Grapevine: Ambassador on Emek

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 The new US Ambassador's residence on Emek Refaim (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The new US Ambassador's residence on Emek Refaim
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Last Friday, Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Lahav Harkov reported that US Ambassador Tom Nides, who has been living at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria since his arrival in Israel around six months ago, will be moving to premises off the German Colony’s Emek Refaim Street.

One wonders whether, in making that decision, the US Embassy completed due diligence. It’s a beautiful area, but it appears efforts to stop the light rail project in Emek Refaim have failed. Mayor Moshe Lion is determined, despite all opposition, that the project should go ahead. The noise will be unbearable for anyone living on Emek Refaim or its surroundings, and once the project begins, access to the ambassador’s residence will be difficult for him, and even more so for his visitors.

Among those he recently hosted? Two of his sisters, whom he took to Masada to show off the spectacular view.

Cable car

■ WELL-KNOWN architect and architecture historian David Kroyanker, in an interview on KAN Reshet Bet last week, was asked his opinion on the proposed cable car to the Western Wall.

Like many other architects, Kroyanker is utterly opposed to the idea. It may ease the traffic burden, but will do nothing to enhance the landscape. In fact, the whole idea is in conflict with the landscape, he declared. Kroyanker, who knows nearly every nook and cranny of Jerusalem, and has written extensively on the city’s evolving architecture throughout history, is firmly convinced the cable car will do more harm than good.

 The CABLE CAR route will travel over the Hinnom Valley to the Old City’s Dung Gate, with the final stop at a planned City of David Kedem tourist and visitors center at the entrance to excavations in the Silwan neighborhood.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) The CABLE CAR route will travel over the Hinnom Valley to the Old City’s Dung Gate, with the final stop at a planned City of David Kedem tourist and visitors center at the entrance to excavations in the Silwan neighborhood. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Shavuot

■ IN ISRAEL, few celebrations are one-day affairs; some go for a full week or even longer. Witness Purim, which starts before the actual date and ends days afterward, and Jerusalem Day, for which festivities started more than a week ago and will continue till at least the end of the first week of June – and then, of course, there’s Shavuot.

Yocheved and Moshe Zemel, who live in what is popularly known as the Pinsker building, brought Shavuot forward last Saturday in honor of Moshe’s 86th birthday. At the kiddush held in the open area following the service in the building’s exquisite little synagogue, the lavish spread included traditional Shavuot fare such as cheese blintzes and cheesecake.

Jay Solomont, the congregation’s gabbai, exited the synagogue a little ahead of the other congregants to make sure kiddush preparations were in order, and personally placed serving utensils into every bowl and tray. He was obviously well trained as a boy.

Moshe Zemel wore an eye-catching, smartly cut tuxedo jacket with a deep blue swirl pattern on a black background. His wife explained that he’d seen someone else wearing one and, when told it was a Shabbat tuxedo, liked the idea and ordered one for himself.

Jerusalem Day

■ EVERY SYNAGOGUE congregation has its own way of celebrating Jerusalem Day, and Hazvi Yisrael, otherwise known as Hovevei, will have a native son of Jerusalem as a late-afternoon speaker this coming Saturday, with a group of synagogue members combining their voices to lead the singing.

The native son is Moshe Nissim, who in his prime was one of the youngest-ever MKs, becoming a legislator at age 24. He went on to several ministerial portfolios, including justice minister. The son of late Sephardi chief rabbi Yitzhak Nissim, he is a former officer in the Israel Air Force. After leaving politics, he opened his own law office, and has represented a number of heavy-duty clients.

Rami Levy to build in Talpiot

■ WHAT MAKES Rami run? Whenever one turns, Rami Levy is into a new business venture – the opening of a supermarket, the expansion of his communications venture, a commercial center, mall, hotel, residential complex, sheltered living facility – and now he’s about to build a 15-story tower on top of the Israel Brothers shopping mall in Talpiot.

According to Hebrew media reports, Levy and the Israel Brothers will modernize the mall and, in doing so, will add the tower, designated for commercial, industrial and residential use.

Veteran Jerusalemites can remember Talpiot as a large dirt track with a diamond cutting and polishing enterprise and not much more.

Talpiot, which celebrates its centenary this year, was in its early incarnation a garden suburb occupied by office executives and clerical personnel. It was briefly evacuated during the Hebron massacres of 1929, but residents later returned. The area was taken over by the Hagana when British Mandatory authorities left Jerusalem. During the War of Independence, Talpiot became a frontier area surrounded by Jordanians whose snipers fired frequently. Nonetheless, Israelis continued to live there.

The neighborhood deteriorated till after the 1967 war, when some of the industries removed from Mamilla were rehoused in Talpiot. The area mushroomed into a large industrial zone, quickly followed by commercial enterprises, banquet halls, restaurants and even residential sections. Now, even greater gentrification is on the way.

Tal campus for women

■ IT MAY not be listed among the whirlwind of celebrations marking Jerusalem Day, but it is related, given the presence of Mayor Lion and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who have indicated they attend the May 30 groundbreaking ceremony for the Jerusalem College of Technology’s Tal campus for women.

Considering the importance Lion attaches to making the capital Israel’s Silicon Valley, the expansion of the women’s campus represents a significant socioeconomic milestone for the city, providing the haredi community’s different factions permit the women in their midst to study there. 

To date, the most popular profession for haredi women is teaching, where they are overworked and underpaid, and where their conditions in relation to those of male teachers are far worse than those in the secular community – where both male and female teachers are underpaid, and more is expected of them for the little they earn.

However, considering that a large number of haredi women all over the country already work in hi-tech, bringing home substantial salaries, there is a strong likelihood that increasing numbers of these young women will be enrolling in institutions of higher learning where, in addition to religious studies, they will receive an excellent education in technological and scientific subjects.

Meanwhile, plans are going ahead for the $100 million expansion project slated for completion in 2025.

The Tal campus currently accommodates more than 2,400 women, but the new campus will be able to serve a student population in excess of 3,000 females, who will study nursing, computer sciences, electro-optics, industrial engineering, accounting and management – all of which are ripe for future employment.

Tal College is not limited to haredi women, though they are the majority of students. Young women from the Ethiopian community are likewise given the opportunity to acquire the skills that will enable them to secure well-paid jobs.

Elkin has previously affirmed the government’s commitment to investing in the Tal campus project. With the government standing on shaky ground, it is not certain his promises can be kept, but once the project is under way, presumably the necessary funding will materialize.

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