Jerusalem Grapevine: Changes at the Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem (photo credit: PR)
Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem
(photo credit: PR)
• THE JERUSALEM Waldorf Astoria has a new general manager in the person of Avner On, who is taking over from Guy Klaiman, who is leaving the position after a five-year stint, including two years in which he hired and trained staff during the final stages of the hotel’s construction.
For the past two years, the tourist magazine Traveler has designated the Waldorf Astoria as the best hotel in the Middle East.
Dominique Piquemal, vice president of luxury operations and food & beverage strategy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with responsibility for all Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and Canopy by Hilton hotels, credited Klaiman with the success of the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem and noted that when he started his distinguished 28-year career in the hotel business, it was as an intern at the Tel Aviv Hilton. From there he went on to manage some of Hilton’s leading hotels.
His successor, On, has returned to Jerusalem after a long stint abroad, as manager of the Prague Hilton and most recently as manager of the Hilton London Metropole, which is believed to be the largest hotel in the city. On was manager there for 14 years. Before that he was the first general manager of a Hilton hotel in Eilat – the Queen of Sheba. He was also the first general manager of the Dan Hotel in Eilat, and in Jerusalem was general manager of the prestigious King David Hotel as well as other hotels. Now he’s back in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
• IT’S NOT often that one comes across someone who is 100 years young, but at the kiddush at Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue last Saturday, Mirjam Bolle was asked over and over again what her recipe was for looking so young. In congratulating her from the pulpit, Robert Ash, one of the stalwarts of the congregation, after telling part of her story in Hebrew and commenting on her command of languages, her ongoing volunteerism and her curiosity about what was happening in the capital and in the country, switched to English, saying “she’s with it.”
Indeed she is. Aside from the fact that her mind is as clear as a bell, and both her long-term memory and short-term memory are in good shape, so is her physique. She stands straight and moves easily, and can often be seen walking in the street in the Talbiyeh neighborhood. She has a broad and ready smile for everyone.
Her smile and warm character belie the tragedies that have clouded her life. Born in Amsterdam, she is a Holocaust survivor who came from Bergen-Belsen in 1944 as part of a prisoner exchange of Dutch Jews for German prisoners of war to what was then Palestine. Her fiancé, Leo Bolle, had left for Palestine in 1938 to prepare for their life together. She remained behind working as a secretary for the Committee for Jewish Refugees, until she was sent to Westerbork and then to Bergen-Belsen.
All the while, she wrote letters to Bolle about her experiences and what she observed, but the letters were never sent. Somehow she managed to keep them and bring them with her to Israel. But instead of sharing them with Bolle as she had intended, she put them away in a drawer and did nothing about them for decades.
She and Bolle had three children, but tragedy continued to stalk her. Their son, an IAF pilot, was killed during the Six Day War in 1967. Three years later, her younger daughter, who was in the army, was killed when the jeep in which she was riding hit a Syrian mine on the Golan Heights. Mirjam was widowed in 1992, and some years later her older daughter developed a fatal illness and died in 2011.
When she was in her early 80s, she decided to do something with the letters and published them in a book, giving Holocaust historians and researchers fresh insight into how the Nazis behaved in the Netherlands and what life was like for Dutch Jews. The book has been translated into several languages and is available at Yad Vashem.