Grapevine February 19, 2021: Snowy Jerusalem sparks joy

Movers and shakers in Israeli society

Jerusalem under the snow, February 18, 2021 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem under the snow, February 18, 2021
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
 After agonizing for more than three weeks over why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not yet received a telephone call from US President Joe Biden, the Israeli media turned its attention to a more pressing issue. Would there be snow this week, and if so would there be snow in Jerusalem? Some wondered how there could possibly be snow, and even storms, so soon after such warm sunny weather. Forecasters such as KAN 11’s Sharon Wexler tried to explain it, but couldn’t quite present the reasons in lay person’s terms.
However, she did write on her Facebook page on Monday morning:
“Storm with lots of rain and snow ahead!
Tuesday night stormy with strong winds. On the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, a considerable drop in temps and rains from the North to the north of the Negev. On Wednesday morning we’ll already see snow in the North. Throughout Wednesday, intermittent snow in the North. In Jerusalem they will see snowflakes from time to time. On Wednesday evening conditions will become stronger, lots of snow in the North. On the night between Wednesday and Thursday, rainy, windy, snow in the north and also in the central mountains and Jerusalem (!). Fear of flooding on the beach. Thursday, the winds will weaken and we will get a lot of rain that will melt the snow. Thursday evening, the rains will abate.”
She also predicted that Friday would gradually turn into a good morning.
By the time anyone reads this, they will know to what extent her forecast was accurate.
On Monday evening, the municipality – not taking any chances – held an assessment meeting with the participation of Mayor Moshe Lion, city manager Itzik Larry and other senior figures.
Meanwhile, city hall adopted the Boy Scouts’ motto of “Be prepared” and made sure that snow sweeping heavy vehicles were available to clear the main roads if necessary so that traffic could progress smoothly.
■ CONCERNS RELATING to storms and snowfall in no way superseded those related to residents of the capital who have not yet been vaccinated. Mayor Lion approached the Health Ministry to get a list of Jerusalemites who have not been vaccinated so that they could be personally contacted and hopefully persuaded to change their minds. However, his request was denied on the grounds that it would be an invasion of privacy. Lion argued that protecting the health of the city’s population was more important than issues of privacy, but the ministry wouldn’t budge.
■ THE REASON that work on the site of the long-neglected President Hotel in Talbiyeh’s Ahad Ha’am Street has finally begun after quarter of a century of wrangling between Africa Israel and the Jerusalem Municipality, is because Africa Israel sold the property to an investment group led by Jerusalem businessman Nahum Rosenberg, who owns the Osher Ad chain of supermarkets. The reported sale price was NIS 82 million, which may sound like a lot, but which is actually more than reasonable, given that the hotel stands on 4.5 dunams of land. If all goes according to plan, the property that will be developed on the site will include a hotel, plus residential units and commercial premises. The area is two bus stops away from town and within easy walking distance of Chabad, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues as well as Independence and Sokolov Parks, the Liberty Bell Gardens, the Van Leer Institute the Jerusalem Theater and the Begin Heritage Center.
■ ANOTHER HISTORIC hotel property partially changed hands in recent weeks, in that it was run by a protected tenant for decades. The Palatin Hotel on Agrippas Street which first opened its doors in 1936, and was run by three generations of the Warshavsky family – most recently by Tody Warshavsky, the grandson of the hotel’s founder Todrus Warshavsky – was turned over to members of the Kukia famiy, headed by lawyer Ezra Kukia, whose ancestors came to Jerusalem in 1870. 
Exactly three years ago, the hotel’s oldest employee Naim Shmuli, then 102, was the subject of an interview in The Jerusalem Post. At that time, Shmuli who had been employed by the Warshavskys for 67 years, was still working. Not only that, but entrance to the hotel lobby was via a steep flight of 24 stairs, which Shmuli climbed at least twice a day, and when he returned home he had to climb another flight of stairs – also at least twice a day, because he was religious and went to synagogue for prayer services.
At the time, a new hotel was being built directly opposite the Palatin on top of a row of shops.
This worried Warshavsky slightly, but the real jolt came when a string of nearby shop fronts were closed and going up in their stead is a giant multi-purpose complex that includes a hotel. Realizing that he could not compete with his neighbors, Warshavsky got out while the going was good, and received somewhere in the range of NIS 4 million for vacating. For the immediate future, the Palatin is up for rent, but given the fact that the Kukia family is among the most affluent in Jerusalem and owns numerous properties in and around Jaffa Road, it would not be surprising if within the next year or two, the Palatin is pulled down and a new modern structure goes up on the site. 
The face of downtown Jerusalem, which used to be the heart of the city, is changing with the construction of office blocks, commercial centers, residential complexes and hotels. The new designated heart of Jerusalem is Talpiot where a whole, ultra-modern neighborhood is being built with all the facilities required by a community.