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

Intercultural Project “Narratives of Longing” in Jerusalem and Berlin

In November young artists  from Berlin and Jerusalem came together in Jerusalem.
They arrived with distinctive backgrounds of five different nations and are trained in fields  such as ethnology, fine arts, performance and videomaking. Together they started working on a performance about “longing”
The project will continue in March 2018 in Berlin.

“Narratives of longing” is a cooperation with Drei Wünsche Frei-Studio for Hybrid Culture (Berlin), Theater Expedition Metropolis (Berlin) and the Center for International Encounters (Jerusalem) and is funded within the framework of the EUROPEANS FOR PEACE programme of the Foundation EVZ (Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft/ Remembrance, Responsibility and Future).

Red Lounge Lecture Performance – November 15, 2017

“There must be some basic evil in me – in all men.” (H.F.)

More than twelve months director and screen writor Vera Berzak worked on her piece “The Governor General” with dramaturgic help of Naama Berman. It’s the first lecture performance taking place in Willy Brand Center and Vera’s first performance of her “work in progress”, as she calls it.

The audience watch two different scenarios jumping in time. It’s the narrator herself, presenting a contemporary monologue and the same actress in the role of the psychologist Gil Gilbert, talking to Hans Frank in prison during the Nuremberg Trial in 1946. This way Vera is able to interrogate a doubting murderer about his felonies.

The existence of this play is self-evident when listening/experiencing to Vera talking about her play; feeling her coping with its plot and her own role within. However every single person in the room feels attached to their dialogue and can relate to the story in some way.

Interview with Alisa Meir-Epstein from “Good Neighbors Initiative”

“A place to meet on a value bases”

The neighborhood of Abu Tor straddling the seam between East and West Jerusalem is divided into two communities – Jewish and Palestinian. The two populations have minimal contact due to the political conflict and differences in culture and language. The “Good Neighbors – Abu Tor/Al-Thuri” Project, partner of the Willy Brandt Center, is a joint, unique initiative based on volunteers aiming to build a common community between Jews and Palestinians living on the seam.

Alisa Maeir-Epstein and her husband David are the spiritual parents of the project setting a unique example for a peaceful co-existence among neighbors. Together with their Palestinian counterpart, Abu Nijmhe, head of the residents’ committee of Palestinian Abu Tor, they shape neighborly relations and establish common projects to improve the neighborhood of Abu Tor.

For this newsletter Alisa talked to Katharina, head of the Social Arts Project, about the specific situation of Abu Tor, the birth of the project and its collaboration with the Willy Brandt Center.

Alisa, you are living for 12 years in Abu Tor, five minutes walk from the Willy Brandt Center. People coming to visit the WBC immediately feel the distinct vibe of this neighborhood. What makes it so special in your opinion?

Maybe special isn’t a good word. Because some of the characteristics of Abu Tor you have in other neighborhoods, but maybe the specific situation of Abu Tor is something you can describe as special.

And how would you describe the specific situation?

Some people say there are three Abu Tors. There’s the Jewish Abu Tor, there is the Palestinian Abu Tor, and there is the mixed Abu Tor, where there are Jewish and Palestinians. And this third Abu Tor probably refers to the people who are living along the seam, who have some relationships with Palestinians or have some relationships with Jews, and have been living here a longer time. So the seam area is a pregnant area for coexistence. And indeed, twenty years ago there were some coexistence efforts before the Intifada. But during the two Intifadas these existences broke down.

Now the second Intifada was in 2000, after many years of more or less an invisible wall running through your street separating the Jewish from the Palestinian neighbors. How did this project come into existence?

My husband David, was trained as social community worker. And since we moved here twelve years ago he said to me, “I really want to do something here in the neighborhood with Jews and Palestinians.” So I said “Ok”.

Now also because we live on the seam of the edge, all our neighbors on the other side of the road are Palestinian and we therefore have a lot of Palestinian friends. So David one day called a meeting of about twenty Palestinian men, because he was in touch with the men and asked them “What would you like to do to improve the neighborhood? And would you be interested to improving these things with the Jews?”  And the answer all around was “Yes!”. So they started a steering committee to start thinking about things they wanted to do in the neighborhood.

That was the first stage for “Good Neighbors”.

Yes, and by now we have various projects running in Abu Tor, such as a women’s forum, Hebrew and Arabic language lessons, a community garden, a soccer team, a local sustainable economy, and community events.

Part of your activities are held at the Willy Brandt Center, yet our collaboration between “Good Neighbors” and the Willy Brandt Center goes far beyond offering space.

So as the coordinator on a volunteer basis of the project, a lot of my work I feel is educating the public, about the other side, about how we can work together, about seeing people as people, not stereotyping people, about putting aside fears, about possibility. So I think these are things that the WBC also holds as values close to their heart and I think because the project holds these values and WBC holds these values, it’s a place for us to meet on a based on these values.

Talking about values and working on relationships to shape the future, what is your vison for “Good Neighbors” and our collaboration for the upcoming years?

That’s a difficult one. Not because it’s five years from now, but because our project goal is to build an Israeli-Palestinian Center. So I would hope that it would be enriching for both factors and for the neighborhood. We would want to find some way that the two centers, our Neighborhood Center and the Willy Brandt Center, would work together. One representing the local people whether of the neighborhood or of the city or even the two countries, because we envision the center as being a place where groups of people from all over the area would come and learn about coexistence.



The next big step in the collaboration between “Good Neighbors” and the Willly Brandt Center is a winter festival held on December 7th 2017 at the Willy Brandt Center as a community festival for all residents in Abu Tor.

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WBC turns into art gallery

The annual conference initiated the start of the new art program shining light on what is soon to become a daily reality: young innovative artists hosted at WBC creating a new creative fringe in Jerusalem. To exhibit, to perform, and to express visions through art.

Sara Yassin, photographer and graduate at Musrara School of Art: Sara’s work consists of still photographs. It shows three very personal places where she used to live or frequently visits.

Tal Michaelis, performer and video artist from Jerusalem: Tal’s installation of videos used unexpected spaces at Willy Brandt Center to create thoughts on elements such as water and stone.

Stiller (Verena Looser & Melina Weissenborn): Verena’s and Melina’s video „Jerusalem Lines“ accompanied the conference’s theme of Jerusalem. From Abu Tor to Mount Scopus and back by public transport – one way with an Eastern, one with a Western bus company – virtually combined driving a circle. Jerusalem Lines is a geopolitical study revealing the visual parallels and divergences of the divided city.

What’s next?
Join us for our upcoming Red Lounge on November 15th. A lecture performance by Vera Berzak.
And on November 25th visit our Berlin-Jerusalem program “Narratives of Longing” for an open performance night.
For further information follow us on Facebook.

Course: Education as a Political Act – Co-Creating New Possibilities

How do we learn how to think critically, and how do we teach others to learn how to think critically for themselves? How can we learn how to be in solidarity, and implement liberatory processes within our classrooms, staff meetings, and daily lives, through educational dialogue and creativity?

This 12-week course, Education as a Political Act: Co-Creating New Possibilities, explores the concept of critical pedagogy, created by the great educational philosopher Paulo Freire based upon his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” through experiential and participatory practices of educational dialogue and the expressive arts (aesthetic education), and how to implement these philosophies daily in our work environments, classrooms, and activism.

The class will run from January 2018 – March 2018, once a week at the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem on Wednesday’s from 17:30-19:30.

To express interest and to request more information, please email Shoshana Gottesman: shoshibee@gmail.com

Introduction of new workers in the WBC: Katharina and Shaked @ Social Art Project

Katharina Asbrock is the new Social Art and Communication’s Project Coordinator at WBC.

She has spent recent years working in Berlin’s political landscape, and was on the communications team at the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees, and Integration at the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt).

Katharina’s first encounter with the WBC, Jerusalem, Israel & Palestine was about 10 years ago – “and I was – stunned!” she remembers. Back then she was living three months as a volunteer in East Jerusalem, in the district of Silwan. This experience has paved her way back to the WBC: “It was a big challenge that taught me to always be open-minded and stay tenacious. And most importantly I realized that future visions need a safe space to grow.”

As a theatre science and comparative literature graduate, Katharina concentrates on building new collaborations with Palestinian and Israeli artists in order to conduct a rich array of the arts for the WBC. Furthermore, she aims to create a safe space that inspires and allows people with different backgrounds and from diverse cultures to connect through art.

“What may sometimes appear unattainable in political diplomacy can perhaps be achieved through the language of the arts”, she says.

Shaked Sabag-Barel is an artist and activist. “I know how difficult it can get to find performance and exhibition space here in Jerusalem, which is off the beaten track yet unique, inviting and inclusive”. She believes the WBC is a place that can provide the surrounding and space needed for that and she’s excited to join the Social Art team at the WBC.

Shaked is an actress and dancer, currently studying Dance Movement Therapy (M.A.A.T) in David Yellin Academic College of Education, Jerusalem. Prior to that she graduated in theatre studies at Tel Aviv University (2009-2012).

Katharina and Shaked are delighted to introduce their new program and start their season’s activities.

You are invited to follow us on our website, Facebook, and twitter – and if you are in Jerusalem, don’t miss out on the music program, exhibitions, performances or lectures. For cooperation, questions and inquiries, feel free to contact Katharina: