• NATIVE JERUSALEMITE Dan Meridor, who serves as minister for intelligence and atomic energy, was the guest speaker on Saturday night at the Great Synagogue. At the conclusion of his address, he was presented with an honorary membership of the congregation. Meridor had celebrated his bar mitzva at the nearby Hanassi Synagogue when it was still a hut and not the building that it is today. When he was a boy, he said, hardly anyone in the Hanassi congregation spoke English. Nowadays the sermons delivered by Rabbi Berel Wein are all in English. As for his audience on Saturday night, Meridor expressed the hope that the day would come when either he or someone else would address the same people in Hebrew – and they would all understand what was said.
  • FOR SEVERAL years now, Yossi Alfi has been conducting the annual storytellers’ festival at the Givatayim Theater. This week, he came to Jerusalem to share childhood stories of immigrant children with poet Agi Mishol. Each was three years old on arrival in the nascent state. Alfi came from Iraq and grew up in Petah Tikva. Mishol, who was born in Transylvania, grew up in Gedera. Even though both are thoroughly Israeli, they are still products of the immigrant experience. Among the memories they shared at Beit Avi Chai this week was how this experience impacted on who they are today.
  • IN BYGONE times when royalty reigned all over Europe, it was customary for artisans to be court jewelers, court carpetmakers, court carpenters, etc. If the late Leo Wisman had been born 150 years earlier, the master craftsman trained in Germany would have probably been a court carpenter. Certainly the caches that he built to hide the Hagana’s secret arsenal from the British were so perfectly made that they were completely undetectable.
After the War of Independence, Wisman continued to service Hagana personnel, who by then had become legitimate and were government ministers, members of Knesset and prominent figures in public life. Wisman’s sons Nahum and Arieh continued the furniture business that their father built up in Jerusalem and also purchased the Shomrat Hazorea furniture manufacturing plant.

It was in his capacity as CEO of Shomrat Hazorea that Arieh Wisman was invited to be a panelist on Channel 10’s The Professionals. In talking about the background of the family firm, he noted that his father had furnished the offices of government ministries, the famous hut of president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the residence of prime minister David Ben-Gurion, the residence of foreign minister Moshe Sharett, and the first cabinet table for David Ben-Gurion.

When Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister the second time around, he wanted a new table and called on the Wismans to supply it. They were summoned again when the table had to be expanded to accommodate Ariel Sharon’s government. At that time they still had some of the original wood and used it accordingly. But when the table had to be expanded a second time for the Netanyahu government, they had no choice but to use a different grain of wood, which for professionals of their background was a very painful and soul-searching decision. However, they learned to live with it by covering the offending grain with black leather, giving the table a somewhat different look.

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