Culture in the City
With the High Holydays and Succot festival almost here, the fall season will soon arrive. Though the sweltering summer that we endured seems reluctant to relinquish its grip, Jerusalemites are already beginning to feel the slightly chilly fall evenings. Indeed this year’s heatwave was especially hard, but the overwhelming heat did not overwhelm the numerous cultural events across Jerusalem, many of which took place in the wonderful CulturEvents series.
Throughout the city, for the second year in a row, our ambitious partnership with the Mandel Foundation brought dance, theater, art and music to Jerusalem’s diverse communities. With the cost of living so high and cultural events an expensive commodity, the free or nearly-free events in this series are therefore a particular delight for communities who otherwise cannot enjoy Jerusalem’s musical, artistic and cultural opportunities. The Mandel Foundation bestowed this treasure on the city of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Foundation merited running the operational and content aspect of the series.
Over 40 days, in August and September, a succession of shows, performances and events took place, morning and night, in every corner of the city and showcasing Jerusalem’s rich and diverse creative works. CulturEvents in fact demonstrates Jerusalem’s exceptional story; every artist, musician and creator were Jerusalemites and Jerusalem’s parks, community centers and cultural institutions were the venues. It’s the most and the best of Jerusalem ever.
One of the events that most aptly illustrated the goal of CulturEvents was a music show for young families and children by the Music Center at Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The Music Center, set up way back by the Jerusalem Foundation in the 1970s to train Israeli young, talented musicians, has become in the main a world-class institution visited by classical music buffs. But this CulturEvents show took the Center’s classical music from ‘backstage’ to ‘front and center’: noisy young children and weary parents trying to occupy their offspring for free during the summer vacation. When somewhat- nerdy, gifted young musicians brought Beethoven and Bach to energetic youngsters, there was magic in the air. You could see four-year olds with their mouths gaping wide and listening entranced to music from clarinets, violins and French horns. At the end, the young audience enthusiastically banged in time (more or less!) to the music, on percussion instruments that were handed out.
CulturEvents has vividly shown Jerusalem that classical music no longer need remain the commodity of only adults or the elite. Classical music can – and should – be available to everyone who loves music. And that is at the heart of this praiseworthy initiative, CulturEvents: to make Jerusalem’s wealth of cultural offerings accessible and affordable to every age, every community, every neighborhood and every person.
photo by: Yael Ilan
Young People Who Change Lives
Our brand-new program to train talented young people FROM East Jerusalem as social workers FOR East Jerusalem has completed its first year. Bridging the large gap for East Jerusalem in social services, students gain the academic knowledge and practical skills to provide the residents of East Jerusalem – their own community – with better social services. With the goal to create a new generation of social workers from East Jerusalem in East Jerusalem, this program is a unique collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Municipality. This program is designed for the long-term and its success, in a few years’ time, will transform the entire social services system in the east of the city.
Every year, 10 high caliber young people start their journey with degree studies at the School for Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Upon qualification as social workers (Bachelors of Social Work), they will enjoy an assured career path with jobs in municipal social services offices.
Realizing the importance of leadership from within, leading this program is Ms. Amal Khayat. She is an impressive young woman. From East Jerusalem and a doctoral student herself in Public Health at the Hebrew University, as well as a fellow in the young leadership program of the Jerusalem Foundation for doctoral students, Amal runs the administrative and pastoral aspects of the program. Juggling her own academic duties with her basket of support services for these students, she has become much more than a role model. Her modest and quiet demeanor belie a steely determination to get the maximum help and support for these students to ensure that they fulfill their potential and succeed in their studies. Her weekly individual sessions enable each student to raise their concerns in a confidential face-to-face setting. She has succeeded in creating a trusting and close relationship with all the students and she strives to find solutions to the academic, social and cultural challenges that they face.
“For some of these students, who were successful at high-school and are highly motivated to become social workers, the gap between their intellectual abilities and their basic level of Hebrew is extremely frustrating,” says Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, Dean of the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University and one of the people who initiated this program. “I assign them to mentors at the University who give them supplementary Hebrew tuition. We even saw the need to readjust the exams or translate them into Arabic to take into account their linguistic difficulties.”
Explains Amal, “Some of my mentees simply need someone to chat to in Arabic who understands his or her cultural world and the obstacles they face adapting to an Israeli institution with people not just from East Jerusalem. I encourage them to get help, to mingle and to do their best in their studies.”
Amal’s role is multifold. She is also the team leader and organizes regular meetings between the students to create a group with a sense of belonging, commitment and morale to one another, to the University and to their future profession.
“I am so proud and privileged to be part of this program. Two years ago, who would have thought that young people from my community, East Jerusalem, would be able to obtain a degree from a top Israeli university; customized training; employment opportunities; and also provide decent, professional help for under-served East Jerusalem residents””
Here, at the Jerusalem Foundation, we don’t just imagine a world of possibilities. We create it.
When The Going Gets Tough
The Jerusalem Foundation has sponsored numerous cultural events in recent months, such as the CulturEvents series described above. Alongside our involvement in dozens of smaller cultural offerings, we have also been heavily involved in national festivals: the Film Festival, the Comedy Festival, the Jazz Festival and the Israel Festival. The Israel Festival – a soaring success – was one of our highlights and its top-quality, exceptional productions attracted huge crowds not previously seen at this festival.
A particularly meaningful moment in the Israel Festival was the performance inspired by One Song, one of Israel’s most popular podcasts. There are moments in our lives when we suddenly gain a deeper insight into our own reality. Everyone present at that performance could reach out and feel that moment. Thanks to the Israel Festival, three very personal songs – which have become quasi national anthems accompanying Israel’s key national moments – turned into a moving stage-adaptation, causing many to shed a tear. Sentiments were particularly high against the backdrop of the turbulent drama currently agitating Israeli society. “I Have No Other Country” by Ehud Manor – which became Israel’s second national anthem some time ago and is quoted frequently by leaders all over the world – was one of the most poignant moments of this event.
The performance of Our Way, by Yaakov Rotblit and Izhar Ashdot, brought more of the audience to the verge of tears with its lyrics, “The way is not easy; Our path is tough going”. It was originally composed for Rotblit’s wife, who was seriously ill when it was composed, and it turned into Israel’s theme-song during the Second Intifada. Ashdot shared his realization that once creations are released by their composers into the public domain, they take on a life of their own and even metamorphize into completely new creations with other interpretations.
And I’ll adopt the theme of Rotblit and Ashdot to the storms presently sweeping across Israel:
“The way is not easy; Our path gets tough….
In the light we’ll keep going; Though the way is long; The tough keep going.”
Shana Tova! May the New Year be a good one and a year of peace.
cover photo by Arnon Bossani