Grapevine: A long and active night

A round-up of news from around the capital.

President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: REUTERS)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AS HAPPENS every year on Shavuot night, Beit Avi Chai was in total chaos. As impressive as its premises are, they are simply too small to accommodate the number and variety of lectures and workshops that are held. Many people in the huge crowd of mostly young adults, but quite a few seniors as well, were frustrated by their inability to get into the lectures after, in some instances, standing for the best part of an hour in an unruly line waiting for one lecture to finish and another to start. Lectures were in both English and Hebrew, resulting in a large Anglo representation to hear Avivah Zornberg and Daniel Gordis.
Another very popular speaker of the evening was Hanoch Daum, who attracted such a large following that the venue had to be changed to the courtyard, which can accommodate far more people than the lecture halls, with the possible exception of the theater hall, where another event was taking place. There was little doubt that organizers were expecting a mass turnout as evidenced by the inexhaustible supply of burekas, tea and coffee that were available until 4 a.m.
One of the attractions next door at the Yeshurun Synagogue was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who spoke there immediately after completing his lecture at the Great Synagogue less than five minutes’ walk away. Lau’s cousin Rabbi Benny Lau had to walk somewhat farther from his own Ramban Congregation in the Greek Colony to the Menachem Begin Heritage Center and from there to Beit Avi Chai.
What was extremely interesting was to note the number of female lecturers, not only in Reform and Conservative congregations but also in modern Orthodox congregations. One of the beautiful aspects of Jerusalem on Shavuot night was to see the numerous groups and individuals walking through the streets from one synagogue to another or to a cultural center where subjects appropriate to Shavuot were being discussed. Then in the pre-dawn hours, people coming from all directions converged on the Western Wall Plaza in a solid mass of humanity.
Even secularists who were more interested in congregating in bars than in synagogues were not without options. There were two bars open on Aza Road, each of them doing a profitable trade. But the controversial, non-kosher Yehoshua Restaurant, owned by Yaron Tourjeman, which has been subjected to protest demonstrations and court orders, remained closed.
ON THE subject of restaurants and coffee shops that have closed, former MK Charlie Biton, who was one of the founders of the Black Panthers, will have to find a new hangout on Hillel Street, where the original Café Hillel closed down early this month. There is now a “For Rent” sign on the window. Biton was a frequent patron, especially on Fridays, and most of the time he would sit outside rather than inside so he could greet passers-by whom he knew.
The first coffee shop in the Café Hillel chain, founded in 1998 by Koby and Yossi Sherf, took its name from the street on which it was located. Like Aroma down the road, which was founded in 1994 by brothers Yariv and Sahar Shefa, Café Hillel branched out all over Israel.
The original Aroma Espresso Bar is still operating on Hillel Street, but there are also branches in several countries abroad.
The Sherfs think that Hillel Street is dying in terms of passing trade and decided to close what used to be their flagship enterprise while simultaneously opening new branches in other parts of the city and the country.
AS HAS become his habit, President Reuven Rivlin on Shavuot attended services at the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation, where he has become a familiar figure. Though not the first person to be called to the Torah that day, he was called up for the most important section of the Torah reading and recited the appropriate blessing in a loud, clear voice.
On Thursday, just prior to the festival, after receiving the first fruits from members of the Vegetable Growers’ Association, he paid a surprise visit to a state school in the heart of Katamon. The school is among the finalists in a competition for the President’s Prize for Education, which is run in conjunction with the Lautman Foundation and the Israel Democracy Institute. The prize will be awarded next month at the Dov Lautman conference on education policy in the Open University. Some 140 schools applied for the prize.