The first officially announced contender for the position of president of the State of Israel was internationally renowned Hebrew University law Prof. Shimon Shetreet. Once Isaac Herzog entered the race, Shetreet wisely dropped out rather than face defeat.
That does not mean that he’s not a president.
Shetreet is the president of the International Association of Judicial Independence and World Peace, which, together with the Israel Bar Association, Hebrew University and its Faculty of Law and Claremont McKenna College, is holding an international three-day conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, beginning Tuesday, January 4, 2022.
Titled “Measuring Justice and the Rule of Law Independence, Efficiency Quality,” the conference will include distinguished law experts from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, Poland, Slovenia, Scotland, Italy, Austria, Romania, Canada and the Czech Republic.
One would expect that speakers would include Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Supreme Court President Esther Hayut. But the only government minister listed is Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who is scheduled to deliver greetings. Not only Hayut is conspicuously absent, but also her predecessors Aharon Barak, Dorit Beinisch, Asher Grunis and Miriam Naor. However, several current and retired judges will be in attendance. Labor MK Gilad Kariv will be there.
The event is also in celebration of Shetreet’s birthday. Shetreet was born on January 1, 1946.
■ THE MIDTOWN mega construction project by Israel Canada, which will take up a large section of Jaffa Road and will include the old Shaare Zedek hospital building, which is earmarked for preservation (but will be transformed into a hotel), received an upgrade last week from the planning and building committee of the Jerusalem City Council, which in effect makes the project a village at the entrance to the city, considering that the new plans include two 42-story towers that will house 1,000 residential units plus commercial space and an underground car park that will accommodate 1,400 motor vehicles plus 1,700 parking spaces for bikes and motorcycles.
If Jerusalem traffic is chaotic right now, one can only imagine what a nightmare awaits future drivers. Raphael de la Fontaine, prizewinning architect and adjunct professor at Bezalel, is responsible for the design of the project, in cooperation with the Yigal Levi Studio.
■ WITH REGARD to traffic chaos, the Jerusalem Municipality wanted to widen the roads leading from Torah Mitzion Street at the entrance to Romema, in order to relieve some of the traffic chaos in what is primarily an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.
However, the plan called for splitting the monument put up by the British Mandate authorities in 1920, to commemorate the victory by the British-led Allied forces over the Ottoman Army, and the entrance on foot into Jerusalem on December 11, 1917, by Gen. Edmund Allenby and his troops. Allenby came on foot out of respect for the holiness of Jerusalem. The date coincided with the second day of Hanukkah, which was somehow symbolic. The monument is also in memory of British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in fighting that war.
Before the municipality was able to implement its plan, the project was nipped in the bud by the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.
■ IT’S DOUBTFUL that Mayor Moshe Lion will accede to the demand by Yossi Havilio and Laura Wharton, who, in a letter sent last week, urged him to get rid of Aryeh King as deputy mayor. The two stated in their epistle that King incites violence, and his provocations bring shame on the city council. They cited various reprehensible actions by King in recent months, particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where video clips show him engaged in verbal and physical assaults against Arab residents, in a manner that is completely unacceptable for a deputy mayor, they wrote.
King, for his part, is interested in seeing property that once belonged to Jews be restored to Jewish hands, and is not interested in how many Arab families may be rendered homeless as a result.
■ AS YET the Malha Mall, which was the first in Jerusalem, does not come within the purview of the above Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites, as it is less than half a century in existence. Built by the late Polish-born Canadian architect and mega philanthropist David Azrieli, who supported numerous causes in Canada and Israel, the Malha Mall officially opened for business in 1993.
Azrieli actually introduced shopping malls to Israel, beginning with Ramat Gan. Following his death in July 2014 at age 92, his daughter Danna, the only one of his three daughters who lives in Israel, took over the running of the Azrieli Group operations in Israel, while one of her sisters takes care of Azrieli enterprises in Canada, especially the Azrieli Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the Azrieli Group.
Danna Azrieli is arguably more ambitious than her father, and has opened a chain of high-standard retirement homes that are more in the nature of country clubs, and has also transformed the various Azrieli Malls and has begun building residential complexes.
When her father built the Malha Mall, the neighborhood was a sleepy, out-of-the-way place with few amenities. Today, it is home to Teddy Stadium, the Jerusalem Payis Arena and the Jerusalem Technology Park.
Danna Azrieli wants to expand the Malha Mall, but the plan that the Azrieli Group initially submitted to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee was rejected because the current trend is for the reduction of indoor commercial space in shopping malls and making stores more accessible by having them at street level.
The new plan submitted by the Azrieli Group was approved last week. The plan calls for the construction of two 18-story towers, one of which will be for commercial and office use, and the other will include 300 sheltered living units with all the amenities that such projects require.
Residential projects for senior citizens on top of or adjacent to shopping malls have been around for a long time. The variety of dining options in the malls allows those senior citizens who can afford to pay for meals beyond those that are provided in retirement homes to socialize and eat in a different restaurant every day. The hustle and bustle of the mall is in many cases psychologically beneficial, because the senior citizens are part of the environment and not isolated from the rest of humanity.
There will also be a store-lined promenade, with a direct entry into the mall for those who want to shop inside. The good news is that access to the mall will no longer be through the car park.