Grapevine: Azrieli on Zion

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

  FIFA president Gianni Infantino is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021.

Yad Vashem was cutting it very fine on Monday with the visits of two foreign ministers within less than an hour of each other.

The visit of Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde was timed for 9:40 a.m. and that of Indian Foreign Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar for 10:30. Such visits always include memorial ceremonies in the Hall of Remembrance as well as brief tours of exhibits.

■ WATCH OUT Michael Federmann, here comes Danna 

Azrieli. In December 2019, the Azrieli Group, headed by Danna Azrieli announced the purchase of the Mount Zion Hotel from Shlomo Eliahu for NIS 275 million.

Founded in 1982 by the late David Azrieli, who introduced American-style shopping malls to Israel, the Azrieli Group initially focused on shopping malls and office buildings. Under the leadership of Danna Azrieli, the company has expanded its real estate interests to include residential properties, luxury retirement homes and the hospitality sector. The Mount Zion Hotel is the first of three hotels in Jerusalem, Modi’in and Tel Aviv that will come under the umbrella of the Azrieli Group. The acquisition of the Mount Zion Hotel was completed in February, 2020.

Azrieli Sarona 370 (credit: Azrieli Group)Azrieli Sarona 370 (credit: Azrieli Group)

Even during the negotiating stages, the plan was to expand the Mount Zion Hotel from 137 guest rooms to 400, and to create some 380 underground parking spaces. A significant renovation plan will be carried out, and the end result is intended to be much more luxurious than the King David, which was also recently renovated. While other luxury hotels have not yet detracted from the prestige of the King David the flagship of the Dan Hotel chain which is largely owned by the Federmann family, it is possible that when completed, the renewed Mount Zion will prove to be serious competition. Located just a hop, skip and a jump from the Cinematheque and the Begin Heritage Center, it will, in all likelihood, house overseas visitors to film festivals and participants in international conferences. However, the Azrieli Group would also like the hotel to be the natural choice of the diplomatic community when making arrangements for visiting dignitaries. Although the location offers breathtaking views of the Old City, it may be too far away from the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office in comparison to other existing hotels, plus some that are under construction and others that are still in the planning stages.

A visit to Mahaneh Yehuda market on a Thursday night or Friday morning indicates the beginnings of a revival in tourism. Whereas not so long ago it was easy to shop in the market on a Friday, over the last couple of weeks it has been almost impossible to get past the crowds of people speaking languages other than Hebrew.

■ THE ANNUAL Jerusalem Post Conference brings many people to the capital who might otherwise not visit. This year’s conference in terms of content was really the best, but the other attraction was the venue. Israelis have been waiting for 17 years since the ground-breaking ceremony attended by Arnold Schwarzenegger who was then-governor of California, to open its doors. But the project was mired in controversy, and even after the changes in the design and the start of construction, it took years before passersby could see the extent of progress, because the construction site was surrounded by a high fence. Construction is still not 100% complete, but was certainly at a stage in which the building can be used for large events, and lots of people were very curious, and happy to be able to go inside.

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) president, the very affable and witty Gianni Infantino, who was among several conference speakers that came in from abroad, did not dismiss the possibility of a World Cup championship to be held in Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2030. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), who knows a thing or two about sports, advised Infantino to bring the Real Madrid team to Israel “and then you’ll be a hero of the Israeli People.”

■ AMONG THE many speakers at the JP Conference was Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, corporate vice president at Microsoft Corporation, who also serves as the general manager of its Israel-based R&D Center and CTO of Cloud & AI Security. Braverman-Blumenstyk came to the conference only a few days after announcing that Microsoft intends to greatly expand its presence in Israel by opening additional R&D centers, including in Jerusalem, and over the next four years will more than double its current payload of 2,000 R&D employees to 4,500.

She also suggested that in order to whip up more interest in studying advanced technology among members of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities, that a hi-tech Czar, such as the one dealing with the coronavirus, be appointed in the hi-tech sector.

■ STATE COMPTROLLER Matanyahu Englman, at his own request, went on a tour of Jerusalem led by Mayor Moshe Lion. Englman said that inasmuch as he is interested in hearing about city projects and the general workings of the municipality, he thinks that it is of the utmost importance to go out into the field and to actually see with his own eyes what is happening and to talk to the people engaged in various projects and to the beneficiaries of that engagement. He voiced his pleasure at noticing that generally speaking, the city was clean. On the other hand, though impressed by the city’s development, he noted that in a report published by his office, investigators had reached the conclusion that the Jerusalem District had been weighed down by bureaucracy more than any other place in the country. When exploring East Jerusalem, Englman was also critical of the disparity in educational standards between the Jewish and Arab populations.
■ THE NAME of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jews by disobeying his government and listening to his conscience, will be linked in perpetuity with Jerusalem thanks to the joint efforts of the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jewish National Fund, various other institutions and members of the Sugihara family.

A Sugihara Square was inaugurated last week in Ir Ganim and the cornerstone was laid for a Sugihara Park in Kiryat HaYovel. Nobuki Sugihara who came to Israel with members of his family to participate in the ceremonies honoring his father, impressed everyone with his quiet dignity as he spoke of his father and of how much his father had fallen in love with Jerusalem. Second and third generation Holocaust survivors whose parents and grandparents had been saved by the transit visas issued by Chiune Sugihara were present at both events.

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