Grapevine: Rothschild on Rothschild

The residential tower, designed by internationally celebrated architect Richard Meier, is for the moment the last word in luxury.

Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau_370 (photo credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau_370
(photo credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
Just when speculation is rising as to whether social justice activists will once again take to the streets this summer and build tent cities on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard and in other parts of the country, sales of apartments in what promises to be one of Tel Aviv’s most prestigious addresses, 1 Rothschild Boulevard, are on the rise. The residential tower, designed by internationally celebrated architect Richard Meier, is for the moment the last word in luxury. While many of the demonstrators who are likely to once again gather on Rothschild Boulevard find it difficult to make ends meet on monthly salaries that range from between NIS 4,000 to NIS 10,0000, apartment owners are paying millions of shekels for the privilege of having a Rothschild address.
One of the first people to purchase an apartment there was Nat Rothschild, a member of the British branch of the famous Rothschild family, who is rumored to have paid some NIS 60 million for a 500- square-meter penthouse.
Some of the other owners of apartments in the building include Mellanox founder, president, chairman and CEO Eyal Waldman, advertising agency executives and partners Mickey Bar and Shoni Reuveni, who each have an apartment, Superpharm CEO Lior Reitblatt, shipping magnate Jacky Alalouf, investment banker Lionel Botbol and a few other fat cats who have been shelling out sums of between NIS 19m and NIS 120m for apartments that some of them will probably never live in.
■ TEL AVIV Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is currently in Poland leading the March of the Living, as he does each year, was in Migron exactly a week ago to officiate at the circumcision of his grandnephew, Erez Yehoshua Hamo. The name Yehoshua is for Lau’s half-brother, Rabbi Yehoshua Hager, who died last December. Hager was the baby’s great-grandfather, the grandfather of the baby’s mother.
This year is is the 25th anniversary of the March of the Living, which was initiated in 1987 by Avraham Hirschon, who later went on to become a minister of finance and is currently serving a prison sentence after having been convicted of corruption. Curiously, Ruth Blum-David, who as Tel Aviv district prosecutor was responsible for putting Hirschon behind bars, is now working as a lawyer in private practice and has among her clients Hirschon’s son Barak, who is facing charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and being responsible for the serious injury caused to his girlfriend, who has been hospitalized as a result of a collision Barak Hirschon caused
■ LAU, WHO is chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, will be back in Israel in time to kindle the memorial torch at Wednesday’s state ceremony in Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Prize-winning actor, comedian and theater director Moni Moshonov, who will present a narrative piece, is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Moshonov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in August, 1951 and came with his parents to Israel when he was four years old.
Aside from state and government representatives, Joseph Melamed will speak on behalf of the survivors. During the ceremony, six other Holocaust survivors will light six torches, one for each million of the six million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust. The six survivors, who each narrowly escaped death and built new lives for themselves in Israel, have collectively 16 children, 38 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren who are living symbols of Jewish continuity in the face of the greatest of adversities. The torch bearers are Bat- Sheva Dagan, Anatoly Rubin, Eliezer Lev-Zion, Chasia Vardi, Yehuda Widawski and Artemis Miron.
During the ceremony, short videos of the torchlighters’ testimonies will be shown. The videos were produced and directed by Shlomo Hazan. Dagan, who was born in Lodz, Poland, is a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and of the death march to Ravensbrück and Malchow. Lev-Zion, a native of Berlin, moved to France with several family members after the Nazis came to power. During the war he joined the Jewish underground and over a period of time helped to smuggle 36 children out of detention centers. Traveling on false papers, he was recruited as a translator by the SS and was thus in a position to pass valuable information to the French Resistance. His relatives were murdered at Auschwitz. He was the sole survivor of his family.
Miron is originally from Greece. Her grandfather and her father were shot to death in an act of vengeance against the activities of the Greek Resistance movement. Miron, her mother and brother were sent to Auschwitz, riding for more than a week on a cattle train without food. She was separated from her mother and brother and never saw them again. She was assigned to a work detail and, in January 1945, sent on a death march to Ravensbrück and later to Malchow, where she was put to work at a military factory. Malchow was liberated by the Allies that May. Miron returned to Greece where a paternal uncle in Athens took her in and enabled her to complete her high school studies.
Rubin was initially imprisoned in the Minsk Ghetto in Belarus. His family was rounded up in November 1941 and force marched to what would become a mass grave. He and his sister managed to escape. She joined the partisans but was informed on and killed by the Germans. Rubin returned to the ghetto and escaped another march to the death pits. In his roaming, he met the partisans and asked if he could join them, but they were virulent anti-Semites and the request almost cost him his life. Following the defeat of the Nazis, Rubin had to contend with the Communists. He was imprisoned more than once and finally came to Israel in 1969.
Vardi, at 80, is the youngest of the six torch lighters. In September 1942, nearly all the Jews in her hometown of Stoczek Wegrowski in Poland were rounded up and deported. Vardi, then 10 years old, hid in a bunker and later, with several women and children – including her mother and grandmother – fled from the town. In November 1942, 11 members of the group were captured by the Germans and shot. Vardi who had been away from the group collecting food, escaped this fate. Her mother was injured but still alive. Vardi took her to the nearby Kosow Ghetto where her mother died in her arms. When the ghetto was liquidated, Vardi hid in an attic, and later fled to the home of a non Jewish family in Stoczek.
The wife was helpful. The husband chased her away. She joined a group of Jews hiding in a bunker in the forest, and the son of the woman who had been kind to her, brought them food and information about the Red Army. Life continued to be traumatic for the child after the war until she finally left Europe in 1946. Widawski, 93, was born in Turek, Poland. . In 1933, his family moved to Lodz, and Widawski became an active member of the Hashmonaim youth organization.
By 1936, he was managing a textile business, employing 38 Jewish seamstresses who sewed shirts and underwear for the army; their products were marketed throughout Poland. In September 1939, Lodz was occupied by the Germans. Widawski’s family managed to buy an apartment in the district to be transformed into the Lodz ghetto. The apartment was shared by 15 relatives. In April 1940, Jews were prohibited from leaving the ghetto. The Widawskis continued to work in textiles, both from home and at a factory. One of the first soup kitchens in the ghetto was established at their home. In August 1944, the ghetto was liquidated and the Widawskis were deported to Auschwitz. Widawski’s parents, Abraham and Leah, and his eldest brother, Gabriel, were murdered immediately. Eight days later, he and his younger brother, Jehoszua, were transferred to the Friedland work camp, where they made airplane wings. On May, 8, 1945, the Germans abandoned the camp, locking in the inmates. The following day, the camp was liberated by the Red Army. The two brothers returned to Lodz, only to find their apartment inhabited by Poles. Hearing that their sister had died during the liquidation of Stutthof, the brothers realized that, together with their uncle, they were the only members of their family to survive. Widawski set up a new textile factory got married and had a son. Widawski assisted the Irgun in smuggling weapons to Israel before his own arrival in 1950.
■ CHIEF OF Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will not attend the ceremony at Yad Vashem. Gantz, a second-generation Holocaust survivor whose mother was liberated from Bergen Belsen, will instead attend the commemoration ceremony at The Massuah Institute for the Study of the Holocaust at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak where he, Vice-Premier Dan Meridor and Massuah vice-chairman Yizhaq Kashti will be the speakers on the theme for struggle for survival in concentration camps.
■ IN ORDER not to detract from either the Yad Vashem or Massuah commemorative ceremonies, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot – The Ghetto Fighters kibbutz – will hold its memorial event on Thursday evening instead of on Wednesday evening, and will mark the 70th anniversary of the great deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto. The event at the kibbutz amphitheater will be addressed by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Lohamei Hagetaot director Dr. Anat Livne and Kibbutz Movement representative Eitan Broshi. In addition to the torch lighting ceremony and the artistic presentation common to memorial events elsewhere in the country, this one will also include a tribute to the Righteous Among the Nations.
■ AS IF trekking all over the country during Passover was not enough, Israelis were caught up on Saturday night with Mimouna fever, especially the politicians who raced around from one city to another wolfing down moufletas, realizing that even if the government does last a full four-year term, elections are in the air and the time has come to start wooing the voters. Mimouna, the Moroccan Jewish post-Passover festival, was a good starting point.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was pictured in most daily newspapers on Sunday being offered a plate piled high with moufletas in the Benita family home in Or Akiva, was there in an official capacity; but in a non-official capacity, he, his wife Sara and their son Yair joined other friends in Caesarea – where the Netanyahus have a holiday home – at the Mimouna festivities hosted by Leon and Solange Ederi. Leon Ederi and his brother Moshe own the Cinema City chain of movie complexes. Holding up a moufleta in Or Akiva, Netanyahu said: “The honey dripping from this moufleta is what unites all the ethnic communities in Israel.”
Netanyahu also admitted that after years of restraint, he had this year given in to temptation and eaten matza with chocolate. Someone else who obviously put his diet on the back burner was Labor MK Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, who was seen in Beit Shemesh devouring moufletas with gusto. Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz not only ate moufletas in Beersheba but wore a red tarboosh and brought most of the Kadima MKs to the area, with the notable exception of his predecessor Tzipi Livni, who was having a great time in Kfar Hanagid and told people that she was no longer obligated to attend Mimouna festivities but had come because she wanted to. Mofaz continued from Beersheba on to Ashkelon.
■ NEWSPAPERS THESE days frequently quote one other, but Israel HaYom went a step further and in a feature interview with Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, which it published in its weekend magazine last Thursday, photographed him sitting beneath a framed front page of The Palestine Post (the forerunner of The Jerusalem Post), which was headlined “State of Israel is born.” The 91-year-old, Jerusalem native is as spry as ever and travels all over the country to participate in various events. In the interview that he granted to Nadav Shragai, Navon, who for a long time avoided answering any questions related to Moshe Katsav, relented on this occasion, perhaps because of the way in which the question was phrased. Shragai implied that through his actions, Katsav had tainted the presidency. Navon said that initially he had felt ashamed, but there was comfort in the knowledge that everyone was equal in the eyes of the law and that if someone had erred, regardless of who that person night be, he or she had to pay the price. It was not the presidency that was harmed, he stressed. It was the individual who had borne the title of president.
What pains him most, said Navon, is that as a result of the notoriety that Katsav brought upon himself there were voices saying that the presidency was obsolete and unnecessary, calling for the position to be abolished. Navon considered this to be ridiculous and commented that if a member of Knesset transgressed, no-one would urge that the Knesset be abolished. Though a very popular president who served at a time when a president could serve for two five-year terms instead of one seven-year term, as is currently the case, Navon opted not to serve a second term and returned to politics. In hindsight, he admitted to Shragai, he made a mistake.
■ BRITISH EXPATS plus a few former Americans, Canadians, South Africans, Australians and even a couple of Sabras congregated at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens this week for the cornerstone ceremony for what will be a new flagship project – a Children’s Discovery Park with a 95-meter treetop walk and nine interactive stations on different aspects of plants in their environments. The idea is to get children to bond with nature, said Sue Surkes the JBG’s director of development who has been involved in planning and designing what will eventually be a children’s paradise. According to JBG chairman Alan Berkley, this new, enriching environment will rekindle the imaginations of children and allow them to understand what it means to get their hands dirty.
The concept of the Children’s Discovery Garden came from former JBG chairman the late Mendel Kaplan, who was Berkley’s father-in-law. Although the Kaplan family has long been involved with JBG, Berkley never showed much interest in plant life until he agreed to step into Kaplan’s enormous shoes, Surkes said. Now he’s a great enthusiast. The idea behind the project is essentially to give children back their childhood. Today, children spend far too much time in front of the computer. They don’t need to use their imaginations when they only need to click a couple of times with a mouse, and they are gradually losing the joy of discovery.
The first station of the Children’s Discovery Path will be the Living Water Section, jointly sponsored by philanthropists Fred and Della Worms, who have been associated with JBG for some thirty years, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Hebrew University, the Jerusalem Foundation and the British Friends of JBG. Fred and Della Worms along with representatives of the sponsoring organizations signed a scroll that was buried with the cornerstone for future archaeologists to discover. Other signatories were Michael Avishai, who for many years was the scientific director and director-general of JBG, and his successor Oren Ben-Yosef. Della Worms said that the opportunity to be associated with the project gave her and her husband great pleasure because it represents renewal and hope for the future, whether in personal relationships or in nature.
Although the Children’s Discovery Garden is within easy walking distance of the lake near the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, Surkes took the guests by mini-train along a much more scenic path to show them some of the beautiful species from around the globe arranged according to geographic zones, namely the Mediterranean, Central and Southwest Asia, Australia, North America and Europe. The idea is to see whether plants that require a minimal amount of water can acclimatize to Jerusalem, said Surkes. Some of the guests, despite having visited the JBG in the past, had never been on this tour and were enchanted. There are more than 10,000 species of labeled plants, the largest collection in the country, Surkes said proudly.
The gardens are largely maintained by volunteers. Schoolchildren are brought in on a regular basis so that in planting beds of flowers they will learn to love nature and will want to protect nature when they are adults. People with all kinds of mental disabilities also come to plant garden beds, finding the connection with nature to be very therapeutic. IDF veterans likewise come to plant seeds and watch them grow into bursts of color.
Seen in the crowd at the cornerstone ceremony were Mark Sofer, Doreen Gainsford, Asher Weil, Edward Cohen, Sir Ian Gainsford, Andrew Balcombe, Larry Frisch and Jill Kaplan, among many others. As entry prices at other tourist attractions soar, attendance at the JBG is increasing because although entry for adults is NIS 30, entry for children up to the age of 18 is free, so for large families the gardens are a godsend.
■ IN RECOGNITION of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Korea, President Shimon Peres and President Lee Myung Bak exchanged letters of greeting in which each expressed the hope that cooperation will continue to expand in the future. President Lee noted that since Peres’s visit to Korea in June 2010, bilateral relations have been greatly upgraded. Peres, in his letter, stressed the importance that Israel attaches to its friendship with Korea and how much the two countries have in common.
■ THOSE WHO thought that the glass ceiling had been well and truly broken may have overlooked the fact that generally speaking, middle-aged women who for one reason or another left the job market and want to return, find it almost impossible. Not so Dalia Mazor, who after leaving the employ of the Israel Broadcasting Authority where she had worked for some four decades, was snapped up by Keshet, one of the Channel 2 franchisees, and given the chance to co-host a breakfast show. This week, Mazor, who is in her early 60s, launched a new show, the Israeli version of the American “spelling bee” to discover Israel’s champion speller. Mazor will be testing fifth- and sixth-graders from all over the country in a television project co-sponsored by Keshet, Teddy Productions and the Education Ministry. Aside from its entertainment value, the show, which is called Aluf Ivrit (Hebrew Champion), is also educational and will help viewers who confuse a tet with a tav and an alef with an ayin.
■ LONG BEFORE Israel had a Ministry for Public Diplomacy, a group of American citizens got together in 1982 to create CAMERA, an acronym for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. A non-partisan Bostonbased organization, CAMERA claims not to take any position with regard to American or Israeli political issues or with regard to ultimate solutions to the Arab-Israeli conflict – though it does admit to being pro-Israel. Its chief mandate is to monitor news coming out of or related to the Middle East in an effort to ensure that it is accurate, balanced and not distorted. Its eagle-eyed members and staff pounce on biased and inaccurate reporting and write hundreds if not thousands of letters to editors and publishers to correct erroneous information.
Media is a major player in the shaping of public opinion, which ultimately shapes public policy. Distorted news coverage, say CAMERA, misleads the public and can be detrimental to sound policy-making. CAMERA president and executive-director Andrea Levin is being honored at the committee’s 30th anniversary dinner this coming Sunday, April 22 at New York City’s Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers. Levin, a former associate editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, has been involved with CAMERA since 1988. At the time she was not very well-acquainted with the established Jewish community, but she was moved to write an article in the Boston-area weekly, The Tab, which criticized the Boston Globe’s coverage of the first intifada. The piece generated considerable attention and Levin received a lot of calls. That was the first step in what has been a long and challenging journey.
The keynote speaker at the dinner will be former mayor of New York City Rudolph Giuliani. Dinner guests are paying $500 per person, which may mean that the US economy is on the road to recovery.
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