The educational materials of the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung (Federal Agency for Civic Education) have been a staple in every German high school for decades. Almost every German student has them on their desk when they cram their exams in history or political science. It was thus a great honour to welcome some of the thinkers and writers behind these materials for a day of talks and exchanges in the Willy Brandt Center.
The delegation of the Bundeszentrale, including President Thomas Krüger, has been travelling all over Israel to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence. During their visit to the Willy Brandt Center, they enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the prospects and challenges for a political solution to the conflict with Palestinian academics and activists from Jerusalem and the West Bank. Dr Omar Yousef, a distinguished architect and professor of Al Quds University, shared his perspective about the legacy of the Nakba and the discrimination against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem on an institutional and daily level. Riman Barakat and Abeer Natseh, two most impressive business women, talked about their experiences of working in Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperations and equally highlighted how their personal stories have shaped their political outlook on the conflict.
In the final session of the day Maja Sojref, the project coordinator for Peace Education at the Willy Brandt Center, presented the work of the Center and gave insights about the efforts of Israeli and Palestinian youth movements building a joint educational program. We hope to welcome the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung again soon and to continue exchanging how civic political education can help combat polarisation, racism and political apathy in Germany, Israel and Palestine.
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.
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”.
The Easter holidays are always a busy time for the Willy Brandt Center. This year, Falken delegations from Baden Wurttemberg, Hessen and Berlin, as well as from the Archiv der Arbeiterjugend (Working Youth Archive), visited the center to learn more about the cooperation of the IFM-SEI (International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International) movements in the Middle East and their relations with SJD – Die Falken.
Each delegation customized their program in Israel according to their exchange partner organization. The Falken from Hessen and Berlin for instance travelled all over the country to meet with the Arab Section of HaNoar HaOved VeHaLomed (NOAL) and in the latter case took part in a workshop about anti-racism and cultural appropriation. The group from Baden Wurttemberg organized an exchange in Rishon LeTzion in particular, to learn about the history and political practice of HaShomer HaTzair. On the other hand, the group from the Archiv der Arbeiterjugend visited archives, met with historians and collected sources relating to the Zionist Socialist movements.
Their visit to the Willy Brandt Center was an additional opportunity for delegations to reflect on their time in Israel and to exchange thoughts about current political developments. Participants were particularly interested in the narratives and struggles of different ethnic, religious and political communities in the city and in the controversial decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. So what better place to start talking about these questions than the balcony of the Willy Brandt Center, which offers one of the most stunning views of the Old City and East Jerusalem!
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.“
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
In January 2018 Maja Sojref joined the Willy Brandt Center as the new coordinator for the project “Education for Social Change”. She has since spent as much time as possible in the youth clubs and offices of our partner organisations, in order to learn more about them and their approaches to non-formal education.
“These youth movements are radically re-imagining the possibilities for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. Against all odds, they are determined to find new ways. The region needs youth like them”, she says “and I feel very privileged to work with them.”
Maja is a policy, public affairs and communications specialist with experience in international organisations, NGOs and media in Berlin, London, Oxford and Jerusalem. Before joining the Willy Brandt Center she worked as press consultant for the OECD Berlin office.
Growing up in Berlin Maja, was an active member of SJD-Die Falken. During countless trips to Israel and Palestine, she discovered her passion for Middle Eastern politics, history and languages and fell in love with Jerusalem: “There is no place like Jerusalem. In Jerusalem you can see both the ugliest face of the conflict and a blueprint for solidarity and shared existence.”
On 8th March 2018 we are still having to fight for equal rights for everyone regardless of gender.
The WBC in Jerusalem has been working for more than twenty ye…ars with our partners to strengthen the political role of women in society.
Without equal rights for men and women, there will be neither social justice nor a democratic society. That’s what we want to emphasise today on International Women’s Day, but it is also something we have to work for every day!
Thank you for your support!
Postcard designed for the WBC by: Dorit Bialer, 2018
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).
This year’s partners conference was another opportunity for us to reflect on the past year’s activities, to exchange our experiences and to take a glimpse into the future: How do we continue to create peace and dialogue while surrounded by conflict? Taking a new route with our Annual Conference we focused this year on the city where we live, work and meet: Jerusalem.
There is no solution for the conflict without considering Jerusalem in all its complexities and contradictions. So this year we opened the doors of our Center in this very heart of the conflict for two days to focus on this complex and wonderful city. While our reception on Thursday was an opportunity for mingling, networking and discussing art exhibitions in the WBC, we invited our guests on Friday to take part in talking sessions with artists, political discussions with activists and journalists and to debate during breaks on our balcony and terrace the possible future visions of our city. We thank you all for joining our event and sharing your experiences and thoughts. We can’t wait to continue the discussions and ideas within our projects.