Today, a new institution, the Elstein Music and Arts Center, is a nucleus for both visual and performing arts—the brainchild of Lily Elstein, one of Israel’s most important arts patrons. The enter is part of the Elma Arts Complex, in the historic town of Zichron Ya’acov, on a ridge of Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean. The main headquarters are in a beautiful building designed by architect Yaakov Rechter, originally as the Mivtachim Sanatorium/Hotel. (Built in 1968, it earned Rechter the prestigious Israel Prize for architecture.) Long, white, and gently curved, it rests horizontally on the hillside—as Lily Elstein herself describes it, “like an instrument: like the keys of a piano or an organ.” The renovated complex, set on nearly thirty acres, includes performance spaces and halls, art galleries and studios, villas to house artists in residence, and a luxurious hotel and spa for visiting audiences.
Elstein is an elegant and gracious woman, with a tenacious streak. Her connection to Zichron Ya’acov is long:standing she was born there, and her late husband, Yoel Moshe Elstein, and she both descended from the town’s fathers. When Elstein expressed an interest in buying the old Mivtachim Hotel, she encountered a number of obstacles, from developers attempting to outbid her to objections against marring the local forest areas with construction. Ultimately, Israel’s High Court of Justice was called in to decide the fate of the land and building. Elstein says: “I explained to them: ‘I am third-generation Zichron Ya’acov. My grandparents were founders, and my parents were born there. I really belong to this place. I belong to the art and the life of art in Israel.’” Ultimately, she overcame them all, and today the Zichron Ya’acov community is well aware that her project is a boon to the area—and to the arts in general in Israel.