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Lia and Wim Van Leer

By the 1950s, Lia and Wim van Leer had already developed a distinct passion for international cinema. Together, they launched film clubs in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Wim was the ultimate Renaissance man, an engineer, a pilot, an inventor, industrialist, journalist, book reviewer, playwright, jazz musician, filmmaker, scriptwriter, cartographer, explorer, philanthropist, collector, children's game designer, promoter of young talent, freedom fighter, and many more. In 1960 Lia founded the Israel Film Archive, today the most comprehensive public archive in the Middle East and the main repository for Israeli and international cinema in Israel.

During the 1970s the Van Leers collected and borrowed prints of international film classics and art films and organized cinematheque screening series in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. In 1973, they were approached by Brazil-based George Ostrovsky. Together, they founded the Jerusalem Film Center (aka The Cinematheque), the first facility in Israel dedicated exclusively to the presentation and preservation of cinema. With additional principal support from the Jerusalem Foundation, the Van Leer Group Foundation, and the Ostrovsky Family Fund, this cultural and educational institution, which opened in October 1981, has become a popular landmark. In addition to directing the JFC, Lia initiated the Jerusalem International Film Festival in 1984.

Over the years, Lia and Wim’s contribution to cultural life in Jerusalem has been recognized by the many awards she has been given, among them: the Israel Prize for her lifetime achievements and special contribution to society and the State of Israel; the Teddy Kollek Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her life’s work and contribution to the advancement of cinema in Jerusalem, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur granted by the French government, the Berlinale Camera Award for her pioneering role in developing the foundation and appreciation of the seventh art in Israel, and an Honorary Doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

Lia and Wim van Leer were a great source of inspiration to the staff of the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Wim passed away in April 1992 and Lia at the beginning of March 2015. We remember them with much love and admiration.