On May 4th we enjoyed the inspiring visit of Brigitte Walk, who presented the fascinating story of Therese Zauser in a panel moderated by Judith Höffkes at the WBC.
Therese Zauser was a courageous young varieté artist who presented her solo shows throughout the Mediterranean region, Africa and the Middle East. After her return to Europe in 1941, she was murdered in a German concentration camp for speaking against the Nazi regime. Her legacy portrays an exceptionally courageous young woman and her fate.
The panel focused on Therese Zauser’s journeys in the Middle East during the 1930s, highlighting this outstanding artist’s historical and social path throughout this turbulent era. One of the many facts that struck the audience was that despite all obstacles, Zauser was able to travel freely by train and ship across the borders of our region, in a manner we can only dream of today.
The Austrian prizewinning actress, theatre director and producer Brigitte Walk allowed us to join her on her cross-regional research following the traces of Therese Zauser. She had the chance to meet and present her project to historians, film makers and those working in cultural organizations in Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. We would therefore like to thank Noa Ben Shalom, Natasha Dudinski, Maria Gierlinger-Landa, Muna Khleifi, Arno Mitterdorfer, Eyal Sagui Bizawe and Savvas Vladimirou, for the interesting encounters and their precious input along the way.
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 Chairperson and international Secretary of Jusos, Kevin Kühnert and International Secretary Leo von Galen visited the region on the 16th and 17th of April in order to discuss the political cooperation of the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem. The leaders of our partner organisations Young Fatah, Young Labour and Young Meretz stressed during the passionate talks the importance and relevance of the cooperation. Especially in the aftermath of the national elections in Israel and the dramatic loss of the Israeli left, solidarity between young progressive actors who seek a better future and a two-state solution is more important than ever. In our upcoming projects and delegations this summer, we hope to promote these talks and our work for strengthening the political and social left in Israel, Palestine and Germany.
Click here to watch Kevin Kühnert and project coordinator Judith Höffkes discuss the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem.
On the 14th of April, Masha Zusman hosted the Willy Brandt Center at the Barbur Gallery, of which she is co-founder and co-director. This was a follow up event, after Zusman had participated at our panel on International Women’s Day. The Gallery is an independent space for art and artists, and serves as a home for pluralistic, open culture at the center of Jerusalem.
In its 13 years of activity, Barbur Gallery has upheld a unique gallery model: it combines the exhibition of professional contemporary art along with diverse cultural, social and community programs directed at a range of different audiences – artists and art lovers, neighborhood residents and students, people from secular and religious backgrounds, children and the elderly.
Masha showed us the gallery’s current exhibition and talked about the gallery’s struggle for survival. The Jerusalem municipality has tried several times to shut down the gallery on administrative grounds. One of the questions arising in the discussion was if this could be a pretext for closing the gallery, and that the real reason behind the attempted eviction is political, since the gallery has hosted events with a range of political groups critical of the former mayor Nir Barkat and the Israeli right-wing Likud government.
This story of the Barbur Gallery thus illustrates how much pressure artists and galleries have to endure and the currents threats and restrictions aimed at the freedom of art and expression in Israel.
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.
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)
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.
On January 17th the Willy Brandt Center was delighted to host the book launch of “The German Political Foundations’ Work between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv” edited by Anna Abelmann and Katharina Konarek.
The German political foundations are a unique phenomenon which maintains an important position within the German foreign policy. The new book examines the history, potential influence, scope of action, prospects and limits of these foundations, with a specific focus on current developments in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
The two editors presented their publication, which highlights the foundations’ work from anthropological, political and regulatory perspectives, and included a collection of historical case studies.
Anna Abelmann and Katharina Konarek where later joined by Marc Frings from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Ramallah and Judith Stelmach from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Tel Aviv, for a lively panel discussion moderated by Judith Höffkes. We were honoured to welcome to our audience several authors who contributed to the book, and happy to see many local partners who shared their impressions and reflections on the topic.
On January 10th 2019 the educational and volunteering program “Achvat Amim – Solidarity of Nations” celebrated its fifth anniversary. The program was initiated five years ago, when its directors, Karen Isaacs and Daniel Roth, both educators from the HaShomer HaTzair World Movement, raised a simple yet radical query: How can we build a movement that struggles for peace, justice and self-determination for all people who call Israel and Palestine their homes? Isaacs and Roth decided to start by building an educational program in which participants from all over the world, and from the Jewish diaspora in particular, will live communally for five months in the center of Jerusalem. During this time the participants would learn about the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict through grassroots volunteering and seminar days which will introduce them to a wide range of issues and perspectives. Five years later, it is clear that the program is prominent in the way it connects the study of Jewish tradition, history and values with the struggle for social justice and visions for a peaceful shared existence in Jerusalem and the region.
Achvat Amim has been a long standing partner of the WBC and hosted many seminars and language classes in the Center. Hence, it was our honour to host Achvat Amim’s 10th anniversary celebration, during which the guests – including the current cohort, many alumni and partners from the wider community – reflected on the past years and shared their visions for the years to come. A particular highlight of the evening was the musical performances, which filled the seminar room with warm and joyful singing and guitar playing.
From Judith Höffkes’ speech at the Jusos Federal Congress:
When I stood on this stage two years ago, at the Congress in Dresden 2016, I looked to the past and focused my speech on the proud history of our project in its 20th anniversary. However, in the last two years of my work, I have tried to shape the Willy Brandt Center for the future.
In doing so, I came to both negative and positive conclusions: On the one hand, the political situation in Israel and Palestine often seems even worse than we could imagine here in Germany. On the other hand, we do indeed have partners and activists at the Willy Brandt Center who represent our values of double solidarity and who, due to our work, meet with the other side of the conflict and listen to their narratives.
Our partners are qualified and motivated, and want to remain in their countries to fight for a peaceful solution for the region. In this regard, the Willy Brandt Center is the only project that offers a place for young progressive activists from both sides. We should indeed be proud of that.
It is a tough challenge nowadays for young Palestinians to act in cooperation with Israelis and to be engaged in a dialogue with the other side of the conflict. Therefore, I am especially happy to announce a new generation of young Fatah activists in our political team. This success is a sign of hope for the future and is a result of our persistence and the sustainable approach of our partnership.
Furthermore, all of our partner organizations are currently engaged in intense processes aimed at shaping the political content for the upcoming year at the Willy Brandt Center. This dedication should motivate us to continue with energy and joy our engagement to double solidarity with young progressive activists.