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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
NOTWITHSTANDING ONGOING press releases that Lev Leviev would be one of the speakers at the World Diamond Council meeting in Jerusalem last week, Leviev did not show up to the two-day event. Word went out that he had been held up in traffic in London and had missed his plane, but there are several daily flights to Israel from London, aside from which Leviev has his own private plane. Even if he had missed the first day of the conference, he should have been in Jerusalem for the second day - but he wasn't.
Meanwhile, Africa Israel, the company he chairs and in which he has the controlling interest, is having trouble getting approval for the residential towers it wants to build in Jerusalem on the site of the old President Hotel because the plan infringes on land set aside for public use. Africa Israel may still reach a compromise with the city, but first it has to try to get the planned building area rezoned from hotel space to residential dwellings. There is currently a glut of building in Talbiya where the project is to be constructed, as well as in the adjacent Rehavia and Mamilla neighborhoods. Despite the relatively high prices for apartments in these complexes, in which the land more often belongs to the Church than to the contractor, many apartments are sold before the blueprints are translated into bricks and mortar.
License problems aside, Leviev has agreed to head a task force of Israel's business community that aims to lift Jerusalem out of the economic doldrums and transform it into a thriving economic force that will attract both local and foreign investment. Leviev acceded to a request from Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski who asked him to take on the chairmanship of Jerusalem's economic task force as a gift to the city on the 40th anniversary of its reunification. The formation of the task force was formally announced Monday night, when the leading lights of Israel's business community flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Jerusalem Day at City of David.
AT ITS gala farewell dinner following two days of deliberations, the World Diamond Council honored Rory More O'Ferrall, director of public and corporate affairs at De Beers. Although he officially retired at the end of March, O'Ferrall said this was his final appearance as a De Beers employee, and he felt it was meaningful that the venue for the final appearance should be Jerusalem. O'Ferrall recalled that he'd first come to Israel in 1973 and had been charmed by the commitment and spirit of the Israeli people and the extraordinary entrepreneurship of the country's diamond industry. O'Ferrall, who was with De Beers for 36 years and chaired the company's conflict diamond committee, was a key figure in the creation of the WDC whose President Eli Izakoff spoke warmly about how active O'Ferrall had been behind the scenes in so many ways, and announced that although O'Ferrall was retiring, he would remain with the WDC as a De Beers representative. Because the WDC values O'Ferrall so highly, it decided this year to have only one honoree so as not to minimize the importance of the award, Izakoff said. O'Ferrall told his colleagues it was in their hands to ensure that the WDC speaks for all in the industry "with one united voice." O'Ferrall joined the De Beers Group in 1971 after six years of service in the British Army where he attained the rank of captain. He started as a diamond buyer, then was in sales and then part of the management committee moving steadily up in the ranks. In 1998, O'Ferrall joined the corporate communications department and was subsequently appointed director of public and corporate affairs. With the reorganization of the De Beers Group in 2004, he became director of external affairs.
THE CONTROVERSIAL residential plan in Jerusalem that was named after international prize-winning architect Moshe Safdie, even though he was responsible only for the architectural design and not for the selection of its eventual location may be revitalized. The plan was shelved following persistent large scale protests by nature lovers and people conscious of the damage such a large housing complex could cause to what is now a green environment. Rumor had it that Mayor Uri Lupolianski had taken the Safdie project off the city agenda because he was considering running for a second term and realized the vote value of complying with the environmentalists. However, Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit, who though he doesn't live in Jerusalem, and is therefore unlikely to be affected one way or the other, wants to put the project back on the agenda because he does not want the enormous resources that the government put into the potentiality of the project to go to waste.
ANOTHER VETERAN Jerusalem enterprise bites the dust. Over the last three or four years old, established Jerusalem enterprises that had been around for decades have been closing down or selling out. The latest casualty is the Ora Pharmacy on the corner of Hillel and King George Streets, which after 71 years in business, has sold out to the NewPharm chain. Until recently, NewPharm operated in shopping malls, but as part of its new business strategy has opened a subsidiary chain NewPharm Medical, which preserves the concept of small downtown and suburban pharmacies that deal more with medications and health products than with cosmetics and fragrances. The Ora Pharmacy was established in 1936 by pharmacist Tony Mar-Haim and her husband Yehezkiel. In 1980, the pharmacy and the ownership of the premises was taken over by Marianna Yardeni , who expanded its products and services. The management was subsequently taken over by a small group of young pharmacists although the premises remained in the Yardeni family, which is in favor of the NewPharm Medical concept, which preserves the Ora ambience while adding business features that a chain is much more equipped to do. NewPharm Medical currently operates five branches and expects the number to grow to 12 by the end of the year. The branches are in different parts of the country and as more links are added to the chain, NewPharm Medical will expand in all directions.
Ordinarily the Minister for Tourism would have been the guest of honor at the festive 75th anniversary celebration of British Airways and the launch of its new Club World business class, which offers comfort, privacy and the wonders of modern technology. However, when plans for the event at the residence of British Ambassador Tom Phillips were initially discussed it was not Yitzhak Aharonovich who was Minister of Tourism but Isaac Herzog, who was duly invited and accepted. Ordinarily when ministers switch horses in midstream, they also pass along all the baggage to their successors, but in this case, Herzog whose late father Chaim Herzog was an officer in the British Army, maintains a close relationship with Britain and kept the invitation for himself. An extremely popular figure in the tourist industry during his brief but intensive term of office, Herzog happily networked with people in the industry and they were all obviously happy to see him. There was a lot of hand-shaking, back-slapping and tete-a-tete discussion. Unfortunately, the weatherman rained on the parade and several guests left early, missing out on the fashion show of flight attendants wearing uniforms from the 1940s to the present day. The moderator was actress Avital Diker who, though she is related to Herzog, had trouble reading his name in English and gave it a Romanian pronunciation. Phillips noted that flights from England to the Kinneret in the early 1930s flew via Iran and Iraq, and said he looked forward to the day when such a route might be revived. Over the past four years, he said, he had spent a lot of time being well looked after by BA, and recalled the quip by American comedian Bob Hope that he had been to almost as many places as his luggage. Phillips was also grateful to BA for having flown his mother into Israel earlier in the day. BA management was represented at the event by Pat Gaffey, regional manager of Europe and Africa, and Yael Katan, BA Israel commercial manager, as well as other executives and senior cabin crew. Numerous airline customers, including top executives who were in attendance, included: David Forer, CEO Newpharm; Zvi Stefak, Meitav investment house CEO; Osem'sGad Propper; Amnon Dotan Readimix Chairman and the former chairman of the Israel Britain Chamber of Commerce, economist Amnon Neubach; Boaz Waxman, CEO of Ophir Tours; Davie Ringelheim, Louis Vuitton Israel manager: Udi Caspi, CEO of TNT Express Israel; and many more. The 10 Models, who presented BA's uniforms across the decades were: Reut Ashkenazi, Elisa Basok, Katia Stizarov, Michelle Laurie, Galit Leifer, Elisia Esterin, Sveta Tzohanenko, Paula from Hungary; Shir Shomron; and Julia from Brazil. The current uniform was presented by Nava Chalchinsky, British Airway Israel's telesales sgent.
DIPLOMATS MAY have boycotted Monday's festivities at the Knesset in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, but when it came to inspecting Israel's Aerospace and Defense Industries, they signed up in large numbers. The nine-hour tour on Wednesday to Rafael Armament Development Authority, Israel Aircraft Industries, RADA Electronic Industries, Tadiran Communications and others, has evoked widespread interest. According to Alain Mendoza, the head of external relations at the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, which is one of the organizers of the tour, close to 50 diplomats and military attaches had signed up by Monday morning. Partners with the IEI in organizing the tour are the Economic Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Trade Administration of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. The tour has been arranged as an introduction to Israel's presence at the 47th International Paris Air Show.
THE BOARD of Directors of MSN Israel has appointed Shraga Mor, 42, the head of the content and product division of Pelephone as the company's CEO. The appointment becomes effective in July 2007 to give Mor time to wind up his tenure at Pelephone. Mor, who has had 12 years experience in the telecommunications industry, has held a series of executive positions, primarily with Eurocom where he spent a long period, before moving over to Pelephone. He spent six years as head of Europhone.
GROSS KLEINHANDLER, Hodak, Halevy, Greenberg and Co. Law Firm, one of the leading Israeli commercial law firms, specializing in capital markets, has merged with the law firm of Berkman Kessler, Blum and Partners. The merger propels the newly formed entity into a new ranking as the third largest law firm in Israel with more than 100 attorneys as partners and employees.