Grapevine: Academics at Hadassah

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

The site of the former President Hotel on Ahad Ha’am Street. In a comic twist, the derelict sign now reads ‘Resident Ho.’ (photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
The site of the former President Hotel on Ahad Ha’am Street. In a comic twist, the derelict sign now reads ‘Resident Ho.’
(photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)

Hadassah Academic College has a new CEO in the person of Shai Avrahami, who was previously CEO of the Wingate Institute.

Avrahami, 57, has a master’s degree in business administration and public policy, and an extensive background in both public service and the private sector. He will take up his new role at the beginning of September. 

HAC, conveniently situated within easy walking distance of the center of town, has a number of well-known, highly successful graduates – among them Reshet Bet reporter Suleiman Maswada, who was born in east Jerusalem, and until a decade ago knew no Hebrew. Before enrolling at HAC, he participated in a special 10-month preparatory program in which Arab youth are taught to speak Hebrew fluently so that they can be integrated into academia or the workforce. Maswada chose the academic track, as did his sister after him. He speaks Hebrew without any trace of an Arabic accent and has a rich vocabulary.

Interviewed by Liat Regev on Reshet Bet, Maswada, who covers many subjects including politics, religion, education, and just about anything and everything related to Jerusalem, compared the Arab youth of east Jerusalem to yeshiva students, noting that neither knows much about anything beyond their immediate environment. They don’t know their rights and obligations, nor are they aware of developments within the country. As far as Arab youth are concerned, he said the preparatory program is a vital springboard into the world beyond that in which they live.

The final plans for the President Hotel are here

■ WHAT ARE believed to be the final plans for the construction of the President Hotel and residential project on Ahad Ha’am and Sokolov streets in Talbiyeh have been received by the committee affiliated with the Ginot Ha’ir Community Center. They don’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t know how to read and interpret architectural plans, but experts who have examined them noted a number of points that have been confronted by anger and dismay.

 THE OLD President Hotel site on Ahad Ha’am St., seen 2020. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
THE OLD President Hotel site on Ahad Ha’am St., seen 2020. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The buildings are much taller than previously discussed. Tall buildings create shade which may be very welcome during Jerusalem’s scorching summer, but they will cause residents a lot of frustration and expense during the late autumn and winter months. A cluster of tall buildings will close out the sun, which means that solar energy heaters will all be useless, and solar energy panels in existing buildings will have to be exchanged for electric installations, which will be costly to buy and install, and substantially increase the electricity bill of every household.

As the streets that are affected are too narrow for buses and delivery trucks, the plan calls for the streets to be widened, which in effect means shaving the sidewalks, which in some sections are already very narrow. 

As very few of the residential buildings on the two streets have parking facilities, residents on both sides park their cars in the street. But with buses and delivery trucks passing through, there will be no room for cars to park in the street. 

Property developer Nahum Rosenberger, who is engaged in several other projects closer to the inner city, with towers much taller than the buildings in Talbiyeh, has said that residents can use the underground car park that he is building in their neighborhood. But the question is, will they receive parking facilities free of charge?

Another question relates to the public space which Rosenberger rents out to various groups in the existing President Hotel facility. In the new plan, public space has been considerably reduced. People using it want to know why, if the population is going to increase dramatically?

Then there is the matter of Sokolov Park, which apparently will also be reduced in size, when on Saturdays and weekday afternoons, it is chock-a-block with children. Presumably, many of the families moving into the new residential complexes will have children, which means there will be more children in an already cramped space.

In most cases, children have to cross the road to get to the park. Parents are not always on hand to supervise what threatens to become a dangerous exercise as traffic, including heavy vehicles, increases.

Although strong efforts are made to persuade the public to make greater use of public transportation and less of private cars, there is no point in telling Israelis not to use their cars. Even though many more people than those from the previous generation can afford to buy cars, in Israel a car remains a status symbol, and there’s no way that cars will stay off the roads. What happens when a hundred car owners in Rosenberger’s project decide to take their cars out into the road at the same time?

Aside from this, access to the park, according to the new plan, will become more difficult for tiny tots, senior citizens, and anyone with mobility problems. There are stairs which are quite steep. In an access-conscious society, there should never be stairs leading to a public park unless there is no option due to the natural terrain. When that happens, there should be handrails on either side, and also in the middle of a staircase, even when there are only two or three stairs.

Other developers are already eyeing Keren Hayesod, which runs at right angles to Ahad Ha’am. It boasts charming old buildings that presumably will give way to tall towers. The neighborhood is being hijacked, and its veteran residents – some who have lived there for more than half a century – seem helpless in the face of big-money investors who are being fawned over by the District Planning Committee.

All the charm of Jerusalem is disappearing before our eyes.

Learning Jewish law

■ DURING THE Hebrew calendar month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah, greater attention than usual is given to religious studies and Jewish law. The Jewish Legal Heritage Society, which organizes local and international gatherings of scholars in the field of Jewish law and values, is hosting a Week of Jewish Law from August 17-24.

Discussions, taking place at Yeshurun Synagogue and the Ramat Rachel Hotel, will focus on the sanctity of human life, respect for the other, integrity and good deeds, responsibility between an individual and his or her friends, and justice and honesty. Among the discussants will be Prof. Nahum Rakover; Supreme Court Justice Emeritus Elyakim Rubinstein; and Judge Moshe Drori. In addition, there will be numerous lectures and panel discussions throughout the country featuring rabbis, legal experts, and members of rabbinical courts. For details and registration, contact