PLUNGING DOLLAR values have sent many Europeans scurrying to the United States in search of bargains. Almost everything in the US these days is much cheaper than its European equivalent.
By the same token, lots of Jewish Europeans are coming to Israel to buy apartments, which in many cases are still priced the same in dollar terms as six months or a year ago, even though the dollar has dipped so much in relation to the shekel. For the British, even expensive apartments and houses in Israel are cheap compared to what something similar would cost in England.
Proof of the pudding occurred last week, when Aaron Bass, a real estate agent working with Anglo-Saxon, persuaded a British visitor to Jerusalem to look at a duplex penthouse in the suburb of Gilo before returning home to London. After briefly taking stock of the 180-sq.m. six-room cottage, the man rushed to the airport and while in flight concluded that for $343,000 he was getting a pretty good deal. He called his Israeli lawyer and told him to close the transaction.
According to Anglo-Saxon CEO Benny Loval, lots of foreign buyers or their lawyers are taking an extraordinary interest in property in Jerusalem. While many don't intend to live in Israel in the near future, maybe, in least in some cases, this is a way of having a say in the destiny of the capital of the Jewish people.
GLOBAL GAMES giant Parker Brothers has launched a worldwide vote for the 22 greatest cities in the world to be included on the new Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition game board. As of January 22, Monopoly fans around the world have been able to visit www.monopoly.com and vote online to help create the first-ever worldwide edition of the game. Voters can cast their ballots for 10 great cities each day of the vote, until February 28. The city that receives the most votes will be placed on the highest rent property and two spaces on the board will be reserved for cities that are nominated through a wild card vote.
"Monopoly is the world's most popular board game and it transcends cultural barriers," said Helen Martin, Global Brand Leader for Monopoly Brand. "More than 750 million people have played the game since it was first introduced nearly 75 years ago and its popularity shows no signs of slowing down."
The cities voted onto the final game board will be announced in August.
GOVERNMENT MINISTERS and party leaders have to take time out occasionally to relax with their families. Thus Shas chairman and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai temporarily escaped the cold of Jerusalem to enjoy the warmth of Eilat. While in the South, he took his sons aged five and nine to the City of the Kings Theme Park, where they got a great kick out of all the attractions. Yishai appeared to be enjoying himself as well.
WRITING IN the current issue of 15 Minutes Magazine, of which he is the editor and publisher, Tim Boxer makes mention of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's prostate cancer, and the reassurances that he received from singer actor Mike Burstyn, who visited Israel a couple of months back with his wife Cyona who has an aunt and uncle living in Jerusalem.
Burstyn, 62, had surgery for prostate cancer nine years ago in Los Angeles, writes Boxer. "So when Ehud Olmert, also 62, announced in October that he's going to have prostate cancer surgery, Mike called from his home in LA to wish his friend a full recovery.
"'Welcome to the club,' Mike said. Olmert said this was the second phone call he got that day. The first was from Rudy Giuliani, 63, the Republican frontrunner in the race to the White House and a cancer survivor in 2000. The next month Mike was in Tel Aviv to perform at ZOA House. He dropped in on the prime minister in Jerusalem for a half-hour chat. 'I wanted to share with him what to expect from personal experience,' said Mike. 'I assured him that he would come through with flying colors and be cured, just as I was. We plan to meet again this year to celebrate together.'"
SDEROT CONTINUES to remain in the headlines to the extent that some electronic media anchors feel the need to interview residents even when Kassam rockets are not landing in their backyards. One such resident, Zohar Avidan, interviewed by Israel Radio's Amikam Rotman on his weekly show That's Life, remarked that political leaders are so busy discussing how they would have dealt with some national crisis, that they're too busy with the past to deal with the future. However, any politician who wants to float a new idea comes to Sderot, said Avidan. "It's a virtual studio because all the media is here."
WHEN YOU'RE in the movie business you can always oblige a charitable organization by making a movie available for a premiere. That's what happened this week, when Haifa supporters of Libi, the Soldiers Welfare Association, were given the opportunity to see Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts before it hits the screens in Globus Group movie houses around the country. Patrons paid NIS 100 per ticket to see the film, which was specially screened in Globus Max Kiryat Bialik. Libi Haifa chairperson Rachel Vardi said that proceeds would be used on behalf of soldiers in the North.
EUROPEAN AMBASSADORS are inclined to be supportive of each other, so when Slovenian Ambassador Boris Sovic organized a photo exhibition at the Givatayim Theater, it was not surprising that some dozen European ambassadors showed up. The photographs are by internationally acclaimed Slovenian photojournalist Arne Hodalic, whose work is often seen in National Geographic. There were also some European ambassadors at the Herzliya Pituah residence of Hungarian Ambassador Andras Gyenge and his wife Aniko, who hosted a reception in honor of visiting Hungarian Education and Culture Minister Istvan Hiller. And of course the Tel Aviv Cinematheque was buzzing at the opening of the annual Murphy's Irish Festival hosted by genial Irish Ambassador Michael Forbes, where invitees not only downed at least a pint of Murphy's brew and heard some great Irish music, but also saw the Israeli premiere of the Irish modern-day musical Once, set in the streets of Dublin.
FOR MANY recent immigrants, the first year away from the motherland can feel a little empty without the traditional celebrations of the old country. Thus on Australia Day, which fell last weekend, Gayle Fantl, an olah from down under, invited Aussies and non-Aussies to get together at the English Pub on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv. As yet, there's no Australian pub in Israel. There used to be an Australian restaurant in Jerusalem that specialized in Australian-style steaks and chops, but unfortunately it's long gone.