Grapevine: Impressed by Peres

News briefs from around the country.

Shimon Peres with Maryam Faghihimani and Rita (photo credit: YOSEF AVI YAIR ENGEL)
Shimon Peres with Maryam Faghihimani and Rita
(photo credit: YOSEF AVI YAIR ENGEL)
■ WAY BACK in time, long before she was famous – in the days when she was dating Rami Kleinstein, whom she later married and divorced – singer Rita would visit Kleinstein’s parents in north Tel Aviv. There, she would occasionally bump into one of the better-known residents of the building, Shimon Peres, who always stood aside to allow her to enter the elevator ahead of him. Considering their difference in status, she was very impressed.
Over the years she has continued to be impressed, and on several occasions sang for Peres and his counterparts from abroad when Peres was president of the state. When she stopped by the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa this week, it was not to sing for him but to accompany Maryam Faghih Imani, president and founder of the Center for Cultural Diplomacy & Development, an organization working to promote democracy and tolerance in the Middle East, equal rights for women, and the advancement of joint cross-border initiatives.
Faghih Imani is the daughter of Ayatollah Sayed Kamal Faghih Imani, the most senior ayatollah in Isfahan, the second-largest city in Iran. She grew up under a strict religious regime that did not permit her to study or promote her values, and which taught her to hate Israel and Jews. Maryam left Iran in 2003 when she was 26, and today she manages her peace organization from Norway.
Rita, in her own way, has been promoting cultural relations between her native Iran and Israel, and her recordings are very popular in Iran. When she’s not working on bilateral relations of a nonpolitical nature, she’s starring in the Hebrew production of My Fair Lady, while elder daughter, Meshi Kleinstein, has been chosen to appear in the local production of West Side Story.
Meshi and her sister, Noam, welcomed a new half-sister this week, when a baby girl was born to their father’s current wife, Alex, who had previously presented him with a son named Theo.
■ CHILDREN ARE not always a hotel manager’s delight, but looking to the future, children will eventually become adults and possible clients. But that’s not the reason that Chen Michaeli, the general manager of the Dan Panorama hotel in Tel Aviv invited some 1,000 children and their parents to come and celebrate the end of the school vacation period with food, entertainment, games and magnetic photographs. It’s all part of Daniland, which is not quite Disneyland, but the children and their parents enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast and loads of entertainment, and a good time was had by all.
■ MOST PEOPLE celebrating an 80th birthday have pretty much what they want in the way of possessions and often ask that, in lieu of gifts, those joining in the celebration donate to a particular charity. In this regard Shoshana Agajani, who is the founding chair of the umbrella organization for volunteerism in Beersheba, was no exception and asked that donations be made to Soroka University Medical Center for the purchase of essential equipment.
Relatives and friends contributed NIS 20,000. A social worker by training, Agajani is a retiree of the Beersheba Municipality, where she worked in the Department of Social Welfare, but was always involved with volunteerism and volunteered herself to help the poor and the needy.
■ INDOOR SHOPPING malls – which were a novelty in Israel until pioneered by the late David Azrieli, who started the ball rolling with the Ayalon Mall in Ramat Gan in 1985 – are so commonplace these days that many towns and cities have several such malls, all of which include shops and eateries, and some which also include entertainment facilities.
At the time of his death last year at age 92, Azrieli, the Polish-born Canadian billionaire who was a Holocaust survivor and fought in the Hagana, had built 14 shopping malls in Israel, the best known of which are located in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Other developers followed his example, and malls began to sprout all over the country, including the Arab sector.
Yet there was no sophisticated mall in Yavne, where former government minister and presidential candidate Meir Sheetrit began his political career at age 26 as one of Israel’s youngest mayors, and where he still lives. Yavne, which does have small shopping centers, did not have a large, modern mall, until Gazit-Globe stepped into the picture and this week, in the presence of Mayor Tzvi Gov-Ari, launched its G-Mall, constructed at an investment of NIS 125 million.
Like most other malls, it will contain branches of Renuar, Fox, Hoodies, Shilav, Keds, etc., plus well known food outlets such as Roladin, Café Greg and McDonald’s.
There will also be a Rami Levy supermarket.
Gazit-Globe Israel CEO Ronen Ashkenazi said that the mall will serve not only the residents of Yavne, but also those of surrounding kibbutzim and moshavim.
In a speech in which the emphasis was on better late than never, the mayor said that Yavne was sorely in need of a proper shopping mall, and that he was optimistic that it will spur further investment both in commercial sites and in housing.