National Library shows price of philanthropy

Hagit Peleg-Rotem

The case of the National Library echoes the Knesset and Supreme Court buildings, in which the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv was involved.

Who makes the decisions about the building of Israel's public and cultural buildings? Are public buildings a national asset, or does he who pays the piper calls the tune?

The case of the design of the new Israel National Library is a case in point. The building's foundations are beginning to shake even before the ink is dry on the blueprint. Architect Dr. Rafi Segal had barely enough time to have a suit tailored when the project was ripped from his hands by Yad Hanadiv just after announcing his win in the design competition. The question is not only why was the design disqualified, but is also a question of authority.

The case of the National Library not only echoes in the memories of the Knesset and Supreme Court buildings, in which the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv was involved, but only the financing of the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The cancellation of Segal's win for the National Library brings to mind the hemming and hawing by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, whose directors first agreed to name the it after the donor (the late Sammy Ofer), in exchange for his $20 million.

Again and again, it turns out that Israel's institutions are not built on the values of fairness or professionalism, but on foundations of generosity and donations which come with strings attached. The defense budget is not the only thing that depends on rich Uncle Sam, but the Knesset building, the Supreme Court building, the universities, hospitals, and museums are built with the donations of good Jews.

Moreover, this situation exempts state institutions from financing the projects. It allows them to shake off the responsibility and to rely on gifts, which all too often are packaged with the price tag of a hostile takeover.

If we are too poor, then maybe we should forego grandiose projects. The budget for the new National Library building is $100 million. There is an argument about the need for a new building at all, instead of renovating the current one. It's just a pity that a designated budget, as well planned as the building, is not properly established for a national asset.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on January 13, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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