Grapevine, November 20, 2020: Special quality

The movers and shakers of Israeli society.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Just because some children have special needs does not mean that they don’t have talents or are lacking in potential. A prime example is world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman, who contracted polio at age four.
Admittedly, it is easier to discover and encourage the talents of people with physical disabilities than those with intellectual development disabilities, but that does not mean that such children cannot be musical, artistic or athletic.
Several organizations are dedicated to infusing quality of life into children with special needs. Among them is the Jerusalem-headquartered Friendship Circle, which is headed by Chana Canterman, who is also the codirector of Chabad of Talbiyeh.
Friendship Circle also works on behalf of mainstream adolescents who lack meaningful focus and sense of purpose and who feel isolated in their environment. It brings such youth together with youngsters with special needs in the belief that when a child with special needs forges a lifelong friendship with a mainstream adolescent, this becomes a contribution to a more sensitive, inclusive world and caring society.
Regardless of the extent of volunteerism in any organization or institution, neither can function on goodwill alone. The implementation of ideas which are turned into projects costs money, which is why Friendship Circle this week conducted a two-day fundraiser from November 15 to 17 with a target aim of $306,000. The organization will, of course, be happy to receive donations throughout the year. The mailing address is 44 David Marcus Street, Jerusalem.
A group of philanthropists from Israel, America, England and Canada agreed to match the funds of whatever sum was raised this week. This group includes: the Bernard and Miriam Hochstein Family Foundation; the Conrad Morris Family Foundation; the Chiba Foundation; Efraim and Rita Greenfield; the Cohn family, USA; Daphna and Ilan Bloch; Suzie Frankel at the Frankel Family Foundation; the Fogel family; the Hayman family, USA; and the Smetana Family Foundation, USA.
During the past year more than 250 teenage volunteers have paired with special-needs youngsters, providing hours of fun and friendship for both, while developing a sense of community responsibility among the volunteers. It is hoped that this number will be doubled in 2021.
■ SEASONED BUSINESSPEOPLE know that one should never enter into any kind of business venture without due diligence. Even the most highly reputed individuals cannot be taken at their word when a major business transaction is involved, as at least three haredi investors discovered to their cost.
The story of their misfortune appeared in Yediot Aharonot last week. The article focused on the person who had suffered the greatest loss – somewhere in the vicinity of NIS 8 million.
Three years ago, the man received an investment proposition from a group of activists in his community. The idea was to jointly purchase a building in the Geula neighborhood, tear it down and a build a luxury housing complex in its place from, which they could all profit handsomely.
The key victim in this enterprise duly signed contracts and borrowed money with which to invest his share in the venture, depositing NIS 6 million in the hands of the people whom he presumed to be his partners. They showed him bank statements that indicated that they had deposited identical sums. They subsequently asked him for an additional NIS 2m. to invest in a guesthouse and museum in a haredi settlement elsewhere in the country.
After several months, the victim of what turned out to be a scam went to see what progress had been made on the property in Geula, and discovered to his dismay that the project about which he had heard so much did not exist. There was no sign of infrastructure or construction. After further investigation, he found out that the land for both investments, which his so-called partners had claimed to have bought, did not belong to them at all, and that they hadn’t invested a single shekel in either project. The bank statements he had been shown were fake.
He and two other investors approached the men who had cheated them and asked for their money back. They didn’t want the con men to lose their reputation in the community, so they kept pressuring them. But after a while they realized that their good intentions were to no avail and took the matter to a Rabbinical Court which ruled in their favor. But the money was still not forthcoming, and meanwhile the victim was in serious debt, which he was unable to repay.
In haredi circles, there is every attempt to avoid turning to the civil courts for justice, but in this case, there was obviously no alternative. The victim again approached the Rabbinical Court and asked for permission to transfer the case to a civil court. Permission was duly granted, and after the victim went to court, a further investigation was mounted by the police. That investigation has not yet been completed, as other complaints against the scammers have since been lodged.
The moral of the story is that no matter how much you may trust someone, make due diligence the rule before you invest – especially during a period of economic crisis.
■  WHEN TEDDY Kollek was mayor of Jerusalem, there was a four-story limit on the height of apartment buildings, although there were a few exceptions to the rule. But in general, there was little fear on the part of anyone purchasing a top floor apartment that their view would be obstructed in a relatively short period of time by a taller building being constructed on the adjoining plot of land.
Obstruction of views seems to be the norm these days, as Mayor Moshe Lion keeps encouraging ever higher construction. This is particularly evident on Jaffa Road in the area on either side of the market, where there are scores of new apartment units in high-rise buildings. If Teddy Kollek were to rise from the grave, he simply would not recognize the street that was once so familiar to him. Similar construction has taken place and is taking place in other parts of what is essentially a commercial zone, not to mention what is happening in suburbia.
A lot of veteran Jerusalemites find this disturbing, but at the same time are appreciative that during Lion’s administration, there are many more benches and chairs that have been fixed into the pavement so that pedestrians can sit down and relax and watch world go by. But with all the construction that’s going on, there is still a dearth of public toilets. A few efforts have been made to ameliorate this situation with portable toilets, especially during the influx of participants in protest demonstrations, and a more permanent public toilet has been constructed on Jaffa Road near Strauss Street. There are of course plenty of public toilets in shopping malls, but not every suburb has a mall, and not every public park or downtown street can boast a toilet.
Perhaps the city planning committee should give a little more thought to amending this lacuna in the city with the largest population in the country.