TENS OF thousands of Jerusalemites have probably never heard of Tel Aviv-based business tycoon Alfred Akirov, the man who built and owns the Alrov Mamilla Mall. Akirov did more than build a store-lined walkway between new and old Jerusalem. He created an active cultural facility that enables the residents of and visitors to Jerusalem to enjoy visual and performing arts at his expense. Large, low-income families can go to the mall to listen to free concerts and view works of art.
During Succot there were many more performers than usual, but none attracted as much attention as violin virtuoso Daniel Ahaviel. His face radiated a contagious joy, which in turn was reflected in the faces of his audience. Ahaviel has boundless energy and danced as he played. In addition to hassidic melodies, his repertoire includes medleys of Turkish, Hungarian and Irish folk melodies to which he applied some fancy footwork.
There were several other talented musicians playing in different parts of the mall, but none had Ahaviel's magic, and none drew as large a crowd as he did. He didn't seem to be the least bit tired and played encore after encore. Finally he said, "Will those who want me to stop please put up their hands." No one did. Even after he finally put down his bow, he stood talking to his fans for half an hour.
Ahaviel, 46, born in London to a family of politicians, has been playing the violin since he was eight. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of York, where he studied music composition and improvisation. In 1988 he settled in Israel and married soon afterwards. He and his wife discovered religion and gradually became observant. Initially he was an Ashlag Hassid, but in 2001 he discovered Breslav. Since then, especially after his first visit to Uman, Rabbi Nahman has had an impact on his life as a musician and a music teacher. Ahaviel has performed in many parts of the world, interspersing his playing with hassidic tales and songs.
AMONG THE overseas visitors seen at the Mamilla Mall during Succot was Robert Duffy, the partner of Marc Jacobs, one of America's leading fashion designers and art collectors, who is also the creative director for the prestigious French fashion house Louis Vuitton. Duffy loved the mall and was more than just a window shopper. He spent quite a lot of time at the Rolex Show store, where he purchased two Rolex watches - one for himself and the other for Jacobs.
AS ALWAYS, thousands of people flocked to Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park on the night after Simhat Torah for the 28th annual Second Hakafot sponsored by philanthropist Eugene Gluck and his wife, Jean, in cooperation with Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. The ever elegant and energetic great-grandmother, Jean Gluck, wearing high-heeled shoes, led scores of women in some spirited dancing of circles within circles packed as tightly as sardines but obviously having a great time.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger used gematria (numerical values) to emphasize the connection of the Gluck family with Israel and with Jerusalem, and Beit El in particular. Noting that this was the 28th time that the Glucks had sponsored the post-Simhat Torah event, Metzger said that 28 in gematria is koah (kaf-het), which means "strength." Then he said that yad means "hand" and explained that the word derives from the fact that there are 14 finger joints in the hand, and that 14 in gematria is "yad." When the hand of one person shakes that of another, it is a sign of friendship. Thus two friends are yedidim. 14 plus 14, Metzger continued, equals 28 because there is strength in friendship as epitomized by the manner in which the Glucks have shaken hands with Jerusalem, causing thousands of people from around the world to come each year to the Liberty Bell Park in a demonstration of Jewish unity.
The blessings were sung by genial cantor Chaim Adler, whose voice proved to be just as powerful and impressive outdoors as it is within the walls of the Great Synagogue.
CLIENTS FROM Israel and abroad look forward to getting together at the annual Succot breakfast hosted by the Bank of Jerusalem. In past years the breakfast has been held in the succa of the Inbal Hotel, but this year there was a change of venue to Beit Shalom. As it happens, the bank is sandwiched between both venues. Guest speaker this year was Kadima MK Nahman Shai, who told his audience that Israel should invest at least as much in education and social welfare as it does in the acquisition of airplanes.
SEVERAL JERUSALEM socialites are part of a clique that gets invited to most of the important events in the city. In addition, they get together on a regular basis in each other's homes and in the city's restaurants and coffee shops - and, of course, are invited to each other's celebrations. Some of them met in each other's succot but also got together in the succa of the Joy Restaurant on Emek Refaim, where they posed for photos with each other and with owner and chef Aviram Dotan, who treated them royally. Among the group were artist Tammy Gutman; pianist Elisabeth Berkovits, who taught Yair Netanyahu how to tickle the ivories; lawyer Tammy Raveh; Mimi Kanfu; Revital Balashnikov; architect Claudia Rosenkotz; and real estate agent Rivka Porat. Although they have ample opportunities to sit around and schmooze, the women never seem to run out of conversation.
AFTER PUTTING out feelers at home and abroad for a scholar of outstanding international academic repute to serve as the founding president of the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center's Shalem College for the Liberal Arts, the search committee announced the appointment of Martin Kramer. He has not only the academic qualifications but also the leadership ability required to articulate Shalem College's vision. Kramer established a stellar reputation for creativity and professionalism during his 25 years as a scholar of Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he also headed the prestigious Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Kramer has been a visiting scholar at Harvard, Cornell and Brandeis Universities and has a long-time affiliation with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In addition, he has been associated with the Shalem Center as a Senior Fellow at its Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies. Kramer's appointment is a significant step toward launching Shalem College and helping to transform Israeli higher education, said members of the search committee. Additional faculty members will be recruited in the months ahead. Kramer will be working closely with the Shalem board and the leadership team at the Shalem Center, including Yair Shamir, Daniel Gordis, Yoram Hazony and Daniel Polisar, as well as with the college's Academic Council.
LONG BEFORE restaurant and hotel chefs became celebrities with their own television shows and a series of beautifully illustrated cookbooks to their credit, Ruth Sirkis was considered to be the Israeli Julia Child, with newspaper columns and radio and television appearances in which she explained the secrets of the cuisine of different ethnic groups. She also published numerous cookbooks on the culinary heritage of different countries. The books have been published in several languages. Each of the recipes has been tried out in her large Ramat Aviv kitchen. Never tiring of cooking or publishing, Sirkis has just put out her latest book, From Asia with Love. Her daughter Tammy Sirkis Ackerman is a food journalist and second-generation cookbook author who, like her mother, is a regular guest on radio and television programs, as well as on leading Internet sites.