Grapevine: Navon turns 90

An educator in his soul, it was entirely appropriate that the venue for his 90th birthday celebration be the Hebrew University.

Erel Margalit, Linor Abergil at J'lem Venture Partners 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Erel Margalit, Linor Abergil at J'lem Venture Partners 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ THE PARTY at the Hebrew University was almost two months after the actual date, but that did not stop Israel’s fifth president and Jerusalem’s honored native son Yitzhak Navon from celebrating his 90th birthday with scores of his relatives and friends, with the music of Bustan Sfaradi (Spanish Orchard) from the musical that he wrote playing in the background.
Navon, who was born and raised in Jerusalem, was the only president whose children spent a large portion of their childhood at Beit Hanassi. He was also the only president who returned to active public life after completing his tenure, returning to politics and serving as education minister. Navon continues to be active and to travel all over the country.
An educator in his soul, who was a teacher long before he went into politics, it was entirely appropriate that the venue for his 90th birthday celebration be the Hebrew University.
Noticeably absent was one of Navon’s oldest friends and colleagues, Israel’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, who was in Rome hobnobbing with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who, together with close to 80 other world leaders, were the guests of President Giorgio Napolitano at Israel’s celebrations marking both Republic Day and the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification.
■ APROPOS ACTIVE nonagenarians, among the people present at the Jerusalem Foundation’s Teddy Kollek awards ceremony at the Knesset last week was Ralph Goldman, 96, whose name was for many years synonymous with the Joint Distribution Committee but who continues to be active in many spheres. Goldman, who lives in Jerusalem, was publicly acknowledged by one of the award recipients, Israel Museum director James Snyder, for helping Kollek raise the funds for the construction of the museum. Before taking his seat after descending from the podium, Snyder made a point of approaching Goldman to give him a big hug and a kiss.
Another of the four recipients of the Teddy Kollek Award was nonagenarian Fred Worms, who joined the club late last year and who, with his wife Della, came to live in Jerusalem two years ago. Worms, who brought the Cochin synagogue to the Israel Museum, has continued to contribute in many other ways as well as to numerous educational and cultural projects in the city.
A former president of the Maccabi World Union and subsequently elected as its honorary president, Worms wants to bring the Maccabiah Games to Jerusalem to help boost tourism in the capital. As he shared this dream with everyone in the Knesset auditorium, a broad grin of approval spread across the face of Mayor Nir Barkat, who was sitting on stage with Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Foundation president Ruth Cheshin and JF chairman Sallai Meridor.
■ AS ONE of the major donors to the Israel Museum, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, who was also at the awards event and who spends a great deal of his time in the capital, decided to hold his 80th birthday party on the premises of the museum. Although Bronfman’s relatives, friends and acquaintances in Israel are large in number, he decided to have a relatively modest affair in the pleasant ambience of the modern restaurant at the entrance to the museum. Among the guests was President Shimon Peres, who is a friend of long standing.
Bronfman’s birthday is actually on June 27, but he explained that since the tragic death in January 2006 of his wife, Andrea, who died after being hit by a car while walking her dog, he always celebrates his birthday on the date of her birthday, which is May 30. Andrea, who would have been 66, is buried on the Mount of Olives.
■ AFTER ALMOST 11 years as executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Malcolm Hedding will step down at the end of July. Prior to taking up the position in 2000, Hedding, who is a passionate advocate for Israel, served from 1981 to 2000 as chairman of Christian Action for Israel, a Zionist organization in South Africa.
His involvement with the ICEJ began long before he took up residence in Jerusalem. He has worked with the ICEJ since 1981 and has been closely involved with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in working towards the improvement of relations between Christians and Jews.
■ ONE OF the joys of owning a place like The Lab is that one never has to worry about where to hold a party or a conference.
As he does every year on the eve of Jerusalem Day, venture capitalist Erel Margalit held a huge bash at The Lab not only in honor of Jerusalem Day but also as a gala opener for the annual Jerusalem Venture Partners conference. In addition, he was celebrating the success of a new fund for which he had succeeded in raising NIS 250 million.
Most of his guests were from Tel Aviv and beyond, with a large representation from the business, gaming and media communities. Some of his thousand-plus guests flew in from Europe, Asia and the US.
Among the female guests was former education minister Yuli Tamir, who is currently president of Shenkar College of Engineering Design, and former beauty queen Linor Abergil, who no longer models bikinis. Since becoming religiously observant, she wears high-necked, long-sleeved and long-skirted garments plus a head covering as befits a married woman.
■ THE SECOND annual all-day Kishor Conference for religious women entrepreneurs in Israel will take place on June 13 at the Ramada Hotel. Keynote speakers will be Rabbi Yitzhak Berkovits of the Jerusalem Kollel, who will address the halachot affecting business dealings, and Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller of Neveh Yerushalayim College for Women, who will speak on balancing entrepreneurship and family life.