On July 17th we hosted a delegation of 11 members of Ver.di, the German United Services Trade Union. The delegation members were introduced to the Willy Brandt Center’s work and activities, and were then invited to a Q&A session on Palestinian and Israeli politics, economy and society.
The visiting participants were particularly interested by the overview on the various political parties, elections and economic situation in Palestine, as well as the education system and vocal trainings for young adults. Discussing the roles and challenges of trade unions in both countries, the conversation also touched on divides and ongoing debates in Israeli society. Finally, there was an analysis of the Israeli elections in April, with the intention of providing an outlook on the upcoming elections in September.
This June, the Willy Brandt Center organised a fieldtrip to the Negev/Naqab aimed at learning more about the challenges that Bedouin women face in their lives and in the labour market. The fieldtrip allowed us to meet these women first hand and to see what can’t be seen from Jerusalem, from afar.
First we met Ilham from Sidreh in the Bedouin village Lakiya, who introduced us to the businesses Bedouin women work in, such as embroidery and other handcrafts. Embroidery is one of the traditions that all Bedouin women learn, usually for the purpose of decorating dresses. Nowadays, these embroidery patterns are also used for bags and pillows, thus connecting this traditional art to new products intended for customers all around the world.
We met Dr. Sarab Abu Rabia-Queder (Senior Lecturer at Ben-Gurion University) at Ajeek, which is an Arab-Jewish Center for Empowerment and Cooperation in the Negev, aimed at promoting socio-economic development. Sarab presented her paper titled “The Economy of Survival: Bedouin Women in Unrecognized Villages” (2017), and talked about how Bedouin women rarely have the resources for agriculture, they have lost their productive roles within their families, and are not able to find jobs or work in the public workforce. Sarab further discussed the ways in which the lives of Bedouin women have changed following the Nakba and due to the current living conditions – especially in unrecognised villages, where land confiscations and the deprivation of housing rights and proper infrastructure are prevalent.
In 1969, German Young Socialists decided during their federal congress in Munich to turn to the left, and became an independent youth organization of the Social Democratic Party. 50 years later, the present generation of young activists celebrated this historical step, which continues to influence the organization’s DNA. Activists and former and current coordinators contributed to the three-day congress.
In a “then and now” talk, former project coordinator Christopher Paesen, discussed with Judith Höffkes their experiences at the WBC in different points of time. Political team member Nilli Marderer and project manager Tobias Pietsch gave a workshop on the beliefs of Socialist Zionism, based on the notions formulated by Moshe Hess. Sitting under a Bavarian chestnut tree, Judith offered a Q&A session concerning current issues in Israel and Palestine, and attracted the interest of numerous participants.
In June, the Willy Brandt Center was happy to present a new puppet theatre project for schools, developed by the Israeli actors Moriya Benavot and Shaharit Yerushalmy. Their play, “Mulu and Tsegay”, is an adaption for the stage of a children’s book written by the Israeli author Tamar Verete-Zehav. It tells of courage, friendship and love, and is based on the true experiences of African refugees now living in Israel.
The audience follows the harrowing journey of two siblings, a brother and sister, who run away from their home in Eastern Africa after witnessing the burning of a neighbouring village.
Believing in the power of the arts, and specifically theatre, the artists aim to sow seeds of tolerance, open-mindedness and acceptance towards the so-called strangers living in our midst. Instead of perpetuating stereotypes infused with fear and hatred, they hope to create a sense of empathy, acceptance and compassion.
The play was performed at Beit Hakerem School in Jerusalem, where children and staff greatly enjoyed the lively performance of “Mulu and Tsegay”. The play was followed by a panel and workshops with Abdu Adam, the director Hadas Selbst, the author Tamar Verete-Zehavi, and the two actors.
We hope to have the chance to present the play to wider audiences throughout Israel in the future, and expect that “Mulu and Tsegay” will soon visit other schools as well as community centres, thus invite more kids to embark on this magical journey.
Bewerbungsfrist 31.Juli 2019
Für unsere Bildungskooperation in Israel und Palästina im Rahmen des Zivilen Friedensdienstes suchen wir ab September 2019 eine neue Fachkraft im WBC. Du übernimmst als Leiter*in eines Kooperationsprojekts palästinensischer und israelischer Jugendverbände mit dem Schwerpunkt politischer Bildungs- und Begegnungsarbeit eine spannende und verantwortungsvolle Aufgabe im Feld der zivilen Konfliktberatung.
On the 2nd of May, the Willy Brandt Center hosted a Political Café with Jamal Al Kirnawi, founder and executive director of “A New Dawn in the Negev” and friends of Al Bustan community center, Jabal al Jahalin.
This evening was dedicated to the struggles of Bedouin women – a subject which is rarely discussed, even though Bedouin women play a key role in the conflict and in the peace building process.
The displacement and forced urbanization of Bedouin communities in the Negev/ Naqab and the West Bank have deprived Bedouin women of their traditional economic roles. Jamal offered us insights regarding his work with Bedouin women, and explained what structural challenges these women are facing in entering the labour market. Jamal mentioned that one major issue is the disparity in education, resulting from a weak educational infrastructure: fewer than 30% of Bedouin students earn a full high-school diploma, and when it comes to women students, the statistics are even lower.
Apart from that, Bedouin women face many other infrastructural problems. For example, when promoting their businesses on social media, these women must struggle to obtain a stable and affordable internet connection.
During the event we also fundraised for the Al Bustan community center, and sold embroidery made by the women of the Jahalin community – a project which has been supported by the Willy Brandt Center for several months. This event aimed to create an exchange between people who are working on similar projects and to build in Jerusalem a community that will support the Al Bustan Center.
Based on the work with Al Bustan, we know how important it is to see the Bedouin communities, their living conditions and the infrastructural problems with one’s own eyes. That’s why the WBC is organising a follow up event at the end of June: a tour to the Bedouin communities in the Naqab that will give the people of Jerusalem the chance to speak with these women themselves and learn about their businesses.
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.
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.