Grapevine: New and in control

Preservation, construction, and Tel Aviv's history...

construction 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
construction 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ Do female comptrollers do a better job than their male counterparts? It would depend on whom you asked. But whether they do or not, the new comptroller at Jerusalem’s Kikar Safra is, like her predecessor Shlomit Rubin, a woman. Rubin, who served as comptroller for more than 10 years and had a reputation for being highly critical of any flaws she detected in the system, has reached retirement age and is stepping down.
The new comptroller is Malka Dror, who was appointed last week after winning the tender published by the municipality. Dror comes to city hall after a long career with Bezeq, where she worked for more than 20 years, serving in a number of executive roles, most recently as company comptroller for four years.
■ While Jerusalemites are fighting City Hall for the preservation of the Natural History Museum in the German Colony, which is threatened by the construction on its site of the new Shalem Center, a legendary building in Tel Aviv is being reconstructed with the aim of recapturing something of the city’s past glory.
The famous Mugrabi Cinema, once a Tel Aviv landmark, is about to be reconstructed as part of a larger building project that includes a five-story hotel and a residential tower.
While the Jerusalem Municipality has promised the museum an alternative site rather than provide an alternative site for the Shalem Center, the Tel Aviv Municipality’s Department for the Preservation of Historic Sites is gung-ho not only about restoring the once palatial Mugrabi in its original site but also in keeping its original façade.
■ Tel Aviv's respect for its own history is evidenced in its magnificent Bauhaus restoration project, as well as in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings on Rehov Bialik and other parts of the city. Despite Tel Aviv’s increasing resemblance to the Manhattan skyline, there are still many buildings that reflect the early years of the city and its development.
But in Jerusalem, unless it’s part of some ancient civilization – often discovered during excavations for foundations for a new gigantic tower – it’s generally regarded as not worth keeping, even when it’s in good condition and aesthetically beautiful. One only has to look at what the municipality is trying to do in the German Colony against the wishes of the residents.
Some Jerusalemites refer to the Museum of Tolerance as the Museum of Intolerance, not only because it will occupy most of the site of an old Muslim cemetery in which there are still graves but also because it is continuing with construction work while efforts to legally prevent it from taking shape on its present site are still in progress.
Given how keen Mayor Nir Barkat is to have studio apartments for students in the center of the city, one would have thought he’d have found a way to move the Museum of Tolerance so that the site could be used for student apartments. The area could easily house more than 250 students in a four- or five-story structure.
■ You can't go home again, goes the old saying. But in fact you can, and Germanborn Werner Loval, a prominent figure in so many diverse circles in Jerusalem, went home to his native Bamberg for yet another launch of his book We Were Europeans, which has been well received in Israel and other parts of the world. The book launch in Bamberg was a great success according to Loval, and he has a number of press clippings as evidence, including one from the Süddeutsche Zeitung of Munich, which has the largest daily circulation in Germany. It was not the first time that Loval has returned to Bamberg since the end of World War II, but this was one of his more public visits and was important because some of the Jewish history of Bamberg is described in the book.
The museum where the launch took place was packed, and Loval was told by the organizers that the attendance was double the number they usually get for such an event. Presiding over the launch was Dr. Regina Hanemann, director of Museums of the City of Bamberg. She was not the only speaker. Burgermeister Werner Hipelius, representing the city council, also spoke, as did the new Israeli consul-general in Munich Tibor Shalev-Schlosser. The consulate is new, and this was his first official act.
Genniges bookshops (the largest in Bamberg) had a table where they sold the books, in addition to those sold in the stores. They also had a table at Bamberg University, where Loval gave a talk in English, though he could just as easily have given the address in German.
The book launch was preceded by a champagne reception hosted by the Lord Mayor of Bamberg Andreas Starkein in Bamberg’s Rokokosaal in the town hall, which dates back to the 17th century.
Considering that the book was originally written as a family legacy for Loval’s grandchildren, it has done very well on the commercial market.