Grape Vine: Joining the club

ONE OF the happiest women in the country last Saturday night was Alona Barakat, the owner of Hapoel Beersheba and known in sporting circles as the queen of Israeli football.

Soccer 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Soccer 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
■ ONE OF the happiest women in the country last Saturday night was Alona Barakat, the owner of Hapoel Beersheba and known in sporting circles as the queen of Israeli football. Since buying the club from Eli Zino in 2007, Barakat has pumped a lot of money into it. The outcome of last Saturday’s game against Netanya enabled Hapoel Beersheba to remain in the Israeli Premier League, while Maccabi Netanya lost its ranking and was demoted. Barakat is greatly admired by sportscasters for her devotion to her club and to the game.
She is not the only woman who has penetrated what was once a man’s world. Several Israeli female sportscasters have demonstrated as much knowledge about the game and its players as their male counterparts – sometimes even more.
■ PERHAPS EVEN happier than Barakat was Canadian billionaire Mitchell Goldhar, who became the owner of Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2009, and since then has made many trips from Toronto to watch the team play. He has also shelled out a lot of money to help bring it back to its former glory. He was on hand on Saturday night, together with his parents, to watch its triumph when it wrested the Israeli Premier League championship from Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Later, he joined team members and thousands of fans who gathered in Rabin Square in a celebration of yellow, the Maccabi Tel Aviv color. It was the first time in a decade that Maccabi Tel Aviv won the title.
■ GUEST OF honor at the annual inter-university conference on African studies that was held at Tel Aviv University was Lady Julia, the wife of the King of the Ashanti Kingdom, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. Lady Julia, who has a master’s degree in law and heads a social welfare organization that concerns itself with the rights of children in Ghana and throughout the world, spoke to TAU President Joseph Klafter about the possibility of cooperation on food security, public health, business administration, communications and business administration.
Once an independent kingdom, Ashanti, while still enjoying a significant degree of autonomy, is now a region of Ghana. Although the role of the king is largely ceremonial, he continues to live in a palace in the city of Kumnasi and wields considerable political influence and economic power.
The king visited Israel last year to promote economic ties between Ghana and Israel.
■ FOR YEARS there was controversy over the acoustics in the Mann Auditorium. Some people were perfectly satisfied with the sound system, while other music mavens complained that the sound was not as pure as it should be. Eventually, Charles Bronfman, who has given tens of millions of dollars to a variety of cultural institutions and projects in Israel, came to the rescue with a $10 million gift. The initial idea was to gut the building and totally reconstruct it, but then the conservationists got into the act, saying that it was a historical building representative of the austerity of the 1950s and that both its exterior and interior must be preserved during any renovation process.
The family of Frederic Mann, who more than half a century ago provided the bulk of the funding for the construction of the cultural institution that has borne his name since its opening in October 1957, agreed to allow the name of the auditorium to be changed in honor of Bronfman, provided that there was some appropriate memorial to Frederic Mann in the renovated premises.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra had to find another home for itself, and for more than a year and a half it was barred from its traditional concert hall. On Wednesday of last week, even though the renovations were not entirely completed, the IPO returned for a festive opening. However, the 2,500 music lovers who went to applaud the concert in which violinist Julian Rachlin was the soloist were kept waiting outside the building for more than an hour because the final green light for occupancy had not yet been given by the Tel Aviv Fire Brigade.
Then, to make matters worse, conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi dropped out at the last minute because he found the noise from the outside during the rehearsals disturbing. The management of the IPO subsequently issued an apology on its Facebook page for any inconveniences suffered.
All the glitches that accompanied last week’s reopening of the auditorium should be ironed out by May 25, with the start of a week-long festival in which musical icons Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman will participate.