Grapevine: Capital for the Negev capital

Larry Goodman receives an award in recognition of his many philanthropic endeavors, which have made a noticeable impact on Beersheba.

Beersheba water features 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Beersheba Municipality)
Beersheba water features 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Beersheba Municipality)
■ CHICAGO PHILANTHROPIST Larry Goodman, who received a lifetime achievement award last week from the city of Beersheba, also came in for kudos at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Goodman and his extended family visited Beersheba last week for two momentous events. The city presented him with the award on Sunday night in recognition of his many philanthropic endeavors, which have made a noticeable impact on the city. On Wednesday, the Goodman family visited BGU, where the Larry and Lillian Goodman Open Apartments Program was officially named.
“This program has been so effective, it has changed the nature of the city,” Goodman, chairman of the Beersheba Foundation, said at the signing ceremony.
Goodman recalled how a chance encounter with Housing Administration official Gideon Vitkin – later the director-general of BGU – had led to the allocation of the program’s original 65 apartments.
“Thirty years ago, I was in Israel working with Project Renewal in the North. I met Gideon Vitkin with the Housing Administration and he wanted to set up a meeting,” Goodman explained. By chance, they were both planning to be in Beersheba the following day, so they arranged to meet for dinner. Coincidentally, before going to his dinner appointment, Goodman heard from two women at BGU who wanted to launch a program whereby university students would live in the community in exchange for free housing – but they needed apartments to do so.
“I took them with me to dinner, and I turned to Gideon and asked, ‘Does the government have any apartments available in this city?’ Two days later, he called me and said he could get 65 apartments. That’s how it got started,” Goodman recalled.
BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi pointed out that the second generation of Open Apartment beneficiaries was now living in the apartments. “Open Apartments is the flagship program of our Community Action Unit. It has been of enormous benefit to children, adults and the underprivileged communities that live in Beersheba’s harshest neighborhoods. We have students in the Open Apartments who were neighborhood children. Not only are they attending university, but they are participating in the program as a second generation. I don’t know if they would have made it to university at all without this program,” she said.
Turning to Goodman, Carmi lauded his generous support over many years. “We are genuinely happy that you are our friend and supporter. You have talked about us all over the world,” she said.
Vice president for external affairs Prof. Amos Drory added that with Goodman’s support and inspiration, “it will be possible to expand the entire project.”
■ DIFFERENT PEOPLE react in different ways when their income is threatened, but not many would adopt the course of action that Moshe Alon, an employee of the Sderot Municipality, did after being told that his work hours were being cut back and his salary consequently lowered. Alon went and got himself a heavy metal chain and a padlock, turned up at Sderot City Hall on an afternoon last week and locked the entrance door. A security officer reported him to the police, and it was only a matter of minutes before he was arrested.
On the following day, he was brought to the Ashdod Magistrate’s Court, where police sought an extension of his remand on the grounds of Sderot’s sensitive security situation, and the fear and trauma that Alon had caused among his fellow employees by locking the main door. But Judge Alon Rom ordered that the suspect be placed under house arrest instead of going back to prison. The judge said there were other exits from City Hall that were available to both employees and the general public. He also noted that Alon’s manager in the city beautification department had come to vouch for him and even offered to put up bail money, saying that Alon was a good and dedicated worker.
■ ONE WOULD think that every major city in the country had an economic forum in addition to a Chamber of Commerce. But apparently there are some that don’t.
Until last week, Ashkelon was a case in point. On the last night of Hanukka, the Ashkelon Economic Forum was officially inaugurated at the Holiday Inn with the participation of Mayor Benny Vaknin and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.
An apolitical entity, the forum provides a platform for cooperation among the various group and individuals engaged in the city’s economic development. The inaugural meeting attracted 220 people, among them Ron Yariv, the general manager of Crowne Plaza Hotels, Israel; Doron David, the general manager of the Holiday Inn Ashkelon; Moshe Terry, former chairman of the stock exchange; Eli Elezra, CEO of Hachsharat Hayishuv; and many well-known industrialists.
Vaknin spoke of the need to develop Ashkelon as an urban and commercial center, and most importantly as a tourist destination, because a significant increase in tourism would provide more jobs and more income for Ashkelon’s residents. Fischer noted the country’s economic growth over the past eight years and said that so far, Israel had been successful in coping with the global economic crisis.