Grapevine: Celebrating with conviction

Trial does not interrupt Shula Zaken's son's bar mitzva.

Shula Zaken 390 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shula Zaken 390
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Before being sentenced this week by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, which convicted her on charges of fraud and breach of trust this past February, Shula Zaken put her personal problems on the back burner and gave priority to a family affair. She had no intention of depriving her son Tomer of his bar mitzva celebration, which was no less glittering an event than previous family festivities in the days when Zaken served as Ehud Olmert’s right hand throughout his career as Jerusalem mayor and later in his various ministerial positions, including prime minister. Zaken was convicted of abusing her position as Olmert’s bureau chief when he was finance minister and prime minister to advance the business interests of her brother Yoram Karshi, a businessman and former member of the Jerusalem City Council, who is serving a prison sentence for breach of trust, soliciting public servants and bribing tax officials.
She was sentenced to four months community service on Wednesday.
During their respective trials, Olmert and Zaken were instructed not to talk to talk each other, but Olmert, who was the godfather at Tomer’s circumcision, was not about to miss out on the boy’s bar mitzva and was among the 900 guests who crowded into the View banquet halls in the city’s Talpiot neighborhood.
Israelis are very forgiving when it comes to family celebrations, and almost everyone who was invited showed up, including MKs, former MKs and former government ministers such as Dalia Itzik, Yitzhak Mordechai and Tzachi Hanegbi. Executive members of the management of Beitar Jerusalem, of which Zaken is an ardent supporter, were also there, as was millionaire and former Jerusalem mayor-wannabe Arkadi Gaydamak.
■ For many years, since Teddy Kollek’s period as Jerusalem mayor, the guest house at Mishkenot Sha’ananim has hosted writers, musicians and artists from abroad who have come to the capital as guests of the Jerusalem Foundation, to soak up inspiration from one of the most famous cities in the world. But the management of the Prima Royal Hotel, which is within easy walking distance of Mishkenot, believes that Israelis, too, should have the opportunity to be inspired by Jerusalem, and has therefore launched a creativity project under which local writers and poets will be gratis guests of the hotel for two weeks. The first three guests for the creativity project will be authors Edna Shemesh and Noa Yadlin and poet Asher Reich.
■ It's not only authors and poets who will be the recipients of added encouragement toward creativity. A new NIS 40,000 prize has been added to the list of prizes to be awarded next month at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
The Van Leer Foundation has donated the prize, which will be launched at the Pitch Point conference within the framework of the festival. Pitch Point is a joint initiative of the Jerusalem International Film Festival, the Israel Film Fund in cooperation with the Joshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, Tel Aviv, and the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund.
Israeli films are gaining in popularity and winning prizes abroad, a factor that increasingly encourages foreign investment in Israeli productions. This past April, Alesia Weston was appointed executive director of the Cinematheque and will take up her new role on June 15. Weston, whom people in the film industry know as associate director of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, will be involved with all aspects of the Cinematheque’s cultural and educational operations, including the Jerusalem Film Festival, which opens on July 5 and continues through July 14. Prior to relocating to Israel, the London-born Weston spent nine years with Sundance. Though some of her childhood was spent in England, she is truly a citizen of the world. She was raised in the UK, Switzerland, France and Israel before moving to the United States. She holds a BA from Georgetown University’s School of Languages and Linguistics and pursued post-graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MA in French Literature at University College London.
■ Some 150 young innovators will convene in Jerusalem’s Crowne Plaza Hotel next week for the ROI Global Summit.
The group, consisting of social and business entrepreneurs, technology geeks, thinkers and artists will collaborate in an effort to devise initiatives that will impact Israel and the Jewish world positively.
The diverse ROI Community is an international network of more than 800 social entrepreneurs and innovators in 40-plus countries who are leaders and change agents shaping the Jewish future.
Participants in this year’s summit, which runs from June 10-14, hail from 26 countries, including first-timers from Bolivia, Iceland, Peru and Uganda.
In addition to brainstorming and networking among themselves, the group will meet with leading global innovators and activists, including keynote speaker Doug Ulman, president and CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation – better known as LIVESTRONG – who will speak about how his three-time struggle with cancer led him to hone a foundation that supports cancer survivors and the fight against the disease. The initiatives evolving from the discussions will be presented for review to a panel consisting of hi-tech start-up guru Yossi Vardi, actress and Hollywood producer Noa Tishby, solar energy entrepreneur Yossi Abramowitz, and Azrieli Group vice chairwoman Danna Azrieli.
Participants will benefit from master classes by top Israeli entrepreneurs and thought leaders, such as social media wizard Lior Zoref, who gave the first crowd-sourced TED (Technology Entertainment Design) talk in February; Jerusalem Global Group CEO Dr. Shlomo Kalish; Jerusalem YMCA CEO Forsan Hussein; Start-Up Nation co-author Saul Singer; former ambassador to the United States and expert on Syria Itamar Rabinovich; and environmental sustainability expert and TEDx Amsterdam organizer Irene Rompa, as well as coaching from Yanky Margalit. Participants will also engage in peer-to-peer training and collaborative project-building.
ROI is a part of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, a global network of philanthropic initiatives focused on igniting the passion and unleashing the power in young people to create change for themselves in Jewish communities throughout the world.
■ An exhibition of portraits of world famous 20th-century personalities photographed by Bern Schwartz officially opened this week in Jerusalem under the auspices of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Naggar School of Photography, Music and New Media and at Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The 55 iconic portraits of politicians, world leaders, writers, artists, actors, dancers and philanthropists will remain on view until July 21, after which they will be donated to the Naggar School for student use and study.
In the 1970s, Schwartz photographed some of the country’s most well-known figures: President Shimon Peres, former prime minister Golda Meir, Gen. Moshe Dayan, former Jerusalem mayor Kollek, who created the Jerusalem Foundation, and noted statesman Abba Eban, among others. Schwartz, a successful businessman, developed a passion for photography at the age of 14 but did not pursue it until 1974, when he was in his 60s. He embarked on a second and highly successful career learning portraiture, lighting and angle techniques from Antony di Gésù and eminent photographer Philippe Halsman.
Within just five years, he succeeded in capturing a host of international luminaries that included Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger and David Hockney. His portraits were featured on magazine covers, official photographs and recordalbum covers. He had an ability to connect with his subjects. Selecting a suitable environment, he aimed to put his sitters at ease, engaging them in an ongoing conversation in order to find the shot that captured their personalities.
With his technique, he was successful in eliciting natural and spontaneous responses, resulting in portraits that are both authentic and beautiful.
Schwartz left the world a legacy of magical and timeless portraits that in many respects are connected to Jerusalem and will be on display at Mishkenot Sha’ananim’s Dwek Gallery from today, as well as at the Naggar School’s newly renovated gallery on Ha’ayin Het Street.
Deal of the century For the first time in history, the Greek Orthodox Church has agreed to sell one of its plots of land. Last week, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem signed an agreement to sell church property in the city center, where a local developer will build a luxury housing project.
After four years of negotiations, Benny Nehemia and his associates at Azorim are the elated Israeli parties in this unprecedented business deal which was, for the most part, kept secret from the media. Attorney Arieh Abramson conducted the transaction for the oneand- a-half-acre plot, located on King David Street, not far from the King David Hotel.
The King David’s Residence project had been promoted as a residential project on a plot belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church; but now that it has become Jewish property, real-estate mavens say that it will undoubtedly enhance the project’s attractiveness. The building overlooks the walls of the Old City and is close to the Mamilla Hotel and mall and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel that is under construction. To date, 50 percent of the dwellings in the project have been sold.
The Greek Patriarchate owns many large plots and estates in Jerusalem (and in the country in general), such as the President’s Residence, the Knesset and Heichal Shlomo.
Lights and highlights The International Light Festival is considered the largest light-art event in the country. This year, the fourth annual event runs until June 14. The festival presents light exhibits, sculptures and artistic structures, as well as onstage and street performances of sound and light, in various locations in the Old City.
Illumination artists from Israel and around the world will display their artwork. Participants include leading artists from France, Portugal, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and Estonia.
This year’s festival highlights the connection between light and sound in two performances: an upbeat performance by Mayumana called “Currents” and a show by the Israeli group Pyromania. These are the only two performances that require a fee; all the other events in the festival are free.
The festival is the initiative of the Jerusalem Development Authority, in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality. It is produced by the Ariel company.
Too close for comfort Local supermarket tycoon and deputy mayor Rami Levy is considering opening a new supermarket in the Shukanion, the covered market near Mahaneh Yehuda.
Built about a decade ago, the Shukanion has not been very successful and thus has not raised too much opposition from the Mahaneh Yehuda merchants. But now they are afraid that Levy might turn it into another success story (as he has with almost all his endeavors in recent years), and that would be a serious threat to their business.
Their main concern is that Levy will offer attractive bargains, discounts and special promotions, in addition to the tremendous advantage his customers will have with the Shukanion’s parking garage. The merchants say that lack of parking and constant traffic congestion due to the large number of bus lines that run along Agrippas Street have caused many of their customers to shop elsewhere.
According to the merchants’ committee, a new Rami Levy supermarket so close to the open market would be the kiss of death for their business. Levy has not yet confirmed his intentions regarding the Shukanion.
A bone to pick Danny Bonfil, former head of the workers’ committee at the municipality, is back in public affairs.
Bonfil, who once had steady employment at Safra Square as one of the most powerful workers’ leaders in the city, was forced to leave his position nine years ago after being indicted for corruption. He is also a key figure in the local Labor Party, and in the last leadership elections of the Histadrut, he joined forces with the winner, Ofer Eini. Now after he has served his community services hours and the period of moral turpitude has ended, Bonfil hopes to be elected head of the Jerusalem branch of the Histadrut, a position that wields much power and influence on the job market and life in the city.
But over the years, Bonfil has also gathered quite a few opponents, such as Esti Kirmayer, the head of the Jerusalem branch of the Labor Party. A rising star in the political skies of the city (she is involved in protest groups, the promotion of projects for the young generation and students’ organizations), Kirmayer didn’t like the fact that someone who had been indicted would be representing the workers in the city. Despite her exerting some pressure – such as a protest march in front of the local branch of the Histadrut – she did not manage to prevent Bonfil’s election. He, in turn, has accused her of acting out of personal reasons. He suggested that she had wanted to be nominated to run for head of Na’amat in the Jerusalem region, which did not happen. Refuting the accusations, Kirmayer says she only wanted to prevent the disgrace of electing to that important position someone who has such a “skeleton in his closet.”
Added tax burden Some urban legends talk about local residents, such as waiters and taxi divers, who sometimes ruin our image in the eyes of tourists because they don’t treat them as politely as they should. Whether this is a sad reality or merely Jerusalem bashing, we are reaching a point where this is small potatoes compared to what may be awaiting tourists visiting our city.
If city council member Laura Wharton (Meretz) succeeds in having her proposal approved at the next city council meeting, tourists will miss those rude waiters and devious taxi drivers. Wharton, a dedicated councillor for residents’ rights, proposes to solve the city’s financial problems by means of a special tourist tax. If the proposal is passed, tourists will be charged an additional tax (a tax for the right to visit the most important city for the three major monotheistic religions), which will go directly into the municipality’s coffers and will be used for the benefit of the city and its residents. While concern for the welfare of our residents is a noble cause, there are many at Safra Square who doubt that the tourists will appreciate it, let alone accept it.
Jacking up the price Parking restrictions for the residents of the Old City’s Jewish Quarter are becoming tougher. Earlier this week, residents who refused to pay the new fee for the monthly parking ticket – which jumped from NIS 350 to NIS 700 – were prevented from using the parking lot. On Sunday, when the temperature reached 34 degrees, septuagenarian Ruth Steiner and her husband, a disabled man in his 80s, had to walk all the way to their house because they were not allowed to park inside the Jewish Quarter.
The Steiners, who were among the first residents of the Jewish Quarter, refused to pay the new fee because, among other reasons, it was not decided with the participation of the residents as required by neighborhood regulations. Following the refusal of the private guards at the entrance to the Jewish Quarter to let the Steiners and many other residents in, the police were called to calm the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, some of the cars of residents who didn’t pay were taken to a public parking lot by municipality supervisors, and the owners will have to pay up to NIS 750 to release them.
Shlomo Attias, director of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, rejects the residents’ complaints. The company is free to set its own fees, he says, and the current fee, NIS 700, is lower than the sum its financial adviser proposed, which was NIS 1,200. Attias also said that most of the residents agreed to pay, except for a small group of residents who are opposed to the society anyway.