Grapevine: Daughters of the king

An incredible amount of hotel construction is going on in Jerusalem.

Yehuda Glick (photo credit: TAZPIT)
Yehuda Glick
(photo credit: TAZPIT)
HAREDI WOMEN may be less schooled in secular studies than their non-haredi sisters, but just because they are lacking in knowledge doesn’t mean they are lacking in talent.
When Beverly Barkat, the wife of the mayor, visited Bat Melech – the shelter for battered women from ultra-Orthodox communities – she found that one of the women there had a keen interest in art, and before coming to the shelter used to paint and draw. The woman had neglected her artistic creativity for some time and wanted to get back to it; aside from anything else, she wanted to do so for therapeutic reasons.
Herself an artist with a large studio in the heart of town, Barkat offered the woman the use of her studio – also inviting the other women to come to an art workshop, to see if they had any latent talent they might care to put to use.
Barkat spent quite a long time with the women, listening to their individual stories and empathizing with them. She told them she admired their strength of character, in being able to take control of their lives and turn their backs on unhealthy marital situations.
EVEN BEFORE he was publicly welcomed from the pulpit by Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, the visitor to the Hazvi Yisrael Congregation last Saturday was approached by many regulars who wanted to shake his hand.
Even people who didn’t know him personally could not fail to recognize the man with the red hair and red beard, whose photograph had been seen so frequently in newspapers last October and November, following an assassination attempt against him as he emerged from the Begin Heritage Center.
Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick, looking somewhat thinner than he had been prior to the shooting that almost cost him his life, was given a special blessing by Burstein, and spent much of the time smiling as he encountered the warmth of his fellow congregants. Other than a slight limp, he didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear following his ordeal, and he’s obviously a quick healer.
However, the kiddush hosted after the service by David Margolis – who commutes between Boston and Jerusalem – was not in honor of Glick, but synagogue beadles Menachem and Chani Levinsky – whose devotion to duty and their fellow congregants has earned them widespread admiration and appreciation.
And one last reference to Hazvi Yisrael: Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern will be the guest of honor at the annual communal Friday night dinner on February 13, and will give an address in Hebrew.
AS A rule, Jason Pearlman, the president’s spokesman for the English-language media, drives from his home in Modi’in to Jerusalem on a daily basis. He did not accompany President Reuven Rivlin to New York, due to the fact that spokespersons in the Israeli Consulate and the Israeli delegation to the UN were available to stand in for him. So Pearlman, who happens to hail from Britain, went to London on a public diplomacy mission – thereby ensuring that his talents would be put to good use, even when he was not directly serving the interests of the president.
AN INCREDIBLE amount of hotel construction is going on in Jerusalem. Small hotels in the inner city are being renovated and expanded, and a few have been built in premises previously occupied by shops and/or offices.
A new budget-priced hotel is due to open soon opposite the Mamilla Hotel, and the former Jerusalem Pearl – which stands on the site of the historic Fast Hotel, where Theodor Herzl is reputed to have been a guest – is due to be gutted and rebuilt.
The hotel, which is located almost halfway between city hall and Jaffa Gate, will have 157 guest rooms.
Originally managed by the Dan Hotel chain, which held a festive opening in 1996, the hotel almost from the beginning was a white elephant – which had been so badly designed that in the S-shaped ballroom, people sitting on one side could not see guests seated on the other side, and head-table seating was always problematic. The only guests who really enjoyed it were those haredim who insist on separation between men and women. The shops in the hotel didn’t do too well, either.
Following the death of the hotel’s original owner, his daughter said that she wanted to take over, but later decided against such a move and put the property on the market. In 2007 it was purchased by a group of French investors, who closed it a year later and did nothing about it until now.
The group is currently in discussion with the Isrotel chain, which is interested in managing the hotel. Isrotel is in the process of completing construction of a hotel and residential complex on the German Colony’s Emek Refaim Street, but wants to gain a firmer foothold in Jerusalem.
Another white elephant is the Bell Center on King George Avenue, originally a Reichmann family project. The land on which the commercial center and office block was previously built belonged to a number of people in the family; they could not agree on whether to sell it, and the site was a vacant plot for many years. When it opened with modest fanfare more than 20 years ago, there was an immediate rush for the stores; there was also a post office, a bank branch and a restaurant, with medical services on the upper floors.
But the volume of human traffic did not make business in the center commercially viable, and as rental contracts expired, lessees began to move out. Today, the Bell Center is a virtual ghost town.
Present owner Moshe Indig wants to convert the building’s upper floors into a 130-room business hotel, and hopes that in doing so he can revitalize the shopping arcade. The most likely management company to date is Holiday Inn Express, which is not yet represented in Jerusalem, but is keen to become a presence.
ASIDE FROM the climate and the topography, what is the difference between Jerusalem and Eilat? Essentially, which politicians have been invited to speak at their respective conferences. The Eilat conference on February 5-7 at the Dan, Herods and King Solomon hotels is essentially a conference for proprietors and would-be proprietors of small to medium-sized businesses. Aside from Mayor Yitzhak Halevy, who will greet participants, the only political figure among the speakers is Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who will speak at the opening of the conference.
By contrast, the Jerusalem conference, which is taking place much closer to the Knesset elections at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on February 23 and 24, has representatives from nearly every party, with the notable exception of the Arab parties. The politicians will not be the only speakers, but they will certainly be the majority. They include Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud); Naftali Bennett, head of Bayit Yehudi; Eli Yishai (Ha’am Itanu); Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid); Shelly Yacimovich (Labor); Bezalel Smutrich (Tekuma); Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Labor Party; Arye Deri, chairman of Shas; and Miri Regev (Likud). Among the other speakers are Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and President Reuven Rivlin.
However, the speaker who will probably receive the most applause will be Yehudah Glick.