an absolutely phenomenal memory for names, dates, places and details. He shows up early for work and doesn’t leave until it’s done. His back is straight, and he walks at the pace of a much younger man.

Past and present colleagues gathered at the Post’s premises in Jerusalem this week to celebrate Zvielli’s 90th birthday. Though usually loquacious, Zvielli confined himself to introducing his sister-in-law, two granddaughters, his son David and his daughter Daphna, after which he remarked that the newspaper had done a great job in difficult times, “and if I was part of it, I’m happy.” His daughter noted that the Post was her father’s second home – and initially his first home, because he worked there before she was born, even before he met her mother.

Louise Loveall, who has worked with Zvielli in the archives for more than 10 years, noted that he had created the paper’s archive system, which is still in use. Over the years, the birthdays of many of staff members have been celebrated on the premises, but as Horovitz commented, this one was exceptional. “We’ve never had an event like this before,” he said, calling it “incomparable and unsurpassable.” Of all the people who gathered in the Post’s conference room to wish Zvielli well, Avi Hoffmann, managing editor of the Post’s sister publication The Jerusalem Report, was the only one who had worked with Zvielli in the newspaper’s original downtown offices on the capital’s Rehov Havatzelet.

■ WHEN THE late billionaire industrialist Shoul Eisenberg and Israel’s first ambassador to China, Zev Suffot, launched the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China Relations in September 1996, they invited Shimon Peres to be honorary president, a position that he kept until he became president of the state. Even then, he remained active in promoting bilateral relations on many levels. This may have been the reason that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jun, at a gala reception at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center last Sunday to officially welcome the council’s new chairwoman, Dr. Miriam Adelson, credited Peres with being the founder of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Although Peres has certainly been involved with China for a long time, it is important to note that overtures to China were made as early as June 1954 – not by Peres, but by David Hacohen, then Israel’s ambassador to Burma, who led a delegation to China after hearing from a Chinese diplomat that the country might be interested in opening channels of communication with Israel. Major publications in the US, the UK and other parts of Europe reported for many years prior to the January 1992 formal establishment of diplomatic relations, that Israel was selling arms to China. It is not certain exactly when Eisenberg became the broker for such deals, but by the mid- to late 1970s, it was an open secret.

Zhao was then at an early stage in his diplomatic career, serving with China’s Embassy in Malta. Moreover, the focus of Zhao’s attention in the first 30 years of his career was Europe and not the Middle East.

In November 1990, the East Coast press reported that Israel’s defense minister Moshe Arens had paid a secret four-day visit to China. Earlier that year, The Los Angeles Times reported that Israel had become China’s largest supplier of advanced arms technology. In June 1991, China and Israel signed a scientific cooperation agreement. Seven months later, the foreign minister who signed the diplomatic relations treaty on behalf of Israel was David Levy.

At the end of 1992, president Chaim Herzog visited China, although he had previously paid a clandestine visit to the mainland on an official tour of the South Pacific in November 1986. According to a report in Time Magazine, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at a formal dinner during his visit to China in October 1993, toasted Eisenberg and declared that he had opened the doors to China for Israel. Indeed, when Eisenberg co-founded the council in 1996, he stated that the time was ripe for the creation of understanding between the people of Israel and the people of China in every possible field – not just business. Ironically it was in Beijing, where he had gone on a business trip, that Eisenberg died six months later.

At last Sunday’s function at IDC, Peres commended the achievements of latter-day China and lauded its ability to rise from poverty to affluence. In congratulating Adelson, he expressed confidence in her ability to imbue the friendship between Israel and China with more meaning. Adelson underscored the common thread of ancient culture and values that applied to both China and Israel, and announced that the council would soon launch a significant educational and cultural program.

In introducing Adelson and her husband, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, the council’s Director-General Tamar Yaron noted that the Adelsons were the largest private investors ever in China’s history. Among their investments is the 1 million-square-foot Sands Macao casino, built in May 2004 for $265 million.

Zhao noted that since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the council had played a proactive, substantive and constructive role in advancing bilateral ties.

The star of the musical program for the evening was Ahinoam Nini, who will perform with her musical ensemble next month in different parts of China, including the Forbidden City Concert Hall. Peres was pleasantly surprised to hear her sing “The Rhythm of China”; the lyrics were by Peres, who had written an ode to China that Kobi Oshrat decided to set to music.

■ ON THE subject of music, numerous klezmer exponents of wind, string, percussion and keyboard instruments joined Avraham Leib Burstein, founder of the Jerusalem Klezmer Association, in a haredi event last Sunday in the plaza adjacent to Montefiore’s Windmill. The group, which was entirely composed of haredi musicians, kept growing larger and larger as more musicians showed up, and the audience represented a wonderful mosaic of the haredi community.

Male headgear ranged from shtreimels to broad-brimmed fedoras, large white knitted kippot, black velvet kippot and the colored, crocheted kippot of the National Religious camp. There were the gold and silver kapotas (overcoats) that are prevalent among veteran Jerusalemites, but many more black kapotas, some in plain silk and others in silk brocades. Because of the heat, some men wore white shirts without kapotas or suit jackets, while others wore vests over their shirts, but no other top garment.

The majority of married women wore long sleeves, high necklines, and hemlines that came well below the knee. Their headgear consisted of scarves, snoods, hats and wigs. The huge number of strollers and toddlers testified to the haredi contribution to the demographic balance.

Despite the hot sun, the mood was merry, and everyone looked happy as they listened to the musicians present an hour-long jam session. Then came the best part: The klezmer artists, taking on the role of Pied Pipers of joy, danced their way to David’s Tomb in the Old City, with the crowd dancing ahead of and behind them. It was like being at a wedding and not noticing the absence of the bride and groom.

■ WHILE TRYING carefully to watch his caloric intake, Labor MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, who lost a massive amount of weight during his six-week bout with pneumonia, could not resist breaking his diet to sample the mufletas at the Gan Yavne home of Moshe and Rivka Alexelsi. Unlike other politicians who moved from one Mimouna event to another, sampling mufletas all the way, Ben-Eliezer stayed at the Alexelsis’ for most of the evening.

Former MK and current chairman of Ruah Tova Rafi Elul, whose large-scale Mimouna celebration has become something of an all-party tradition, delayed the festivities at his home in Mazkeret Batya by 24 hours to ensure that the 800 invited guests – including numerous high-profile businesspeople and Peres, who has been a regular every year for more than quarter of a century – would be free to attend. Elul’s wife Ophra is one of the founders of the Peres Academic Center, and Elul is one of the president’s many advisers.

■ ALTHOUGH THE popularity of Defense Minister Ehud Barak is on a sharp downturn, apparently his name still has a certain appeal. Even though his former wife has been married to businessman Shalom Zinger for the past two years, she continues to call herself Nava Barak, and not her husband’s name or her maiden name, Cohen. Radio listeners will have heard her introduce herself as Nava Barak, president of Elem – an organization that deals with youth at risk – in frequently aired commercials urging the public to donate money to the annual Light of Hope project. In that project, each NIS 10 donation lights up one of 600,000 bulbs that collectively comprise the national flag on the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, with the aim of having the flag completely lit by Independence Day. Elem celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

■ APROPOS OF the flag, in past years the free flags distributed annually in morning newspapers by Bank Hapoalim have angered a lot of people because they were Made in China. This year, Blue and White will be blue and white. Bank Hapoalim chairman Yair Seroussi, along with the bank’s CEO Zion Kenan, have not only ensured that the flags distributed are Made in Israel, but commissioned seven different suppliers from different parts of the country – including Hameshakem, which employs 2,700 workers who are either mentally or physically challenged or both.

Some of the flags were distributed in museums and parks during Pessah, and the remainder will be distributed on the eve of Independence Day. The national flag is a symbol of hope, optimism and fraternity, said Kenan, who was pleased to be able to demonstrate these characteristics in providing work and income for the country’s citizens.

■ THE BEST Pessah gift was delivered by Russian Ambassador Piotr Stegny when he informed Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver that the Russian government had decided in principle to pay pensions to former citizens who left for Israel prior to 1993. There’s still a lot of bureaucratic red tape to overcome, but for those immigrants who forfeited both their citizenship and their pension rights when they left the Soviet Union to come here, this is certainly a ray of hope.

WikiLeaks reported that when Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Moscow in June 2009, he broached the pension issue with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

■ KOREAN AMBASSADOR Young Sam Ma, in an effort to make ever more Israelis aware of Korea, introduced a quiz on Korea last November that is now going to be an annual event with significant prizes. This year’s contest will be conducted throughout May in a cooperative effort by the Asian Culture Forum, Israel’s five major universities and the Korea Culture Center. Last year’s winner was Guy Almog of the University of Haifa, who won a one-week, allexpenses- paid trip to Korea, a NIS 5,000 scholarship and a laptop.

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