Grapevine: Sweet carillon

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTER Nachman Shai arrives to the President’s Residence last month. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
DIASPORA AFFAIRS MINISTER Nachman Shai arrives to the President’s Residence last month.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

VISITORS TO the President’s Residence in Talbiyeh can see that, here too, construction is going on. The building which this year reached its 50th anniversary, requires repairs and re-enforcement, and such work at the entrance to the main building and on the pergola is presently underway, which means that guests are no longer able to walk a straight line in order to enter the building, but have to take a detour.

Among events at the President’s Residence this week was an awards ceremony celebrating diversity in advertising and marketing with Yael Pedatzur in attendance, a former team member of the Presidents’ Spokespersons’ Unit during the tenure of president Shimon Peres. When Peres completed his seven-year term, Pedatzur was among several staff members who followed him to the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Jaffa. Pedatzur stayed there for four years, and then moved on to SodaStream where she is very happy. Colleagues sitting alongside her wanted to know more about the President’s Residence and Pedatzur happily gave them a running commentary. On the buffet of refreshments prior to the event were two kinds of latkes served not with applesauce, sugar, salt or ketchup, but with hummus. The taste was actually quite interesting.

■ ONE OF the perks of being a government minister is that one gets to go to so many different events, some of which are quite enjoyable, as for instance the opening last Saturday night of the 23rd Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival where Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai was one of the speakers. It was definitely a much more pleasant experience than that of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz who were at the emergency meeting of the coronavirus cabinet.

On the following night Shai celebrated his 75th birthday; on Monday he participated in a Zoom meeting with the Zionist Federation of Australia which was celebrating the 74th anniversary of the United Nations vote on the partition on Palestine; and on Wednesday night, he lit Hanukkah candles with members of the Jerusalem branch of the Labor Party. And these events are not all in a busy week.

■ GETTING BACK to the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, on Sunday night, the first night of Hanukkah, celebrated philosopher, award-winning war correspondent, author and documentary filmmaker Bernard Henri Levy, was presented with the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Achievement Award prior to the screening of his latest documentary, The Will to See. Given the season, it was hardly surprising that the award took the form of a silver filigree hanukkiah. Levy, who has a string of Israeli and international awards, and honorary academic degrees from Israel and other countries, said he was very moved to receive the reward and also very moved to be back in Jerusalem after an absence of a year-and-a-half.

 French writer, philosopher and filmmaker Bernard-Henri Lévy. (credit: COURTESY) French writer, philosopher and filmmaker Bernard-Henri Lévy. (credit: COURTESY)

“I missed Israel,” he said, adding that he was honored that the film had been selected for the film festival. “This film is the best way to embody and reiterate my Jewish values, and to practice tikkun olam,” Levy said, using the Hebrew term for “repairing the world.”

As a war correspondent who has been in an extraordinary number of conflict zones across the world, Levy not only writes the story but becomes involved in it, and at times, even dictates it. Without the film as evidence, the extent of his influence would be difficult to believe.

■ IT’S DEFINITELY the season for bell ringing. Lovers of the sound of the carillon flocked to Jerusalem this week to listen to the sound of Hanukkah tunes emanating from the YMCA bell tower on King David Street, where Gaby Shefler, one of Israel’s few carillonneurs, demonstrates his skill. Once Hanukkah is over Shefler will turn his talents to Christmas carols.

■ AT A meeting this week of the Trains and Tram Society of Israel headed by Steve Sattler, options were discussed for means of preventing the National Railway Company from closing the historic train line from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem which offers passengers some breathtaking views of nature. It’s doubtful that Transportation and Road Safety Minister Merav Michaeli can be influenced on this score, though she is siding with all those who object to a cable car running to the Old City and the Western Wall. But her objections are not so much for the project per se, whose proposers include the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority. Michaeli is objecting on the grounds that the project has been presented as a transportation project when in fact it’s a tourism project, which she insists will do more harm than good. Aside from anything else, it will spoil the character of the Old City. In other countries where historic cities have been preserved or rebuilt to correspond with their historic charm, transportation is often by horse and carriage so as to maintain the old world image. But in Jerusalem, while the powers-that-be boast of the over 3,000 years of the city’s history, all they want to do is renew. Everything has to be ultra-modern and on the threshold of the next decade, with little or no respect for the past.

■ FORMER STATE Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who was and is the nemesis of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, was recently appointed rector of the National Library, working alongside the library’s director-general Oren Weinberg. Nitzan will manage all aspects of the library’s content, including, presumably, Olmert’s autobiography. Weinberg will continue to manage the library’s day-to-day operations.

He is very excited by his new role, particularly in view of the fact that the new, vastly enlarged National Library is due to open next year. Nitzan envisages that it will be a top of the line educational and cultural center.

■ NOT EVERYONE looks forward to retirement. Some people never retire, but Dr. Ronald Wachtel, the founder of Kav L’Noar, is actually retiring for the second time. The first time was around 20 years ago when he made aliyah after having worked for 30 years as a school psychologist in a Jewish day school and a public high school in the US. He and his wife Carrie made aliyah in 2002. Noticing a large number of immigrant families among his neighbors, and observing the struggles that they and their children experienced, Wachtel founded Kav L’Noar in 2004. Now he’s retiring again and a farewell dinner in Jerusalem in his honor will be both in-person and virtual.

That’s part of the new social order. You can be there in the flesh or you can sit in your living room and just see and hear what’s happening without being induced into any social interaction. Guest speakers at the dinner on December 12 will be Rabbi Berel Wein and Dr. Jennie Goldstein.

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