Grapevine: A flying start for Binyenei Ha'uma

  • THINGS ARE going to take off - if not literally, at least figuratively - when Prof. Israel (Izzy) Borovich, former chairman of El Al's Board of Directors and a man long associated with aviation, takes up his new appointment as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jerusalem International Convention Center, better known as Binyenei Ha'uma. The appointment was made by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski after consulting with incoming Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. Binyenei Ha'uma is jointly owned by the Jewish Agency and the Jerusalem Municipality. The appointment will become effective as of January 1, when Borovich will replace Amos Mar-Haim, who has been serving as acting chairman since 2005. Borovich, who is not a Jerusalemite, has held a number of high-level positions in Israel in both the private and public sectors. In his last position he served as chairman of the board of El Al. Before that, he was CEO of Arkia Airlines and chairman of the board of Sonol. He is a professor of computers and information systems at the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University.
  • MANY NON-JERUSALEMITES showed up at the Museum of Underground Prisoners, once the central prison during the British Mandate, for the launch of this year's Hamshushalayim, which encourages people from around the country to spend a long weekend in Jerusalem and to take advantage of many of the free and discounted cultural attractions. In the now-museum in 1947, 19-year-old prisoners Meir Feinstein, a member of the Etzel underground, and Moshe Barazani, a member of the Lehi underground, blew themselves up before the British had a chance to hang them on the gallows. Their portraits are displayed in the cell they occupied. For the hundreds of resident invitees, as well as visiting celebs such as Gadi Sukenik, Ruby Porat Shoval, Yona Elian, Sasi Keshet and Pablo Rosenberg, it was a real eye-opener. Some of the Jerusalem restaurants participating in the Hamshushalayim project served up a variety of mouth-watering delicacies. Outgoing Mayor Uri Lupolianski took great delight in dramatically introducing Nir Barkat, who this week officially became mayor. After the formalities, Lupolianski, Barkat and Barkat's wife, Beverly, went into a long huddle. Lupolianski, who had a series of run-ins with Barkat during his tenure, wished him every success, saying that Barkat's success would be Jerusalem's success.
  • ANYONE SEEKING to buy a work of art at the Lucien Krief Gallery on King David Street last Sunday night would have been surprised to see that the gallery - whose windows and walls are usually adorned with large, impressive works that instantly attract the eye - was completely bare. A note on the window advised art patrons to proceed to the nearby King David Hotel for an Israeli and international art auction. Although the room at the hotel was packed, bidding was not madly enthusiastic, and prices paid were generally lower than the reserves listed in the catalogue. There was quite a lot of telephone bidding as well, which made the auction less exciting than the pre-cellphone era, when bidders' agents who were given free rein to pay any price for a particular item kept the bidding going at a breathless pace. The highest bid was for a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, the reserve price for which had been $700,000. In good times, it would have fetched somewhere in the range of $1 million, but in a cash-strapped market in which collectors are desperately in need of fluid assets and buyers are putting a rein on their spending, the painting was sold for $580,000. Because Krief and many of his clients are Orthodox, none of the paintings, many of which came from collectors' homes in different parts of the world, had nudes as their subject matter.
  • ALTHOUGH IT is still a little early, Campaign Jerusalem 2010 was launched in London to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the engagement of British Jewry with the future of Jerusalem, beginning with the creation by Sir Moses Montefiore of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the first neighborhood to be built outside the walls of the Old City. Several of Montefiore's relatives came from all over England, as well as from elsewhere in Europe, to attend a dignified, candlelit ceremony at the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue, where Montefiore was a congregant. Eminent historian Sir Martin Gilbert reviewed British Jewry's involvement with Jerusalem over the last century and a half. Others present included Israel's Ambassador to the Court of St. James Ron Prosor; Jerusalem Foundation president Ruth Cheshin; Mishkenot Sha'ananim director Uri Dromi who, together with Bevis Marks spiritual leader Rabbi Abraham Levy, the chairman of the British Friends of the Jerusalem Foundation Martin Paisner, Robin Sebag Montefiore and others, signed a scroll of British Jewry's continued fidelity and support for Jerusalem via the Jerusalem Foundation.
  • THERE WAS a great deal of excitement and much more security than usual at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University last week when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano arrived at the university's Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace to receive an honorary doctorate. Known to be a great friend of Israel's and a personal friend of Israeli President Shimon Peres, Napolitano in his acceptance speech delivered a strong message of solidarity and friendship with the State of Israel. He cited the "extraordinary rebirth of the Jewish nation" and said that he had come "to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its existence." Napolitano condemned those who spread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ideas and expressed his full support for Israel and its struggle for peace and security. He also called on the European Union to play a more vigorous role in assisting Israel and its neighbors to achieve peace. The university honored Napolitano for his work in "defending Israel's right to live in peace and security," for his "resolute voice against terrorism and anti-Semitism," and in recognition of his "dedication to the principles of democracy and in appreciation of his warm and constant friendship for the Jewish people and the State of Israel." He has consistently condemned all manifestations of terror, has hosted numerous meetings between Israelis and Palestinians seeking a resolution to the Middle East conflict on the basis of mutual recognition, and has often provided a platform for Israelis to explain their position to the Italian Left. He is also a leading figure in Europe's fight against Holocaust denial and has regularly spoken out against anti-Semitism.
  • FOR THE first time in half a century, 100 alumni of Argentina's premier institute of higher Jewish education in Buenos Aires were reunited last week at an emotional gathering at Kibbutz Tzova near Jerusalem. The former students of the Instituto Superior de Estudios Religiosos Judíos-Machon Le'limudei Hayahadut reminisced about one of the major success stories of Jewish education in the Diaspora. The institute, founded in 1945 on the heels of the European catastrophe, was the brainchild of the late Rabbi Guillermo Schlessinger, then spiritual leader of Argentina's major congregation, the Congregación Israelita de la República Argentina. It was primarily created to train teachers for the growing network of Jewish schools, particularly in the Jewish agricultural colonies founded on Argentina's pampas in the late 1800s. With the decimation of European Jewry in the Holocaust, Schlessinger and other communal leaders wanted to create a cadre of native-born Argentine Jewish teachers, formed by scholars who had survived the tragedy and brought with them the learning of Eastern European Jewry. Among the graduates of the institute, which closed in 1960, are people who are now professors at the Hebrew and Ben-Gurion universities, prominent physicians in the Israeli health service, and important educators and rabbis in Israel, the US and Latin America. The keynote address, "From the Machon to Post-Modernism," was delivered by Prof. Shalom Rosenberg of the Hebrew University's Philosophy Department, who noted that although the institute no longer exists, its influence continues through those of its graduates who are involved with education.
  • RADIO AND television broadcaster Yigal Ravid, whose weekly The Way It Was program reminds some of the older viewers of Channel 1 of the way things were in Israel 30 years ago and more, will devote his Friday, December 5 program to Golda Meir, who died 30 years ago this week. Her son Menahem Meir will be one of the guests on the program talking about Golda the mother, while Dr. Yaacov Hasdai, who was a member of the Agranat Commission of Inquiry that investigated why Israel was caught unawares in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, will talk about Golda the stateswoman. It was because of her distaste for the North African community living in Jerusalem's Musrara neighborhood, which prior to the Six Day War had been pockmarked by Jordanian bullets fired from just across the border of no-man's land, that the Black Panthers became a formidable movement in the 1970s and was able to enlist nationwide support to enable some of its most headline-capturing activists to become members of Knesset. The most famous of these was Charlie Biton, who will be a guest on the program. The Black Panthers were latter-day Robin Hoods who stole milk from the doorsteps of the affluent (in the days when it was still being delivered each morning) and gave it to the poor. Golda referred to them as "not nice people," and they had many run-ins with the police. Biton, whose finances have improved considerably since his Black Panther days and who defiantly wore sandals without socks in the Knesset when MKs were supposed to wear shoes and socks, can frequently be seen conducting business or just schmoozing with friends at one of the tables outside the original Café Hillel on the capital's Hillel Street. These days, he does wear shoes and socks.