Grapevine: Where it all began

The name will remain but the family connection is gone.

  • A PHONE call from the Begin Heritage Center to Michael Federmann, chairman of the board of directors of the Dan Hotel Corporation, to ask whether he would make the hotel available for part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's historic meeting here with then-prime minister Menachem Begin, brought an instantly affirmative response. The event brought together reporters and photographers who covered the landmark visit, such as Ari Rath, Anan Safadi, Shalom Kittal, Aharon Barnea, Eitan Haber, Anna Ponger, Moshe Milner and Micha Bar Am; representatives of the Government Press Office such as Linda Rifkind; soldiers who played in the IDF orchestra at the welcome reception at what was then Lod Airport; members of the Knesset guard and staff represented primarily by Miri Yachin (who is currently the Knesset's Chief of Protocol); members of the King David Hotel staff who tended to Sadat, including the once legendary maitre d' Avraham Weiner; people who at the time served in the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry such as Yechiel Kadishai, Dan Patir, Yehuda Avner, Zvi Mazel (who was later part of Israel's first diplomatic mission to Egypt and eventually became Israel's ambassador to Egypt), Nitza Ben-Elissar (whose late husband had been director-general of the Prime Minister's Office and Israel's first ambassador to Egypt) and most importantly, Israel's fourth president Ephraim Katzir, who drove with Sadat from Lod to Jerusalem. What Federmann did not expect as a token of appreciation from the Begin Heritage Center was a letter written by his late father Yekutiel Federmann to Begin, suggesting that if the Sadat visit eventuated, the King David Hotel would be the most appropriate venue in which to host him. The letter was presented to Michael Federmann by Begin Center director Herzl Makov, who told him that even without the letter from his father to Begin, there was little doubt that the King David Hotel would have been the hotel of choice.
  • OFTEN ASSOCIATED with donations to politically controversial projects in Israel, especially in Jerusalem and the disputed territories, American philanthropist Irving Moskowitz has gone further south to make an important contribution to the Eshkol Regional Council in the northwestern Negev. Moskowitz is setting up an emergency medical center that will be constructed in conjunction with Hatzola, the nationwide paramedical organization manned by haredi volunteers. The gift was made in appreciation of the efforts undertaken by the Eshkol Regional Council to absorb the evacuees from Netzarim and Atzmona. When completed, the medical center will be the most sophisticated in Israel's peripheral areas and will include a Magen David Adom station. The council had made many unsuccessful attempts over the years to raise funds for a medical center, and the NIS 6 million needed in the initial stages was secured by Netzarim evacuee Shlomo Kostiner, who got in touch with Moskowitz, told him what the council had done for the people of Netzarim and Atzmona following disengagement from Gaza and said that the area was in dire need of medical facilities. At the recent cornerstone ceremony that launched the medical center, council head Uri Naamati noted what a boon it would be to the region as a whole. Members of the Israel branch of the Moskowitz family were present as were representatives of MDA, Clalit Health Services and the Health Ministry. The project is scheduled to be up and running before the end of 2008.
  • WHEN HE was president of the Supreme Court and she was deputy president of the National Labor Court, Aharon and Elisheva Barak sometimes appeared on the same platform, for instance at Beit Hanassi when new judges were being sworn in and one or more happened to be appointed to the Labor Court. Now in retirement, the Baraks are still a double act and will this weekend join fellow legal experts to discuss public administration in Israel. The event is under the auspices of the Legal Forum of the Netanya Academic College. Among other participants will be Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Uriel Lynn, who is currently president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce but who in the past headed the Knesset Law Committee, and of course academics in the field.
  • THE NAME will remain but the family connection is gone. Eri Steimatzky, whose surname is a byword in Israeli publishing and bookselling circles, is no longer associated with the chain of stores launched by his father Yehezkiel on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road in 1925. The senior Steimatzky, born in Russia and living in Germany, had come to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the Hebrew University and decided to stay. He opened his first store in Jerusalem and rapidly expanded to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, Alexandria and Damascus. After 1948, he no longer maintained any bookstores in the Arab world. Eri Steimatzky joined the company in 1963 and 10 years later was general manager. He eventually turned it into the largest bookstore chain in Israel. Anyone who tried to compete simply fell by the wayside until the merger in 2002 of Tzomet Hasefarim and Modan Publishing, which now operate some 40 stores. Two years later, Steimatzky linked up with Keter, and in 2005 sold the company to Markstone Capital Partners for more than $50 million. The deal included some 150 stores and a 49 percent stake in the Steimatzky/Keter Publishing Company. Steimatzky stayed on as chairman of the company. A year later, Steimatzky stores were operating in 60 Israeli towns and cities as well as in Los Angeles and London. In September, Steimatzky announced his retirement, and last week the Markstone people hosted a farewell party for him in Jaffa, inviting all the Who's Who in Israeli publishing. Steimatzky has no intention of resting either on his laurels or his millions - he intends to attend college.