Grapevine: Mayor of the month

TEL AVIV-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai has been named Mayor of the Month for March by the City Mayors Foundation.

Tel Aviv beach_521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tel Aviv beach_521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ TEL AVIV-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai has been named Mayor of the Month for March by the City Mayors Foundation, an international group that selects a mayor each month on the basis of the way his or her city is run.
While the distinction is a feather in Israel’s cap, not to mention Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s and Huldai’s, especially during a period in which Israel-bashing is in vogue, it is politically disturbing to see the foundation’s blurb about him and the city of Tel Aviv headlined “Capital Mayors.” As the majority of foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv and none are located in Jerusalem, some might see this as a subtle means of redetermining Israel’s capital.
The blurb states: “Huldai has sought to continue Tel Aviv’s economic growth as well as promote its tolerance and diversity, often against the wishes of orthodox government ministers and the country’s religious leaders. Huldai leads a city which sits apart from the social conservatism of a nation defined by the pervasive strictures of religion, a vibrant and affluent 24/7 destination, dubbed by lifestyle magazine Wallpaper as the ‘Mediterranean’s new capital of cool.’ A beacon of Modernism, its unique collection of Bauhaus constructions (which owe their construction to the influx of German émigré architects fleeing Nazism in the 1930s) now enjoys World Heritage Site status.”
■ ARTISTS, ART collectors and gallery proprietors were undeterred by rockets in the South and traveled from around the country to Beersheba to celebrate the opening of a new arts and visual media center named “Habe’er” – the Well. Pointing to the actual well in the center’s courtyard and noting that the city itself was named for its proximity to such wells, Ben-Gurion University professor Haim Maor noted that “this is the metaphorical well of art and culture that we have all come to drink from.”
A nonprofit exhibition space located in the old city of Beersheba and supported by the municipality, BGU and the Rashi Foundation, Habe’er is the brainchild of artist Prof. Osvaldo Romberg. It developed into a reality with the support of Maor and Prof. Haim Finkelstein, also from the Department of the Arts at BGU.
“We want to do what doesn’t exist already,” explained Romberg, an Israeli- Argentinean artist who created a similar center in Philadelphia. “The Well will focus on video, experimental cinema and multimedia, but with its face to the community – bringing children and as many people as possible into the space to participate in all sorts of interactive programs.”
“It was impossible to say no to Osvaldo,” university president Prof. Rivka Carmi said. “He spoke with such enthusiasm that he was extremely convincing.” This center, she explained, will create something local, different but equally as exciting as what is going on elsewhere in the Israeli arts scene. “We are about excellence – in fields like engineering, and now in the arts.”
■ YET ANOTHER warm home for destitute Holocaust survivors opened last week in Kiryat Hahessed, the Haifa neighborhood set up by the Yad Ezer Le’haver nonprofit organization, which provides special services for economically disadvantaged Holocaust survivors. This was the fifth home of its kind and was named in memory of former justice minister Tommy Lapid, himself a survivor and, in the final two years of his life, the chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. Among those attending the ceremony was Lapid’s son Yair Lapid, who, like his father, is a successful journalist who has thrown his cap into the political arena. The Tommy Lapid Warm Home for Holocaust survivors is not the first memorial to be named for him: In Novi Sad, the city of his birth in what was then Yugoslavia but is now Serbia, there is a street in the suburb of Veternik that bears his name.
■ AS HAS been mentioned previously in this column, the country’s entertainers and sports personalities give a lot of their time and talents to charitable causes, particularly in the periods leading up to Purim, Passover, Rosh Hashana and Hanukka. The Purim and Hanukka periods are usually devoted to projects related to children – especially children with cancer and with special needs. The pre-Passover and pre-Rosh Hashana periods are usually related to projects that will enable the poor to celebrate the festival with a decent meal.
But entertainers do benefit shows all year round, and hospitals that are short of staff and beds are a major focus. Thus Shlomo Artzi is giving a concert at the Gesher Theater in Jaffa at the behest of Friends of Beit Loewenstein Hospital, with all proceeds earmarked for the completion of a hospital tower that is scheduled to take in new patients by the end of this year. The March 25 concert is under the sponsorship of Hamashbir, Club 365 and Bank Hapoalim.
Just a couple of days earlier – this Friday, in fact – Rita will celebrate her 50th birthday by singing her heart out at the Noga Theater in Tel Aviv as a gift to Pitchon Lev, which is dedicated to fighting poverty and which is now preparing Passover food packages for the poor and needy. For Rita, it important that the audience joining her in celebrating her birthday know that each member is participating in the performance of a mitzva – a good deed – because whatever he or she pays for the ticket will enable scores of less fortunate people to have the proper provisions for a meal on Seder night and for the rest of the week.