Sounds of the Past

A faraway retreat in Zichron Yaakov is finding new purpose.

Irit Rosenblum
Irit Rosenblum
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Irit Rosenblum
Irit Rosenblum

In Zichron Yaakov, a refurbishment project has recently been launched at the Lange Estate and Beit Daniel, together known as Hatzer Carmel. The Open University obtained the approval of the families that own the property to begin work on preserving and restoring the estate where Beit Daniel is located. In conjunction with the Council for the Preservation of Buildings and Historical Sites and the Jewish National Fund, the Open University will use Beit Daniel to set up its music center, which will become part of Zichron Yaakov's tourism complex. The Lange Estate will eventually become an Open University study center.

Hatzer Carmel links Broshim Street and the hotel area of Zichron Yaakov and is near the pedestrian mall section of Hameyasdim Street and is the center of the restored historical moshava. Not far away is the Carmel Mizrachi winery, the Council Building, the great synagogue and the Museum of Immigration (the restored administrative building).

In the wake of the Council for the Preservation of Buildings and Historical Sites' campaign, a project to restore and preserve the center of the moshava, known as "The Wine Trail" began in 1993. The Council says that thanks to the work of preservation architect Gavriel Kertesz, who protected the unique character of the heart of the moshava, Zichron Yaakov developed its economy and tourism and became one of the jewels of the country.

Nieta Bentwich and her husband, Michael Lange, who fell in love with the place during their first visit to Israel in 1910, built the Lange Estate. The estate was dedicated in 1914 and was dubbed Hatzer Carmel (Carmel Court), after the family home in England. Beit Daniel, a retreat for musicians and intellectuals, was built by Lilian Bentwich Friedlander (Nieta's sister), in memory of her son, Daniel, who was a gifted pianist. The house, which was dedicated in 1938, over the years attracted many guests, mostly musicians, artists and writers. Among those who have signed the guest book are the conductor Arturo Toscanini; the violinist and founder of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Bronislaw Huberman; American composer Aaron Copeland, painter Marc Chagall, pianist Claudio Arrau and poet Yaakov Orland. Until the 1970s, the site served unofficially as the guest house for Philharmonic musicians and the country's leading officials. David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett stayed there.

In 1986, the Zichron Yaakov Local Council and the Shomron Local Committee tried to appropriate plots from the estate to use as a community center, but Lilian Bentwich Friedlander's sons appealed to the High Court of Justice, got an order nisi issued and worked out an arrangement with the Council and the Committee to cancel the appropriation.

Now the Open University has entered the picture and worked out a deal with the property's owners. According to the architect overseeing the preservation of Hatzer Carmel, Amir Shoham, the restoration of the court must take into account the image of the place as a faraway retreat that evolved over the years when it was isolated from its surroundings. "All development work must bear in mind the image and story of the place and preserve them," Shoham said.

The planners' goal is to include Hatzer Court in Zichron Yaakov's mosaic of tourist attractions. Until two years ago, there were music festivals, chamber concerts and other musical programs for the general public at Beit Daniel. After the restoration, music workshops will be held there with the participation of guest artists. The workshops will conclude with music marathons open to the public. Plans also call for using the place as a guest house for musicians from around the world.

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