On January 19th 2020, the Willy Brandt Center presented a film by Academy Award nominated director Josh Aronson, titled Orchestra of Exiles. The event started with a short introduction by our Social Art project coordinator Petra Klose, highlighting the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra’s role in contemporary Israeli society – aiming to represent its cultural identity and diversity, and perceiving music as a force of humanity against any form of intolerance.
The film Orchestra of Exiles delivers a message about the power of music in times of crisis, by focusing on the compelling story of one man’s vision and the struggles of Jewish musicians against Nazism. It tells of the celebrated polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who rescued some of the world’s greatest musicians from Nazi Germany and later created one of the world’s greatest orchestras – the Palestine Philharmonic, which became the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948. Huberman’s exceptional efforts saved hundreds of Jewish families from the imminent threats of the Holocaust, while his achievements changed the landscape of cultural history. Moreover, the movie depicts the events that lead to the establishing of one of today’s most celebrated orchestras, and portrays its protagonists, including supporters such as Albert Einstein and conductor Arturo Toscanini who believed that the goal of art is always humanity. The film includes commentary by Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, and descendants of founding members of the orchestra.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.