J'lem square 'fraudulently' named after oligarch

Councilwoman petitions court to rescind naming of plaza after Ukrainian businessman, who city wrongly claimed was dead.

May 31, 2012 15:47
2 minute read.
Jerusalem's old city

Jerusalem's old city 370. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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When Ukrainian businessman Vadim Rabinovich passed away they named a square after him in the Old City of Jerusalem thanking him for donating funds that helped rebuild the Hurva Synagogue.

But reports of his death were greatly exaggerated, to quote Mark Twain.

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Rabinovich is alive and well, and the naming of a square in one of Judaism's prime real estate locations is being objected in the High Court of Justice on grounds of fraudulence and character.

City Councilwoman Rachel Azaria on Wednesday petitioned the court asking it to rescind the naming of the square saying it was done under the pretense that he had passed away and in gross violation of several other municipal laws.

Azaria, who is a member of the Yerushalmim faction in the council, said the proposal to rename the square referred to Vadim Rabinovich Z"L, a Hebrew abbreviation added to the names of the deceased. She claimed municipal laws strictly prohibits naming streets and squares after individuals who have been dead for less than three years. She added that laws in the Old City were even more stringent and precluded anyone who died after the year 1500 from having a street or square named after them.

"Jerusalem is fortunate to have many important donors who are worthy of being honored, but there are laws and rules and they must be obeyed," she said. "The fact that Rabinovich square was named in a fraudulent and illegal process, is deeply disturbing. I am disappointed Mayor Nir Barkat was not as disturbed as we were of the naming process, and has not cancelled the naming of the square. We believe that the High Court will do justice, and make sure that the naming process in Jerusalem be legal and fair."

Besides questions over the legality of the proceedings there has been debate over whether naming a prominent square overlooking the Western Wall after a man who is denied entry to the US for shady business dealings and is said to be involved in arms smuggling was appropriate.

Rabinovich has been involved in Jewish philanthropy and politics for well over a decade. He donated most of the money that helped rebuild the Old City's landmark Hurva Synagogue. Last year he co-founded the European Jewish Union with his billionaire friend Igor Kolomoisk,but that organization has come under fire for being a vehicle serving little more than its founders political and business interests.

The municipality on Thursday did not answer questions on why it decided to name the square after Rabinovich and said it was reviewing Azaria's claims.

"The issue is being examined by the legal council to the municipality who is checking the procedure and its relation to the municipal regulations," it said. "After the process is complete we shall be able to answer further questions."

An aide for Azaria, however, said the municipality was stalling saying he was still waiting for answers to questions he submitted to them on the matter last month.

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