Grapevine January 22, 2023: Innovation in the fast lane

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

 ANDRES MASTRONEN (photo credit: MAXIM REIDER)
ANDRES MASTRONEN
(photo credit: MAXIM REIDER)

Innovation is everywhere, creeping up on us before we realize that the devices, equipment and methodology we used yesterday, will be passé by tomorrow. 

When we travel abroad, we no longer carry a booklet of tickets listing our various destinations. The itinerary is sent from the office of the travel agent by email and can be stored with other documents in our mobile phones. Although to be safe, it’s wise to have a print-out as well. 

At the airport, we can process our passports ourselves. At the airport cafés, there’s no need to stand in line. There’s an electronic menu through which we can make our choices. The same applies in regular restaurants, where in many establishments the menu card is a thing of the past. Too bad if one doesn’t use a mobile phone. 

Thanks to technology, the production and preparation of food has also undergone many changes, some of which can be learned about on Monday, February 13, at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, 132 Kedem St. on the Jaffa beachfront. Participants can taste some of the culinary creations of celebrity chef Haim Cohen, and wash them down with fine wines. In addition to revealing some of the secrets of haute cuisine, Cohen will discuss the innovative changes taking place in the restaurant business.

Change is happening in the hotel industry

MAJOR CHANGES can also be anticipated in the hotel industry, as growing numbers of investors and property developers are building both small boutique hotels, and large, multi-story hotels. The competition is going to be fierce says veteran hotelier Sheldon Ritz, who has been appointed general manager of the new MGallery at Theatron Hotel in Jerusalem, which is due to open in time for Passover with another celebrity chef, Moshik Roth, in charge of the glatt kosher kitchen.

 THE ARTIST HOTEL on Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv features works by local artists. (credit: SARIT GOFFEN) THE ARTIST HOTEL on Ben-Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv features works by local artists. (credit: SARIT GOFFEN)

It would seem that there is a vast difference between American and European haredim and their co-ultra-Orthodox relatives and colleagues in Israel. The Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria, which is also glatt kosher, has a large ultra-Orthodox clientele all year round. It happens to be one of the more expensive hotels in the capital. The MGallery is also in the category of a luxury hotel, and its management has already had a promising number of inquiries from ultra-Orthodox sources who are planning to visit Jerusalem.

From an economic standpoint, it is wrong to lump all the ultra-Orthodox under the one umbrella. In contrast to reports by many Israeli media outlets, they are not all poor. Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot, published an investigative report on the wealth of Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the Rebbe of Gur, which is one of the largest and most affluent of all hassidic movements. According to the report, Alter owns, among other assets, 20 plots of land worth NIS 170 million. The plots are located in the upscale neighborhood of Arsuf, and Alter inherited them from his father, who had planned to build a seaside vacation retreat for the ultra-Orthodox community. But the plan never materialized. 

In the interim, some of the country’s wealthiest citizens such as Idan Ofer, Kobi and Yehudit Richter, Marius Necht, Benny Steinmetz and others have acquired homes there. Alter prefers to live more modestly in Jerusalem, where he also owns a considerable amount of land, which he inherited from his father, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Alter. The report states that Simcha Bunim acquired the plots in Arsuf in the early years of the state when the area was underdeveloped. As the population grew, open spaces gave way to new neighborhoods, and as has happened in other countries, slums were transformed into opulent neighborhoods.

Construction and Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, a Gerrer Hassid who was chosen by Yaakov Aryeh Alter to be a key representative of the Agudat Yisrael faction in the United Torah Judaism Party in the Knesset, subsequently resigned as an MK under the Norwegian Law, but remains a minister. Goldknopf owns quite a lot of property of his own, and he’s not an exception to the rule.

The 10th MustonenFest Tallin-Tel Aviv is beginning in February

■ THE 10th MustonenFest Tallinn-Tel Aviv, founded by Andres Mustonen, who is the festival’s artistic director, will take place in venues around the country from February 9-March 12. The majority of performances by Estonian young stars and by Israeli musicians and singers will be in different locations in Tel Aviv, but also in Kfar Shmaryahu, Haifa, Jerusalem and Zichron Ya’acov. To ensure that as many music lovers as possible will get to enjoy the festival, there will be a couple of performances to which entry will be free of charge.

The varied programs include classical and contemporary, jazz and oriental music, early operas and liturgical songs.

Performers from Estonia include the Collegium Musicale chamber choir conducted by Endrik Üksvärav, the Girls’ Choir of the Tallinn School of Music and Ballet (MUBA) conducted by Ingrid Kõrvits; young soloists Tähe-Lee Liiv (piano), Hans Christian Aavik (violin), Karolina Aavik (piano), young orchestra conductor Henri Christofer Aavik, Kädy Plaas, Anto Õnnis, Jaak Sooäär (guitar, composer), Taavo Remmel (bass, composer), Ivo Sillamaa (piano) and ensemble Hortus Musicus artistic director and conductor Andres Mustonen.

The Israeli performers are the Israel Camerata orchestra with Avner Biron, baroque collective ensemble Barrocada, the Bat Kol choir conducted by Anat Morahg, the Moran choir, pianist Gil Shohat, liturgical singer Nissim Lugasi, singer and instrumentalist Niri Sadeh and composer, singer and pianist Roni Ginossar.

A new documentary will interest the denizens of Tel Aviv

■ WE SELDOM see ourselves as others see us. That applies not only to individuals but also to the environment in which we live, which is why the documentary Good Morning Tel Aviv, directed by Giovanna Gagliardo, will be of particular interest to the denizens of Tel Aviv. Its initial public screening was at the recent Rome Film Festival. This week, the Italian Directorate General for Cinema and Audiovisual of the Italian Ministry of Culture and Cinecittà are hosting the Israeli preview at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. Gagliardo will be present to hear reactions and answer questions. The City that Never Stops is many things to many people, some of whom reside in the city as a whole, and others who reside in their own bubbles. 

Tel Aviv is generally considered to be open, secular and liberal, and the gay rights capital of the Middle East. At the same time, it is home to a number of ultra-Orthodox movements, whose members are far less obvious than their compatriots in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, but certainly not invisible. It’s a city of culture and a city of slums. Its residents include multi-generational Israelis and African refugees. In short, it’s a city with many faces, not all of which are known to all Israelis, let alone Tel Avivians.

Among the people whom Gagliardo interviewed in the course of making the film were Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, film director Ari Folman, choreographer Ohad Naharin, popular writers who are also known in Italy such as Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and Assaf Gavron, former Israel ambassador to Italy Ofer Sachs, who went from diplomacy to hi-tech, and of course Tania Coen Uzzielli, the Italian-born director of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, who was listed by Forbes Magazine among the 50 most influential women in the country.

The film was a work in progress, which took four years to complete.

It was jointly conceived by Gagliardo and Fabiana Magrì, with photography by Roberta Allegrini, music by Dudu Tassa and Nir Maimon, and editing by Emmanuelle Cedran.

Israeli entertainers go abroad during IDF service

■ INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED entertainers and fashion models are treated with kid gloves during their mandatory service in the IDF. This may well be because they present a positive side of Israel to counteract the negative images circulating through social media, and certain traditional media. Thus Noa Kirel, who will represent Israel at this year’s Eurovision contest, was permitted to perform abroad during her army service, and supermodel Taylor Malkov, who will soon complete her army service, has been modeling abroad in garments that are a far cry from her khaki uniform. As a matter of fact, there’s a stunning photo of her in a dramatic outfit, in which she graces the cover of the Brazilian edition of L’Officiel, which is one of the world’s top fashion magazines.

Costanza Pascolato featured on Vogue Israel

■ APROPOS BRAZIL, Costanza Pascolato, the Italian-born doyenne of fashion, who has been living in Brazil since she was a very young child, is featured on the cover of the Israeli edition of Vogue, with a sub-title “Nobility.” Professionally associated with Vogue and with H.Stern jewelry, Pascolato, at age 83, is still an imposing figure with an enviable sense of style, and a flair for drama. She is yet another proof that a woman can never be too old to look good in what she wears.

Cindy Chady, the religious Israeli model

■ ONE LAST fashion item. Israeli model Cindy Chady is religiously observant and refuses to model underwear or swimwear. This has cost her a few lucrative assignments, but it doesn’t bother her, because she makes more money being modest. Kim Kardashian has an apparel company called Skims, and commissioned Chady for a photo shoot in advance of the January 28 launch of The Apparel Shop in Los Angeles. Chady earned very nicely from that particular assignment in which she was covered – literally from head to toe.

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