Grapevine: People of the book

Markstone Capital Group partners Ron Lubash and Amir Kess, along with several other well-known figures from the coastal plain, made their way to Jerusalem for the opening of the new Steimatzky flagship store in the Mamilla Mall, which is owned by Tel Aviv real estate developer Alfred Akirov, who is in the process of completing a boutique hotel as part of the mall complex. Two years ago, Markstone acquired Steimatzky, the country's oldest and largest chain of bookstores, founded in Jerusalem way before the establishment of the State. Akirov was on hand to greet the Markstone Group, which included Steimatzky CEO Iris Barel. The Steimatzky flagship store is located in the historic building in which Herzl stayed in 1902 when he paid his sole visit to Jerusalem. Guests at the launch included well-known Jerusalem architect David Kroyanker, members of the Steimatzky family, Nava Barak and her companion Shalom Zinger, Ram Oren, David Rubinger, several writers as well as many of the readers who will frequent the four-story building. Barel said that the store represented the bridge between the old and the new Steimatzky, and noted that since the chain had become a Markstone subsidiary, it had opened several new stores and that more were planned for the future. Akirov may one day receive special recognition from the Jerusalem Municipality for bringing so many people from outside Jerusalem to the capital. Because the once controversial mall is in a historic location and forms a bridge between east and west Jerusalem leading directly to the Jaffa Gate of the old city, it attracts not only casual tourists but people who have business interests in the mall through chain stores headquartered in Tel Aviv. THOUGH MANY Israelis have in their time been critical of soccer coach Avram Grant, even his sharpest critics at home were outraged by the humiliations foisted upon him in England, and also by the fact that he was ousted by Chelsea when the team had come so close to winning. Interviewed about the whole affair on Israel Radio, Gavri Levy, the former chairman of the Israel Football Association who knows Grant very well, said that singer Yaffa Yarkoni had once told him that under unpleasant circumstances in which you're paid off to leave, you should just close your eyes and think of the money. As far as reports go, Grant received a seven-digit severance send-off. Nonetheless, he was very touched when he returned home this week by the outpouring of sympathy and support by local soccer fans and even from people who understand nothing about soccer, but felt the need to tell him and anyone else who would listen that Grant had been hard done by. The soccer team at the Ahuzat Rishonim retirement home in Rishon Lezion, in a show of solidarity with Grant, decided to change its name to Grant Rishonim - which translates as "First for Grant" - and are hopeful that he might come to visit and perhaps give them a training session. IT'S DIFFICULT for people on institutional guest lists to plan their schedules from the period of mid-May to the end of June because there are so many conflicting things happening at the same time. Very few of these people, many of whom are philanthropists, give to only one organization. Most give to three or four or more. Case in point is Fred Worms, who ordinarily would be at Beit Hanassi this coming Sunday to attend the Israel Museum International Council's Fellowship ceremony. But just when that will be happening, Worms, who divides his time between his homes in London, Jerusalem and Herzliya Pituah, will be attending the Convocation at the opening session of the Board of Governors Meeting of the Hebrew University, where he will be among the recipients of honorary doctorates. Among the events on many people's calendars this month and next are the Tomorrow Conference, meetings of the Boards of Governors of Tel Aviv University, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University, Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Shenkar College. In addition, a series of National Day, Independence Day and Constitution Day celebrations, including inter alia Africa Day, and celebrations by the embassies of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain (the Queen's Birthday), Portugal, Russia, the Philippines, Croatia and Slovenia, plus a farewell reception by the Latvian ambassador along with the usual round of conferences, art shows, concerts, Israel Festival events, arrivals of trade delegations and functions honoring visiting dignitaries representing foreign governments. It's a wonder that anyone gets any work done. EVER SINCE Beit Hanassi recruited the glamorous Dalit Kool, the former public relations director of the Inbal Hotel, to work on its events team, dinners at Beit Hanassi have taken on a much more sophisticated appearance. Now one can find chairs enveloped in white casings, square tables replacing round tables, lavish floral decorations, high-class catering, and most recently, additional waiters and waitresses to ensure that the serving of dinner can go more smoothly. What Kool did not take into account as she ran around making sure that everything would be as it should be for the Group of 30 headed by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System and Jacob Frenkel, former Governor of the Bank of Israel, was that the waiters had not been properly instructed. Although there were sufficient staff on hand to have one waiter or waitress per table, what happened, at least at the beginning, was that several waiters approached the same table so that everyone seated there was served more or less at the same time, but people at all the other tables had to wait. As is the case at official dinners abroad, the waiters and waitresses, uniformly garbed in freshly ironed snow white shirts, black pants, vests and bow ties, stood lining the walls until duty called. They weren't quite as efficient, however, as their overseas counterparts. They didn't do too badly except for the fact that their uniformity stopped at their feet. Footwear included lace-up shoes, sneakers, sandals, flat-heeled and high heeled pumps. Worse still, some of the shoes were sorely in need of cleaning. A chain is judged by its weakest link. After all the effort that had gone into putting Beit Hanassi on par with presidential palaces abroad, most of the shoes worn by staff were simply unfit for the occasion.