Grapevine: One man who made a difference

In trying to persuade, campaigners for causes often use the expression “one man can make a difference.”

Social justice protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Social justice protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
■ IN THEIR efforts of persuasion, campaigners for causes often use the expression “one man can make a difference.”
Trite as it sounds, it is actually true – as was evidenced this week with the inauguration of a direct bus route from Ofakim to Tel Aviv. The person responsible for persuading the Transport Ministry and the Metropolitan Bus Company to introduce the new route is 28-yearold Avihai Sheli, who works for a Tel Aviv investment company and who was sick of the nightmare of the daily twoand- a-half-hour drive to and from work.
Sheli, who is blind and hearing impaired, decided to make a case not only for himself but for all the people who would benefit from a direct bus line.
Aided by students from Sapir College, Sheli prepared his argument and put it to the ministry and to Metropolitan.
Neither the ministry nor the bus company were initially enthusiastic, but Sheli remained persistent and won them over to the extent that not only have they introduced route 378 from Ofakim to Tel Aviv, but they have also, without any prodding from him, decided to introduce a special volume application into their announcements about bus arrivals and departures so that the hard of hearing will be aware.
When Sheli boarded the bus this week for its maiden ride to Tel Aviv, other passengers were almost ecstatic in their congratulatory comments.
Sheli is an old hand at meeting challenges. When he was an adolescent, he won the national youth Bible Quiz. As of this week, he is able to get an extra hour’s sleep each night, because the bus now takes an hour and 25 minutes to reach Tel Aviv.
■ KADIMA’S NEW chairman, Shaul Mofaz, was quick to take up the social justice cause. Very soon after his election he went to Migdal Ohr with fellow Kadima MK Rubama Avraham Balil to help Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman pack parcels of Passover food for the needy.
Mofaz made public statements about social justice just as demonstrators were getting ready to take to the streets last weekend. Although he did not join them, he sent along several Kadima MKs to mingle with the crowd. A couple of Knesset members from other parties also joined the protesters despite repeated Facebook requests for them to stay away, which were followed by some unpleasant confrontations during the demonstration when individual demonstrators, irked by their presence, asked them to leave.
Noticeably absent was Shelly Yacimovich who heads the Labor Party and who is a longtime advocate for social causes and social justice. In an interview on Israel Radio on Sunday morning, Yacimovich told Arye Golan that she had deliberately refrained from attending demonstrations for social justice because she believes that an authentic cry from the public should not be tarnished by politics and certainly not by politicians looking for photo opportunities.
■ AS IMPLIED in last Friday’s “Grapevine” column, it was doubtful whether the Council for Higher Education would allow Hanoch Marmory, the newly elected president of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, to take up his position.
Sure enough, the council put its foot down and Marmory’s glory was very short-lived.
Although the president of an institute of higher education is usually its chief fund-raiser, the council insists that the most important qualification is not whether the person elected is the best at raising money, but whether or not he or she is a professor. In other words, to represent an academic institution, one must first and foremost be an academic oneself – and a BA or a PhD is simply not good enough. To become a president one first has to become a professor. It’s a sophisticated way of cutting off one’s nose to spite one's face.
Although Marmory, who lacks even a BA, will not enjoy the title of president, it seems that Amos Shapira, who was elected president of the University of Haifa, will be permitted to take the up his post. But unless someone changes the rules, he will be the last non-professor to preside over an Israeli institution of higher learning.
■ THERE’S A certain irony in the fact that in the same week as the Schocken Library on Jerusalem’s Balfour Road celebrated its 75th anniversary, a notice went up at Balfour Road and Smolenskin Street that the local committee for planning and construction had received a request from Ariel Yunger with regard to the preservation, reconstruction and expansion of the Villa Schocken at 7 Smolenskin Street. The property, which was sold by the Schocken family and for many years served as the home of the Rubin Academy of Music and subsequently the Shuvu School (which gave some form of religious identity to the children of Russian immigrant parents who had grown up without any religion at all), is finally going to be destroyed, in part if not entirely. The school was vacated a couple of months ago, and the developer is keen to begin construction.
It’s not the first time that this historic building next door to the prime minister’s official residence has been in danger of losing its character. Nor is it the first historic building in Rehavia to be torn down. What happens in some such cases is that part of the exterior is marked for restoration. The bricks are numbered and dislodged. A modern apartment block goes up on land that once held a singlestory or two- to three-story building, and the entranceway is formed by the reconstruction of a smidgen of the original building. The new building is definitely grander, and in some cases even more attractive – but it defiles history and distorts the neighborhood which was originally built as a garden suburb.
While the Villa Schocken may be at risk, the (partially) good news is that another building at 42 Rachel Imeinu Street in Jerusalem that was slated for demolition has been given a reprieve thanks to the efforts of Itzik Shweki, chairman of the Council for the Preservation of Historic Sites, whose appeal to the District Planning and Construction Committee resulted in the overturning of a decision by the local PCC. The building is not all that historic, having been constructed almost 20 years after Villa Schocken. Designed by Yehuda Lavie, it is nonetheless an outstanding piece of architecture that features 40 small apartments, each with a balcony and each positioned in such a way as to capture maximum natural light.
The sad part is that the developer is permitted to build on top of the existing premises and at the sides. This is what happened to a beautiful old building at number 2 Balfour on the corner of Gaza Street, whose majestic facade had floors added at the side and top. Construction was abandoned and what was once a stately abode looks like a wreck, with scaffolding around it, plus an ugly construction fence. Next door at number 4, an attractive building now in the final stages of completion has replaced what used to be a music and classical dance recital hall. From the top two floors, any busybody can look directly into the Prime Minister’s Residence. If a high-rise goes up right next door to the Prime Minister's residence, there were will be hardly any privacy at for the PM and his family.
One wonders how the developers got past the eagle eyes of the prime minister’s security detail.
The 75th anniversary event of the Schocken library, which is part of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Institute for Jewish Research, drew a much larger crowd than organizers had anticipated and additional chairs had to be brought out from storage throughout the evening. Architect Prof. Hillel Schocken and his sister Racheli Edelman, who heads Schocken Publishing, smiled in amusement as they listened to Schocken Institute director Prof.
Shmuel Glick say that the room is exactly as it was when it was first built – and even the chairs are the very same ones that were sat on by Martin Buber, Judah Magnes., Shai Agnon, Zalman Shazar, Berl Katznelson, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, Gershom Scholem and other historical figures. Prof. Hagit Lavski of the Hebrew University said that Shlomo Zalman Schocken was best known for being the patron of Agnon, for having the world’s largest and finest collection of Judaica and for being a publisher. Less was known about his Zionist activities, including his close involvement with the Hebrew University, the Jewish National Fund and the construction of Haifa Port, she said.
Edelman recalled accompanying her grandfather to the library when she was a child and being told by him that there were no books for children in his library. But the best story was told by Prof. Hillel Schocken, who said he wasn’t a hundred per cent sure of its veracity, but it had been told to him by a contemporary of his grandfather’s. Whenever the elder Schocken traveled abroad, he took a book from his library to read on the journey. He was quite fond of biblical literature and had a set 17 of beautifully bound volumes that included the Prophets. On one occasion when he traveled to London, he took with him the book of Jeremiah and it disappeared. He hunted for it high and low but could not find it. Some years later, when visiting Chaim Weizmann in Rehovot, he caught sight of the book in Weizmann’s library and asked him how he came by it. Weizmann said he’d found it in a taxi. When Schocken returned home, he sent Weizmann the remaining 16 volumes.
But that's not the end of the story. The Weizmann residence on the campus of what is now the Weizmann Institute had been built in 1936 and had fallen into disrepair. The house, like the Schocken library in Jerusalem and the Villa Schocken, had been designed by Erich Mendelsohn, the acclaimed German-born Jewish architect.
In 1999, when it was decided that the Weizmann residence needed to be restored to its original character, Hillel Schocken was the architect commissioned for this purpose. Until then, he confessed, he had never been inside the Weizmann residence. Like any visitor, he looked around, pleased to see that the residence looked as if it was still occupied. On a table in a corner was an open book. When he drew closer, he noticed that it was the book of Jeremiah – the same book that had disappeared from his grandfather's possession in London several decades previously.
■ THE AGHION house, which has been the Prime Minister’s Residence ever since Yitzhak Rabin took office for the first time, is far from an ideal choice for the official residence of the prime minister. During Ariel Sharon’s term, work began on relocating the Prime Minister’s Residence to the vicinity of his office. Ehud Olmert took matters a step further and commissioned Ram Karmi to design a complex that would take into account demographic growth both in government and in population.
Karmi came up with a marvelous, if somewhat extravagant design, the construction of which was estimated at NIS 650 million. Olmert had the project approved by the Knesset, but no sooner did Binyamin Netanyahu become prime minister than he decided to cancel it. Meanwhile, security, not only in terms of personnel, is being constantly increased in the streets leading to the PM’s residence and the ugly fortresslike environment has all but ruined what used to be one of the most charming parts of the Rehavia-Talbiyeh seam.
■ WHILE THERE are still areas in which women may be facing discrimination in the work force, by and large women finding their places at the top of the political pyramid in law, in diplomacy, in education and in business. Australia, both the prime minister and the ambassador to Israel of which are women, also has women in top business roles. One such woman, Carolyn Hawson, is ranked by the Australian Financial Review as Australia’s most powerful company director and sits on boards whose combined market capital is almost $209 billion, came to Israel last week as the co-head of a 32-member Australian Trade Mission on Innovation, Industry and Social Enterprise.
Co-chairing the mission was Carol Schwartz, whose private real estate firm, Qualitas, which provides advice and tools for business, government and community groups as well as for a global diversified property developer with $8b in market capital, has $500m worth of assets under management.
Schwartz has also initiated the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia. Previous Australian trade missions have been led by one woman or chaired by a man and a woman, but this was the first to be led by two women, even though almost half the mission participants were men. The group was a mix of Jews and non-Jews who all expressed admiration for what they had seen in education, science, hi-tech and social enterprise.
Australian Ambassador Andrea Faulkner hosted a reception for the group and on the final night of the mission, international lawyer Zallui Jaffe, who is vice president of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, hosted the group at Sabbath services and later at the traditional Sabbath dinner at the King David hotel. He explained Jewish religious customs and why the Sabbath has become even more important in the frenzied world of today. Jaffe, who has some major clients in Australia, commutes between Jerusalem and Sydney and Melbourne.
He will be travelling down under for the sixth time this year right after Passover.
One of the treats at the dinner was a lecture based on the biblical portion of the week, given by internationally renowned bible authority Dr. Bryna Yocheved Levy, who teaches at Matan – the Sadie Rennert Institute for Torah Studies. Levy set out to demonstrate the heroism not only of Miriam and her mother Yoheved, but also Pharoah’s daughter who defied her father by rescuing the infant Moses. Levy wove such an intricate and absorbing tale that she had her audience leaning forward on the edge of their seats to catch every word. Even those who were not terribly au fait with the bible admitted to being fascinated and inspired.
■ ON ANOTHER Australiarelated theme is what Seyma Lederman’s six children have decided to call “Seyma’s Safari” – an influx to Israel of the Lederman clan from Melbourne.
Some of them actually live in Israel but were in Melbourne for the Bar Mitzvah of Justin Lederman, one of four Lederman cousins who have had or will have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs over a 13-month period.
Three of the six Lederman siblings live in Israel and the other three in Melbourne. They have decided that the whole family – a total of 29 souls, including two married grandchildren, will spend Passover at the Ramot Resort in the Golan Heights.
They have printed tee-shirts for the occasion featuring a caricature of their mother as a smiling lioness protecting her cubs, who are depicted as different kinds of animals. After the holiday there will be some catching up with other relatives and friends who are either living or vacationing in Israel. This will be the first time in a long time that the Ledermans will spend Seder night together.
■ AS IF running in the Jerusalem Marathon several weeks ago was not enough for him, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat ran in the Tel Aviv Marathon last Friday. This time it was a little more fun because he had no official duties and was running with his buddies from the IDF reserves. Barkat was given a warm welcome by his Tel Aviv counterpart Ron Huldai, who was delighted with the huge turnout.
■ EVEN BEFORE taking up his new position as Israel’s ambassador to China, Matan Vilnai, who went from the army to politics, back to security affairs via politics and then to diplomacy, participated last week in an event that could be labeled philatelic diplomacy. To mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and China, the postal services of both countries issued commemorative stamps that were unveiled at a ceremony at the Jerusalem Music Center with the participation of Vilnai, Chinese Ambassador Gao Yanping and senior Chinese and Israeli officials.
■ THE COURT case between supermodel Bar Refaeli and Suny Electronics Ltd, which is headed by Ilan Ben-Dov, has been going on for three years without any end in sight.
Refaeli is suing Suny, the importers of Samsung mobile phones, for NIS 4.4m, for what she claims was a breach of contract. What sparked the legal action was a 2006 video clip which, according to Refaeli was screened in violation of the contract that had been signed with her. In other words, it used her image for advertising purposes that had not been stated in the contract. The case, rife with mutual recriminations, has been in and out of court several times, most recently last week.
Ben Dov has counter-sued, but is asking for only NIS 2m.
The bottom line so far is that Suny used photographs and video clips of Refaeli, as well as of her ex-boyfriend, film star Leonardo DiCaprio, in cinema advertising without permission.
Suny’s response is that it had been made clear to Refaeli that the advertising campaign would include different categories of media. There have also been altercations between Refaeli’s father and Ben-Dov.
The case sounds like the outline for a movie, showing that life sometimes has more to offer than fiction.
If Refaeli does win, one wonders how much Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman could ask from Dr. Gav, the bed and mattress company that features them each individually in its advertising campaign.
Dr. Gav, in full page advertisement in various Hebrew tabloids, features one of the politicians in each halfpage ad and addresses each one personally, stating that it is important he sleep well at night. Photoshop distortions have been used in each case so that whichever minister is featured in the advertisements is shown in his pajamas.
One can’t help wondering by how much they could collectively reduce the national deficit if they took the advertiser, the advertising agency and the various publications to court. While it’s permissible to lampoon any public figure, it’s a different story to use the image of a public figure in an advertising campaign without permission.
■ GERMAN-BORN sculptor Frank Meisler, who is famous for his miniatures that appear in limited editions as well as for his larger creations, lived in and exhibited in many countries.
Though born in Danzig, he was educated in England, studied architecture at Manchester University and has for many years made his home in Old Jaffa, which is where his studio is located. In January, Meisler was informed that he had been awarded the order of Merit First Class by the German Federal Republic.
The award was formally conferred on Meisler last week by German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis not only in recognition of Meisler’s work as an artist, but also in appreciation of what he has done to foster goodwill between Germans and Jews and Germans and Israelis. Michaelis noted that through his art, Meisler has created a poignant reminder of the Holocaust. Meisler barely escaped it. He was among the 10,000 youngsters who were part of the kindertransport that was allowed into Britain between 1938 and 1939.
Meisler arrived on the final transport in August 1939. His parents were arrested and murdered soon afterwards.
[email protected] GRAPEVINE • By GREER FAY CASHMAN TALI SINAI-RIKLIS and her daughter, Tom Sinai-Riklis, at Tom’s first modeling job. (Eitan Tal) FRANK MEISLER receives the Order of Merit from German Ambassador Andreas Michaelis. (Courtesy) JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat running in the Tel Aviv Marathon. (Jerusalem Municipality) AVSHALOM VILAN with Yossi Peled. (Noga Ked) One man who made a difference ■ THERE WAS another reminder of the Holocaust at the retrospective exhibition at the Jerusalem Theater of the works of the late Polish-born artist Joel Iglinsky. The exhibition was opened by Government Minister Yossi Peled, the artist's cousin, who said that many people had presumed because of their age difference that Iglinsky was his uncle.
”He wasn’t. He was my cousin, but he was much more. He was like a father to me and he raised me,” said Peled, who was a child Holocaust survivor when he came to Israel. It was Iglinsky who brought Peled to Israel and cared for him.
“His home on Kibbutz Negba was the first home I knew in this country,” said Peled, who remains in close contact with the artist’s children and other members of the family.
Among those who came to the opening of the exhibition was former MK Avshalom Vilan, who was born at Kibbutz Negba. The exhibition will remain on view till April 18.
■ IT IS rare for anyone whose father is still alive to take on her stepfather’s name, but then again the Riklis name has a certain panache, and perhaps even a Midas touch. Tom Sinai-Riklis, the daughter of singer Arik Sinai and his ex-wife Tali Sinai-Riklis, one of the stars of “The Real Wives of Israel” that focuses on how rich bitch women spend their time, has embarked on a modeling career and is using a double barreled name.
Tali Sinai-Riklis is married to billionaire Meshulum Riklis who, though old enough to be her father, still cuts a dashing figure. Tom, who is 24 and studying towards a BA, decided that she wanted to earn a little money for herself and figured that since she has the looks and the physique, she might try her hand at modeling. She succeeded in getting signed up to promote the Morana swimwear campaign. A little nervous about her first photo shoot, she took her mother with her to the set, which was on the beach. Of course mama, who likes to show off, could not resist being part of the production and put on a bikini in the same print as the one-piece suit that Tom was wearing. You guessed it.
Mama stole the show.
Passers-by recognized her and crowded around to get her autograph. Maybe Tom would do better to revert to her real name, which is simply Tom Sinai.