Conference: Jerusalem Open Forum – October 11-13, 2018

We are happy to invite you to our Conference Jerusalem Open Forum: «Past and Future Reflection and Creation» at the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem from October 11-13, 2018.

The program starts on October 11 with the opening of Clement Chapillon›s photo exhibition „Promise Me a Land». In the days after that, there will be workshops and panel discussions in which we look to the future and seek ways to inspire discussion and visions for Jerusalem as a peaceful city. In this spirit, we have also organized a musical program that invites you to open your senses to new experiences.

Program of  Jerusalem Open Forum: «Past and Future Reflection and Creation»

OCTOBER 11th

19.00 Vernissage of Clement Chapillon›s photo exhibition „Promise Me a Land»

OCTOBER 12th

12.30 Workshop Peace Education by the Educational Cooperation in the WBC

16.00 Presentation „The History of the Abu Tor Neighborhood and the House of the Willy Brandt Center»
by Prof. Ali Qleibo (Research commissioned by the WBC)

18.30 Reception Formal Opening and Come Together

19.00 Concert „UNESCO Jazz Journeys»

OCTOBER 13th

11.00-16.00 Workshop Think-tank «Redesigning Jerusalem»

    11.00-14.00 (with break)
    Peace Building and the production of place – A Jerusalem Dilemma!
    with Omar Yousef
    14.00-15.00 Lunch
    15.00-16.30 Tour with Yonathan Mizrachi, Emek Shaveh executive director.
    “Hinnom valley – a mix of history, ancient sites, and political interests, at the edge of Abu Tur neighborhood.”

17.00 Presentation Dion Nissenbaum «A Street Divided» Lecture and Panel discussion

19.30 Concert Lukas Lauermann, Cello Sound Experience

* All events take place at: Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem, Ein Rogel 22, Jerusalem – Abu Tor
info@willybrandtcenter.org

The Willy Brandt Center is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with the Forum Civil Peace Service.

This event is made possible by the kind support of:
Center for International Encounters Jerusalem (CIE)
Austrian Cultural Forum Tel Aviv
UNESCO
Institut Français de Jérusalem – Romain Gary

 

 

 

 

Art Cooperation in Gaza – “A Gaza Overture”

Petra Klose, our Social Art Project Coordinator, was invited to Gaza by UNESCO to meet potential partners. In the following text Petra tells about her experience.

When I received the message “You will be leaving for Gaza at 8.30 tomorrow morning“ – I could actually not believe it. I had planned to go to Gaza several times before but every time the trip was cancelled due to security reasons. After the recent bombings and casualties, I couldn’t imagine that it would work out this time. But thanks to our partner, the UNESCO, I was allowed to join a UN car to drive from Jerusalem to Gaza the next morning to do some research for upcoming concerts and music workshops. We had decided to develop a series of jazz performances with local and international musicians, trusting in the power of jazz music in promoting creativity and intercultural dialogue.

Having dealt with all formalities at the Israeli border control, the UN car was allowed to drive through the Erez crossing. Yellow signs showed directions towards “Israel“ and to “Gaza“. What kind country is Gaza? I wondered.

A large, immensely high gate opened ahead of us – and closed behind us. “So this is how it feels when ‘you’re in’, I thought, being aware that it is completely ridiculous to talk about hiding your feelings when you know that you will easily be able to leave in less than 24 hours. On the other side I was met by the UNESCO team who accompanied me to have my papers checked and approved twice more, firstly by officials of the Palestinian Authority and secondly, by representatives of the “de-facto government“ – in other words Hamas, in what looked like a makeshift office in a container on a construction site.

Finally, we were able to drive into Gaza City. I was overwhelmed by the many bright lively colors. I don’t know why I had expected everything to be grey or covered in a thick layer of dust and rubble. In my mind Gaza had always been connected to images of military operations, protests of angry crowds, or most recently reports of the so called “Great March of Return“.

At the UNESCO office I had the chance to meet with Gaza artists for the first time. From an artistic point of view, the encounter was in no way different than any other production meeting for an upcoming music event; talking about the concept, rehearsal schedules, instrument and musical arrangements. Nevertheless, certain things had to be taken into consideration, such as the application of permits for musicians from the Westbank, the coordination for artists from abroad or the procedure to obtain permission for a public event.

After the meeting we looked at potential concert venues. Again, I was surprised to find beach clubs, discos and fully equipped theatres, as well as beautiful hotels with marble floors and fancy swimming pools. The last thing I had expected to find in Gaza were people having fun in a pool. However, on second glance I could see that there were only men and children in the pool. Women sat fully veiled at the pool edge.

Contradictions and contrasts everywhere. On our journey we drove along kilometers of overpopulated shabby dwellings of refugee camps and passed by the ruins of the cultural center which had been bombed a week before my arrival. On the collapsed walls somebody had written in bold red letters the words: “Free Palestine“.

In the end we found the perfect location for our jazz performance. A small archaeological museum and guest house with a breathtakingly beautiful sea view terrace. It looked like the ideal place to connect traditional heritage with a contemporary experimental music performance.

In the museum I discovered in the midst of byzantine columns a big showcase, displays of coins from the Austrian Hungarian Empire which had been excavated in Gaza. At first I thought that my mind was playing tricks on me, but there was in fact the profile of the Empress Maria Theresia right next to other antique coins, mostly from the Roman Empire. As locked up as we think of Gaza today, we forget how this place had always been at the crossroads of different cultures and empires between Africa, Asia and Europe.

At lunch I had a long talk with my companions for the day, among them an energetic young girl from Gaza. We discussed the effects of closed borders on the artist scene. “People here are hungry for the arts. There are more art projects than one would probably expect but we suffer from the restrictions and are denied connections to the outside world in order to exchange new perspectives.“

When I asked her how she feels as a young secular woman going about the internal borders and the religious rules imposed on daily life, she answered that for her “religion is a private matter“. She explained that she can easily accept everyone’s beliefs as an opinion, but requests respect for hers in return. I was curious as to whether she ever wanted to join the protests at the border. „In the beginning it was a movement that came from the people who were really marching for freedom. Later it became affiliated with the government. Why would I follow a government’s call to march for freedom if they would not allow me the freedom to protest against them if I wanted to?“

Our next meeting took place at the Roots Hotel, one of the few places which offer the necessary security clearance for internationals. A small iron plaque beside the entrance caught my eye: “Build by Utopia Design“.
The hotel was extremely comfortable with all technical amenities, only the noise of the generators reminded me of the long electricity cuts in Gaza. The terrace offered the most amazing panorama, to the right a beautiful beach, to the left the port of Gaza City with dozens of fisher boats lined up in the dazzling sun.
I took a picture and sent it to Nadine, a Palestinian friend of mine living in Vienna, who is currently writing a book about her family’s history. She replied „This will be the hippest summer travel destination in 2025“. She wasn’t cynical about it. Nadine represents a mindset that believes in a world in which anything can happen.

In theatre, we use the term „Coup de Theatre“ – an unforeseeable change, a solution which would have been unimaginable only a few pages before.

Even the one who is regarded as the greatest writer of all time, William Shakespeare, used this technique. The best example is in “The Winter’s Tale“. It is admittedly not considered one of his strongest pieces, offering an outrageously unrealistic and depressing plot with an even more outrageously unrealistic happy ending. I want to spare my readers the attempt of even trying to explain its narrative of tragic events and reunions after long-term separation.

The play takes us to the coasts and deserts of the kingdom „Bohemia by the sea“. Being of Czech descent, what always puzzled me was that the historic Kingdom of Bohemia, which roughly corresponds to the modern-day Czech Republic, had neither a coast nor a desert. But the Shakespearean „Bohemia by the sea“ doesn’t correspond to any real country, it’s a purely fictitious kingdom which became a dictum in the world of literature for the projection of a Utopian country.

When I was picked up from the hotel to start my journey back to Jerusalem it felt like driving through a movie with dimmed sound. Maybe it was partly due to the fact that the sandy streets swallow the sound of the cars but it was also evident that there are not many shops or working places open where people would head to during the day.

I sincerely hope that the musicians with whom we are planning our upcoming events will create a soundtrack that matches the incredible range of colors of this place,as an inspiring overture to new rich soundscapes.

What changed as a result of this visit? When I think about Gaza now, I don’t immediately think of groups of angry crowds, I see individual human faces. And it’s not only walls and fences that come to my mind, it’s wide promenades and beautiful sandy beaches.

In a way Gaza became my personal “Bohemia by the Sea“, a high-contrast country, so close and at the same time, so far. All I can hope for as somebody working in the arts, is for some courageous writers who are ready and willing to come up with an inventive storyboard. Of course, any plot for this might seem even more unrealistic than anything Shakespeare has ever written, but if not artists, who would be allowed to dream and create such a utopia to make its audience believe in a happy ending in The Winter’s Tale.

 

Red Lounge “Spectrums” – July 17, 2018

On July 17th we hosted a screening of the docu-series ‘Spectrums’ at the Willy Brandt Center. Afterwards we held a panel with the artists Afek Testa Launer and Zohar Melinek Ezra.

‘Spectrums’ is a new Israeli docu-series that follows the social and spiritual worlds of 10 members of the transgender community in Israel. The series sensitively examines a broad and contemporary picture of Israeli society in all its shades through the stories of the characters.

We watched two episodes. The first one introduced us to the colourful character of Lioz, a young transgender woman, trying to cope with the binary definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman. Lioz shows her audience that there is indeed more than one way for a person to define themselves.

The second episode tells the story of Toar, a transgender man who struggles with alienation from his family after his decision to come out as a transgender man. He shares extracts from conversations with his father with the audience and rediscovers moments of anguish.

After the screening, the artists began to talk about their methods: how they met and what it was like producing the series. They revealed how the exposure wasn’t always easy for some of the participants after the series went online and why they decided to release the episodes for anyone to see without restricting it.

The audience also participated by asking them questions, for example how it is living as a transgender man/woman in Israel in comparison to other countries, what is coming up next, and whether the artists plan to do further projects exploring topics surrounding the meaning of being transgender.

This was a valuable evening for both the audience and the artists involved.

Red Lounge with Bakr Khleifi – June 10, 2018

Bakr Khleifi is a young Palestinian musician from Ramallah who has already performed in prestigious venues around the world after becoming member of Barenboim’s West Eastern Divan Orchestra at the early age of twelve. For the Willy Brandt Center he prepared a rich and colourful journey showcasing male and female composers from Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Palestine and Turkey.

Bakr was born in Jerusalem and studied in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Gothenburg receiving further artistic impulses in New York and Europe. The versatile artist plays the oud and the double bass and virtuously shifts between the classical, contemporary and traditional music world.
Bakr’s inspiring performance incorporated a variety of musical styles and rhythms and took us on a journey across different centuries and regions. The audience curiously followed his explanations about the characteristics and history of the respective pieces. The final highlight was the world premiere of his first own composition.

The evening concluded on the terrace of the Willy Brandt Center where the audience gathered to meet the artist and enjoy some Ramadan delights together.

We are looking forward to Bakr Khleifi’s participation in future projects of the Willy Brandt Center. He will perform at the upcoming Jazz Journeys in cooperation with the UNESCO and our Orfeo music theatre project.

UNESCO International Jazz Day 2018 – April 30, 2018

The Willy Brandt Center partnered with the UNESCO International Jazz Day for the first time. The Jazz Day is a yearly event taking place around the globe on April 30th to celebrate the international art form of jazz and its power to promote dialogue among cultures.

The Jazz Day performances featured the Austrian ensemble Sinfonia de Carnaval, and took place in front of overcrowded halls on the campus of Bethlehem University and at the Austrian Hospice in the very heart of Jerusalem’s Old City. Known for their unique and stylistically open approach, the musicians took their listeners on a rich and varied jazz performance journey that crossed multiple genres across a wide range of improvisations.

The musicians emphasized that it is hard to imagine places more appropriate for the mission of the UNESCO Jazz Day than Bethlehem or Jerusalem. These cities are special because they are fraught with tension and political crisis, but at the same time, are crosspoints of cultures, and filled with lively traditions and rich artistic heritage.

Their artistic contribution therefore reflected the meaning of the worldwide initiative, which, in the words of UNESCO goodwill ambassador Herbie Hancock is “crucial to ensuring that all people continue to hear this positive message and the music behind it”.

The UNESCO Jazz Day events were organized by the Willy Brandt Center in partnership with the UNESCO National Office Ramallah, the Austrian Cultural Forum Tel Aviv, the Austrian Hospice, Bethlehem University and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Washington.

Red Lounge “Born in Deir Yassin“ – April 8, 2018

Striving to present and reflect on different narratives in Israel and Palestine, the Willy Brandt Center, in cooperation with the Israeli NGO Zochrot, presented the multi-award winning film „Born in Deir Yassin“.

The movie features the history and development of Deir Yassin, a former Arab village close to Jerusalem which was conquered by the Jewish paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi in a highly controversial battle in 1948. The village buildings today are part of the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center, a public psychiatric hospital.

The film traces a young man’s personal journey looking for records of his mother who was hospitalized at the premises. The film unveils not only her personal story but also those of former underground fighters in the war of Independence, who disclose the controversial narratives of Deir Yassin through their contradicting memories.

The well-attended screening was followed by a public discussion with film director Neta Shoshani and historian Dr. Adel Mana (Van Leer Institute), moderated by Debby Farber (Zochrot).

Red Lounge: Mulu and Tsegay – March 14, 2018

On March 14th we hosted children from the Ben Yehuda School in Jerusalem at the center. Together, we watched the puppet show “Mulu and Tsegay” performed by Shaharit Yerushalmi and Moria Ben Avot.

The performance was based on a children’s book written by Tamar Verete-Zehavi and Ronit Rosenthal and published by Kinneret Publishing in 2014. The book describes the harrowing journey of two siblings, a brother and sister, who ran away from their homes in eastern Africa after witnessing the burning of a neighboring village. Their mother provided them with a magical courage potion and urged them to flee and seek out a refugee camp in order to save their lives. Although the children felt devastated because they had to leave their mother, they set off on the daunting journey in the search of a new home.

Created by: Moriya Benavot, Shaharit Yerushalmy & Hadas Selbst
Concept & Performing: Moriya Benavot & Shaharit Yerushalmy
Director: Hadas Selbst
Dramaturge: Roey Gormezano
Performer & Writer: Shaharit Yerushalmy
Performer & Puppet designer: Moriya Benavot
Original music: Dana Eizen
Table designer: Gilad Nardi
Puppet design consulter: Gili Ulmer- Kuzin
Props consulter: Yaron Karbel
Light designer: Itamar Houri

Shaharit Yerushalmi has a BA in theater and directing at The Kibbutzim College Performing Art School, and is part of the “Holot Legislative Theatre” – a collaboration between Israelis and asylum seekers in the method of “The Theater of the Oppressed” by Augusto Boal. In an interview with “Haaretz” she says:”I worked with young people at risk and with disadvantaged populations and joined the ‘legislator theater in Holot’ through which I was exposed to the refugee community in Israel and to its distress, and I found myself reading and looking for materials and learning about their situation. I read the book to my niece and my tears went on”.

Moria Ben-Avot holds a BA in theater instruction and directing at The Kibbutzim College of Performing Arts School and is a graduate of puppet studies at the Holon Puppet Theater Center. She also has a master’s degree in cinema at Tel Aviv University. “We did an in-depth investigation and spoke with asylum seekers about their childhood, the village where they grew up, the games of childhood, the songs and the way of life, in order to recreate and create it in stage design and in the creative process,” she says. (‘Haaretz’, November 2017).

In their website, director Hadas Selbst and performers Shaharit Yerushalmi and Moria Benavot write: “Art, as we see it, can serve as a bridge connecting religion, race and culture. Performing the play Mulu and Tsegay is, for us, both a moral act and a social mission. Using puppets to tell a story about children who are forced to become refugees allows us to create a space for the audience to relate to the refugees’ harsh past and unknown future. We know from our work that puppets can bring hearts closer together and allow children to begin to see the ‘other’ as a human being and, in this instance, more than simply an asylum seeker or foreign worker”.

Trailer Mulu and Tsegay

 

New Project Coordinator for “Social Art”

Petra Klose is an Austrian-Czech cultural manager who was initially drawn to Jerusalem by a music festival taking place in Israel and Palestine in 2007. From the very first moment, she was fascinated by the many colors, the immense cultural richness and the uncountable number of fascinating stories from Jerusalem’s past and present. Over the years, she has developed a strong connection with the region, the people and cultural life. In 2011 she was assigned by Sari Nuseeibeh, at that time president of Al Quds University, to develop the Al Quds College of Music Project. She has also worked on other projects in the region like the Austrian Hospice Academy and the American Colony Concert Series and has presented Israeli and Palestinian art projects in Europe.

Petra Klose studied Drama and German Literature in Vienna and was also trained in ballet, harp and elocution. She founded „K und K Wien“, an agency for artists and intercultural projects in Vienna which collaborates with organizations like the Vienna Festival, Salzburg Festival, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, the Scala and the Bolshoi Theatre.

„I see the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem as an unique creative space for cross-cultural exchange and profound human encounters. Despite or maybe even because of all the challenges artists are facing in this part of the world, I couldn’t think of a more inspiring place for the arts, as I believe that art itself is always destined to find its way to realization beyond all borders.“

Narratives of Longing – March 12-19, 2018

Five days, eight nations and one show.

Twelve young people between the ages of 19 and 22 came together in Jerusalem and Berlin to set up a performance called “Narratives of Longing”, using approaches such as ethnology, fine arts, performance and video-making.

After a week in Jerusalem in November, they met again in Berlin for 5 days to finalize their performances and present at the Theatre Expedition Metropolis as part of the festival “New Narratives”.

The participants were not only from Germany, Israel and Palestine, but also from Afghanistan, Mexico, Italy, Poland and Romania. Diversity was not merely spoken about, but was also experienced and lived daily. Flight – the search for asylum, threat and discrimination – was a connecting narrative that all participants had experienced in varying degrees, regardless of where they born or raised. The narrative of personal liberation from constraints, permanent expectations and restrictions was a central theme for many.

This authentic performance of diversity attracted a large audience at the festival “New Narratives”.
We are proud to be part of this project and to make a great contribution to its success by providing a safer space across conflict lines at the WBC in Jerusalem.

“Narratives of longing” is a cooperation with: Drei Wünsche Frei-Studio for Hybrid Culture (Berlin), Theater Expedition Metropolis (Berlin), the Center for International Encounters (Jerusalem), the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem and the Musrara School of Art. Special thanks to the Theater Thikwa Berlin.

This project was funded within the framework of the EUROPEANS FOR PEACE program of the Foundation EVZ (Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft / Remembrance, Responsibility and Future).

Featured image by courtesy of Amal Mattar, 2018

Photo documentation: Michelle Reissmann

 

Holot Theatre Group performes “One Love” at the WBC

Nesamama (“One Love”)

by Hannah Bernstein

A performance by the Holot Theatre Group, based on real-life experiences, was the latest event of the Red Lounge hosted in WBC on 27th of January. A composition of Asylum seekers and Israelis, who initially started working in the Holot Detention Camp in the Negev Desert presented the challenges caused by the policy of the government toward refugees and asylum seekers in Israel.

“Nesamama”, meaning “One Love” inspired the message of the play – for people to live all together in harmony. The actors and actresses were singing in Eritrean, while sitting in a row, holding flags of the aligned countries and of Israel, the destination country. Seven people, out of the initial group of twenty one, presented personal testimonies of the participants, forced to leave their former home. During the play, characters shifted between the performers, at times they were in the position of the powerful, and at others in the role of the newcomer, which here unfortunately was the obedient. This constant switching showed the arbitrariness of the system on which the individual is dependent.

During the past year, the participants of Holot Theatre have explored various techniques, exercises, and improvisations, inspired by Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed,” in order to process personal and social problems of asylum seekers in Israel. This constellation provides a democratic framework whereby legal issues can be critically examined and discussed with the audience, who is invited to actively imagine the possibility of policy and legal change toward asylum seekers in Israel.

The audience was then asked which scene they would like to interfere in to achieve another result. By slipping into the role of one of the participants, individuals in the audience were invited to transform these situations. They replayed the challenging crossing of the border between Sinai and Israel, where they were postponed and sent to the visa department and the discussion with the manager at a pastry factory, where they were asking to be allowed to visit their own wife giving birth at hospital.

Uncovering these personal stories, and giving individuals the chance to empathise with different situations and individuals, the group aims to inspire public discussion and social transformation, which may ultimately result in governmental transformation.

Director: Chen Alon Actors and creative partners: Omad Shakur, Rotem Goldenberg, Doron Lev, Awet Asheber, Shaharit Yerushalmi, Nouraldin Musa, Yonatan Yohanns Estifanos