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.

“The Passenger” Panel @ WBC – April 8, 2019

The Willy Brandt Center was honoured to welcome Ella Milch-Sheriff and David Pountney, both international opera stars, for a panel featuring Mieczysław Weinberg’s composition “The Passenger” on April 8th, 2019.

Composer Ella Milch-Sheriff is one of Israel’s most performed composers in recent years. Several of her creations, such as “And the Rat Laughed”, „The Banality of Love” and „Baruch’s Silence“, engage with stories from the holocaust and touch on the history of her own family.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg, then a young Jewish composer, fled the advancing German troops in 1939 and crossed the border into the Soviet Union, where he stayed and worked tirelessly until the end of his life.

British-Polish theatre and opera director and librettist David Pountney is known for his productions of rarely performed operas, and his new productions of classic works. In 2010 he staged the premiere of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s opera “The Passenger”, which deals with guilt and its repression after the Holocaust, and tells the story of women prisoners transported to Auschwitz from all over the world. Based on a novel by Zofia Posmysz, a Polish Auschwitz survivor, Weinberg’s masterpiece had been concealed for more than 40 years and became “somehow itself a real survivor”, as noted by David Pountney. Originally produced by the Bregenz Festival, the highly successful production led to the rediscovery of its composer, Weinberg, and was later staged at the opera houses of Warsaw, London, Houston, New York, Miami, Chicago. In April of this year the production has travelled also to Israel, where it was presented at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.

The panel discussion invoked intricate questions such as how to remain human and humane in a place that has lost all human form, and what role do the arts play when it comes to the murderous oppression of the powerless by the powerful.

Even the nightmare of Auschwitz is a human story, explained David Puntney. “The Passenger” presents young women, victim and perpetrator; one at each side of the fence. “it’s the story about the narrow difference about a human being that is doing the right thing and a human being that is doing a wrong thing,“ continued Pountney, as „the role of art is to look at the most difficult subjects”.

During the discussion, when the question arose whether the holocaust should be represented in artistic performances, both artists agreed that  music has the means to express what perhaps cannot be expressed in any other way; not only does it have the power to touch its audience and trigger a deeper compassion and understanding, it also enables us to heal open wounds.

International Women’s Day 2019

To mark the International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Willy Brandt Center organized a panel discussion on women’s status in the arts. The guests of the panel were long-time manager of the Barenboim Said Foundation in Ramallah, Muna Khleifi, art historian and director of the Negev Museum of Art, Dalia Manor, and co-founder of the Barbur Gallery in Jerusalem, Masha Zusman.

Each panel member spoke of her background and presented her work and experience in the field of art. The panel encompassed today’s challenges, opportunities, creative concepts and visions for the future.

One of the problems that were discussed is the lack of documentation and representation of female art creation, which leads to a lack of knowledge about great women artists over the centuries. Another issue that was mentioned is the market value of male artists, which is still higher than that of female artists.

All participants agreed that the situation has improved over the last decades and that the number of women working in the arts has risen. Nevertheless, to a large extent women are still excluded from management, and many major decisions are left to men.

The large attending audience engaged in a lively discussion, offering their experiences from other fields and different countries.

The conclusion was that there is still a long way to go to reach equality. Nevertheless, the panel ended with the optimistic encouragement of women to promote each other and to act in solidarity in order to overcome social limitations and obstacles.

 

Illustration: WBC – International women’s day postcard, designed for WBC by Dorit Bialer (2019)

Concert by the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet – March 29, 2019

The Willy Brandt Center team was delighted to welcome for the first time the internationally celebrated Tel Aviv Wind Quintet. Its members, Roy Amotz (flute), Yigal Kaminka (oboe), Itamar Leshem (horn), Nadav Cohen (bassoon) and Danny Erdman (clarinet), prepared a program composed of classics and masterpieces of the 20th century. Music lovers from the whole region gathered to hear the popular ensemble and filled our center’s hall.

The Tel Aviv Wind Quintet was founded in 2009 by young Israeli musicians seeking to bring the wonderful woodwind repertoire, as well as commissioned works, to wider audiences. Today, the quintet performs at the most distinguished concert halls all around Israel, Europe and Asia. What made the evening at the Willy Brandt Center so special was the intimate and cosy ambiance, creating an atmosphere of “chamber music” in every sense. The artists and audience soon found themselves interacting with each other, discussing the meaning behind the performed musical pieces, and talking about composers and instruments. The personal and lively encounter continued long after the concert, as the audience and musicians shared individual concert experiences and philosophised about music.

We are looking forward to the ensemble’s return to our center in the near future, and to further cooperate on workshop and concert projects with these wonderful musicians and young Israeli and Palestinian talents.

„Octaves of Light“ – Performances by the Ensemble Wiener Collage in Celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah – December 17, 2018

The Willy Brandt Center was honored to host the Ensemble Wiener Collage, a chamber orchestra formation residing at the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna.

The ensemble, which is internationally celebrated for its contemporary music interpretations, presented two performances as an exciting alternative to the classical concerts of the Christmas season, playing a beautiful program for an open minded audience in a scenic setting by Australian director Tania Golden.
Christmas and Hanukkah are religious winter festivals that share many similarities. The musicians took their audience on a journey lead by light, from darkness and into joy.

When choosing composers for this evening, the Ensemble looked for young, ambitious Israeli and European artists to support their work. Thus, Arnold Schönberg’s „Christmas Music“, which consists of bits and pieces of famous Christmas carols, was combined with Klezmer melodies and creations by Benjy Fox Rosen, Dietmar Hellmich, Karl Kohn, Alexander Kukelka, Leon Pollak, Ella Milch-Sherif, Alexander Stankovski and Jaime Wolfson.

The Willy Brandt Center was delighted to welcome the prominent Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sherif, who attended the performance of her latest work, composed of two songs based on Yiddish poems written by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, which were expressively interpreted by mezzo soprano Patricia Nolz.

The Ensemble Wiener Collage includes members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra who are dedicated to contemporary music, together with outstanding independent musicians from the contemporary music scene. Guest conductors have included Pierre Boulez, Friedrich Cherha and Erich Urbanner. In Jerusalem, the ensemble played under the baton of its founder René Staar.

Our thanks go to Wien Kultur, the Austrian Federal Chancellery and to the Austrian Cultural Forum in Tel Aviv, for facilitating the artists’ journey to Jerusalem and implementing these special performances at our center.

„Promise Me a Land“: Exhibition and book presentation with Clement Chapillon – October 11, 2018

„Promise Me a Land“ is a project by French Photographer Clement Chapillon which focuses on the bond between people and their land, with the aim to explore the imprint that this land has left on its inhabitants’ identity, in a manner far from traditional clichés.
The project was presented in an exhibition at the Willy Brandt Center in cooperation with the Institut français de Jérusalem Romain Gary, from the 11th of October to the 18th.
Clement Chapillon visited Israel and Palestine in different seasons and experimented with the variation of landscapes, colors, and landforms. He soon felt the need to include in his work the voices of the people he had met. He ventured out to investigate the various dimensions of the seemingly unalterable relationships and ties between people and their land: what marks has the land imprinted on their identity? What hopes, fantasies, and promises remain? To explore this attachment between the land and its inhabitants, he interviewed and photographed people in cities, villages, settlements and kibbutzim. They told him about their lives and their dreams upon this land. A humane, sensitive picture emerged, forming a photographic narrative that Chapillon wishes to convey; its images are immersed in an artistic experience and bring to new light the roots of Israel and Palestine.
The Willy Brandt Center was proud to be given the opportunity to present Clement Chapillon’s project for the first time in the region which is portrayed in his work.
Previous to the project’s presentation at our center, it was published in media and newspapers (such as Die Zeit, Le monde, Arte, L’OBS), exhibited in several festivals and has won the Leica Prize 2017 which allowed Chapillon to present a solo show at the Leica Galery in Paris in April 2018.
Earlier this year, Clement Chapillon published a book titled “Promise Me a Land“, which is a unique patchwork of words, portraits and landscapes. This deeply personal testimony reflects the Israeli-Palestinian mosaic from a profoundly humane perspective. The book, which was published by the German Kehrer Verlag, was presented at the Institut français de Jérusalem followed by a public talk with Clement Chapillon and moderated by Jean-Marc Liling. The artist shared with his audience his experiences and encounters during the developing of the project.

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.