The WBC Team Bakes Delicious Ramadan Cookies

As we returned to the office after weeks of lockdown and home-office, it was time for a joint team activity. Ma’amoul is a typical cookie known in the entire Middle East, especially during Ramadan. Our Palestinian colleagues introduced us to the tradition and the recipe, and showed the team how to mix the semolina with oil and spices. The entire center was filled with the smells of the spices and rose water. After kneading the dough, we rolled hundreds of balls of date paste as a filling for the Ma’amoul, and created a small hole at the center of each cookie. Then it was time for the traditional shaping. and we used special grippers to give each cookie an individual and beautiful shape. Baking them in the oven merely intensified the good smell that permeated the center, and most of us simply could not wait to try these cookies; those of us who have been fasting needed to wait till sunset to give them a try. Finally, we distributed the cookies and shared them with friends and partners.

Background Talks on Annexation

Since the new government’s agreement on the option to annex parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of their coalition treaty, the issue has been dominating the political discourse in Palestine and in Israel. As vague and as open as the plans and announcements are so far, the impact on the Palestinian population as well as on our partner organizations is expected to be intense. In order to analyze and discuss potential impacts on our partners and our work, forumZFD Israel & Palestine organized together with the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem two background talks with experts from Israel and Palestine, for staff and partners.

Ofer Zalzberg, a political analyst at the International Crisis Group, focused on the concerns of the Israeli security establishment. According to many security experts, the annexation is an ideological step rather than one based on national interests or security. Xavier Abu Eid from the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO, and Naseef Muallem, Policy Advisor at the Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy, focused in the second session on the Palestinian perspective. After discussing the roles and options faced by international actors and organizations, they concluded that annexation would be the end of a negotiated two state solution.

Encounters at Eye Level (Interview with Tobias Pietsch)

The German Magazine BERLINER STIMME interviewed our Project Manager Tobias Pietsch on how Israelis and Palestinians work together during the time of the Corona crisis. The German article deals with digital meetings, volunteers supporting people in need, and the principals of cooperation:

New Online Events: Zoom on Jerusalem

Covid-19 made us rethink the way we organize events and get creative. To fill the gap created by the suspension of events in Jerusalem and to connect with our supporters abroad, we established a new format: Zoom on Jerusalem. The interactive online event is aimed at shedding light on the various projects of the Willy Brandt Center, the daily life in Jerusalem and the political situation in Israel and Palestine.

On the first event, on April 26th, Project Manager Petra Klose presented the Art Hug Project and premiered the 18th hug by Dornbirn-based musician Lukas Schiemer. Petra also elaborated on the challenges for artists and culture in these times of pandemic, and Project Manager Tobias Pietsch shared his insights on life during lockdown in Jerusalem, illustrating these effects with pictures from the empty Old City of Jerusalem. In addition, the event offered a political examination and analysis of the formation of a new government.

The second Zoom event, on May 10th, focused on the effects of corona on the economy, unions and youth organizations. Project Manager Wiebke Warkentin elaborated on the ways in which her partner organizations in the educational project spent May 1st this year, and how the pandemic is affecting the work of the youth organizations. Members of the Political Team joined the Zoom to share their take on the economic situation in Israel and Palestine, and discuss the work of the unions, which has become even more important during this crisis. Tobias Pietsch explained the composition of the new government and its coalition treaty, including the controversial announcement of the annexation of parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Wiebke and Tobias also showed photos of the various protests opposing the new government and its policies regarding the crisis, economic issues, labor rights, domestic violence and the planned annexation. The second Zoom on Jerusalem ended with a live view over the Old City of Jerusalem, while listening to the Ramadan Cannon, fired to mark the end of the fasting, followed by dozens of Muezzins.

As both sessions were very successful, enabling vital discussions in Q&A Sessions and an exchange between Jerusalem and our supporters abroad, we will continue this format soon.

Sign in to our newsletter and become a member of the support association to receive invitations and updates.

Global Team on Trauma Sensitivity within forumZFD

The Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem works with forumZFD on various aspects of conflict transformation, including trauma sensitivity. At the end of 2019, a Global Team within forumZFD was established, together with social psychologist Wiebke Warkentin, to better understand the role of collective trauma in our field of work.

Through monthly calls, the Global Team exchanged knowledge and experience with other forumZFD colleagues worldwide. This format of exchange aims to explore how psychological wounds in violent conflicts are passed down from generation to generation, and the effects of this trauma – both on a community and its individuals.

Furthermore, assuming that sensitivity towards individual and collective trauma is inevitable when working in conflict settings, we believe that it is crucial to make trauma sensitivity a cross-cutting issue within forumZFD and to train their staff accordingly. Therefore, the Global Team has developed a recommendation catalogue for trauma sensitivity in the Civil Peace Service (CPS), and is now conceptualizing tools and trainings intended to assist us in addressing collective trauma in our work. There will be a joint publication at the end of the year on how an organization can take its first steps to become trauma sensitive.

WBC -Annual Report 2019

Our Annual Report 2019 is here. We review the projects of the past year and look ahead – despite the uncertainty of these days. Even before the Corona crisis, we decided from now on for ecological reasons to publish our Annual Report electronically.There will still be print versions in a smaller edition, available on demand or when we are able to meet again at public events at our information desks.

We would like to thank all of you who have taken part in our activities.
We are especially thankful for your project funding and donations, and your ongoing cooperation as members of our support association “Förderverein Willy Brandt Zentrum e.V”.

WBC-Annual Report 2019 (read as pdf)


WBC – Art Hugs

In time of Quarantine artists from near and far raise our spirits and unite for a series of special video contributions titled “Art Hug”

We were looking forward to a number of events this spring. Everyone at the center has been excited and busy with preparations., and our partners and artists where getting ready for their part in all the planned panels, workshops, poetry readings, movie screenings, concerts and dance events. At some point this March, we understood that things will not go as planned. We realized that we would have to stay home, slow down and keep physical distance from the world around us, at least for a little while. But we all felt the strong need to stay connected.

Artists deal with challenging situations through art and creation. We have therefore invited artists from near and far to raise our spirits and unite for a series of special video contributions titled “Art Hug”. As our partners from the Hancock Institute in Washington reminded us in their Art Hug message, “artists play a very important role in our health as people and as society. Those who make art help us remember what unites us as human beings”. The artists responded immediately. So far, we have received video contributions from Berlin, Bregenz, Gaza, Kansas City, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Rom, Salzburg, Tel Aviv and Washington, with participants from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

Our followers and our team have been moved and inspired by all the wonderful new poems, compositions and performances that have reached us and keep reaching us still. The Willy Brandt Center community stays active. We can’t wait to meet you all again in person, but until then – we will keep creating and enjoying cultural events together. We remain united and strengthen and comfort each other through the arts, even though we are far from each other.

We invite you to become our guest online and to discover the Art Hug creations of our artists on Facebook:



Home Office, Video Calls and Empty Streets: Working in Jerusalem in Times of Corona

Corona regulations led to the closing of the Willy Brandt Center on March 22nd, which dramatically effects the way of working and the continuation of various projects.

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority reacted in a prompt and strict manner to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic: tourists had to leave the country, all incoming travelers must self-quarantine for 14-day, and businesses have been reduced to the essential minimum. Curfews were implemented first in the West Bank, then in Israel, limiting the freedom of movement to a maximum of 100 meters from the place of residence. These regulations also led to the closing of the Willy Brandt Center on March 22nd, which dramatically effects the way of working and the continuation of various projects. Home Office, Zoom meetings and phone calls are the new working routing for our entire staff. Planned projects and activities are postponed or had to be cancelled. Visitor groups and delegations were required to cancel their trip plans.

At first, the regulations were not taken too seriously by many Israelis, especially in the Ultra-Orthodox community, and life in Palestinian East-Jerusalem continued almost as usual. But security forces became stricter at the beginning of April: hundreds were fined for ignoring the curfew, checkpoints were set up throughout the city to control traffic and public, and places of worship were closed down. During the week of Easter and Passover, this conduct had harsh effects on common traditions and ceremonies. Worshippers of both religions were asked to stay at home and celebrate alone. For the first time in history, the Church of Holy Sepulcher was closed and no public services took place in the Holy Week. Passover Seders were celebrated separately, and people used Zoom and other digital tools to stay connected with one another. How this will affect the Ramadan (starting on April 23rd) and its traditions, like the daily Iftars, is not clear yet.

Concert with the Tel Aviv Quintet and Pianist Alon Goldstein

The WBC hosted the Tel Aviv Quintet and Pianist Alon Goldstein at the Austrian Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem

On Thursday, February 13th 2020, the Willy Brandt Center Jerusalem hosted in cooperation with the Austrian Hospice a performance by the celebrated Tel Aviv Wind Quintet, together with world renowned pianist Alon Goldstein from New York.

The concert took place at the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, in the Austrian Hospice’s Imperial Salon, which was filled up to its last seat. The program featured pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, marking the 250th anniversary of his birthday, as well as works by Barber, Bernstein and Françaix. A theatrical performance of Luciano Berio’s “Opus Number Zoo” was also included, and the socio-critical poems by Rhoda Levine, upon which this contemporary composition is based, were performed in Hebrew. As the audience in Jerusalem’s Old City included Israelis and Arabs, as well as a number of international guests, we decided to offer in addition a written English translation and an Arabic version that was created especially for the occasion by the Willy Brandt Center team member Rima Shahin, and was very much welcomed by our Arabic-speaking audience.

Before each piece, one of the artists briefly explained the historical and musical background of the composition. Unfortunately, Oboe player Yigal Kaminka fell ill a few days prior to the concert, but was replaced on short notice by the wonderful principal oboist of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Dudu Carmel, who joined the other members of The Tel Aviv Wind Quintet: Roy Amotz (flute), Danny Erdman (clarinet), Itamar Leshem (horn) and Nadav Cohen (bassoon).

We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet, and to reach out together to our young audience and present another “out of the box” classical music program in the near future: a theatrical version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, especially arranged and staged for the members of the quintet.


“My ReWriting”: Artistic Encounters between Germany and Israel

Exchange programm with Young Artists from Jerusalem & Nuremberg, supported by the EUROPEANS FOR PEACE program of the Foundation EVZ. 

Last autumn, the Willy Brandt Center initiated a gathering of 15 young artists in Jerusalem. Eight of the artists came from Germany, the other seven from Israel. From February 25th to March 2nd 2020, the project was followed up in Nuremberg, where the same young people of different nationalities and different artistic backgrounds met and continued their joint artistic journey.

Nuremberg, February 25-March 2, 2020

Nuremberg and Jerusalem – two cities whose historical contexts reveal unique contrasts, parallels and tragic connections. Therefore, the program featured an intense engagement with Nuremberg’s history, but also offered a vivid exchange of today’s lively art scene. The project’s participants from Germany offered their Israeli colleagues guided tours through the Old City of Nuremberg. The group visited museums, the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds (the Reichsparteitagsgelände), and Nuremberg’s university and Academy of Fine Arts. The program also included reflections, encounters and workshops with different artists, aimed to explore contemporary forms of expression and creative new techniques for intercultural dialogues. The participants’ journey and work process were once again accompanied and documented by a team of the National German Broadcasting Station ZDF.

On March 1st, the young artists presented their results in a public exhibition under the direction of stage director Annette Lubosch, writer Sascha Fersch, and set designer Maris Pfeiffer, at the Kunstverein Kohlenhof – a gallery at the center of Nuremberg. We were delighted to welcome an impressive number of visitors, all curious and eager to discover the visual, acoustic and musical creations that artistically mirrored the connections between Nuremberg and Jerusalem. This upcoming autumn, a selection of artworks from the exhibition will be presented at our center as part of this year’s Jerusalem Open Forum, under the title “Jerusalem and Europe”.

Jerusalem, 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”.