Introducing our New Volunteer – Jost Weisenfeld

On September 2nd we welcomed our new volunteer, Jost Weisenfeld, together with three other volunteers of the Diakonie Württemberg organization in Jerusalem. After a welcome workshop and a few days of orientation, Jost started to support the team in Jerusalem. The 21-year-old from Hessen is a member of Jusos (Young Socialists in the SPD) as well as The Falcons (Socialist Youth Germany), in which he has been active for more than seven years. Through his activism in Jusos, he participated in international summer camps and in a delegation of Jusos from Hessen to the WBC, where he first met partners of our political cooperation and learned about the project.

Jost supports the entire team in Jerusalem and all of the projects. Amongst his key tasks are accompanying delegations and assisting events at the center. He’s also learning a lot by joining delegations and activities of the WBC. One of his most impressive experiences so far was a political tour to the occupied Golan Heights, focusing on the geopolitical situation. But Jost is not only learning and supporting the team – he also offers input to the team. For instance, he presented a workshop on ableism, allowing the team to reflect on disabilities and the challenges that people affected by dwarfism face every day.

We are looking forward to a joint year of mutual learning and support, and a great time with Jost in Jerusalem.

“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.

Juso-Leadership visits Israel and Palestine – October 17-24, 2019

The national board of Jusos in the SPD (Young Socialists in the SPD) visited the WBC and Israel and Palestine in their annual Leadership Delegation from the 17th to 24th of October. After their arrival to Jerusalem, chairperson Kevin Kühnert, the general secretary, six members of the board and the international secretary were welcomed to the Willy Brandt Center. The delegation took part in the Political Café “50 Years chancellor Willy Brandt“, and a get-together with the partners.

After being briefed by the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in East Jerusalem on the political and economic situation in Palestine, the delegation met Xavier Abu Eid from the PLO Negotiation Support Unit, in the olive groves of the Village Aboud. The board of Jusos supported local farmers in the harvest of their olives, while receiving more information on the area’s political situation. In Ramallah, the delegation was invited to meet the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and discuss the internal challenges for the Palestinians, as well as the deadlock of Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks. After meeting the leadership of the Fateh Youth Organization, the delegation arrived in Nablus to meet the partners and the Palestinian representatives of the Political Team of the WBC.

In Nablus, the board of Jusos visited the Balata Refugee Camp, focusing on the work of UNRWA providing medical services and education to the 32,000 refugee residents of the camp. Meeting the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), Jusos and the General Secretary of the Unions discussed various topics such as labor rights, Palestinian workers’ migration to Israel, and the failed social security law. Next came an extremely inspiring meeting with The First Women Incubator in Palestine (Iradah) and a conversation on feminist struggles in Germany and Palestine, after which our partners took us on a tour through the Old City, followed by a joint workshop.

As the delegation left Nablus in the early morning and headed for the Golan Heights, the fourth day focused on security, the strategic importance and the geopolitical situation of the plateau occupied and annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War with Syria. During a tour guided by Colonel (Reserve) Ron Shatzberg, who is an expert on the topic, the delegation learned about the history of the Golan Heights and its preset situation. A Meeting with representatives of the Druze community in Majdal Shams offered the participant an important understanding of the diversity of the population and political views in this region.

In Haifa, we started off with a political city tour, focusing on the rich history of the workers’ movement and socialist groups of the Red City (as this port town is also called). When meeting a representative of the Arab section of the Noar HaOved VeHaLomed (partners in the educational project), the delegation discussed the realities and challenges for Palestinians holding an Israeli citizenship. In the afternoon, we visited an urban Kibbutz and the Rabin Premilitary Academy, both run by an alumni of the WBC.

A visit to the Ghetto Fighter House was an important part of the program, not only in order to deal with the past and commemorate the dead, but also to see different ways of doing so. the uniqueness of this Museum, in comparison to others such as Yad Vashem, stems from the fact that it was established by survivors, and focuses also on resistance. After meeting the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation in Herzliya, and discussing the two elections in 2019, we met with our partners in Tel Aviv. During the sessions with the leaderships of Young Labour and Young Meretz, we debated not only the current political situation and the crisis of the political left, but also the future of our joint cooperation.

On the last day in Tel Aviv, we met with the relatively new grassroot organization Standing Together, campaigning for social justice, equality and peace. After a city tour we met our Israeli partners in a joint workshop to discuss and plan future activities.

The leadership delegation was an important exchange that allowed us to learn new things and meet new people, but more importantly, to strengthen the ties of the political cooperation on a personal level.

Political Café “50 Years Chancellor Willy Brandt“ – October 17, 2019

October 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the chancellorship of Willy Brandt. In the general election in September 1969, the SPD become the strongest party for the first time, and on October 21st Willy Brandt was elected as the fourth Chancellor of the Federal Republic Germany. Therefore, we dedicated a Political Café on October 17th with Kevin Kühnert, chairperson of Jusos (Young Socialists in the SPD), to look back at Willy Brandt’s Chancellorship. We further discussed the question of Willy Brandt’s policies and slogans’ relevance and usefulness for present times, and the cooperation of young political actors from Israel, Palestine and Germany within the framework of the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem.

Kevin spoke about his personal views on Willy Brandt, and how the political and public arena have changed over the past decades, making it hard to imagine a “second” Willy Brandt today. The Political Café was concluded by a quote of Brandt from 1992: “Nothing comes by itself. And little is permanent. Therefore – remember your strength and the fact that each time needs its own answers”. This quote was adapted to the present: let’s be strong together and find our own answers for nowaday’s challenges.

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.

Political Café “Let’s Move Together“ with Johanna Uekermann – September 19, 2019

In Israel, there’s no public transportation on Saturdays;in Germany – no public transportation in remote regions. For this reason, we hosted a Political Café on September 19th with Johanna Uekermann, Secretary of labour union EVG for train and mobility, and former chairwomen of Jusos.

We discussed not only mobility as a basic right for all citizens, whether living in metropolitan areas or the periphery; the discussion soon focused on climate protection, green mobility and the future of public transportation. In order to reduce CO2 pollution, the infrastructure and principles of public transportation need to change drastically. During the discussion with guests from Tel Aviv, we debated the issue of e-scooters: are they a supplement to public transportation, or a new threat and challenge. The conclusion of the Israeli participants was that more light rails are needed in the cities, as well as more busses on Shabbat (Saturday). A representative of the Shabus-Cooperative in Tel Aviv announced that public transportation will soon be introduced on Saturdays in Tel Aviv.


WBC & Hans-Böckler-Delegation: Trade Unions and Social Justice – September 11-19, 2019

Along with the abovementioned activities, from the 11th to the 19th September we also hosted and supported a delegation of 16 scholarship-holders of the Hans-Böckler-Foundation. The focus of the delegation was meeting the partners of the foundation and of the WBC, learning about the role and work of trade unions and aim attention at relevant topics like social justice.

To do so, we met with the social attaché of the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, the international department of the Histadrut, the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, the Macro Institute, and Standing Together. After visiting the Negev, Masada and Ein Gedi, we spent a night in Nablus, meeting with political activists and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). In Ramallah, we met with the Independence Youth Union (IYU, partner in the educational cooperation), and discussed their educational work and challenges for the Palestinian youth. In Jerusalem, the delegation’s visit to the old city and Yad Vashem was followed by a reflection workshop with our team. On the last day, the delegation met with Women of the Wall and Combatants for Peace at the Willy Brandt Center, and learned about our work.

WBC Work & Study Delegation: Learning and Supporting our Partners – August 24-31, 2019

For the first time, the WBC offered a work & study delegation to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nablus. In this 8-day program, from August 24th to the 31st, 14 participants from all over Germany had the chance to learn about the WBC, our partners and the political situation, and to support our partners. On the first day in Jerusalem, the delegation participated in a tour at the Abu Tor neighborhood, led by the Good Neighbors initiative, which was followed by a meeting with the Israeli representatives of the political team. At the evening event, the participants discussed with our partners the campaigns and topics of the upcoming elections.

The instructional aspect of the delegation in Jerusalem included a tour in the old city of Jerusalem and a visit to Yad VaShem and Mt. Herzl, as well as meetings with city council member Laura Warton, our partners from the students union at Hebrew University, and two election campaign events.

In Tel Aviv, we met with both heads of Young Labour and Young Meretz, who presented the campaigns of Avodah-Gesher and the Democratic Union. The last days were spent in Nablus, where we visited the old city, the An-Najah National University, and the community of the Samaritans. We also met with the deputy Governor on Nablus, the feminist organization Iradah and our partners from Seeds.

The delegation’s work-task took place on the roof of our partner organization Seeds, which we cleaned from rubbish and prepared for planting greens and flowers. As a follow-up on the summer camp, the delegation created with our partners a green roof that is now used as a space for meetings, discussions and leisure. Before leaving to the airport, we also visited the village of Sebastiya, where we held a workshop on Social Justice with Palestinian partners.