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Grapevine: Levy’s lands

CM 28/04/2021 1

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 At the rate that he’s going, optical and real estate tycoon Laurent Levy may one day decide to change the name of Israel’s capital from Jerusalem to Laurentville. 

Levy, who some years ago, bought up a large slice of Nahalat Shiva, which he converted into the Music Center, repleted with restaurants, outdoor cafes in a huge square, a music stage and Hebrew music museum, is now building another museum adjacent to the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria in the building which for many years housed the Gesher Center, that was founded in 1970 by Rabbi Danny Tropper. Gesher is the Hebrew word for bridge, and that’s exactly what the Gesher organization stands for. It bridges differences between secular, religious and haredi youth, IDF soldiers and opinion makers to turn them into a cohesive unit while simultaneously celebrating their diversity.
Some seven years ago, Gesher moved to the Hibba building at 75 Harav Herzog Street, and the building in King David Street remained empty for most of the interim period, except for occasional use by other organizations.
The building has now been acquired by Levy who intends to tear it down and build in its stead a museum of the history of the Jewish people. There are already some 30 museums in Jerusalem. How many more does the city need? 
The management of the Waldorf is less than happy about Levy’s plans, because they interfere with the alleyway between the hotel and the existing next-door building. Delivery trucks that bring supplies to the hotel will not be able to park there while construction of the museum is in progress. Moreover, Levy intends to build his museum two floors higher than the current building, which will block part of the view for hotel guests. 
Levy also owns a large slice of Jaffa Road, extending from Zion Square to Yabetz Street, where he plans to build a hotel and shopping center, which will change the skyline in that part of town. A large residential project that he has built on the seam of Rehavia-Talbiyeh, is in the final stages of completion. He also owns other properties in the capital, Tel Aviv and the Galilee, and seems to be able to do whatever he wants, regardless of objections by neighbors.
■ TWO OTHER museums less than 10 minutes’ walk away from Levy’s projected museum are the Museum of Tolerance and the Friends of Zion Museum, which are literally a hop, skip and a jump away from each other. The FZM headed by Mike Evans, has entered into a joint project with Shimon Sabag, the head of Ezer LeHaver (Helping Hand to Friends), a Haifa-based organization that is dedicated to caring for Holocaust survivors. The project will cater to Holocaust survivors living outside Jerusalem, enabling them to stay overnight free of charge in the luxurious FZM guest house on the campus of the museum, when visiting the capital. Evans made it clear that Holocaust survivors will always be welcome. 

This is not the first time that Sabag, in his quest to help Holocaust survivors, has turned to the Evangelicals for help. When building a series of apartments for Holocaust survivors in Haifa, he received funding from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. While the Evangelicals are to be commended for their generosity of heart and hand, it’s rather sad that the Government of Israel or the various NGOs involved with immigration did not make such provisions.
■ LAST WEEK, the Talbiyeh Community Council – which is part of the Ginot Ha’Ir conglomerate of community councils which also includes those of the German Colony, the Greek Colony, Rehavia, Katamon, Yemin Moshe, Kiryat Shmuel and Nayot neighborhoods – called a meeting of Talbiyeh residents to inform them of coming developments in their neighborhood, and for people to get to know each other and work together for the common good. 
People were asked to register in advance, but apparently not everyone who took advantage of the invitation did register, and the turnout at the Prima Hotel was far in excess of the number of people expected, which was very encouraging, except for the fact that not enough time was left for discussion. It would also have been helpful to have name tags in large letters. There were no name tags. Organizers also failed to take newcomers into consideration. Each time some place was mentioned, a French couple kept asking where it was, but asked only loud enough for someone sitting next to them to supply the answer. There were probably other people for whom throwing out the name of a place meant nothing. 
The best part of the meeting was the presence of property developer Nahum Rosenberg, who heads the group that will be building a hotel on the site of the former President Hotel on the corner of Ahad Ha’Am and Keren Hayesod. Rosenberg, who is also the owner of the Osher Ad chain of supermarkets, has developed a very good relationship with the community council and came primarily to listen to any objections that people might have regarding the construction plans for the hotel and how the area will be affected afterwards. He did not want to upset anyone, he said, and promised that every complaint would be examined by a panel of legal and engineering experts, who have already examined complaints and have come up with various options, each of which will be re-examined. He wants the project to exist in harmony with its neighbors.
One neighbor is another, smaller hotel, that will be built next door to that being built by Rosenberg’s group, on the site of what used to house the Government Coins and Medals Corporation. Construction has already begun, but progress cannot be determined because the construction site is surrounded by a very tall fence. What bothers a lot of people is that at the same time that the larger hotel will be constructed, work will be carried out on the light rail that will run along Keren Hayesod. One of the people present said that infrastructure for the light rail was actually put in place 10 or so years ago, but that nothing was done afterwards, and residents had been forced to put up with noise and rubble for no good reason.
Now, with more cars and buses on the road, it will be much worse as new updated infrastructure for the light rail is created, she said. Not everything in the way of public transport and new traffic regulations is a done deal, those attending the meeting were told. They were urged to put pressure on the municipal council, in particular on Mayor Moshe Lion, in order to prevent some negative things on which the council has so far dug in its heels, most particularly over traffic lights by Sokolov Park. Because of the two hotels, traffic by the park will increase considerably and will endanger children crossing the road to play in the park. Residents want traffic lights so that children can cross safely. So far, City Hall does not see the need.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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