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(photo credit: ar)
THE MAN who pays the piper calls the tune, a lesson that iconoclast billionaire philanthropist Arkadi Gaydamak knows well. Even though he has been taken to task by various members of Knesset, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Gaydamak continues to do his thing - and to do it his way.
Several legislators have suggested that Gaydamak's "contributions" to society should be rejected because his money is allegedly tainted. Although the French authorities are reportedly keen to get hold of him, Gaydamak, though frequently under investigation, has not been charged with any crime in Israel, much less convicted. So his money is as good as anyone else's. The government and various legislators may not be happy that Gaydamak has succeeded in filling the breach in certain areas in which the government has fallen behind in its duty to the nation, but the fact of the matter is that despite his somewhat eccentric and disdainful behavior Gaydamak does put his money where his mouth is and, on more than one occasion, has saved a public institution from near or total collapse. Among the more recent examples is his purchase of Bikur Holim hospital and his pledge to upgrade salaries. No one knows at this stage whether his motives are altruistic or whether his wide-ranging largesse is a down payment on a future political career. There are a lot of people who are absolutely convinced that the reason Gaydamak is giving so much to so many is because he wants to be elected mayor of Jerusalem or wants a seat in the Knesset or, even more ambitiously, wants to be prime minister. Gaydamak, for all we know, may not want any of these things and may merely be content to pull the strings and call the tune.
Meanwhile, he is gearing up to head an advertising campaign for Pelephone in exchange for a hefty sum of money that will not go into his bank account, but will be paid into that of Schneider Children's hospital. Gaydamak directs a lot of his philanthropy towards health-oriented projects and institutions as well as to individuals in urgent need of life saving surgery.
MINISTER OF Industry Trade and Labor Eli Yishai, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who is one of Yishai's predecessors in the ministerial position, Manufacturers Association of Israel President Shraga Brosh and many industrial leaders will be present at the David Intercontinental Hotel, Tel Aviv, on Wednesday to honor the recipients of this year's Industry Prize awards. The three honorees are Yossi Vardi, one of the most important pioneers of Israel's hi-tech industry and an acknowledged Internet genius; Amnon Dotan, the chairman of Readymix Industries, chairman of the Federation of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce and honorary president of the Israel Britain Chamber of Commerce; and Erez Vigodman, CEO of the Strauss Group, which employs 10,500 people and whose operating turnover for 2006 was $1.2 billion. In 2001, Vigodman was appointed CEO of Elite Industries and President and CEO of the Strauss Group. The strategies he devised became a model for Israeli enterprise. Despite the demands of his career, Vigodman has also found the time to sit on the Advisory Board of the Bank of Israel and to chair the executive board of the Sam Spiegel Film School.
OF THE 100 people who have the greatest influence on Israel's economy according to The Marker, the prestige financial publication has ranked entrepreneur, investor and real estate developer Yitzhak Tshuva in the number one position, up from fourth place last year. The rankings were announced at an event hosted this week by The Marker at the old Tel Aviv train station. Although people such as Nochi Dankner, Idan Ofer and Lev Leviev may have captured more newspaper headlines than Tshuva, the people at The Marker believe that it is Tshuva who wields the greatest influence. This was the seventh consecutive year in which The Marker has ranked Israel's business heavyweights. The event was held in the presence of Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and leading figures in Israel's business community. By the way, Prime Minister Olmert, who was in second place last year, was down to seventh place.
THE 50th anniversary of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, which is something in the nature of a public think tank attracting not only the best minds in the country but also some from abroad, was an ideal vehicle for the changing of the guard. Dr. Shimshon Zelnicker, who has headed Van Leer for the past decade, is stepping down and will be replaced by Prof. Gabriel Motzkin whose fields of expertise are history, philosophy and German literature. Motzkin has held several administrative posts at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
GANEI YEHOSHUA is the venue for the milestone festivities of Elbit Systems whose management and employees headed by Chairman of the Board Michael Federmann and President and CEO Joseph Ackerman, will on Thursday celebrate 40 years of the human ingenuity to which the company can attribute its success. In addition to meeting and greeting the company's employees, Federmann and Ackerman will also host government ministers, members of Knesset, high-ranking Defense Ministry officials, senior representatives of the IDF and the IAF, as well as other distinguished guests, all of whom will be entertained by Mashina. The event will be hosted by Zvika Hadar and also will feature a spectacular hologram display incorporating the most advanced technologies. Elbit Systems, recently selected by the prestigious DefenceNews Magazine as one of 50 international defense companies with the strongest growth rate, embodies the development of Israel's hi-tech industry. The Elbit Systems Group operates in areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, unmanned air vehicle systems, advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, airborne warning systems, data, links, military communications systems and more.
PRIME MINISTER Olmert last week, appointed Dr. Shaul Horev as the Director-General of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, in accordance with the Government's decision. Dr. Horev replaces Gideon Frank, who has asked to conclude his duties after 15 years in office. Prime Minister Olmert paid tribute to Frank's contribution. The Prime Minister also wished Horev success in his new post and expressed full confidence in his ability to meet its professional challenges.
THE LOCATION opposite the walls of the old city of Jerusalem was a tourist's delight, but returning guests to the Jerusalem Pearl hotel will have to find alternate accommodation for the next year or two while the hotel, which recently was purchased from the Tamares Group by French entrepreneur, investor, hotelier and real estate developer Claude Dray, is entirely revamped. Dray wants to turn it into a super-luxury boutique hotel, which means gutting most of the existing inner structure and starting again from scratch. Once it is redesigned and rebuilt, it will also be renamed. Dray also intends to ensure that only upscale international brands such as Hermes and Luis Vuitton operate shops within the hotel.
THE INTERNATIONAL Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, has announced the appointment of Michael Stoltz, a veteran media and public relations specialist, as the organization's new communications director in Chicago. Stoltz's primary responsibilities will be coordinating media relations in the US, strengthening ties and cooperation between The Fellowship and the American Jewish community and serving as liaison between IFCJ's Chicago and Jerusalem offices. Born and raised in the Midwest, Stoltz has lived in Israel since 1993, having served as Deputy Director of Communications and Foreign Media Adviser to former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In addition, he worked as Director of Development & External Affairs for the College of Judea & Samaria in Ariel. Prior to moving to Israel, Stoltz served as Deputy Press Consul at the Consulate General of Israel in New York. Established in 1983, the IFCJ has a dual mission to promote understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and to build broad global support for Israel and the Jewish people. In recent years, The Fellowship has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to help Jews from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Argentina, India and other troubled countries to make aliya to Israel. It is also engaged in fighting poverty and assisting victims of war and terrorism in Israel. In addition, it provides aid for orphans and poor elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union.
HOOTERS, THE American restaurant chain is due to open its first Israeli outlet in Ramat Poleg in October. Hooters has a reputation for fun, promoted in part by scantily clad waitress in white athletic outfits. Launched in Florida in 1983, Hooters spread rapidly into an international franchise enterprise that currently boasts 440 outlets in 23 countries. Hooters was brought to Israel by Ilana and Ofer Ahiraz who are hooked on Hooters and visit various branches in the chain whenever they happen to be in the US. The Israeli team that will work at the Ramat Poleg branch, spent time in the US getting special training.
SHERATON TEL Aviv Hotel and Towers General Manager Jean-Louis Ripoche has announced the appointment of Anat Shilon, 35, to the position of Director of Sales & Marketing. For the past eight years, Shilon served as Director Corporate Sales at the David Intercontinental in Tel Aviv. Before that she spent three years as Assistant Sales Manager/Sales Executive at the Tel Aviv Hilton where she launched her hotel career. Shilon studied Hotel Management at Nova Southeastern University, Florida (Tel Aviv branch) and completed various sales and marketing courses within the Hilton and Intercontinental chains. She is fluent in Hebrew and English and is married with two children.
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