Grapevine: Homecoming

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Ze'ev Elkin is seen speaking at the Environmental Protection Ministry in Jerusalem, on May 18, 2020. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Ze'ev Elkin is seen speaking at the Environmental Protection Ministry in Jerusalem, on May 18, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

THREE MONTHS ago, in December, there was an In Jerusalem feature about Susie Sheiner, 71, who was hoping for a Hanukkah miracle that would enable her to return to her home in Meor Modi’im, the moshav founded by Shlomo Carlebach in 1975. Sheiner, one of the early residents of the moshav and was among the evacuees when fire destroyed some 60 plus homes on Lag Ba’Omer in May 2019.

Sheiner did not get her Hanukkah miracle, but managed to in time for Purim, the other season for miracles. “I’m going home,” she kept repeating last weekend, her throat constricted with tears of joy.

■ SHEINER WAS unable to live on the moshav for almost three years while her home was being rebuilt. In comparison, we can only imagine the trauma of those Ukrainian refugees who plan to return home from Israel and other countries once the war is over. There is devastation all over Ukraine where missiles have been fired into private homes and public buildings, with very little left to salvage, and what little there was, was probably picked up by scavengers.

This past week the Chabad of Rehavia and Emunah of Jerusalem were among the many organizations conducting emergency appeals for Ukrainian refugees and people still in Ukraine. Chabad was collecting clothing, and dry and canned food products, as well as financial donations to help those Ukrainians who are unable to access their bank accounts and are currently penniless, while Emunah focused on clothing for men, women and children.

■ THERE IS definitely life after Hadassah, even when one has passed retirement age. It was recently published in this column that Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, 71, a former director-general of Hadassah, went on to become director-general of the National Insurance Institute, where he served for four years, after which he was appointed director-general of the Population and Immigration Authority, a position that he also held for four years. Last month he was appointed to head the Board of Directors of Leumit Health Care.

Hadassah Medical Center CEO Zeev Rotstein is seen protesting outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 13, 2021.. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Hadassah Medical Center CEO Zeev Rotstein is seen protesting outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, on January 13, 2021.. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Ze’ev Rotstein, a much more recent former Hadassah CEO, is now a member of the board of directors and advisory council of New Phase, a start-up focusing on Israeli metastatic solid tumor treatment. He is also head of the advisory committee of EPM, which develops medical cannabis derivatives. Rotstein has further been among the speakers at Improvate, an international innovation forum which brings investors, businesspeople, researchers and decision-makers from around the globe to meet with leading figures from Israeli companies, with the aim of forming new partnerships. Also lured by Improvate was Ilanit Melchior, who after 12 years with the Jerusalem Development Authority where she headed the tourism division, has moved to Improvate – where she will be in charge of marketing Israeli technological developments.

Improvate was jointly established by social and cultural entrepreneur Irina Nevzlin, who chairs the board of the ANU museum, and Ronit Hasin Hochman, former CEO of The Jerusalem Post Group.

■ NEWSPAPER GROUPS are increasingly organizing conferences in Israel and abroad, particularly in London, New York and Dubai. Scheduled for London on March 22-23 is Mind the Tech, hosted by Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot. Among the participants will be Mayor Moshe Lion, who is determined to turn Israel’s capital into the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.

But it’s hard to sell the technological capabilities of Jerusalem when it’s taken the best part of a year to complete the renovations of French Square (a.k.a. Paris Square), which was a familiar meeting place for anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, who protested vigorously when it was first made known that the area might be sealed off for restructuring.

The renovations have still not been completed, though the fence surrounding the construction site is no longer sealed and sections have been removed, enabling passersby to witness the progress of the project, which is very slow. But at least all the mud and rubble behind the fence have disappeared.

What is currently visible doesn’t seem to be an improvement over the previous structure, but hopefully the project is now drawing to a conclusion and passersby will again have where to sit. To be honest, there are several benches along Keren Hayesod Street, but not in as attractive a setting as the stone fence that surrounded the fountain in French Square when reconstruction was still just an idea.

Apropos fountains, the municipality wants to increase the number of fountains throughout the city and the question arises as to whether such structures will also include a drinking fountain where people can quench their thirst in the summer and wash the perspiration off their faces. There is something psychologically disquieting on a summer’s day to see water cascading as a mere symbol of a city’s beautification, while there is no other source of water for their personal needs.

■ IT CANNOT have been easy for Housing and Construction, and Jerusalem Affairs, Minister Ze’ev Elkin to accompany Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on his visit to Russia last weekend to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The discomfort was caused not only by the fact that the religiously observant Elkin was traveling on Shabbat, but also by the fact that he was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where he still has family.

It’s tough enough among married couples when one partner comes from Ukraine and the other from Russia, and each has a certain loyalty to the country of his or her birth. But for Elkin, who on so many occasions accompanied prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Bennett to act as interpreter during their meetings with Putin, being in Putin’s presence must on this occasion have been an unpleasant experience.

By the way, before Elkin took on a Hebrew first name, he was called Vladimir.

■ IN ITS Signature Speakers Series, conducted in cooperation with the Sami Rohr Prize Writers Showcase, the National Library of Israel (NLI) will feature a virtual event: The Intimate Written Word and its Role in Social Change. Acclaimed author Gal Beckerman will engage in conversation with NLI’s head of collections, Dr. Raquel Ukeles, in exploring the unique contributions of letters, manifestos, newspapers and magazines in understanding history and the development of social movements. Beckerman is the senior editor for books at The Atlantic, a former editor at The New York Times Book Review, and winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone. The date is Tuesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. Israel time and 1 p.m. EST.

For further details and registration, visit the National Library of Israel Events at https://www.nli.org.il/en/visit/events.

■ AFTER A three-year hiatus, the annual gala dinner for the Guardian of Zion award, presented by Ingeborg Rennert at the King David Hotel, has returned. The award is given by Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies. Guests who have regularly been on the invitation list for the prestigious event should mark April 19 on their calendars. The date is on Hol Hamoed Passover, the period between the first and last two days of Passover.

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