Grapevine: Hobnobbing with Netanyahu

"Want to be Bibi's neighbor?" say "For Sale" and "To Let" signs near the official and private residences of the prime minister.

Netanyahu Kotel  248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Netanyahu Kotel 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
n ANYONE WALKING through the Rehavia and Talbiyeh neighborhoods cannot fail to notice the numerous "For Sale" and "To Let" signs, several of which are in the immediate vicinity of the official and private residences of the prime minister. Pollack Real Estate and Investment consultants have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. The headline on their latest advertisement is "Want to be Bibi's neighbor?" Presumably that's the current snob appeal in Jerusalem. n CONVENTIONAL WISDOM says that what you learn in early childhood stays with you for the rest of your life. Arguably one of the most important lessons is the understanding and respecting of the other. The International YMCA in Jerusalem, which has hosted numerous events and programs in which Jews, Christians and Muslims work together and interact with each other in the most cordial of environments, now has a Peace Preschool that brings together children of the three monotheistic, as well as other faiths, to teach them about each other's beliefs, cultures and languages. The director of the program is Adena Levine. Parents interested in finding out more can e-mail or call 569-2681. n THIS YEAR Rabbi Adam Frank of Jerusalem's Moreshet Israel Congregation, which follows the Conservative stream of Judaism, was more meticulous than in the past when acting as an agent for congregants who came to the synagogue to sell their hametz. In previous years, he asked the name and address, including the apartment number in the building. This year, he wanted to know exactly where the hametz would be stored in case the non-Jew to whom it was sold might come knocking at the door to demand his property. To congregants who knew why he was being so insistent and who told him that they also had heard the edict of Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Frank replied, "We don't listen to Metzger; he listens to us." To which a lot of Conservative rabbis might say, "You wish." n EVERY PESSAH and Shavuot, observant Jews flock to Hebron for music festivals that feature popular local performers In the past, the Hebron concerts have attracted thousands of people. However, due to the current financial crisis, there will not be a music festival in Hebron this Pessah. Nonetheless, visitors to the ancient city will be welcome. During the intermediate days of Pessah, the whole of the Machpela complex will be open to Jews on Sunday and Monday, April 12 and 13. In addition, there will be festive activities including tours of the city. There just won't be a concert because the Hebron Jewish community can't afford to pay for the costs involved. However, fans of The Moshav Band will be able to catch up with it on Saturday, April 11, at Mercaz Shimshon at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem and on Monday, April 13, at Kibbutz Tzora. Transportation to the kibbutz can be arranged by calling 050-546-0067. n JERUSALEMITES ARE not the only ones interested in the changing face of the city, and the loss of panoramic views as new towering buildings or add-ons to existing old buildings alter the city's skyline. Just where is Jerusalem going architecturally? The School for Architecture at the Ariel University Center has invited Jerusalem city engineer Shlomo Eshkol, who is an architect by profession, to discuss the capital's master plan for mass transportation, the city center, development of parks, preserving the Old City, as well as certain traditions in new construction, developing industrial zones and projects to be carried out between 2020 and 2030. The lecture will take place in the Raab Auditorium on the Ariel University campus at 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 16. n ONE WOULD not expect to find a kiddush that included kitniyot in a largely Ashkenazi synagogue. But this was one of the rare occasions on which no one could really object. Yeshurun Synagogue, in conjunction with the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, last Saturday hosted Rabbi Ari Berman, former senior rabbi of the Jewish Center in Manhattan. To allow time for English speakers from other congregations to arrive for his Shabbat Hagadol address, Yeshurun served a kiddush that was already kosher le'Pessah because it had cleaned out the premises in preparation for the communal Seder. As kitniyot are not hametz and most of the store-bought kosher le'Pessah cookies contain kitniyot, this was one time when Ashkenazim could enjoy them too. Separately, but together, the Great Synagogue and Yeshurun have hosted well over 200 people at their respective Sedarim and also supplied food packages that contained all that was needed for the Seder plus food for the following day to hundreds more. Yeshurun's charity fund distributes aid amounting to $6,000 each month, usually in the form of vouchers designated for the purchase of food at supermarkets, clothing at designated shops, or medicines at pharmacies. In some cases, the fund will make direct payments to utility companies for electricity, water or other essential needs. All recipients are verified as needing this kind of help by Israel government agencies (such as the National Insurance Institute or social services). As Berman looked out at his huge audience and saw many familiar faces, he quipped how nice it was for people from the Upper West Side to come to Jerusalem especially for his lecture. An extraordinary number of former New Yorkers live in Rehavia, Talbiyeh, Yemin Moshe, the German Colony, Baka, Katamon and Abu Tor, which are all within relatively easy walking distance of Yeshurun. n MANY THINGS have been written and said about the new government, but one of the aspects that has been largely overlooked is that it is the first government in which two of the key partners in the Tel Aviv-based law firm Herzog, Fox and Neeman, which is the largest in the country, are serving as ministers. Isaac Herzog, who lives in Tel Aviv, is minister for social services; and Yaakov Neeman, who lives in Jerusalem, is justice minister. It is the second time in the same slot for both, although they did not serve together previously. While in the same coalition, they are on different sides of the political fence. Herzog is a Labor man, while Neeman is a Likudnik. Just as a matter of interest, while Herzog is the son of former president Chaim Herzog, Neeman is a distant relative of Theodor Herzl.