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

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.
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