Grapevine: Tel Aviv’s receding skyline

The Tel Aviv skyline is increasingly resembling that of Manhattan as the city's landmarks disappear.

Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
■ The Tel Aviv skyline is increasingly resembling that of Manhattan and is moving more so in that direction with the disappearance of city landmarks to make way for real-estate development. After 71 years in business, Café Batya on the corner of Dizengoff and Arlosoroff streets, closed down last month because the building in which it is located is to be torn down and a boutique hotel is to be constructed in its place. Proprietor Batya Yom Tov, 96, understands the need for progress, but is sad to see the end of her dream. Her only comfort is the fact that her daughter and granddaughter, who have been running the restaurant for several years, are looking for another venue to which they will give the same name and will reinstate the time-honored menu.
Yom Tov came to Tel Aviv from the part of Belarus that was then part of Poland. She arrived during the Arab riots of the 1930s and worked as a kitchen hand and assistant cook in various restaurants until in 1941, she decided that she knew enough about the restaurant business to open her own establishment that specialized in East European Jewish cuisine. The premises also served as a cache in which the Hagana could conceal weapons, even though the top brass of the British Mandate authorities were among the restaurant’s clientele. Yom Tov didn’t play favorites between the Hagana and the Irgun Zva’i Leumi, and also sent food to Menachem Begin when he was hiding from the British.
In the early years of the state, nearly all the leading politicians and theater personalities came to dine at Café Batya. In those days money was scarce and many of her clients, including those who were famous did not have the wherewithal to pay the bill, and wrote their IOU’s in her notebook.
Whenever they received their salaries they came to pay something on account.
Last year, at age 96, Miriam Weissenstein had to move out of the studiocum- photo shop that she and her late husband, Rudi, a talented photo journalist had established in 1940. Rudi Weissenstein had photographed all the who’s who of the nascent state and had even photographed David Ben-Gurion proclaiming the establishment of the state. His studio was the first of its kind in Tel Aviv and Miriam and her grandson Ben waged a losing battle to save it from demolition. A high-rise tower will be constructed on the site of where Tzalmania once stood.
And now another landmark is disappearing with the signing of an agreement last week for the evacuation of Sde Dov Airport to Terminal 1 of Ben- Gurion International Airport. The agreement was signed by the Finance Ministry, the Israel Lands Authority and the Israel Aviation Authority as the outcome of an agreement reached between Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias. In January of this year, the two ministers submitted their plan to the cabinet for approval following long discussions by an inter-ministerial committee.
Time is on the side of Sde Dov. Operations there can continue till June 30, 2016. After that, work will begin on the construction of a whole new neighborhood, in the same way that a new neighborhood is in the process of completion on the former site of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Sde Dov Airport was named for Dov Hoz, who was one of the pioneers of Israeli aviation. With the removal of the noise factor, which is part and parcel of an airport, it is estimated that apartments in the area will rise in value by 10 percent, or more.
■ THE BIG question now in terms of real estate is what will happen to Ma’ariv’s printing press in Bat Yam. The press was not included in the agreement initialed last week by Nochi Dankner and Shlomo Ben-Zvi for the transfer of ownership of Ma’ariv. It’s possible that Dankner may sell the land on which the printing press is located to Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom; or if he is offered a much better price by a real-estate developer, he may choose the latter option, and yet another landmark will bite the dust.
■ THE NATIONAL Insurance Institute, headed by Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, who was previously director of Hadassah Medical Center, will embark on a pilot project in Haifa as an initial strategy to combat the growing number of enterprises that are advertising that if the disabled were better informed of their rights they could get more money from the NII.
The new strategy will make it possible for the disabled to be attended by an NII counselor, who can observe the extent of their disabilities and who will inform them of their rights accordingly. If the project proves to be successful, it will be implemented in other parts of the country, with the aim of reducing the bureaucratic hassles to which so many disabled people are subjected when seeking NII grants and pensions. Approximately 6,000 disabled people are currently receiving payments of some kind from the NII.