■ MINISTER FOR Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs Zeev Elkin usually accompanies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his trips to Russia, where he takes on the role of interpreter. He also goes to Russia without Netanyahu, as he did last week to attend the annual bilateral business forum Israel-Russia 2017 in Moscow, on the sidelines of the 14th convention of the Russia-Israel intergovernmental committee for economic cooperation.
Elkins co-hosted the event with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. The forum was organized by the Israel-Russia Business Council, headed by Temur Ben Yehuda (Khikhinashvili) and was supported by Israel’s Embassy. In his address to the forum, Elkin noted the extraordinary growth of cooperation between the two countries, but noted there is potential for more.
Forum participants examined various avenues of cooperation, including joint projects and the promotion of direct business cooperation between the two countries. In addition, Russian and Israeli companies presented their products and a ceremony was held to mark the signing of several cooperation agreements. Among the companies that signed agreements was Water-Gen, which specializes in producing water from air. In addition, Assuta Hospital signed a cooperation agreement with the Russian Patro clinic aimed at improving the quality of service provided in Israel to Russian citizens.
Among the Israeli participants in the forum were Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren, together with MKs Yoel Razbozov and Robert Ilatov.
The Israel-Russia Business Council was established in order to facilitate enhanced business relations between Israeli and Russian companies and to strengthen commercial bilateral ties.
■ UNESCO SOMEHOW fails to see the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Western Wall, but in all probability will recognize the Jewish connection to three German cities – Speyer, Worms and Mainz – which besides being among the most scenic sites in the Rhine Valley are integral to the history of Jewish culture and religion in Germany. The three interconnected Jewish communities in these cities gave themselves the acronym Shum, comprising the Hebrew letters shin for Speyer, vav for Worms and mem for Mainz. In medieval times, all three cities were renowned for their Torah scholars.
Worms is primarily famous in Jewish history because one of the most illustrious commentators of all time spent part of his life there. Though born in France, where he also died, Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, better known as Rashi, studied in the Rhineland, derived a livelihood from his vineyards there and wrote commentaries on the Babylonian Talmud and on the Psalms. In Jewish terms, the region reached its zenith in the early 13th century.
Perhaps even more famous in his time than Rashi was a native son of Worms, Rabbi Meir, known as the Maharam of Rutenberg. He wrote numerous responsa and excelled at finding easy solutions to complex problems. For example, there is a longstanding dispute among Torah scholars as to whether the Shehechiyanu blessing of thanks should be recited on the second night of Rosh Hashana.
The Maharam proposed that a new fruit be eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashana and that this blessing be recited over the fruit. This proposal became part of the Rosh Hashana tradition and the custom continues in many observant households to this day.
Toward the end of the 13th century Jews in Germany were deprived of their rights and freedoms, but now, nearly a millennium later, there are once more active Jewish communities in the region, and historic sites such as the synagogue and the mikve (ritual bath) in Worms stand as testimony to what once was.
The area is among the applications to UNESCO for recognition as a heritage site. More on the subject will be divulged later this month by Malu Dreyer, president of the German Upper Chamber Bundesrat and minister president of Rheinland-Pfalz.
Dreyer will be coming to Israel for German Unity Day, which will be celebrated later than usual this year due to the Jewish holiday period.
■ THE NUMBER of boutique hotels springing up in Israel is amazing. It’s a given that boutique hotels exist in out-of-the-way places for tourists who like to get off the beaten track, but boutique hotels are also gaining in popularity in the big cities. Every time one turns around in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv there seems to be a new one.
What is heartening is that not all of them derive from overseas investments. Israelis are increasingly investing in the hotel industry. While most investors never actually worked in a hotel, Haifa-born David Fattal, 60, who owns the largest hotel group in Israel and also owns and/or manages numerous hotels in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, started out as a hotel waiter.
He quickly rose through the ranks and became managing director of Afrika Hotels in Israel. In 1988, Fattal became general manager of King Solomon’s Palace Hotel in Eilat. In 1997, he founded his hotel management enterprise, Fattal Hotels, which has since enjoyed constant growth. Most of his hotels in Israel and abroad operate under the Leonardo brand.
Another native-born Israeli, Danny Tamari, is hoping to follow in Fattal’s footsteps and his first property, a boutique hotel named Vera, is set to open in Tel Aviv in November. Tamari launched his hotel career in 1998 as an intern at the front desk of the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, which was a starting point for many Israeli hotel managers.
He then went on to work in the UK in the sales and marketing department of Rocco Forte Hotels and as the regional sales manager at the Morgan’s Hotel Group. Back in Israel, his initial foray into food and beverage was at The Container in Jaffa, after which he founded Una - The Chocolate Collection.
Tamari was the manager of one of the first Israeli boutique hotels in Tel Aviv, The Brown TLV, and was then promoted to regional manager of the Brown Hotel chain. Now he’s doing his own thing with the Vera, located in what was once an office complex in downtown Tel Aviv.
The location seems to be the general trend with boutique hotels, which are springing up in former factories, office buildings and other commercial sites. Tamari was determined to give the 39 room hotel as much Israeli ambience as possible, and rather than bring in interior decorators from abroad, he preferred to use the creative talents of Yaron Tal, who has successfully combined the aura of what used to be with the modernity of tomorrow. Tamari wanted the Vera to be representative of Tel Aviv, and Tal understood Tamari’s vision perfectly and used light colors to reflect the bright and sunny beachside city.
■ WITH SUKKOT being a pilgrim festival, the larger hotels vie with each other to see which can produce the largest and most elaborate sukka. In terms of size, it all depends how much open space any hotel has on its grounds, as in accordance with tradition the roof of the sukka should not be underneath any other existing structure.
That’s why, in Orthodox neighborhoods, families that have sufficient balcony space for a sukka nonetheless build a sukka in the garden, the parking lot or even in the street, because balconies on upper floors hanging over their balconies. In the newer religious neighborhoods, architects are careful to position balconies in such a manner that every apartment has one suitable for a sukka.
Currently in Jerusalem, the David Citadel Hotel is building a rooftop sukka which it claims will be Israel’s largest. David Citadel general manager Rodney Sanders, who several years ago was general manager at the Inbal Hotel, used to claim that it had the largest sukka.
■ UNITED HATZALAH rescue operations have been mentioned from time to time in this column. What may not be generally known is that the paramedical organization also engages in searching for missing people.
On the night before Rosh Hashana, Hatzalah volunteers in Jerusalem received a call to help search for a 92-year-old man with Alzheimer’s who had gone missing.
Volunteer teams searching on foot, ambucycles and SUVs combed the area for hours without success.
Someone had mentioned that the missing man liked to go to the National Library on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. Shortly after 3 a.m. ambucyclist Avremi Friedman decided to head in that direction and minutes later radioed in that he had found a man lying at the edge of the roadway illuminated by the lights of a car and surrounded by a group of young women.
He had initially thought that the man was a victim of a traffic accident, but as he pulled up near him, he saw two vehicles with lights on parked nearby and a group of young women. When they saw that it was an elderly man lying on the road, they didn’t know what to do. Fortunately Friedman had arrived in the nick of time. He examined the man, saw that his vital signs were in order and called Dr. Adam Ballin, who was leading the search. Ballin dispatched another physician, Dr. Doron Shpirer, who double checked the man’s vitals to ensure that he had suffered no harm, after which police returned him to his relieved family.