Meet Tel Aviv’s Newest Landlord – Vladimir Putin

YERUSHALAYIM -
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shake hands as they attend an event marking the International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, last week. (Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)

There’s an apartment for rent on Pinsker Street in central Tel Aviv – good news for residents and prospective Tel Avivians who live in a city with a chronic shortage of affordable housing. To rent it, though, would-be tenants may have to make a long-distance phone call – to Moscow, in order to speak to landlord Vladimir Putin.

The one and a half room apartment had been the property of Minna Yudizkia Berliner, a teacher of German in the former Soviet Union who had Putin among her students. The Russian president, who was very fond of the teacher, bought her the apartment in 2005, and Berliner lived there until her passing several months ago. With no heirs, Berliner specified in her will that the apartment be returned to her benefactor.

Berliner immigrated to Israel in 1993, and in 2005 she met with Putin when he visited Israel. The two exchanged memories of the time when she was his teacher, when the Russian president was a lad of 15. Putin even introduced Berliner to then-President Moshe Katzav, whom Berliner told that Putin was an “excellent student.”

Several weeks later, a Russian diplomat presented himself to Berliner and told her that she was now the owner of the apartment in the tony Tel Aviv neighborhood. Speaking to Yediot Acharonot, Berliner said that she cried when she received the gift. “Putin was a very fair person, and he was very grateful.” Besides the apartment, she received an engraved gold watch and a signed autobiography of the Russian leader. With her passing- at the age of 96 – the apartment has reverted back to Putin. The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv hasn’t yet said what Putin plans to do with the apartment.