“My ReWriting”: An Artistic Exchange Project between Jerusalem and Nuremberg – November 11-19, 2019

Jerusalem and Nuremberg – both cities with many unique spaces, buildings with historical importance, and monuments of remembrance. At some periods throughout history their names have been changed, carrying different meanings, functions and narratives.

Sometimes, the official narrative of a city coincides with our own story, but at other times they contradict each other. Either way, we are always confronted with a history that has already been written by others, who have decided for us what is important and what is not. With this in mind, the project “My Re-Writing” brings together eight young artists of different disciplines from Israel and eight such artists from Germany, with the aim to creatively re-write history for the future.

The artists from Nuremberg and Israel met for the first time in Jerusalem, where they spent a week together, discovering the city and each other’s art, under the direction of performer and theatre director Annette Lubosch and writer Sascha Fersch.

The program included tours through Jerusalem’s Old City, a visit to Yad Vashem and to the Musrara Art School. During the week, the artists also met with coaches and speakers from different disciplines, and reflected together on their experiences, feelings and different opinions.

Among our guests were Mrs. Dina Shefet from the Testimonies Program of Yad Vashem, historian Dr. Shalmi Balmor, and Dr. Rüdiger Hillgärtner – a professor of literature that spends his time between Germany and Israel. They shared their personal experiences regarding the development, challenges and opportunities for German-Israel relations over the last decades.

We were honored to welcome Prof. Bashir Bashir, who presented the book “Holocaust and Nakba”, in which leading Arab and Jewish intellectuals examine how and why the Holocaust and the Nakba are interlinked, while maintaining the fundamental differences between them. The book offers a new political, historical and moral grammar, which enables a joint Arab-Jewish dwelling and supports reconciliation in Israel/Palestine. We also reflected on the role that artists play in this process of rapprochement.

Nathan Diament, a Holocaust survivor from Brussels, shared his touching personal story of survival thanks to a Christian family that hid him and protected him. He also offered insights into the work of the Committee of the Righteous among the Nations. We were excited to discover the art and gripping life story of the great uncle of Nathan Diament, the renowned Bauhaus artist J. D. Kirszenbaum. This finding led to discussions about the role of artists and the freedom of expression in times of oppression.
On the last day, the participants presented their art works at the center to a group of art management students from the Hebrew University. The presentation was a great first landmark for the ongoing artistic journey which we have embarked on, and which we are looking forward to continue next March in Nuremberg.

The project “My Re-Writing” is a collaboration of the Willy Brandt Center and Musrara School of Art, in cooperation with the Center for International Encounters Jerusalem, ForumZFD, Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg and the Friedrich-Alexander-University Nuremberg supported by the EUROPEANS FOR PEACE program of the Foundation EVZ. The participants were accompanied by a film team of the ZDF, whose report was presented in the TV magazine “Heute Plus”.

“Wind and Transience. Music to lyrics of Thomas Bernhard” – November 11, 2019

2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. On this occasion, selected poems were presented by Manuela Maria Mitterer (reading and recorder) and Valentin Malanetski (live electronics).

Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) is one of the most important modern German-speaking writers. He was repeatedly denounced as a “traitor” for his outspoken criticism of Austria. His play “Heldenplatz/Heroes Square”, commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Vienna Burgtheater in 1988 and the 50th anniversary of the “Anschluss”, caused particular controversy. Triggering one of the biggest cultural scandals of the 20th century, Bernhard ‘s works initiated a debate about Austria’s role in the atrocities of National Socialism.

The program “Wind and Transience” was presented in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum, Tel Aviv. Mr. Arno Mitterdorfer, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum, Tel Aviv, welcomed artists and audience, highlighting Bernhard’s important role in “rubbing salt into the wounds”, as an extraordinary example of the power of art to bring the past into the future.

In her review, music critic Pamela Hickman praised the poems’ illustrationin music and sounds, “drawing together all the threads of the evening’s contents into a rich, disturbing but captivating journey“.

Jerusalem’s First Pop-Up Ballroom Festival (five events) – October 27-31, 2019

The Social Art Program organized the first Pop-Up Ballroom Festival in Jerusalem, attracting participants of a wide range of different ages, nationalities and cultural backgrounds from Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv.

At each of the five events, professional dance instructors offered a free dancing class and taught the audience basic steps which they were able to try straight away on the dance floor.

The program included salsa, swing, Viennese waltz, and tango, as well as an introduction session to dance therapy. Palestinian and German DJs, as well as the renowned pianist Maria Neishstadt, carried out the program with their musical contributions. The Viennese waltz workshop took place at the Austrian Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem, while all other dancing events were organized at the Willy Brandt Center and lasted until late into the night.

Dance is a language that enables us to talk without words, as it connects people through the joy of movement. Due to the big turnout and the immense public success, the Willy Brandt Center has decided to continue its dance activities by offering a dance therapy course for women in the coming year, as well as a series of clubbing events under the motto “Dancing on the Line”.

Salsa – Sunday, October 27, 2019
The Willy Brandt Center held a Salsa dance with Yonathan and the professional dancer Katie Silver for about hour and a half, in which she gave a small introduction to Salsa and offered a few basic steps for the participants to begin with.

Following the Salsa dance, Najwan, a young Palestinian DJ woman, played Latin music, allowing the participants dance freely and enjoy the music.

This day was the opening session for the week-long festival.

Swing – Monday, October 28, 2019
The Willy Brandt Center conducted a swing dancing event, performed and instructed by a Palestinian group and their swing dance teacher from Germany. They started off by explaining what is swing dancing, and gave some basic dance moves for beginners. The class lasted for an hour and a half, during which the participants enjoyed the atmosphere and kept on dancing.

Viennese Waltz – Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Our Social Art Coordinator, Petra Klose, held the Viennese Waltz dance at the Austrian Hospice in the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, where she gave the basic waltz steps in a short introduction workshop. Participants followed the steps and started to dance with their partners, while enjoying a live music performance by the pianist Maria Neishtadt. The class was an hour and a half long, and was also held in the beautiful, enchanting ambiance of the Imperial Salon at the hospice.

The event was also followed by a classical music concert by the Austrian duo Karner & Henter.

Dance Movement Therapy – Wednesday, October 30, 2019
This event was intended only for women – Arab, Jewish and International. It was held at the Willy Brandt Center by the instructor Shaked Sabag, who explained what is dance movement therapy and shed light on its importance. This was followed by some exercises that helped the women to feel comfortable and more relaxed. The session lasted for an hour and a half, and included different exercises such as a mirror exercise and breath exercise. The women participants enjoyed the session and requested additional sessions in the near future.

Tango – Thursday, October 31, 2019
This was the last event of the Pop-Up Ballroom Festival. The Willy Brandt Center organized a tango class held by the professional Tango dancer and teacher Anna Rosenberg, who gave an introduction to the dance, followed by basic tango steps. The participants enjoyed the live music performance by the pianist Maria Neishtadt.

In summary, each event had approximately 10 to 15 participants that enjoyed the classes, the night view from the beautiful balcony at the Willy Brandt Center, and small refreshments.

An Evening Dedicated to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt – October 12, 2019

On October 12, 2019, the Willy Brandt Center dedicated a Red Lounge to poet, politician, writer, orientalist, diplomat and rebel, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922).

Blunt was described as a wildly individual, illustrious and eccentric personality. Accompanied by his wife, Lady Anne Blunt (a granddaughter of Lord Byron), Blunt traveled the Middle East and visited Jerusalem, a town he would refer to later as the most beautiful place he had ever been in.

The Willy Brandt Center was happy to host an evening full of poetry, adventurous historical discoveries, original illustrations, lively discussions and a tasty British tea time, served on the center’s balcony.

The evening’s guest of honor was the British Consul-General, his excellency Mr. Philip Hall, who reflected on Blunt and his role in British diplomacy and society.

The event also featured a discussion on Blunt’s political views and his personal life, while highlighting Lady Blunt’s courageous personality: as the first European woman to make a recorded journey into Central Arabia, she documented her travels through sketches and diaries, depicting her experiences and the people and she encountered along the way.

The renowned Israeli actor Guy Bracca recited poems of W. S. Blunt, which also reflected Blunt’s impressions of his journey to Jerusalem. The event also included a colorful insight into the cosmopolitan Jerusalem of Blunt’s time by Prof. Ali Qleibo.

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.

“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.

“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)