The $2m. mystery unraveled

Zion square 88 (photo credit: )
Zion square 88
(photo credit: )
Last week, In Jerusalem published an intriguing article on the recent efforts of the Canadian Jewish community to raise funds to refurbish Kikar Zion. While the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada welcomes this recognition, the report barely acknowledges the significance of the efforts made by Canadians and by our partners in Jerusalem at the Jerusalem Foundation over these past 40 years. Nearly 40 years ago, then-mayor Teddy Kollek had the vision to establish the Jerusalem Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has supported the capital's needs by connecting to members of the Diaspora Jewish community as well as to others of various faiths who view Jerusalem as central to the world. The Jerusalem Foundation's vision of creating an international and interfaith partnership enabling Jerusalem to become a world-class capital of singular importance to all Israelis; to serve as the spiritual center to Jews worldwide; and to be the international center for the world's three great monotheistic religions - has largely been realized. It is in this context that readers will be interested to learn that while last week's article referenced "the Canadian Jewish community raises funds," funds raised by the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada come from both Jewish and non-Jewish donors who have a special attachment to Jerusalem. After experiencing a dip in Canadian philanthropy during the intifada, the past 18 months have witnessed a rekindling of Canadians' passion for our capital. Last November, a new Board of Directors was installed in Toronto and David J. Azrieli was elected to succeed Manual G. Batshaw as the foundation's new president. Azrieli's vision and success are exemplified not only by the imaginative buildings, high-rise residential buildings, office towers and shopping malls he has built in Canada and the USA, but also by Jerusalem's Malha Mall. While Azrieli has been recognized internationally as a supporter and promoter of architecture at various levels, his acceptance of the helm of the foundation signaled to Canadians of all faiths that the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada was back in force. Joining Azrieli on the National Board is Sen. Yoine Goldstein of Montreal, whose wife, Elaine, inspired the establishment of a neighborhood park in Kiryat Menahem. Also on board are honorary members Charles Coffey, vice president of government affairs at the Royal Bank of Canada, Gina Godfrey (of the Toronto Blue Jays American League Baseball club) and renowned Canadian/Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. Previous projects realized by the Jerusalem Foundation with funds raised in Canada include the Ein Yael Living Archaeological Museum, the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Jewish-Arab Children's Orchestra, various components of Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo and the annual "Free in June" cultural program. Looking forward: Understanding that a vibrant city center is the key to Jerusalem's vitality, the Canadians, inspired by top Israeli leadership - including both former MK Dan Meridor and David Brodet - recognize that the flight from the city center due to the devastating effects of the intifada has to be reversed. Consequently, they agreed to participate in the Jerusalem Foundation's prioritization of this renewal effort in partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality. While the full scope of the many projects has not yet been finalized, the laying of light rail tracks and much of the infrastructure improvements currently being undertaken by City Hall are testimony to the concerted effort to reinvest in our beloved capital. The Jerusalem Foundation has identified several major projects for the future, including building student dormitories in the center of town to draw young people back to the city center. The Foundation is also working closely with its partners to assist in relocating the Bezalel Academy to the center of the city. It is in this spirit that Canadians have undertaken the restoration of Kikar Zion. While many details remain to be worked out, it is clear that the revitalized Kikar Zion will become one of our city's jewels, perhaps rivaled only by the Western Wall as one of the most visited sites. Creating a square around an architecturally and artistically appealing piece, which will draw visitors from all walks of life, and investing in core services in the area are all part of the Canadian vision, the Jerusalem Foundation vision and the vision of city leaders. With the Jerusalem Foundation gearing up to celebrate its 40th anniversary - and with the country poised to mark the 40th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem - our Canadian friends are passionate to be part of the city's renewal. They, and we, look forward to a brighter future for Jerusalemites, for Israel, for world Jewry and for all those for whom Jerusalem is their cornerstone. The writer is the director of the Canada Desk of the Jerusalem Foundation.