Grapevine: Chapter and verses

Fan and hotel manager gets to meet Engelbert Humperdink for the first time in over a decade.

Engelbert Humperdinck 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Arbel/PR)
Engelbert Humperdinck 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Arbel/PR)
■ WHAT GOES around comes around. In 1998, when British singer Engelbert Humperdinck came to Israel for the first time, he stayed at the Tel Aviv Hilton and was welcomed to the hotel by Executive Lounge team member Tali Pessah.
Although people tend to move around a lot in the hotel industry, Pessah is still there and was on hand to greet the famous crooner last week. This time, it was a welcoming committee of two.
Hilton Head of Public Relations Motti Verses is a keen Humperdinck fan and knows the lyrics of all his songs. Verses, a true Hilton man, has been with the chain since it originally managed a hotel in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Hilton, which is now the Crowne Plaza.
■ FILM FESTIVALS seem to have a certain magnetism. Whereas regular movie theaters, unless they’re showing a film that just won an Oscar or some other prestigious award, are often near empty, cinematheques around the country are thriving on film festivals, which are almost always well attended.
Last Sunday night, Ambassador of the Netherlands Caspar Veldkamp opened the Dutch Film Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque in the presence of many of his countrymen who now live in Israel, and Claudia Landsberger, head of EYE International Film Institute in Amsterdam, who came specially for the occasion.
He also hosted a reception prior to the screening of Tirza, the Dutch entry in the Foreign Language Film category of the 2010 Academy Awards.
Arnon Grunberg, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, was born in Amsterdam in 1971 and lives and works in New York. Expelled from high school when he was 17, Grunberg started his own publishing company, and by the time he was 19 had become an actor and playwright.
His first novel, Blue Mondays, which became a best-seller in Europe, was written when he was 23. Since then, he has also become a screenwriter and has won several prizes for the various genres of his works. Grunberg has been invited to attend the Third International Writers’ Festival at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem in May.
The Dutch Film Festival, which was also held at the Jerusalem and Haifa cinematheques and is co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands, continues until December 24.
■ THE SABAN Forum and its participants were very much in the news this past week. Egyptian-born Israeli-American Haim Saban, who frequently comes to Israel with his wife, Cheryl, is the CEO of the Saban Capital Group, a global private investment company headquartered in Los Angeles whose focus is primarily media, entertainment and communications.
Saban has been involved in American and Middle East politics for some 20 years, and in 2002 launched the Saban Center for Middle East Policy with an initial grant of $13 million. The Saban Center is part of the think tank of the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
A few days before the forum convened last weekend, Saban and his wife were in Israel to inaugurate a new delivery room and gynecology department at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for which the Saban Foundation donated $15m.
Also present for the inaugural ceremony was Silvan Shalom, minister for regional development. For Shalom this was an extremely important moment not only because his ministry is mainly concerned with the Negev and the Galilee but also because he was raised in the south of the country and can appreciate the significance of enhanced medical services there.
■ IT’S THE old story of the man who pays the piper calls the tune. Rewind to the days when Ariel Sharon was prime minister. Beit Hatfutsot, or the The Diaspora Museum as it was known in English, was on the point of closure. There just wasn’t enough money in the kitty to keep it going. Sharon rectified the situation, but it was like putting a band-aid on an open wound. Along came a savior in the person of Russian immigrant Leonid Nevzlin, a multimillionaire philanthropist and founder of the NADAV Foundation, which injected the necessary funding that became the museum’s life blood.
But the infusion was not enough for Nevzlin. He wanted to put his stamp on the museum, which had been established in memory of Zionist leader Nahum Goldmann and in accordance with a creative plan conceived by poet and cultural icon Abba Kovner. Nevzlin envisaged the Museum of the Jewish People and, as the chairman of the International Board of Governors of Beit Hatfutsot, became the leading force behind the museum’s development.
Last week, Nevzlin raised close to $1 million for the project at a gala dinner at New York’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the heart of Manhattan. World-renowned architect Patrick Gallagher, who was chosen to design the new Museum of the Jewish People, was among the 500 guests at the dinner.
The 16,000-square-meter museum will house a new permanent exhibition covering an area of 4,200 sq.m., spread over three floors, in Beit Hatfutsot’s Nahum Goldmann Building on the Tel Aviv University campus.