The Tel Aviv-Yafo city council has approved the renaming of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in honor of businessman Sami Ofer and his wife Aviva.
The proposal passed by a wide majority - out of 21 council members, only four objected (Gila Hertz, Ron Lowenthal, Mordechai Virshubski and Shlomo Maslawi) and one member abstained (Meital Lehavi).
At first, it seemed a majority block was forming to oppose the proposal, but following the mayor’s fiery speech, wavering members decided to support the controversial initiative.
Zoo, museum named for donors
Huldai reminded those present that both the Gutman Museum and the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem are named after donors. “The question at hand was whether to act or not to act,” said Huldai. “I opted to act.”
Huldai noted that he was previously subject to public scrutiny regarding the construction of a new facility for the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv, funded by the Israel National Lottery.
“I was under tremendous pressure from people claiming the funds could be used to build community centers and new classrooms," he said. "Eventually we managed to increase efficiency while building a new home for the municipal theatre. I am very proud of that initiative and of the decision to build and create rather than do nothing.”
Will coincide with Tel Aviv centenary
Huldai challenged opposition members Gila Hertz and Ron Lowenthal’s suggestion to delay the construction of the new pavilion, funded by Ofer’s USD 20 million donation, while trying to raise the necessary funds during this time.
“We’ve had contacts with the Ofer family for over a year, purposefully so we could inaugurate the opening of the new wing of Israeli art during Tel Aviv’s centennial celebration. To date, the opposition has failed to raise the necessary amount, and as I said, there is a considerable gap between talking about it and working the issue on the ground.”
The mayor’s initiative caused quite a stir in recent weeks, prompting protest by renowned artists and museum donors. To complete the process, city hall must receive the approval of the Minister of Interior for the allocation of funds in the 2006 budget. The project is scheduled to break ground next year.