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(photo credit: Courtesy Naor Gal)
TU B'SHVAT is just around the corner, with umpteen tree planting ceremonies planned all over the country. One of the ceremonies, moderated by popular television personality Gur Alfi, has added symbolism. On February 1, Chaim B'Derech Metuna and Anashim Be Adom will join forces with Keren Kayemet (JNF) to plant trees in the Horashim forest in the north of the country. The two organizations joining the JNF are dedicated to saving lives by preventing carnage on the roads. The event will also be attended by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, MK Gilad Erdan, as well as senior police and IDF officers.
TROUBLE IN Duduland? It would appear so. After all the publicity surrounding the launch of an amusement park in Dimona, it looks as if the children of the Negev are in for a long wait. Dudu Topaz is being sued by Peretz Boneh Hanegev, one of the largest construction companies in the south, for NIS 7.6 million on the grounds that he misled them. PBH and Topaz started talking about the project almost four years ago after PBH acquired a 110 dunam plot at the entrance to Dimona. Company CEO Eyal Peretz met with Topaz who told him that he dreamed of establishing an amusement park in the Negev to give something to the youngsters of the area. At that time there was talk of a special fund in which profits from the amusement park would be deposited and used for the benefit of Israel's neediest children and youth.
It later transpired that Duduland was not intended as a philanthropic project, but as one that would considerably inflate Topaz's income. Nor did Topaz attempt to make a secret of it. At the gala bash in September 2005 he told reporters that the beneficiaries of his investment would be his three sons. He also said that he had been very successful and didn't need any more money. According to PBH, Topaz demanded 30 percent of the profits, and as far as PBH was aware, this money would not be going into a philanthropic fund, but into Topaz's pocket. Even before the crisis in confidence between PBH and Topaz, there were others who doubted his motives, and suggested that since he himself was talking about how the project could be enhanced if only the government would approve the legalization of casinos, his ultimate aim was to build a facility which could easily incorporate a casino when the time came.
It is generally believed that the government will eventually relent on the casino issue, and when it does, the first casino will be built somewhere in the south of the country. This was the aim of Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, when he was minister of tourism, and he has said on more than one occasion that he hasn't changed his mind. Meanwhile, due to various demands by Topaz, plus the increase in cost of building materials, PBH found that its own outlay was skyrocketing, and decided that it was time to nip the cash flow in the bud and to bow out of the contract with Topaz. In the interim, according to PBH, Topaz has done nothing to advance the project.
SUPER MODEL Shirli Boganim has been selected for the second time to head the Femina advertising campaign and will receive $60,000 as her fee. Boganim, who has appeared in some of the world's most prestigious glossies, headed several international and local advertising campaigns during the past year.
AFTER MORE than two months of shooting scenes in Israel for the new television series Maybe this Time, Aki Avni has finally managed to wrap up and return to Los Angeles to his wife Sandy Bar and their son Liam. It's a strange situation. In Israel, Aki Avni is still an in-demand heart-throb. In Hollywood, notwithstanding his talent and good looks, he just can't cut it. Fortunately, he has other business interests that enable him to live in style. But he would probably be a lot better off - at least career-wise - if he returned home to stay.