Grapevine: The Netanya connection

By
December 19, 2013 20:56
 (Netanya mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikarleft), with Lisa and Richard Baker and their children.

Netanya mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Netanya Foundation)

There no branch of Lord and Taylor, North America’s largest luxury goods chain, in Israel, but there is a Lord and Taylor offshoot interest in Netanya.

No, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to see a Lord and Taylor store there.

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However, the children of Richard Baker, the governor and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, which operates Lord and Taylor, have invested in Netanya’s future. Six years ago, Baker’s son Henry chose to use his bar mitzva money to help a group of boys from the Ethiopian community.

Henry established a club at Netanya’s Shapira High School, where the boys were students, and over the years encouraged them to join an enrichment program, through which they received tutorials in various subjects.

He maintained personal contact with them, ensuring they passed their matriculation exams and then, as a treat before they went into the army, he took them on an all-expenses- paid trip to the US.

Not to be outdone, Henry’s sister Serena, who celebrated her bat mitzva just over a year ago, decided to donate all her gift money, amounting to NIS 500,000, to the Netanya Foundation, headed by city Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar. The money was allocated towards the establishment of a graphic arts classroom in which female students, mostly from Ethiopian families, can enjoy a creative learning experience. In addition, the girls receive private tutorials, lectures and help with their homework.

The Baker family came to Israel to inaugurate the classroom, which many years earlier had been used as a turnery and workshop, and which through years of neglect had become very dilapidated. Serena’s gift enabled it to be completely revamped into a modern, attractive and comfortable facility, which blended her vision with the requirements of the Education Ministry.

At the dedication ceremony of the classroom, which is furnished in bright colors and with non-institutional furniture, Richard Baker spoke of how proud he was of his children, who had not only decided to give their money to Israel, but had also developed their own philanthropic projects and followed through on them.

Baker, who is a highly successful businessman, began his career not in retail but in real estate, working with his father Robert C. Baker – who founded National Realty & Development Corp., reputed to be among the largest private owners of shopping centers. Baker purchased Lord and Taylor in 2006, and earlier this year Hudson’s Bay Company purchased Saks Fifth Avenue, so Baker really knows the meaning of having luxury at his fingertips.

Fierberg-Ikar commended Baker and his wife, Lisa, for raising their children in the spirit of giving to others who are less fortunate than themselves.

During their stay in Israel, the Bakers met with President Shimon Peres, Education Minister Shai Piron and other notables.

■ IN SITUATIONS in which he cannot attend particular events because of security reasons, or simply due to previous commitments, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sends a videotaped statement or greeting.

That will be the case this coming Sunday at the 90th-anniversary celebrations of Betar, the youth wing of the Revisionist Movement.

Betar was founded in Riga, Latvia, on December 23, 1923, by a group of young people inspired by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who stood at the head of the movement. Betar was first and foremost an educational organ, which participated in turning the Zionist dream into a reality with the founding of the State of Israel.

At the festive celebration at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv, Tamar Tennenbaum, who currently heads the movement, will present its history to the present day. There will be other Betar personalities past and present, delivering greetings and sharing nostalgic anecdotes, among them former foreign and defense minister Moshe Arens, who was born two years and four days after Betar was founded. Israel Radio’s Dan Kaner will read excerpts from Jabotinsky’s letters.

■ THE CHINESE are known to be extraordinarily disciplined people. An example was this week, when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on President Peres. Unlike delegations accompanying dignitaries from other countries, Wang’s delegation did not have to be asked to sit down during the traditional photo opportunity when Peres and Wang shook hands. No sooner had the two men adopted the pose, did the delegation sit down so as not to be in the way of photographers.

■ DIFFERENT PEOPLE have different ways of expressing appreciation, sometimes recognizing needs on the basis of their own experiences. When Nisim Ankava of Hadera suffered an accident in his jeep, the outcome of which was a severe leg injury, he was admitted to the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center’s orthopedic department. His was a complicated injury which required a lot of rehabilitation work.

When he was about to be discharged, Ankava decided to show appreciation for the treatment he had received. Instead of making a monetary donation that might have earned him a plaque on the wall, he decided to equip the orthopedic department with 30 new wheelchairs, which he felt would be of use to other patients whose mobility had been temporarily or permanently curtailed.

Ankava announced his gift when he was almost out the door, saying he urgently needed speak to the hospital director, Prof. Meir Oren: “I want to donate 30 wheelchairs to the department. It’s my way of saying thank you,” he said. “As a matter of fact, they’re on their way and should arrive within the next two hours.”

Ankava credited the doctors and nurses with saving his leg by giving him the best treatment, from the emergency room through his entire convalescence in the orthopedic department. Oren and his staff were thrilled, noting that this was the quickest and most unexpected donation the medical center had ever received.

Moreover, no one had to ask for it.

■ STAFF AT Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon this week celebrated the 100th birthday of Dr. Michael Lavi, who served as Barzilai’s first director from 1961 to 1979.

Lavi, who was born in Czechoslovakia and fought in the Jewish Brigade and the Red Army, arrived in Israel in 1949 and was immediately recruited into the medical corps of the nascent Israel Air Force, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel In 1961, he was asked to doff his uniform and take over the running of the newly established hospital. Over the years he received numerous awards and in 2010, was named a Distinguished Citizen of Ashkelon.

Just under three years ago, he attended the inauguration of Barzilai’s Founders’ Square, which marked the beginning of the hospital’s jubilee celebrations.

In addition to the hospital staff who attended his centenary celebration, there were people who had worked with Lavi at various stages of his life. Special greetings on the occasion of his triple-digit birthday were voiced by Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni and current hospital director Dr. Hezi Levy.

■ FIVE AMBASSADORS-DESIGNATE who had been looking forward to presenting their credentials this week to President Peres were victims of the aftermath of the snowstorm. The ceremony was postponed because of the ice in the area, said a spokesman for Peres. On the previous day, a ceremony honoring outstanding exporters was also postponed for the same reason.

The writer of this column and several other media people had no difficulty in getting into another event at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, however, and found most of the access roads to be fairly clear of snow and ice – though the same could not be said of the sidewalks.

Curiously, Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, who lives in Dimona, managed to arrive at the President’s Residence, as did several members of the president’s staff who live outside Jerusalem.

For that matter, Peres himself went out on Sunday, when weather conditions were much harsher than on Tuesday and Wednesday.

■ ISRAEL’S SOCIAL gap tends to become more glaring when results of fundraising benefits are announced the same week that the National Insurance Institute’s poverty report is published.

While a third of the nation’s children are living below the poverty line, Friends of Rabin Medical Center – Beilinson Campus, at their annual gala at the Tel Aviv Hilton this week, raised NIS 4.5 million. The funds are earmarked for the purchase of technological equipment for the new Jusidman Center for Emergency Medicine and Trauma, which aims to be the largest facility of its kind in the Middle East. Friends chairman Pini Cohen said that the target for the fund-raiser had been selected in the face of the bottleneck in all hospital trauma centers throughout Israel. The dire need had dictated the cause, he said.

At the gala a special citation and statuette created by Menashe Kadishman were given to Eliezer Peleg, in recognition of his tireless efforts on behalf of the Rabin Medical Center. Another citation of appreciation was given to Nava Barak, who has concluded her tenure as president of the Friends.

■ TO MARK International Human Rights Day, the Interfaith Encounter student group, in cooperation with the student union and the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, held an interfaith panel discussion on the theme of “Human Rights in Religion.” Panelists at the event on the Mount Scopus campus included: Sheikh Dr.

Raed Fathi, lecturer in the Dawa faculty and researcher at the Center for Contemporary Studies; Fr. Dr. Peter Madros, scholar on Christian theology and New Testament science; and Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Jacobovits, dean of the Torah Institute of Contemporary Studies. Also participating in the discussion were Bill Van Esveld, a senior researcher in the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch; and Dr. Yehuda Stolov, executive director of the Interfaith Encounter Association.

■ ROTARY DISTRICT Gov. Shaul D’Angeli and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai will both be in attendance at the Israel Rotary Conference on Inter-Ethnic Understanding, which will be held today at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa. The occasion will also be used to publicly acknowledge and honor Ami Ayalon, former director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and current chairman of the University of Haifa executive, for his efforts towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Others being honored include Dr. Farid Hamdan, an expert in environmental education for promoting tolerance between Arab and Jewish youth; Dr.

Efrat Baron-Harlev, deputy director of Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel, for cooperating with the Palestinian Authority on health issues affecting Palestinian children; journalist, scriptwriter and author Sayed Kashua, for his writings on Jewish-Arab relations; and Neve Shalom, a Jewish- Arab cooperative village which proves that coexistence is possible. Awards will also be given to various Rotary leaders and chapters.

■ WHIILE HE has yet to reveal the source of his income and how he made his fortune, it seems that for a wealthy man, Moti Ben-Moshe has some unexpected debts. Ben-Moshe, who is in line to take control of IDB Holdings unless Nochi Dankner can pull a rabbit out of a hat at the last minute, has apparently not paid off his mortgage or his car. According to Channel 2 and Yediot Aharonot, Ben-Moshe, who deposited NIS 600 million with the court as a sign of his fiscal ability to keep IDB solvent, has yet to pay off the NIS 700,000 mortgage on his home in Modi’in and his model 2007 Hyundai car.

When challenged on this score, Ben-Moshe replied that he had purchased his home with the help of a mortgage on which the interest payments were very favorable, and therefore it wasn’t worth paying it off in one fell swoop. As for the car, he would think about paying it off, he said.

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