Grapevine: A building in which history was made

Binyanei Ha’uma marks 60th anniversary, Silvan Shalom organizes Int'l Women’s Day event and Cameri Theater launches Books on Stage.

THE JERUSALEM International Convention Center, or Binyanei Ha’uma, last week attracted several hundred people from all over the country who flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the building which, even more than the Knesset, symbolizes the return of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland. Whereas the Knesset is the seat of legislation, Binyanei Ha’uma, which is jointly owned by the Jewish Agency and the Jerusalem Municipality, was established as a permanent home for the Zionist Congress, and in fact the first event held there was the 23rd Zionist Congress which took place while construction was still in progress.
Since then, it has hosted many different kinds of prestigious events – national and international conferences, concerts, dance recitals, theatrical performances, song contests and the International Jerusalem Book Fair. Under the stewardship of CEO Mira Altman, Binyanei Ha’uma has developed way beyond the dreams of its founding fathers.
On the evening of the anniversary celebration, in addition to the photographic documentation of the history of Binyanei Ha’uma in an eye-catching exhibition curated by Monica Lavi, there were also Herzl and Ben- Gurion look-alikes in the corridors sharing their visions with guests passing through to the lavish reception. One of the corridors also featured a video screen with clips from the 1979 Eurovision song contest cohosted by Daniel Pe’er and Yardena Arazi. Pe’er was among the guests mingling in the reception area and was grabbed by society photographer Sara Davidovich to pose alongside the screen so that she could simultaneously capture his 1979 and 2011 images in the lens of her camera.
Among others networking the crowd were Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Hadassah University Hospital director-general Shlomo Mor-Yosef, Federation of Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn, former MK Ran Cohen, lawyer and former cabinet secretary Israel Maimon, Crowne Plaza Hotel general manager Haim Alkobi, sales and marketing director of Diesenhaus Unitours Ronen Krumholtz, whose company is handling the overseas competitors in both the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv marathons, and radio and television personality Yigal Ravid who cohosted the 1999 Eurovision.
Cohost of the program was Jerusalem-born stage, screen and radio personality Rivka Michaeli who has been the moderator for many events at Binyanei Ha’uma, but who could also remember a time when it wasn’t there. The best part of the program was the nostalgia footage that took people back to concerts with Zohar Argov and Shlomo Artzi or to the Song Festival at which Shuli Natan first performed “Jerusalem of Gold.” Michaeli was in the process of telling of that particular time, when Natan, carrying her guitar, mounted the stage and to a roar of approval from the audience sang “Jerusalem of Gold.”
Of Israel’s three Eurovision winners, the only one who attended the 60th anniversary bash was Izhar Cohen, who also performed live. He will celebrate his 60th birthday on Sunday, and friends and colleagues are planning a musical tribute in his honor.
■ MAYBE IT was the influence of his wife, or the fact that in 1992 he was the first male member of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, or it may have simply been a logical realization that women can contribute more to the economy if given the opportunity and the conditions to make full use of their potential.
Whatever the reason, Silvan Shalom, vice premier and minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, got in a day early and organized an International Women’s Day event at the Meyerhoff Gallery in Tel Aviv. The approximately 100 invitees were primarily women with leadership abilities from the Negev and the Galilee, some well known female business executives and several female heads of foreign missions – among them Belgian Ambassador Benedicte Frankinet, Bosnia-Herzigovina Ambassador Ivana Levi, Brazilian Ambassador Maria Elisa de Bittencourt Berenguer, Danish Ambassador Liselotte Kjaetsgaard Plesner and Philippines Ambassador Petronila Pena Garcia.
Shalom’s wife, broadcaster Judy Shalom Nir Mozes was also present, as were advertising guru G. Yafit, (Yafit Greenberg), Tzvia Zoglobek of the giant food processing company, multifaceted businesswoman and lawyer Kochi Mordechai, head of the Mitzpe Ramon Local Council Flora Shoshan and head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council Sigal Moran.
Shalom was proud to report that his director- general and four of seven of the department heads in the ministry were women. He attributed the success of his ministry to the fact that women were in the forefront of the decision-making process, and suggested that other ministers follow his example. Achieving and maintaining gender equality was in the national interest, said Shalom, who also spoke of the importance of introducing a longer school day so that mothers would have more freedom in which to pursue their careers.
However he did not want women to become slaves, and said that the working week should be reduced to five days, so as to enable working women to spend more quality time with their families.
■ LESS THAN a week before International Women’s Day, Silvan Shalom had imbibed a history lesson that comprised another piece of his ideological mosaic. He visited what had been the Ramat Gan home of Revisionist ideologue, historian, journalist and political activist Abba Ahimeir, where he was greeted by his two famous sons, Ya’acov, a prize winning electronic and print journalist, who for the larger part of his life has been associated with the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and Yossi, a journalist, writer, former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, former MK and currently director of the Jabotinsky Institute. Yossi lives in the house with his wife Naomi.
Part of the house was set aside for the creation of the Abba Ahimeir museum and archives. Abba Ahimeir frequently protested the British presence in the holy land and created a clandestine organization called Brit Habiryonim to defend Jerusalem. This was 18 years before the establishment of the state.
■ FASHION GURU John Galliano is beginning to discover that even though anti-Semitism may be rampant in some parts of Europe, it isn’t good for business. After his sacking by Dior following his anti-Jewish remarks in a French bar, and the release of a video in which he said that he loved Hitler, Oscar winner Natalie Portman, who promotes one of the Dior perfumes, proclaimed her disgust and declared that she would have no more to do with him. Yediot Aharonot’s fashion writer Gaya Koren, last week paid a visit to Tel Aviv’s upscale Kikar Hamedina to see if it was possible to purchase a garment designed by Galliano for Dior. It wasn’t, and she encountered hostility when she asked.
She also spoke to some of the Tel Aviv fashionistas who spend a fortune on designer labels and was assured by Anat Flatto Sharon that she certainly wouldn’t wear a Galliano design. Bat-Sheva Bublil will not purchase Dior while there is any chance that garments bearing the label were designed by Galliano. Israela Shtir, who paid in the range of NIS 20,000 for each of her Galliano outfits, is not about to discard them, but said that she would not buy any more. Celebrity hair stylist Effie Cohen, who owns two pairs of Galliano jeans for which he paid 1,000 euros each, said he would not wear them until Galliano issues a public apology, but he wouldn’t throw them out either because they were so classy.
Meanwhile Galliano has issued an apology of sorts.
■ TEL AVIV’S Cameri Theater tonight launches a three-night festival, Books on Stage, with readings in French and Hebrew and subtitles in both languages. On hand for the launch will be Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and French Ambassador Christophe Bigot. The festival, which features French and Israeli authors and actors, is the result of a collaborative effort between the Cameri Theater, the French Institute and the French Embassy. Among the local authors whose works have been selected for readings are David Grossman, whose appearance will be via live video from New York, Sayed Kashua, Etgar Keret and Zeruya Shalev. In addition to the actors who will read from their works, all four will also read from their own works. One of the works of Amos Oz will also be featured, but Oz will not be among the readers.
The French writers whose works will be read are Laurent Seksik, who will attend the reading, Albert Camus, Albert Cohen, Marie NDiaye, Anna Gavalda and Michel Houellebecq. French actors include Richard Berry, Stéphane Freiss, Agnès Jaoui and French director Nicole Garcia; and the Israeli actors are Evgenia Dodina, Rivka Michaeli, Ola Schur-Selektar, Alex Ansky, Keren Mor, Ania Bukstein, Raymonde Amsallem, Sasson Gabai, Nathan Datner and Oded Leopold.
■ STRAIGHT ON the heels of French culture come French business, science and politics with the anticipated arrival next week of Marseilles Mayor and Vice President of the Senate Jean-Claude Gaudin, who is leading an interdisciplinary delegation to enhance ties in all three spheres. The group will spend four days touring the country and meeting with counterparts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Marseilles and Haifa have been twin cities for the past 53 years. On Wednesday, March 16 the delegation will participate in a symposium organized by the Israel-France Chamber of Commerce at the Tel Aviv Hilton.
■ ALSO ARRIVING next week is a delegation from Poland headed by Jacek Kastelaniec, president of the newly established Auschwitz- Birkenau Foundation that is dedicated to preserving the site as a legacy for future generations. Much of what was left at Auschwitz- Birkenau has begun to show signs of decay. Just a little over a month ago, preservationists launched a worldwide campaign to raise $165 million to create a fund, the interest from which can be used for maintenance and repairs. Kastelaniec and his delegation will visit Yad Vashem, Massuah, Lohamei Hagetaot, and other relevant institutions to exchange ideas with historians, researchers, educators and curators.
■ IT’S AMAZING how many foreign dignitaries have come in recent weeks. What was particularly astounding was that Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who was here as recently as December, and had to travel a much further distance than just about any other foreign minister, was back again last Saturday and Sunday. It would seem that Australia is seeking a more influential role in the Middle East. Rudd’s current tour of the Middle East included not only Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also Cairo, Amman, Jedda, Tunisia and Oman.
At a media conference in Jerusalem following meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Rudd was disinclined to reveal the content of those talks but focused on the Libyan regime whose actions, he said, “are in flagrant violation of any principle of international law and of international decency, on the part of the state against its people.”
■ WITH THE exception of Chilean Ambassador Joaquin Montes Larrain, who was still busy with the visiting Chilean miners and preparing for the visit of President Sebastian Pinera, the ambassadors of Latin American countries showed up in force at the Jerusalem residence of El Salvador Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson, who hosted a reception in honor of Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, who came here with a business delegation whose members concluded some highly successful deals with local counterparts.
Dorit Shavit, deputy director-general for Latin America at the Foreign Ministry, was excited by the turnout. “Not only have they come from southern and central South America, but even the Mexican ambassador is here,” she exclaimed.
The smiling Martinez appeared to be greatly at ease in their company, but became a little emotional when speaking about the highlights of his visit, underscoring that the most moving aspect was the ceremony at Yad Vashem at which he participated in the unveiling of a plaque that recognized Jose Arturo Castellanos as Righteous among the Nations. Castellanos, the first Salvadorian to receive the title, was his country’s consul-general in Geneva during World War II, and saved the lives of thousands of Jews by providing them with Salvadorian citizenship papers. He was aided by George Mantello, a Romanian Jewish refugee, whom he appointed as first secretary.
Charming all the guests as usual was Gun de Hasenson’s elegant and petite 91-year-old mother Hanna, who oozes the joy of life. When the ambassador was a child, her mother was President of WIZO in El Salvador. Naturally when Golda Meir came to visit, the young white-gloved Suzana was chosen to present her with a bouquet. A photograph commemorating that historic occasion is among the many gracing the ambassador’s living room.
■ DURING THE period in which Beit Hanassi is undergoing renovations, several of its functions will be held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, in addition to which President Shimon Peres will grace several more institutions than he might otherwise. It is customary for the president to host swearing-in ceremonies for both the rabbinical and the civil courts, but last week, Beit Hanassi was in no condition for such an event, so Peres went to the offices of the Chief Rabbinate for the inauguration ceremony of new judges to the rabbinical courts. The ceremony was conducted in the presence of Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, several MKs and families of the new judges.
Even though he was not on his own turf, Peres made it clear that the rabbinical courts exist to uphold the tenets of Judaism and not to distort them. Peres cited as an example some of the radical discrimination against non-Jews, and reminded the rabbis that all human beings are created equal. He also expressed concern at the growing rift between religiously observant and secular sectors of society and their mutual suspicions.
■ THE TEL Aviv Museum’s loss was Souraski Medical Center’s gain. A little more than five years ago business tycoon Sammy Ofer had been willing to donate $20 million to the Tel Aviv Museum providing it took on the names of Ofer and his wife Aviva. This raised the hackles of some of the original donors, who were so vehemently opposed to the idea that Ofer withdrew his offer, and took his millions elsewhere. The Souraski Medical Center, which is literally around the corner from the Tel Aviv Museum, had no problem honoring a generous donor in this manner and did not encounter similar objections when it agreed to put Ofer’s name on its new heart building.
The upshot is that the Sammy Ofer Heart Building will be inaugurated this afternoon in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
■ RUSTY MIKE radio, AACI’s e-radio station with studios in Jerusalem and Afula , celebrates its second anniversary on March 15 with an on-air house party beginning at 8 a.m. in the studio housed in AACI’s Jerusalem headquarters, where all presenters will be stopping by to chat with regular and occasional guests. Pop music expert and Afula anchor Richard Freedman, who has been broadcasting from the North ever since he made aliya some 20 years ago, will join in the celebrations with fellow British ex-pat Adam Mallerman, the key anchor in Jerusalem.
Other presenters including Andrea Simantov, Baruch Spier, Nisan Hirsh with Yonatan Caras, Dina Pinner, Joop Soessan, Nettie Feldman and Doug Goldstein will be getting together for a special broadcast marathon. In its two years of operation, Rusty Mike has amassed an audience of 27,000 a month plus close to quarter of a million of downloads of podcasts.
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