Concerts and Workshops in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Taybeh with the Varietas-Ensemble – September 12-15, 2019

“Art has no limits”
Ludwig van Beethoven

The violinists Iris Krall-Radulian and Daniela Preimesberger, and the violist Maria Potulska, members of the Varietas-Ensemble, proved in a most beautiful way that Beethoven’s quote is undeniably true when it comes to playing music in our region.

This celebrated Viennese ensemble has  performed at renowned international festivals and concert halls such as the Salzburg Festival, Lockenhaus Festival, Vienna Konzerthaus and the Mozarteum Salzburg. They opened their concert tour, which is their premier apperance in the Middle East, with a recital for students, staff and friends of the Bethlehem University, and performed pieces by Beethoven, Dvorak, Mozart and Händel at the Chapel of the Divine Child on University campus.

On the following day we had the chance to accompany the Varietas-Ensemble to a workshop on Mozart’s “Little Night Music”, organized by Dutch cellist Fabienne van Eck. Van Eck is the manager of Musicians without Borders in Palestine, and founder of “Sounds of Palestine”, a community music project inspired by and based on the concept of El Sistema in Venezuela, which promotes music education as a medium to achieve long term social change for the participating children and their families.

On September 13th, the Varietas-Ensemble performed at the Pasha Room at the American Colony Hotel. The audience included Israelis and Palestinians, as well as international guests from all over the region.

In her review, music critic Pamela Hickman praised the musical dialogue that was sparkling, exciting and virtuosic, and the artists’ “quick-change-artistry” that presented beauty and diversity through a kaleidoscope of string techniques.

Classical music has always played an important role in the rich history of this legendary hotel. For centuries, it was not only a place of historic encounters between remarkable figures, from Lawrence of Arabia to the political leaders of today, but has also been a place of arts and creation. The hotel’s archives house old-ages scores and music sheets written at or for the American Colony. The Willy Brandt Center is proud to be part of the musical revival of this prestigious venue and its long tradition of intercultural encounters and artistic exchanges.

Another audience of music lovers of all generations was reached at the famous Taybeh Beer festival in the Palestinian Territories, where the three musicians gave another brilliant example of their talent in an afternoon open air performance.

We would like to thank the Austrian Cultural Forum in Tel Aviv for bringing the Varietas-Ensemble to Jerusalem, and for enabling all these inspiring musical encounters. Our thanks also goes to the American Colony Hotel, for generously hosting the musicians during their stay.

A Visit of RippleZoo at the WBC – September 3, 2019

On September 3rd, the Willy Brandt Center was delighted to welcome Stephen Byrne, the founder of RippleZoo – a Dublin based non-profit trust that focuses on global issues – for an exchange of ideas, experiences and strategies for peace projects in areas of crisis.

The visit’s main focus was the development of intercultural music projects with young European, Israeli and Palestinian participants. These projects will be realized in cooperation with the Mediterranean Perspectives Association, whose president, Enrico Molinaro, was also present at the meeting.

The team of the Willy Brandt Center enjoyed hearing about RippleZoo’s plans and ideas, and brainstorming together about possible options for future cooperation.

We are in complete agreement with RippleZoo’s credo, stating that “Anything war can do, peace can do better”, and support their mission and strong belief that cultural projects enable us to make a positive difference in the world.

New Project Coordinator for “Politics without Borders”

Welcome Tobias!

Since mid-July, Tobias Pietsch is the new Coordinator of the „Politics without Borders“ project in the WBC. Tobias has been committed to the work of the WBC for over 10 years. His involvement began in 2008 as a volunteer at the WBC, and since then he has engaged with this project, as well as with the region in general. He has been a member of the board of the WBC Support Association in Germany for many years, and supported the volunteers in Jerusalem. Throughout his work as a tour guide at Alsharq, he has become acquainted with almost every corner of Israel and Palestine. Tobi has gotten to know not only the places, but also the people that make these countries so special. We are more than happy to have Tobi as our project coordinator at the WBC, and expect with confidence the challenges that we will face together.

DE:

Herzlich Willkommen Tobias!

Seit Mitte Juli ist Tobias der neue Koordinator des Projekts „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ im WBC. Tobias ist bereits seit über 10 Jahren in die Arbeit rund um das WBC involviert. Sein Weg begann 2008 als Zivildienstleistender im WBC und seitdem hat ihn das Projekt, aber auch die Region allgemein nicht mehr losgelassen. Er war danach viele Jahre Mitglied im Fördervereinsvorstand des WBZ e.V. und betreute seinerseits die Zivildienstleistenden, später dann FSJler*innen. Durch seine Arbeit als Reiseleiter bei alsharq kennt er inzwischen wohl fast jede Ecke in Israel und Palästina. Er kennt aber vor allem nicht nur die Orte, sondern allen voran die Menschen, die diese Länder so besonders machen. Wir können uns mehr als glücklich schätzen, Tobias nun als Projektkoordinator im WBC zu haben und blicken mit Zuversicht auf die kommenden Herausforderungen, die wir gemeinsam angehen wollen.

Farewell of Judith

EN:

Thank you for everything, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, project coordinator since 2016, has left the WBC after three eventful years. Judith has navigated the „Politics without Borders“ project through exciting and challenging times. She has always been devoted to introducing young people with the WBC, and to explain the various narratives that parallel each other and allow for a mutual understanding. Judith has always been our anchor, and has left an important mark on the WBC. We would like to thank her for everything!

 

DE:

Danke für Alles, Judith!

Judith Höffkes, Projektkoordinatorin seit 2016, hat nach drei ereignisreichen Jahren das WBC verlassen. Judith hat das Projekt „Entscheider*innen der Zukunft“ sicher durch aufregende Zeiten geführt. Sie hat sich immer die Zeit genommen junge Menschen an das WBC heranzuführen und die unterschiedlichen Narrative die dort aufeinander prallen verständlich zu erklären. Judith war unser Fels in der Brandung, sie hat das WBC geprägt und wir möchten uns bei ihr für alles bedanken!

 

German teachers visit to learn about dealing with the past

A group of ten German teachers, organized by the GEW – Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (teachers union), visited the Willy Brandt Center on July 23rd. For many years, the GEW have been conducting joint seminars with their local counterparts on ways of dealing with the past. For this reason, they have been especially interested in the narrative work and methods we perform in our project. Aside from introducing our general activities, we focused on how young Israelis and Palestinians share their family histories with one another, in a framework which enables them to learn and understand about similarities and differences in biographies and narratives.

Ver.di Delegation visits the WBC

On July 17th we hosted a delegation of 11 members of Ver.di, the German United Services Trade Union. The delegation members were introduced to the Willy Brandt Center’s work and activities, and were then invited to a Q&A session on Palestinian and Israeli politics, economy and society.

The visiting participants were particularly interested by the overview on the various political parties, elections and economic situation in Palestine, as well as the education system and vocal trainings for young adults. Discussing the roles and challenges of trade unions in both countries, the conversation also touched on divides and ongoing debates in Israeli society. Finally, there was an analysis of the Israeli elections in April, with the intention of providing an outlook on the upcoming elections in September.

Report: New chairman and new alliances in Israeli Labor and Meretz party

Following the poor results in April’s parliament elections, both Israeli Labor and Meretz Party voted for new chairmen to lead the parties. Amir Peretz received 47% of the votes and will lead the party for the second time. Peretz lead the party from 2005 to 2007 and served as Minister of Defense, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environmental Protection. Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, who joined the Labor after the social protests in 2011, received 27% and 26% respectively.

Just before the Labor party, Meretz party committee has elected Horowitz, with 81% of the committee members participating in the vote. Horowitz is an Israeli journalist, a Haaretz columnist, and a politician who has served as a two-term Knesset member for Meretz in the past. Horowitz succeeds Tamar Zandberg and is supported by Ilan Gilon.

Peretz and Horowitz held talks on the question of joining their lists to run together for the upcoming elections in September. They debated joint challenges and how to fight for social justice, peace and equality, finally deciding to run separately. Peretz is running the Labor Party together with Orly Levi-Abekasis’ Gesher party. Meretz joined Ehud Barak’s Democratic Union, including Stav Shaffir, who has switched camps. Latest polls indicate Labor-Gesher could win 5 seats, the Democratic Union is expected to win 7 seats, while Likud and Blue and White both could win 30 seats in the Knesset.

WBC joined 50th anniversary of Jusos’ “turn to the left” Congress in Munich, Germany – July 5-7, 2019

In 1969, German Young Socialists decided during their federal congress in Munich to turn to the left, and became an independent youth organization of the Social Democratic Party. 50 years later, the present generation of young activists celebrated this historical step, which continues to influence the organization’s DNA. Activists and former and current coordinators contributed to the three-day congress.

In a “then and now” talk, former project coordinator Christopher Paesen, discussed with Judith Höffkes their experiences at the WBC in different points of time. Political team member Nilli Marderer and project manager Tobias Pietsch gave a workshop on the beliefs of Socialist Zionism, based on the notions formulated by Moshe Hess. Sitting under a Bavarian chestnut tree, Judith offered a Q&A session concerning current issues in Israel and Palestine, and attracted the interest of numerous participants.

“Mulu and Tsegay” – A Puppet Theatre Project for Schools – June 16, 2019

In June, the Willy Brandt Center was happy to present a new puppet theatre project for schools, developed by the Israeli actors Moriya Benavot and Shaharit Yerushalmy. Their play, „Mulu and Tsegay”, is an adaption for the stage of a children’s book written by the Israeli author Tamar Verete-Zehav. It tells of courage, friendship and love, and is based on the true experiences of African refugees now living in Israel.

The audience follows the harrowing journey of two siblings, a brother and sister, who run away from their home in Eastern Africa after witnessing the burning of a neighbouring village.

Believing in the power of the arts, and specifically theatre, the artists aim to sow seeds of tolerance, open-mindedness and acceptance towards the so-called strangers living in our midst. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes infused with fear and hatred, they hope to create a sense of empathy, acceptance and compassion.

The play was performed at Beit Hakerem School in Jerusalem, where children and staff greatly enjoyed the lively performance of „Mulu and Tsegay”. The play was followed by a panel and workshops with Abdu Adam, the director Hadas Selbst, the author Tamar Verete-Zehavi, and the two actors.

We hope to have the chance to present the play to wider audiences throughout Israel in the future, and expect that “Mulu and Tsegay” will soon visit other schools as well as community centres, thus invite more kids to embark on this magical journey.

UNESCO International Jazz Day Celebration Jerusalem – April 27-30, 2019

In 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30th as International Jazz Day – a worldwide initiative aimed at celebrating the art form of jazz for its ability to promote peace, freedom, dialogue among cultures, diversity and respect for human rights, and to reinforce the role of youth in enacting social change.

For this year’s International Jazz Day, the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem cooperated with the Austrian Cultural Forum Tel Aviv, the Austrian Hospice, the Swiss Representative Office, the Italian Consulate General and the UNESCO National Office for Palestine.

We started the celebrations with a musical overture at the Wonder Cabinet in Bethlehem, during which the audience felt the music reviving the halls of an old furniture factory and turning the industrial space into a place for art and creative encounters.

Two days later, the event was followed by a concert at the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem’s Old City, filling the Imperial Salon and the corridors of the house with hundreds of music lovers. There, for the first time, the ensemble of Austrian, Italian, Swiss and Palestinian musicians was accompanied by young talents from Gaza.

On April 30th, the Municipality of Ramallah hosted the official concert for Palestine, which was part of this global initiative with more than 200 countries from all continents. A look at the audience gathered in front of the big, open air stage of Ramallah Municipality, charmingly demonstrated how jazz unites people of all ages and nations.

We would like to thank all of our amazing artists for turning each concert into a truly special musical experience: Mohammad Albalawi, Samir Alborno, Heidi Caviezel, Lukas Leitner, Mohammad Nasrallah, Rahaf Shamaly, Mohammad Shoman, Said Srour, Luca Velotti, Mohammad Qutati, Luca Velotti, and the Amwaj Children Choir.

Altogether, more than 1000 guests attended this year’s International Jazz Day performances, and the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem is already looking forward to new music adventures that will unite communities, schools, artists, academics and jazz enthusiasts from all over the world to celebrate and enjoy jazz music together.