Gaprevine: Breaking the ice

Nir Barkat visits the site of the upcoming Ice Skating Festival at the old train station.

Ice skating 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ice skating 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ JERUSALEM MAYOR Nir Barkat this week visited the site of the upcoming Ice Skating Festival at the old train station. He inspected the work that has been done to date and said he was looking forward to the festival with great anticipation. One would suspect that his anticipation is not nearly as great as that of the capital’s children, who will demonstrate that ice can be a common denominator for ethnic and religious coexistence.
■ IT’S NOT unusual for youngsters from abroad to celebrate their bar mitzva in Israel. Most of those who come choose to celebrate in Jerusalem or at Masada. The Hazvi Yisrael congregation has had quite a number of such bar mitzva boys, but according to Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, this was the first time in the synagogue’s history that a boy had come all the way from Australia.
Yoni Tawil, the bar mitzva boy, who read his portion clearly and in an anecdotal style, obviously had an excellent teacher.
The Tawils could well be considered modern-day wandering Jews.
The family originates from Halab (Aleppo) in Syria. Yoni’s greatgrandfather went from Syria to Jerusalem and lived in Mahaneh Yehuda, where he joined the Irgun in its struggle against the British.
He subsequently moved to Argentina, where Yoni’s grandfather and father were born.
For the Tawils, the celebrating of the bar mitzva in Jerusalem was in the nature of closing a circle, and they haven’t discounted coming on aliya. In fact, Burstein told them that they would be very welcome as permanent congregants.
At the kiddush that Yoni’s parents, Moshe and Michelle hosted after the service, Moshe Tawil, speaking in fluent Hebrew, referred to the Torah portion of the week and said that in the discussions between Moses and Pharaoh, the latter could understand why the Children of Israel were so insistent on taking their own children with them wherever they went. In his family, said Tawil, they had taken their children with them in all their journeys, and he was pleased to have now brought his children to Jerusalem.
■ FOR DECADES, the New York-headquartered Women’s League for Israel, founded in 1928 to aid women immigrants to Palestine, maintained a large and attractive hostel in Rehavia in addition to hostels that it established in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Netanya. The Women’s League also built a Students’ Residence center and cafeteria at the Hebrew University. Whether the organization fell on hard times or its purpose in Jerusalem was no longer necessary remains a mystery.
But suffice to say, it sold its large property to Yad Ben-Zvi which, although located on another street, was adjacent to the land on which the Women’s League complex was built. In taking over the Women’s League for Israel building with its huge front lawn, Yad Ben-Zvi can significantly expand its indoor and outdoor operations. Revamping of the building has been going on for two to three years, and it is now in the final stages of completion.
The building was gutted from the inside and rebuilt, and the lawns were also dug up and renewed.
Israel’s second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, was a modest man, which is why the presidential residence in his time was known as Hatzrif – The Hut. Now coupled with the spacious Women’s League for Israel complex, The Hut has become if not a palace, at least a mansion.
Residents of Rehavia and environs looking for cultural outlets are considerably better off than people in many other neighborhoods in the capital, especially those who prefer to attend English-language lectures and study groups. Although Yad Ben-Zvi and nearby Beit Avi Chai tend to have most of their programs in Hebrew, they also host English-,language events. The Jewish Historical Society which conducts its lectures in English, meets at Beit Avi Chai.
At the Great Synagogue, down the road apiece from Beit Avi Chai, the winter lecture series is conducted in English. Diagonally across the road from the Great Synagogue is the Fuchsberg Center, which has an extensive English-language program. At the far end of Keren Hayesod Street is the OU Center, which conducts lectures, seminars and symposia in English.
Chabad Rehavia, located in the Rehavia Windmill at 8 Rambam Street, has programs in English as do many synagogues in the immediate vicinity. Although the area around the train station is touted as the cultural center of the capital, close examination may prove that the center of culture is Rehavia.