Wow, Jerusalem!

Because Jerusalem is a hothouse of creativity, the municipality decided on a pilot project of 15 small exhibitions in 15 hotels.

A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A collaborative effort between the Jerusalem Municipality’s culture and tourism departments proved to be an eye-opener for more than a dozen journalists participating in a walking press tour of the capital’s central commercial area.
The ex-Jerusalemites among the journalists who hadn’t been to the city in several years were most surprised by the changes, and found very little they could still recognize. Those who live in Jerusalem but seldom if at all visit the smaller hotels marveled at how attractive they were; and those who had been in at least some of the hotels in bygone years were impressed with the quality of the renovations.
Because Jerusalem is a hothouse of creativity – with artists of every possible genre producing high-quality work, but leaving for places like Berlin because their art doesn’t receive sufficient exposure at home – the municipality decided on a pilot project of 15 small exhibitions in 15 hotels. Aside from enhancing entrance lobbies, lounges and dining rooms, the exhibitions are indirect vehicles of communication among hotel guests, who may strike up conversations by first commenting to each other on the art, then going on to something else, then perhaps joining forces for a city tour.
Such relationships enhance the image of the hotel, and sometimes when guests talk to each other about the art, their appreciation of the works on display may lead to a purchase – in which case the deal is strictly between the artist and the buyer, with no middleman and no commission.
Of the 15 hotels, the journalists – taking routes which were not always direct and in all probability, were deliberately determined by the organizers so as to offer broader glimpses of the city at night – visited eight: Montefiore, Jerusalem Inn, Arthur, Harmony, Eyal, Mamilla, Eldan and King David.
Adi Yekutieli, the curator of the exhibitions, is an ex-Jerusalemite who left some 30 years ago, spent 10 years in the US and on his return to Israel, opted for Tel Aviv. Yet when asked to curate the exhibitions, he insisted that all the artists be Jerusalemites.
Through them and their art, he said, he got to know the city again, and finds new fascinations with every visit.
In its overall context the project is one of fusion, he explained: “You have to link elements that seem out of sync with each other; but once you do it, it’s perfect.”
Some of the artists were at the hotels to meet the journalists and explain their works, the materials they use and what inspires them, then continued on with them to the next destination – with Yekutieli playing the role of “pied piper of culture.”
The people from the municipality’s culture department were bubbling with enthusiasm, pointing out that every artist, no matter how modest, wants recognition, and the project is a means of achieving that goal.
Participating hotels offer leaflets in Hebrew and English detailing the works on display, with something about the artist. However, similar information displayed on the walls is in some cases only in Hebrew, as is the fold-up catalogue, which defeats the purpose – as the number of non-Israeli guests is usually in excess of domestic visitors.
In fact, if the idea is to make guests look at the art to add to their Jerusalem experience, the leaflets should be in at least four more languages. The exhibition is part of the domestic tourism promotion Hamshushalayim, cultural weekends in Jerusalem that include tours, lectures and entertainment, and more thought should have been given to the foreign tourists who are also boosting the occupancy rates in the city’s hotels.
Participating artists include Orna Milo, Yael Salama, Daniela Yaniv-Richter, Debbie Campbell, Matan Golan, Yael Serlin, Yeela Wilshansky, Maya Aruch, Merav Kamal, Nelli Lorch, Oz Barak, Korin Abisdris, Roy Margaliot, Dafi Spond, Yafit Reuveni and Noam Preisman.
The hotels, in addition to the above-mentioned, are the Abraham Hostel, Agripas, King Solomon, Waldorf Astoria, YMCA, Palatin and Jerusalem Hostel.
■ IN A previous column, it was mentioned that tragedy often brings out the greatness and goodness in people.
In some cases, it turns them into national and even international icons.
An example is Racheli Fraenkel, the mother of one of the three yeshiva boys abducted and murdered by Palestinian terrorists in June. Fraenkel, possibly because she is equally proficient in Hebrew and English, became the key spokeswoman for the parents while the search for the boys was going on. After the discovery of their bodies, along with the other two mothers, she continued to make public appearances at large rallies – both religious and secular – to keep spelling out the message of the importance of Jewish unity regardless of political, national, ethnic or socioeconomic differences.
The spontaneous outpouring of support and sympathy from Jewish individuals and communities around the world was a manifestation of the importance of what unity can achieve. Moreover, the attitudes of all three families were a shining example of the best of religious-Zionism, and caused many secularists who harbored certain negative misconceptions to revise their thinking.
Fraenkel is now appearing in a slightly different role. She is not deviating from her message, but this Friday at 3.30 p.m., in her regular role as a lecturer in Talmud, Jewish thought and Halacha, she will appear on Channel 1, Yes and Hot HD as part of 929, the new study project in which the public is urged to read one of the Bible’s 929 verses each day and interpret it from a diversity of standpoints.
Conceived by Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman, 929 was five years in the making, and was officially launched last week at a ceremony at the President’s Residence – where former education minister Shai Piron was roundly praised for having made the project one of the flagships of his tenure.
Piron said at the ceremony that the time was ripe for 929, due to the lack of relevance in people’s lives.
“People are looking for something meaningful; they’re afraid of a meaningless existence. The Bible gives us values such as kindness to the stranger and care for the widow and the orphan, and these values are meaningful. We are all in search of meaning in our lives.”
The project is being spearheaded by Rabbi Benny Lau, who strongly believes it will prove to be a unifying factor – in that while it makes room for diverse interpretations and opinions, it brings people together for the single purpose of exploring their heritage.
The TV program hosted by Fraenkel will in the coming weeks and months feature that diversity, when she discusses the verse of the day with rabbis, writers and various prominent figures.
The program replaces Mibereshit (“From the Beginning”), which is leaving the screen after 19 years on the air.
■ DIVERSITY IS certainly the name of the game in Israel right now, as evidenced by the fact that Shmuel Flatto- Sharon, the colorful and controversial former MK and convicted felon who continued to remain the darling of the media, has announced he’s running in the Likud primary.
Flatto-Sharon is the owner of Dizengoff Center. Also running for election is his CEO at the center, Alon Piltz, a former commander of the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit. However, Piltz is not following his boss into the Likud; he is contesting for a Labor seat.
■ PERHAPS REALIZING that the very public split between Shas leader Arye Deri and Eli Yishai, leader of the new Yahad Ha’am Itanu, will in the final analysis be harmful to the parties led by both, Yishai’s spiritual mentor, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, is saying the two will complement each other in the Knesset. Mazuz is trying to effect some form of reconciliation so there will be no bad-mouthing between the two during their respective election campaigns. It wouldn’t hurt for all parties to refrain from bad-mouthing each other and instead, simply focus on the platforms they want to present: How they will go about improving the quality of life and equality of opportunity for all of Israel’s citizens; what they intend to do with regard to the peace process; and what steps they will take to improve Israel’s image abroad.
■ THERE WAS a time when not just the identities of Mossad operatives were top secret, but also those of the directors (with the notable exception of Isser Harel). Gradually the Mossad developed a more public face, to the extent that the names of all former Mossad directors are known. Alphabetically, they are: Nahum Admoni; Meir Amit; Meir Dagan; Efraim Halevy; Harel; Yitzhak Hofi; Tamir Pardo, the current director who is winding up his term; Shabtai Shavit; Reuven Shiloah, who was the founder; Danny Yatom; and Zvi Zamir.
While the identities of Mossad agents still remain classified, directors appear in many public forums and on TV. Moreover, Mossad has a website and Facebook page, and even advertises for recruits via the Internet. Israel’s most legendary secret service is not quite as secret as it used to be.
Nonetheless, precautions are still taken at the annual ceremonies in which agents receive awards, to keep their identities under wraps – so much so that the media, other than photographers from the Government Press Office, are not permitted to attend. This is in contrast to the annual Defense Prize ceremony, at which the identities of most of the developers of Israel’s progressive defense systems are not allowed to be publicized, but the media is permitted to attend.
Last week, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad director Tamir Pardo presented 12 awards for excellence to Mossad servicemen and women, as well as two lifetime achievement awards. Rivlin spoke with pride and respect of their “wisdom, bravery, prudence, responsibility and commitment to Israel’s security,” which he characterized as “the secret of success for the heroes who fight Israel’s battles in the shadows.”
Netanyahu told the honorees and other Mossad members gathered in the hall: “If producers of sci-fi films wanted to reproduce [the things you do] on screen, they would not be able to even imagine what you’re doing.”
Pardo noted, “In a changing world full of threats and challenges, we incorporate different capabilities of various branches within the Mossad, as well as the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police, Foreign Ministry and other friendly services around the world. This integration is what allows us to accomplish outstanding and unprecedented achievements.”
In other words, any fictional representation of the Mossad does not come anywhere near the reality.
■ IN THE second chapter of the Book of Genesis, we read about the creation of Eve as a helpmate to Adam.
Feminists take this as a sign of equality, in that she is neither superior nor inferior – simply there to help with the tasks at hand, because Adam can’t do it all alone; the Hebrew expression is ezer kenegdo.
It would seem this applies perfectly to first lady Nechama Rivlin, who this past week accompanied her husband to some candle-lighting ceremonies, but on Sunday visited soldiers of the Nesher Brigade field intelligence unit overlooking Gaza to light candles with them, be briefed on their activities and address them.
Her husband was otherwise occupied at the Gush Katif and Northern Samaria Commemoration Center in Nitzan, lighting with families that had been evacuated from the Strip during the 2005 disengagement process. Some of these families are still waiting for permanent housing.
Many who were self-employed before the disengagement were unable to find jobs during the long period of uncertainty, and a disturbing number of young people who had led happy, stable lives went off the rails when they lost their homes and community environment.
People who have not previously heard Nechama Rivlin deliver an address are pleasantly surprised by her eloquence and the timbre of her voice. “You sit behind the scenes,” she told the soldiers, “but you are really the front line – the eyes of the nation, guarding the borders and defending the people. You are the candles of the IDF and the State of Israel.”
■ THERE IS a reason that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in the draft resolution he prepared for the UN, decided on 2017 as the final deadline for a peace treaty with Israel. Abbas is well-aware that 2017 is an important anniversary year for the Jewish people: It will be the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and the 70th anniversary of the UN resolution on the partition of Palestine.
In 1947, the Arabs rejected the concept of a two-state division of the land. Historically, November 2017 would be a perfect date on which to make up for lost opportunity while taking a ride on celebrations throughout the Jewish world.
In addition, after all he has invested in talks with a series of Israeli leaders, it stands to reason that Abbas – who turns 80 this coming March, nine days after the Knesset elections, and has several health issues that concern him in addition to affairs of state – would like to see the fruit of that effort while he is still alive to reap the kudos.
■ EVEN THOUGH it would seem that Shimon Peres – who was in France last week to try to persuade President François Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius that unilateral decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were not helpful to the peace process – is the world’s oldest frequent flyer, it seemed wise to check before making such a claim. It may still be true from the perspective of someone not employed by an airline company, but Peres has not flown as frequently as former Delta flight attendant Robert Reardon, who retired in August at age 90 and holds two Guinness world records: one for being the world’s oldest active flight attendant, the other for having had the longest career as a flight attendant. When push came to shove, Reardon didn’t want to retire. He was retired by his employers, even though he worked a full schedule that included several round trips to Tokyo each month.
■ FOLLOWING HIS visit to France, Peres was home this week to persuade voters not to take note of political campaign promises. He should know – he made enough of them in his time.
But as president, he was deeply disturbed by the enormity of the social gap and the seeming inability of the government to narrow it. Although his relations with the prime minister were very correct while he was still in office, once out of office, Peres didn’t think twice about lambasting him – and did so on Monday at the conference of food providers for the needy organized by Latet, which provides a lot more than food for the poor.
The conference took place at the Peres Center for Peace, and the former president was the opening speaker.
“You can’t feed hungry children and senior citizens on declarations to the media,” said Peres, who was obviously taking a dig not only at Netanyahu but also the heads of rival parties.
To be fair, throughout his presidency, Peres consistently spoke of the need for nutrition security not only for Israelis but for the whole region, and commissioned advisers in agricultural technology to come up with ideas on how to increase crop yields and share this information with neighboring countries – regardless of whether they had peace treaties with Israel or not.
His theory was that people who are hungry and unemployed are more likely to go to war than people who have jobs and food in their bellies.
■ FORMER US president George W.
Bush was the special guest and keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s 90th Annual Hanukka Convocation and Dinner at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, where more than 750 people witnessed YU president Richard M.
Joel confer an honorary doctorate upon America’s 43rd president.
“What an honor it is to have you as part of the Yeshiva University family,” Joel said to Bush. “We celebrate you for the steadfastness of your integrity, for your commitment to democracy, and your clarity of vision that only in a democratic society can people achieve and grow and thrive. Put simply, you taught Americans that democracy is a condition for civilization.”
Joel also commended Bush “for the loyalty of your friendship and commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
In response, Bush said, “Yeshiva University is a prestigious university and I am proud to accept this degree. Students leave Yeshiva with not only a fantastic education, but as better citizens of the world.”
Honorary degrees were also conferred on Michael Gamson of Houston, Texas, a member of YU’s board of trustees and of Yeshiva College’s board of overseers; Judith Weiss of Cleveland, Ohio, a longtime supporter of YU programs and institutions; and Anita G. Zucker of Charleston, South Carolina, a supporter of YU’s Center for a Jewish Future.
■ IN THE same week, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at the Broad Street Ballroom to honor seven IDF special forces veterans who were wounded in Operation Protective Edge this past summer. The gala was part of a 10-day tour of New York City for the wounded combatants organized by Belev Echad, founded by Rabbi Uriel Vigler of Chabad Israel Center on the Upper East Side, and a host of supporters from the New York community. Belev Echad aims to show the Jewish people’s appreciation to IDF veterans for putting their lives on the line to protect and defend the Jewish state.
■ UNDER THE chairmanship of Pini Cohen, the international board of governors of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University convened last week for a closed meeting on whether relations between Israel and the US are in danger of disintegrating.
Among the approximately 60 participants were Frank Lowy, chairman of the INSS board of directors; Yair Sarousi; Yossi Bechar; Sami Sagol; Yitzhak and Ruth Manor; Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg and his wife, Nadine; Nathan and Clara Hetz; Danny and Ariela Moskovitz; Kobi Richter; Shimon Harel; Itamar Deutscher; Rami and Yehudit Nussbaum; Pini and Tzipi Ruben; Yehuda and Tami Raveh; David Fattal; Boaz and Varda Dotan; and Harel Shapira, who collectively represented a large swathe of the leaders of Israel’s business community.
Speakers included Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, director of INSS; and former ambassadors Martin Indyk, who was US ambassador to Israel, and Michael Oren, who was Israel ambassador to the US; with remarks primarily focused on a nuclear Iran, the war against global terrorism and the overall effect of the personal relations or perceived animosity between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.
In his introductory remarks, Cohen stressed the importance of in-depth dialogue between the business community and INSS scholars in order to advance the public debate on national security. To prove his point, Cohen cited a recent article by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in which he referred to INSS’s influence on the formulation of strategies by the Israeli government.
Yadlin said he frequently meets people who tell him they envy his being able to work in a field in which he deals with what is significant, rather than what is urgent, in order to formulate a comprehensive policy.
■ WHENEVER FOREIGN Minister Avigdor Liberman attends an event at which there are native Russian speakers from the former Soviet Union, he is immediately surrounded by well-wishers and admirers. Indeed, after spending more than two-thirds of his lifetime in Israel, Liberman still speaks Hebrew with a heavy Russian accent. His link with Russia remains strong, though Liberman was born and raised in Moldova. His father served in the Red Army and was exiled to Siberia for seven years.
With this Russian connection, it is only natural Liberman should take an interest in Limmud FSU, whose founder Chaim Chesler called on him last week to brief him on what Limmud FSU is doing in promoting Jewish identity and culture among Russian- speaking Jews in the 20-40 age group. Limmud FSU events have attracted 30,000 participants in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, as well as Russian speakers in Israel, the US and Canada; Australia will join the list early next year.
Liberman told Chesler he had heard good things about Limmud FSU and he was greatly impressed by the educational work it is doing, which he fully endorsed and supported unconditionally.
“Your work is of fundamental significance and importance to a large number of Jews all over the world, many of whom were cut off from Jewish culture and learning for decades,” Liberman said to Chesler.
■ THE MEDIA hoopla over the recorded conversations between former prime minister Ehud Olmert, currently facing trial on corruption charges, and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken, who is already serving jail time, prompted veteran photojournalist David Rubinger to post a Facebook comment to the effect of how much pleasure the public would derive if all the secretaries of all the ministers recorded their bosses without their knowledge. “More Shulas are needed,” he wrote.
Begging to differ: More effective means are needed to prevent corruption, but if every boss had to worry about a secretary recording their conversations, he or she would still practice corruption – but wouldn’t converse on anything other than the straight and narrow with any staff member.
[email protected]