By GREER FAY CASHMAN OCTOBER 15, 2009 14:22
TENS OF thousands of Jerusalemites have probably never heard of Tel Aviv-based business tycoon Alfred Akirov, the man who built and owns the Alrov Mamilla Mall. Akirov did more than build a store-lined walkway between new and old Jerusalem. He created an active cultural facility that enables the residents of and visitors to Jerusalem to enjoy visual and performing arts at his expense. Large, low-income families can go to the mall to listen to free concerts and view works of art. During Succot there were many more performers than usual, but none attracted as much attention as violin virtuoso Daniel Ahaviel. His face radiated a contagious joy, which in turn was reflected in the faces of his audience. Ahaviel has boundless energy and danced as he played. In addition to hassidic melodies, his repertoire includes medleys of Turkish, Hungarian and Irish folk melodies to which he applied some fancy footwork. There were several other talented musicians playing in different parts of the mall, but none had Ahaviel’s magic, and none drew as large a crowd as he did. He didn’t seem to be the least bit tired and played encore after encore. Finally he said, “Will those who want me to stop please put up their hands.” No one did. Even after he finally put down his bow, he stood talking to his fans for half an hour. Ahaviel, 46, born in London to a family of politicians, has been playing the violin since he was eight. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of York, where he studied music composition and improvisation. In 1988 he settled in Israel and married soon afterwards. He and his wife discovered religion and gradually became observant. Initially he was an Ashlag Hassid, but in 2001 he discovered Breslav. Since then, especially after his first visit to Uman, Rabbi Nahman has had an impact on his life as a musician and a music teacher. Ahaviel has performed in many parts of the world, interspersing his playing with hassidic tales and songs.