Grapevine: A new conspiracy theory

A collection of stories from under the radar.

Mahane Yehuda shuk (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Mahane Yehuda shuk
There’s a conspiracy theory surrounding the liquidation of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which lately has taken to producing programs about itself while it still has the ability to do so.
In its Mabat Sheni program on Channel 1 on Wednesday, it featured a nostalgia segment in which it explored some of the history of the Kol Yisrael studios in Tel Aviv’s Sarona neighborhood which was built by the Templers.
Part of the neighborhood has been developed into a commercial and leisure time center, with most of the original buildings remaining in place. The studios are located in a series of buildings surrounded by high-rise towers and construction projects for even higher towers.
For the purpose of the television segment, veteran actress and broadcaster Rivka Michaeli, who worked for Israel Radio for many years, was brought in and given the grand tour by fellow veteran Moshik Timor, who knows a lot about the history of the buildings and the artifacts they contain.
Michaeli was amazed to see historic items, basements and attics that she never knew existed. Some of the buildings were also used by the Hagana, which stored a secret arms cache in them; and David Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence was broadcast from Tel Aviv, with an announcer giving the first ever Voice of Israel call sign.
Over the years, prime ministers, other politicians and entertainers came to the studios to record or broadcast live, and there were many productions in front of live audiences. Sound effects were often achieved by treading in different ways on gravel, as demonstrated by Timor.
There is a move afoot by IBA veterans, especially those from the radio and some Tel Aviv architects, to preserve the buildings and turn them into a Radio City museum plus provision for their Templer history as well, but it seems that the buildings are destined to be torn down to make room for even more skyscrapers.
In the program several fruitless attempts are made to contact the preservation department at Tel Aviv City Hall or some other authoritative source to glean information about the actual plans for the area and what, if anything, is intended for preservation.
And here comes the conspiracy theory. Israel Radio’s foreign news editor Eran Cicurel, aware that the studios are located on prime real estate, voices the opinion that the reason for the liquidation of the IBA is to get hold of the land for construction purposes. He may very well be correct in this assumption, because it’s no secret that the somewhat smaller but nonetheless sprawling IBA studios in Jerusalem are definitely going to be torn down to make way for high rise construction. The dismantling of the IBA is yet another example of Israel’s lack of respect for history.
Who knows? Someday some real estate developer might tear down the Western Wall and start building commercial and apartment towers there as well.
■ TWO JERUSALEM landmark eateries that almost invariably received good reviews from patrons and food writers will not be part of the Jerusalem restaurant scene in 2016.
A downturn in economics coupled with an escalation in terrorist attacks has had a negative impact on tourism, which in turn has had a dire effect on restaurant trade.
While some restaurants in the capital still have a steady clientele, most are almost empty, except on Friday mornings. People shopping for the weekend stop to chat with friends and have coffee or even brunch.
Because there are so many takeaway options in the Mahaneh Yehuda market, several of the restaurants there are popular with young people on Thursday nights, and customers often purchase extra portions to take home. There are even more people of all ages in the restaurants on Friday morning, and they have an even bigger selection of ready cooked food from which to choose and to take home for Shabbat.
But patrons of Racha on Havatzelet Street and Eldad Vezehoo in the Feingold Courtyard off Jaffa Road will have to find other options in the new year. Racha was known to be one of the best ethnic restaurants in Jerusalem and specialized in Georgian cuisine. Proprietor Lilly Ben Shalom, who headed the campaign for the city’s merchants to receive compensation for lack of business, has given up, and two weeks ago closed the restaurant, which is being relocated to Tel Aviv.
Eli Levy, the colorful proprietor of Eldad Vezehoo and the chairman of the Jerusalem Merchants Association, closed down this week after 25 years in the 120-year-old Feingold Courtyard, which in the interim became a hub for a variety of eateries, all of which are currently suffering.
Other dining outlets, not as well known, are also closing down or limiting their hours of operation. The situation may change in February with a projected weeklong food, wine and music festival at Jerusalem’s Arena stadium in which numerous restaurateurs and producers and marketers of alcoholic beverages will participate.
■ GETTING BACK to Mahaneh Yehuda, what goes around comes around.
Rami Levy, the king of discount supermarkets, who 40 years ago started out with a small 40-sq.m. enterprise that belonged to his grandfather in the market’s Hashikma Street, never relinquished the premises in the street from which his company takes its name. In the interim, he has diversified and expanded into fast food, low-priced clothing and accessories, cellular communications and real estate. After completing his army service in 1976, Levy began selling goods at wholesale prices to individual buyers, and his business mushroomed.
One of six siblings, Levy, who is now a multimillionaire and a member of the Jerusalem City Council, employs some 20 of his relatives in his various business operations. He is reopening the Hashikma store, which will be run by one of his brothers.
Hashikma Street is slowly becoming gentrified, with several eateries in and around it. Some of these eateries are among the more popular of Mahaneh Yehuda’s food outlets, which means that more people are coming and eventually will come to Hashikma Street.
■ TOUGH THOUGH the economic situation may be for storekeepers and for the tourist industry, philanthropists are still giving away their money for good causes. At their annual gala fund-raiser at the Tel Aviv Hilton, the Friends of the Rabin Medical Center at Beilinson Hospital contributed a total of NIS 10 million toward the establishment of a personalized medical center for the treatment of cancer patients – something in the nature of an Israeli version of America’s Sloane Kettering.
Friends chairman Pini Cohen, who over the past decade has succeeded in raising NIS 200m. for Beilinson, announced during the course of the evening the establishment of a unique tissue bank, adjacent to the Davidoff Center at Beilinson, to enable faster and more efficient diagnoses and treatment for cancer patients. The multidisciplinary Davidoff Center consolidates under one roof all of the Rabin Medical Center’s oncology and hemato-oncology inpatient and outpatient facilities and services.
While he may not like being referred to as such, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has proved himself to be a good soldier, and although gatherings of this kind with female singers and some of the female guests in revealing dresses are definitely not the cup of tea of this haredi minister, he gives priority to his duties as health minister, and dutifully attends events that he might otherwise shun.
It seemingly has never occurred to anyone from the President’s Bureau downward to respect the fact that haredi men do not, as a rule, listen to women singing. If Litzman is invited, surely the performers could be male performers. Recently, he attended another event as a representative of the government, and had to share the stage with a female singer who was wearing a strapless and almost backless gown. Litzman looked the other way, but it was not a pleasant experience for him. Likewise, during the visit last week of the president of Ukraine, the entertainment at the state dinner was provided by two superb female opera singers, but a third of the guests were haredi men, including a couple of chief rabbis.
Be that as it may, Litzman did the right thing by Beilinson. At the gala itself, Zvi Neta, the chairman of the Boxenbaum-Neta Foundation, received special recognition for his dedication to the Rabin Medical Center, whose CEO, Dr. Eran Halpern, as always provided updates on the center’s activities.
Also present as always was Eli Depes, CEO of Clalit Health Services.
Seen among the guests were Yuval Rabin; former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and his wife, Revital; MK Amir Peretz; Ronit and Reuven Adler; Nava Barak and her husband, Shalom Zinger; husband and wife lawyers Yehuda and Tammy Raveh; Chaim Hurvitz of Teva; and Ofra and Shlomo Shmeltzer.
■ UNLESS IT’S a very small, intimate congregation, or an ultra-Orthodox or a young, networking congregation where people gather more to socialize than to pray, most congregations have an attendance of 50 percent or less on Shabbat and get a boost only on special occasions such as a bar mitzva or the call-up of a bridegroom.
Last Saturday, the Hatzvi Yisrael synagogue in Jerusalem’s Talbiyeh neighborhood was almost full, which was certainly a vast improvement on the paucity of attendance the previous week. The reason this time was twofold. One was the 90th birthday of longtime congregant Moshe Pollack, and the other was the presence of Rabbi Dr. Alan Kimche, the founding rabbi of the vibrant Ner Yisrael congregation in London’s Hendon. Kimche, who came with his wife and son, delivered a lecture rather than a sermon following the kiddush hosted by the Pollack family, and quipped that it’s a Jewish tradition that one can’t study Torah on an empty stomach.
The age group of the Hatzvi Yisrael Congregation ranges from newborn to mid-90s, with quite a large number of octogenarians and even more septuagenarians. As one of them remarked last Saturday, “70 is the new 50.” There are several nonagenarians. Among those who are active and regularly attend services are Rabbi Shubert Spero, Estelle Fink, Ada Hausman and Rosalind Groob.
Pollack and his wife, Phyllis, who came to Israel from Montreal come to services every week. Involved in many aspects of real estate in Jerusalem and beyond, Pollack and his son Eli were instrumental in brokering numerous real estate investments for local and foreign investors, including the sale of the Lev Ashdod Mall to Leo Noe’s British Israel Investment Ltd., which specializes in shopping malls and commercial centers, and the sale of the Palace Hotel site in Jerusalem to the Paul Reichman Group. The Pollacks were the lead brokers in the sale of the site which the Reichmans developed into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Private Residences. The Pollacks also pre-sold 20 percent of the Waldorf Residences to foreign buyers, before the project broke ground.
Needless to say, many of the congregants at Hatzvi Yisrael last Saturday were of British and Canadian background, including former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler. Those of British background were familiar with Kimche and came to hear him speak after the kiddush. Pollack was particularly pleased to have grandchildren and great-grandchildren present, and Kimche was delighted to see old friends.
The theme of his lecture centered on halachic aspects of the Temple Mount. He didn’t want to get into politics, he said, because this was not his field.
People who don’t ordinarily attend these informal study sessions held after services came and filled what is usually the men’s section of the synagogue, and there were also a few people in the women’s gallery. The crowd included non-Brits and non-Canadians, among them Belgium-born, Australian- raised Isi Leibler, an international Jewish community leader and a weekly columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and Austrian-born, Holland- raised Manfred Gerstenfeld, an occasional columnist for the Post, a leading world authority on anti-Semitism and a child Holocaust survivor. The two will engage in a conversation on “From Europe to Jerusalem: A plan to fight anti-Semitism and the Demonization of Israel,” at an event jointly organized by Europeans for Israel and Honest Reporting, to be held on Monday, January 4, in the auditorium of the Agron Guest House, 4 Agron Street, Jerusalem.
■ VETERAN INDUSTRIALIST Stef Wertheimer has been the recipient of numerous awards, and they keep on coming. The most recent was from the Council for a Beautiful Israel, which awarded him the Flag of Beauty and five Beauty Stars for his Tefen Industrial Park in the Upper Galilee, which is the flagship of several industrial parks that he has established over the years.
Tefen has always been recognized as a symbol of industrial innovation.
Wertheimer – together with Arye Dahan, the CEO of his industrial parks – received an award for the 20th consecutive year, and this year won in every category of the competition, jointly held by the council and the Manufacturers Association.
The citation that accompanied the award stated that Tefen Industrial Park is an outstanding example of regional integration of economic and societal success in a peripheral area and has become an inspiration for industries throughout the whole of Israel.
Out of a total of 350 competitors, three other industrial parks established by Wertheimer were also awarded prizes. They included the Tel Hai Industrial Park in the Upper Galilee, the Omer Industrial Park in the Negev, and the newest venture, the Nazareth Industrial Park, which won in the category of industries that contribute to progress, technological development, investment in human resources and the economy; safeguard the quality of the environment; provide good conditions and wages for workers; and in general contribute to the community.
Former industry, trade and labor minister Shalom Simhon, who chaired the adjudicating committee, said that Israeli industrialists had made giant strides from traditional industry to highly advanced industry, and that on the way had succeeded in maintaining the values of “a beautiful industry” by demonstrating concern for workers’ rights and for the quality of the environment.
Dahan said that Wertheimer’s industrial parks would continue to serve as models for industry as a whole, and would continue to improve from year to year. Participants in the awards ceremony included Avraham Katz-Oz, the chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel; the council’s president, Gideon Patt; the president of the Manufacturers Association, Shraga Brosh, and various other dignitaries from both organizations.
■ A REUNION of sorts will be screened on Friday evening when Rafik Halabi, the mayor of Daliat al-Carmel, will be the guest of Yigal Ravid in his Channel 1 nostalgia program Kach Haya (The Way it Was).
Halabi, a prize-winning working journalist by profession before he entered the political arena, was the first member of the Druse community to be employed in Hebrew-language television. A controversial reporter in his time, who rose to be head of the news division, he has transformed Daliat al-Carmel, and according to his Facebook, which has posts in Arabic, Hebrew and English, really great things will be happening in Daliat al-Carmel in 2016.
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