Grapevine: United in devotion

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

UNITED HATZALAH founder Eli Beer when he returned to Israel on the Adelson jet following his recovery from coronavirus. (photo credit: Courtesy)
UNITED HATZALAH founder Eli Beer when he returned to Israel on the Adelson jet following his recovery from coronavirus.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 In February, 2020, Friends of United Hatzalah raised $15 million at the second annual gala fundraiser for Israel’s ever-growing emergency medical service whose volunteers include religious and secular people of different faiths and professional backgrounds from all sectors of Israeli society. Among the big donors were Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson.
Entertainment at the event was provided by Jay Leno and Israeli singer Dudu Aharon. Needless to say, United Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer was on hand, thrilled by the support that his organization was receiving from American philanthropists who recognized the importance of what United Hatzalah does.
For those not sufficiently aware, guest speaker, Miriam Adelson, who happens to be a dedicated physician, spoke of the courage of the organization’s volunteers and their devotion to human life. They are fearless and energetic, she said, and bring Israelis closer together by bridging differences of religion and race. 
“They bring meaning to the word ‘united’ in United Hatzalah.”
During that fund-raising tour across America, Beer contracted severe coronavirus, and was hospitalized and intubated for several weeks, missing out on his family’s Passover Seder. In fact when he finally regained consciousness and asked about the Seder, his wife barely had the heart to tell him that it had already been.
When he recovered sufficiently to return to Israel, Sheldon Adelson put his private plane at Beer’s disposal so that he could fly home in the most comfortable manner possible.
Beer had great affection for Adelson, not only because of the huge financial support which the Adelson family gave to the organization, but also because he regarded Adelson as an inspiring human being. Thus, when Adelson died last week, the United Hatzalah headquarters at the entrance to Jerusalem, had a huge sign on the front of its building reading: “Sheldon, the Israeli public cherishes your memory.”
■ A LOT of people have started wearing transparent masks so that friends and acquaintances will recognize them. Not Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther, who after coming out of quarantine went for a downtown stroll to Ben Yehuda Street wearing masks that covered half their faces. However, they were recognized by numerous strangers who stopped to say “Shalom” and to enhance Pollard’s realization that he really has come home.
For Pollard, everything is new, and only if he sees the For Rent or For Sale signs on store windows does he realize that the immediate past occupants have in one way or another been the victims of the coronavirus. His wife, who lived in Jerusalem for many years before she joined him in New York following his release from prison and stayed with him during his parole period, can see how much Jerusalem has changed during her absence.
Although so many people have gone out of business over the past year, some pre-state enterprises continue to function despite illness and fatalities. One such company is Romema-headquartered Oran Heating Equipment, founded in 1937 by Zvi Seidel (Zaidel), and continued by his four sons. Oran, which supplies and installs various kinds of central heating, air conditioning, water heating, energy saving systems and more for industry, hospitals, nursing homes, organizations and institutions, the Defense Ministry and private individuals, also has a plant in Har Hotzvim and provides employment for close to 150 people.
Although the company prospered over the years and is listed in Dun and Bradstreet and other financial publications, the four brothers remained typical Jerusalemites, helping people with advice and with charity. Unfortunately, theirs is one of those stories of bad things happening to good people. A third of their employees were either sick or in quarantine The two older brothers, who despite their age were energetic and healthy, also fell ill, were hospitalized in the intensive care unit, and intubated. Efraim, 82, and Chagai, 80, passed away within a few days of each other. The two remaining brothers, Pesach and Gadi, aided by some of the members of the next generation, are continuing with their father’s legacy. Next year, Oran will celebrate its 85th anniversary. 
So many pre-state companies have fallen by the wayside because the third or the fourth generations were not interested in working in that line of business. Fortunately, in this respect, Oran has not only survived but thrived.
■ SEVERAL WEEKS ago, there was an item in this column about the closure of a Bank Hapoalim branch on Hapalmach Street. The former bank building has been purchased by Jerusalem businessman Avi Yohanan, owner of the Zol Ubegadol chain of supermarkets. In the not-too-distant future, residents of the area who used to frequent the bank will in all probability come even more often to the supermarket, which will now compete with the veteran Co-Op supermarket just a few meters down the road. Most of the stores in the Zol Ubegadol chain are in low-income neighborhoods, a factor that does not in general apply to Hapalmach Street, where there is also a mini-market. Whereas some other supermarket chains change their prices in accordance with their locations, meaning that the prices go up in an upmarket neighborhood, and come down in a poor neighborhood, Yohanan has let it be known that prices throughout his chain are uniform regardless of location.