Grapevine: A new dimension of Jerusalem

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

July 18, 2019 21:53
PROTEA HILLS Charity Bazaar Committee (left to right): Jedidija Gross, Miriam Yankelevich, Hannan So

PROTEA HILLS Charity Bazaar Committee (left to right): Jedidija Gross, Miriam Yankelevich, Hannan Sommerfeld, director of Susan’s House Avital Goel, Becky Mevorach, Judy Aronson, and Judy Nachmias. . (photo credit: Courtesy)

Anyone traveling the length and breadth of Jerusalem understands that construction chaos at the entrance is not the only source of discomfort to residents of the capital. In almost every neighborhood, existing residential complexes are being renewed and expanded, new residential and commercial projects are in various stages of construction, and the extension of the light rail network is adding to the chaotic situation.

Mayor Moshe Lion is on a building spree aimed at changing the face and skyline of Jerusalem. However, his grandiose plans – unlike those for Tel Aviv – do not include a performing arts center with an opera house, and a theater built around an open square. There have been opera performances in Jerusalem over the years, but not with any degree of regularity. Operas have resorted to the Jerusalem Theater, the Italian Museum, the Sultan’s Pool, the YMCA Auditorium, and the Jerusalem International Convention Center, which will be partially inaccessible for the next three years. The YMCA Auditorium will house Rigoletto on July 23 and The Marriage of Figaro on July 28 as part of the annual Jerusalem Lyric Opera Festival. In capital cities, opera lovers usually have the luxury of not wandering from venue to venue.

Also absent from the mammoth construction project is a network of public toilets. As the most populous city in the country, Jerusalem has nowhere near sufficient public toilets. Quite a number of parks have no public toilet, or if they do, it is inadequate in relation to expected occupancy. Jerusalem’s urban planners should rethink some of their grand designs.

■ ON THE other hand, Lion is justifiably proud for the launch of what promises to be an annual Jerusalem tradition – the multi-faceted fashion fiesta that opened this week in Jerusalem’s majestic Tower of David. Titled Overall, the fiesta can be interpreted as a sturdy outer garment worn over regular clothes, or something that incorporates a broad panorama of ideas.

A joint project of the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, and the Jerusalem Municipality – in conjunction with Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and Ramat Gan’s Shenkar College of Engineering and Design – the five-day festival is intended to be both fun and thought provoking.

In bygone days, fashion conscious men and women cared not only about style, but also cut, tailoring, and quality of fabric – pure wool, pure cotton, or pure silk.

Today, however, according to Atnyel Guedj – a post-graduate in Fashion Experience and Design at the SDA Bocconi Business School in Milan – fashion has given way to consumerism. Major stores around the world are closing as people increasingly shop online. The joy of walking through an elegant store specializing in haute couture is fast disappearing. So are fabrics once prized by fashionistas as technology overtakes the industry, creating new fabrics and colors, and making many skilled workers redundant. In order to save the creativity of the fashion industry, new methods of marketing and purchasing will have to be devised.

There are fashion traditions, such as those of ultra-Orthodox male Jews, that were described by Tower of David Spokeswoman Caroline Shapiro as a study in black and white. Designers Aharon Genish and Shlomit Amar took to the challenge of creating distinctly Jerusalem fashion. Firstly, they borrowed from the kabbalistic custom of warding off the evil eye by wearing a string of red wool as bracelet. Then, they created fabric dolls encased in white that could have been a diaper or a shroud, though one woman said it was shaped like the map of Israel. The white was edged with red stitch and protruding from the top was a typical Jerusalem character, usually an ultra orthodox man with beard and peyot (sidelocks). There was also a darker faced individual which could have been either male or female, with a black and white kafiya. The dolls were sewn onto a red shirt. The woman who had said that the white part of the doll looked like the map of Israel also wanted to know why there was a dark-complexioned doll. She was told that there are Arabs, and people of Yemenite and Ethiopian background living in Jerusalem. The question seemed strange, but Genish took it in his stride saying “that’s what we’re here for. Different people see things differently.”

Elsewhere, a couple of women attracted a huge female crowd interested in learning how to tie a scarf into one of the tall turban headdresses worn by Orthodox Jewish women. There were lots of scarves in varying lengths, fabrics, and colors, and the women operating the stall were in constant demand to tie scarves on the heads of eager visitors – who later admired themselves in large nearby mirrors and didn’t want to remove their new headgear that they received gratis. Judging by snatches of conversation, most of the recipients were not religiously observant despite looking the part.

A sign of hope was that the event included a group of Muslim women, nearly all of wearing hijabs and long traditional Arab robes. They sat together at a long table knitting and crocheting, but mainly engaging in traditional intricate Palestinian embroidery.

People were very interested in engaging artists in conversation, especially eclectic knitting and crochet expert Talya Tomer, who sat alongside the Mamluk dome at one of the highest points in the complex. Positioned around her were large spools of deep blue yarn. People were invited to knit or crochet at random using stitch of choice. The different pieces born were subsequently joined together as a symbol of unity and diversity.

Although every aspect of the event was uniquely interesting, for many present, the best part was free entry. There was great entertainment and an excellent buffet paying homage to the roots of the culinary history of Jerusalem. Although the hottest day of the year thus far, in the evening at the Tower of David it was blissfully cool in more ways than one.

■ BEARING HIS new honorary doctorate in law from Yonsei University in Seoul, President Reuven Rivlin returned from an extremely productive five-day visit to the Republic of South Korea in which several bilateral memoranda of understanding were signed, including with universities in Israel. Rivlin, who is a lawyer by profession, added to his law degree that he received more than half a century ago from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The importance of Rivlin’s visit can be gleaned from its widespread media coverage. Almost every aspect of Rivlin’s visit was reported on in Korean media, and he was made an Honorary Citizen of Seoul on the last day of his visit. But what must have really done his heart good was the massive turn-out at a Protestant pro-Israel gathering. Though he considers himself secular, Rivlin was brought up in a religiously observant home and would therefore not enter a house of worship bareheaded. He wore a black kippa.

At their various meetings, Rivlin and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed economic, academic, and security issues. Rivlin also invited President Moon to visit Israel.

■ NOT ALL that many years ago, a retirement home was a place where senior citizens went to vegetate. Not anymore. Today, property developers vie with each other to provide state-of-the-art housing complexes that collectively form a retirement village, enabling both inclusion and privacy with several central community areas for arts and crafts, card and board games, sport, et al, movies, concerts, lectures, tours and most important of all, companionship. There are also nursing facilities for those in need. Some are located in urban neighborhoods close to public transport and shopping centers, while others such as the Protea Hills Village are jewels in the cradle of nature, located not far from Jerusalem at Moshav Shoresh. The Protea Hills community is very active, and the village is designed in a manner that allows for both indoor and outdoor activities. Among those activities are charitable enterprises. A very recent example was a charity bazaar on behalf of youth at risk.

A charity bazaar committee comprising Jedidija Gross, Miriam Yankelevich, Hannan Sommerfeld, Becky Mevorach, Judy Aronson, and Judy Nachmias organized what was commonly known in the diaspora as a bring and buy a gift event. By donating and purchasing a considerable variety of items, residents raised NIS 22,200 towards enabling Susan’s House – located in the Sapir Center of Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood – to continue to empower at risk teens to find their place in Israeli society through teaching work ethic, artistic expression, personal investment, and creativity. This concept is an illustration of the famous Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and it feeds him for a day, teach him to fish and feed him for life.” The Protea committee’s motto is “While the recipient is benefited, the doer is also enriched by being accountable.”

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