Orit Wolf performing in Ashdod. Photo by D. Miller

Orit Wolf performing in Ashdod. Photo by D. Miller

Award-winning Israeli musician Orit Wolf believes that to survive in the 21st century business world, ‘you have to be amazing, just like a performer.’

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Israeli concert pianist Orit Wolf was barely out of her teens when disaster struck 12 minutes into a live recording and concert in Jerusalem: She blanked out and froze.

“I was always told ‘the show must go on’ but nobody told me how to do that, how to turn a mistake into an opportunity and how to improvise. I stopped the music and it was such a shameful occasion,” recalls Wolf.

Today, the poised pianist performs across the world and leads internationally sought-after workshops using music to teach businesses innovation, problem-solving, management, public speaking, coping with change, the power of persuasion and the art of disruption.

“I realized that if I want to be on stage I’ve got to have the right tools to turn any mistake into something beautiful. So I started to learn composition and improvisation and it was like buying an insurance policy that no matter what happens I can go on and do a lovely performance even if I don’t have my notes or forgot the music or the piano is really bad, or my hands are sweaty or the audience is noisy,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Her research following that ruined concert convinced her that “there was something in music-making that could give insights to so many professions on how to go on no matter what happens.”

Wolf was only 23 when an executive from Israeli pharma giant Teva audited one of her classes at Tel Aviv University about music and innovation, and persuaded her to start lecturing to businesses.

Over the past decade, she’s worked with banks, insurance companies, colleges and firms such as Verint, Matrix, Check Point, Strauss, Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, Bayer, Lilly, FedEx and Netafim. Her concert lectures have taken her to countries including Holland, Switzerland, England, Germany, Spain and Austria. This fall she’s returned to her alma mater, the Royal Academy of Music in London, to teach a course called “Leadership for Stage Performers.”

Below is a presentation Wolf gave at the UK Marketing Society’s 2014 annual conference.

“I don’t teach strategies you can read in a book,” Wolf says. “I give tools to create disruptions, to improvise and deliver your message in a more experienced and inspiring way. To survive in the 21st century you have to be amazing, just like a performer. It’s easy to show on the piano how you can take the same text or score and transform it.”

In one exercise, Wolf asks participants to write on paper for three minutes and to make intentional spelling mistakes. She then analyzes results in a 45-minute presentation.

“What we learn is that the average person makes 20 mistakes in 40 words. People who make more mistakes than words, say 20 words with 40 mistakes, are less afraid to break paradigms. And what kind of mistakes they make shows different ways of breaking the paradigm. It’s very interesting for me to see how far people are allowing themselves to go.”

Another exercise has the group telling an improvised story passed from one to the next, in which every other word must be spoken in a different language. For example, instead of “good morning” you might say “good boker.”

“I have about 80 different exercises like those to break your paradigms on emotional, mental and cognitive levels. We create a situation where you will not be afraid to be cognitively embarrassed. This trains you to have the courage and self-confidence to deliver your next presentation beautifully even if you have technical problems.”

Born leader

Orit Wolf persuaded her parents to send her for piano lessons when she was six. Gifted in many areas, she finished high school at 16 and by age 23 had acquired a bachelor’s degree from Boston University on full scholarship, a master’s degree from the Royal Academy of Music and a PhD from Bar-Ilan University, along with numerous piano awards.

She then taught innovation through music at Tel Aviv University for eight years despite never having studied leadership, marketing or business management.

“I’m dedicating my life to showing people things they can do to become more creative and how to leave an unforgettable mark in whatever it is they do.”

 Orit Wolf in duet with opera singer Assaf Kacholi. Photo: courtesy

Orit Wolf in duet with opera singer Assaf Kacholi. Photo: courtesy

When the university discontinued her award-winning course for budgetary reasons, she was jolted out of one of her own paradigms – the false sense of job security – and turned her disappointment into an opportunity to do concert lectures.

“I started in a small Jaffa museum with 60 subscribers in 2006. Now I have over 4,000 annual subscribers for eight series I perform at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Haifa Auditorium, Rehovot, Ashdod and Ra’anana,” says Wolf, who encourages audiences to record, photograph, share and tweet her performance as long as their phones are in silent mode.

She also has a new series for English-speakers, Music and Muse, at Weil Auditorium in Kfar Shmaryahu.

Wolf confides that on occasion she takes her seven- and nine-year-old children to her concerts instead of school.

“The idea of obeying rules all the time, I think, is wrong. Breaking rules sometimes helps people think more clearly and changes how they look at things.”

For more information, click here.

Award-winning Israeli concert pianist teaches managers to disrupt and innovate

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A new exhibit presents works by Jewish immigrants from Germany who shaped Israel’s advertising industry and consumer culture from the 1930s onwards.

By Rachel Neiman

The term “yekke” (or “Jecke,” if you want to be a yekke about it), according to UrbanDictionary.com, “refers to Jews originating from Germany. Sometimes used in a derogatory or cynical manner, it refers mainly to their attention to detail…The origins of this title are unclear, ranging from referring to their short jackets… to a conjugation of the Hebrew dayek – to be precise.”

Between 1931 and 1939, 100,000 new immigrants came to pre-state Israel, most of them German Jews fleeing the rise of Nazism. Unlike the previous four waves of aliyah, the members of this Fifth Aliyah were not for the Socialist lifestyle. They lived in proper private residences in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, spoke in German, published German-language newspapers, and held German cultural and social activities.

They also brought an entrepreneurial work ethic. German-Jewish immigrants founded Nahariya, home to some of the leading families in the Israeli business sphere: Strauss, Soglowek and Wertheimer.

Fittingly, it was visionary industrialist Stef Wertheimer who inaugurated a new exhibition, “And Now the Commercial Ads,” opened recently at the Jeckes Museum, part of the Tefen Open Museum in northern Israel. The exhibit presents works by German-Jewish immigrants who contributed to the development of the advertising industry in Israel and the shaping of Israeli consumer culture from the 1930s onwards.

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The graphic artists who arrived in Israel preserved the principles of a connection between content and form and the modernist approaches taught at the Bauhaus and other schools in Central Europe. Another important contribution of the Fifth Aliyah was in the field of typography and new designs for Hebrew letters that are still in use.

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The exhibition features posters by prominent graphic artists including brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir, Franz Kraus and Otte Wallish. These artists also worked extensively with the Zionist movement and, later on, with the government; Wallish was responsible for the calligraphy and design of the scroll for Israel’s Declaration of Independence and also designed Israel’s first postage stamps, the Shamir brothers designed the State of Israel coat of arms, and Kraus created the now-famous “Visit Palestine” poster of 1936.

However, the exhibition emphasizes their work in advertising consumer goods made by companies like Assis, ATA, Dubek, Elite, Osem, Prigat, Shemen, Strauss, Tnuva, Tempo and more.

Curator and Museum Director Ruti Ofekwrites, “The exhibition presents the joint work of advertisers and graphic artists. The advertisers were gifted with the ability to give verbal expression to advertising concepts… graphic artists knew how to give those ideas visual expression. The works display the color and brightness of Israel coupled with the magic of launching advertising activity in Israel, in the early stages of the country’s development, and the establishment of consumer habits.”

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Ofek also notes that, due to the new immigrants, the field of advertising became more professional in Israel in the 1930s. This goes hand-in-hand with the Jeckes Museum’s stated mission “to tell the story of German-speaking Jewry in central Europe up until World War II, and their influence on the western character of the State of Israel.”

“This aliyah — which could also be called ‘the advertisers’ aliyah’ — changed the face of advertising in [Mandatory] Palestine in the 1930s,” write researchers Yehiel Limor and Osnat Roth-Cohen in a paper entitled “The Fifth Aliyah and Its Impact on the Development of the Advertising Industry”.

In the early 1930s, there were 15 advertising agencies operating in Tel Aviv, and by the end of the 1930s their number had risen to 25. The Germans also established the Palestine Publication Association, the Association of Hebrew Painters of Applied Graphics in Eretz Israel, and the Committee for the Publication of Eretz Israel.

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According to Limor and Cohen, Israeli consumer culture had its roots in the Rhineland. “The immigrants from Germany also brought with them norms of culture, consumption and daily life, centered on the ‘self’ and hedonism — values contrary to the collectivist outlooks that prevailed in the Land of Israel in those years — and these norms also found their way to the contents of advertisements.”

They also introduced the strategy of segmentation according to target markets, with some ads appearing only in German and others in Hebrew and German versions.

After 1948, advertising“served not only as a sales tool, but also as a means of imparting language to new immigrants. Alongside the text were bold images, or clear, easily understandable metaphors,” write Limor and Cohen.

“And Now the Commercial Ads”was produced with assistance from the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin (AICEO) andwill run for a year. The exhibition is open to the public free-of-charge.

For more information, click here.

German-Israeli Advertising from the 1930s Onwards

 Archeologist Joe Uziel in the newly discovered Roman theater near the Western Wall. Photo courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Archeologist Joe Uziel in the newly discovered Roman theater near the Western Wall. Photo courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

After 1,700 years, dramatic discovery changes archaeologists’ entire understanding of Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple.

By Brian Blum

Jewish historian Josephus Flavius told of a small Roman-era theater built in the vicinity of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But no one had seen it for nearly two millennia. Archaeologists beginning with Charles William Wilson have been searching for that theater for 150 years to no avail.

Because the theater is located under a roofed space, the archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority note that the theater was probably an odeon for acoustic performances.

Now it seems they’ve found it.

As happens so often in archaeology, the theater’s discovery was by accident. Diggers were excavating a known Second Temple road under Wilson’s Arch (named for the British archaeologist) when they ran into flat stones placed unusually in a circle. It wasn’t an ancient traffic circle but a Roman theater which, when it was finally uncovered, changed archaeologists’ entire understanding of Jerusalem after the destruction of the Second Temple.

“We saw there was leisure, entertainment under Wilson’s Arch,” explained archaeologist Tehilla Lieberman, who described the discovery as “unbelievable” and “a real drama.”

Because the theater is located under a roofed space, the archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority note that the theater was probably an odeon for acoustic performances. (Or it may have been a “bouleuterion,” a building where the city council met.)

That said, the theater was probably never used. The stairs are not fully hewn and there are rocks that have guide marks but weren’t fully carved, explained archaeologist Joe Uziel during a press conference earlier this week.

What could have interrupted the theater’s construction? Uziel speculates perhaps it was the Bar Kochba Revolt, which resulted in the banning of Jews entirely from Jerusalem around 136 CE.

 Archeologist Tehilla Lieberman in the newly discovered Roman theater near the Western Wall. Photo courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

Archeologist Tehilla Lieberman in the newly discovered Roman theater near the Western Wall. Photo courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

The theater’s placement also suggests the theater may have been built as an insult to the former Jewish presence on the Temple Mount: its seats were arranged so that audience members would have their backs to the former center of Jewish worship and power.

It also appears that the paving stones from the Second Temple road the archaeologists were excavating were repurposed for benches in the theater, and a drainage duct was lowered to make way for the seating.

The theater’s discovery, while important, still doesn’t shed light on the ongoing mystery of what was happening on the Temple Mount in the period between the destruction of the Second Temple and Muslim rule. For example, was a Temple of Jupiter built on the mount?

No evidence has been found, in part because excavations are not permitted on the Temple Mount itself. (The archaeologists stressed that the dig did not extend under the Temple Mount.)

The theater is relatively small compared to other Roman theaters in the Holy Land, such as those at Caesarea, Beit She’an and Beit Guvrin.

The theater remained elusive for so many years because it was buried eight meters under the current ground level of the Western Wall. Following a massive earthquake in 360 CE, Jerusalem residents – concerned that the arch would collapse – filled in the area with dirt and debris.

The theater will eventually be opened to the public as part of the Western Wall Tunnel Tour. Excavation work will continue for another six months. The archaeologists hope to connect the water drainage system in the area of the theater to the one in the nearby City of David, creating a new attraction for visitors.

The archaeologists’ findings will be presented at the “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region” conference this week at the Hebrew University.

 Article courtesy of  www.Israel21c.org

Article courtesy of www.Israel21c.org

Ancient Roman Theater Uncovered Next to Western Wall

 Camel rides at Genesis Land. Photo via Facebook

Camel rides at Genesis Land. Photo via Facebook

Understanding thousands of years of history is so much more fun when you get into costume and try working and eating as the ancients did.

By Abigail Klein Leichman  

Museums show you things, and sometimes let you handle things, which demonstrate a certain subject or era. Living history museums, on the other hand, invite you to immerse yourself in a recreation of a certain time and place with the help of costumed guides and interactive experiences in an authentic setting. It’s the closest thing to getting in a time machine and going backwards.

Next time you’re touring Israel, especially with children, consider putting one of these living history museums on your itinerary.

1. Genesis Land

Genesis Land is situated in the Judean desert on the way to the Dead Sea. As its name suggests, this venue offers a guided biblical experience to visitors – while dressed in period costume — that includes a camel ride to “Abraham’s tent,” fresh pita baking, shepherding, mosaic making, drumming, pottery, scribal arts and other hands-on workshops as well as authentic kosher meals served in a tent. You can reserve a spot for overnight desert camping, guided jeep rides and camel treks, or book the site for an event. Information: 972-(0)2-997-4477.

Ein Yael living museum is a former archeological site across the valley from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, dedicated to conserving ancient crafts found during digs here. Mostly it’s open by reservation. During the summer and school holidays, it features festivals and a recreated ancient Roman street filled with craftsman demonstrating arts of ancient times. There’s an animal corner with donkeys and goats, and workshops in wool weaving, basket weaving, mosaics, pan flutes and more. Groups of up to 30 people can arrange a private tour and two workshops, suitable for young children to adults. Information: 972-(0)2-645-1866.

 Tour a reconstructed Talmudic village at Ancient Katzrin Park. Photo via Facebook

Tour a reconstructed Talmudic village at Ancient Katzrin Park. Photo via Facebook

4. Kfar Kedem

Located at Hoshaya, a Jewish community near Nazareth and Zippori (Sepphoris), Kfar Kedem involves visitors in recreating ancient day-to-day life in the Lower Galilee. Dressed in biblical garb, you’ll ride the rolling hills on a donkey, thresh grain and bake pita bread, milk goats and make cheese, spin wool, press oil from olives and juice from grapes.

The experience ends with a rustic kosher meal inside a typical shepherd’s tent. There are year-round and seasonal activities for individuals and groups, and the venue also can be booked for group events of up to 250 guests. Information: info@kfar-kedem.co.il, 972-(0)4-656-5511

5. Nazareth Village

This open-air museum in Nazareth reconstructs and reenacts village life in the Galilee hometown of Jesus. The village features recreated houses, terraced fields, wine and olive presses on authentic sites. The scenes are brought to life as “villagers” populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used. There’s an option for partaking of a biblical-style meal and a “parable walk.” Information: 972-(0)4-645-6042; info@nazarethvillage.com

6. Neot Kedumim

Late-afternoon guided tours for individuals and groups in English can be arranged in advance at this unique biblical nature reserve in the Ben Shemen Forest between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Along the way are hands-on stations where participants can crush olives, thresh grain and perform other agricultural tasks as they were done in biblical times. Information: 972-(0)8-977-0770

Six Fabulous Museums to Experience History First Hand

 Band-aids, a telltale sign that Tel Aviv street artist Dede was here.  Photo courtesy Israel21c

Band-aids, a telltale sign that Tel Aviv street artist Dede was here.  Photo courtesy Israel21c

With numerous commissions and exhibitions, consumer products and documentaries, Israel’s renowned street artists are in the limelight worldwide.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

When Israeli street artists are exhibiting in galleries here and abroad, when their work stars in videos and walking tours, when makers of clothing and furniture are incorporating their urban designs, you know that graffiti has grown up. 

When Israeli street artists are exhibiting in galleries here and abroad, when their work stars in videos and walking tours, when makers of clothing and furniture are incorporating their urban designs, you know that graffiti has grown up.

“Seeing the street art in Tel Aviv is a major activity on the list for tourists,” says street artist Mitchell Blickman, founder of the Tel Aviv Street Art & Graffiti website.

“A lot of the people who have been doing in-the-dark street art a long time have actually been becoming more refined, doing exhibitions and commissioned work for bars and clubs, even high-end galleries,” Blickman tells ISRAEL21c, citing examples such as DiozKnow Hope (Addam Yekutieli)Adi Sened and Mas.

 DIOZ’s bold murals cover entire walls of Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

DIOZ’s bold murals cover entire walls of Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

The Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin is the epicenter of Israeli street art. You can see it on the walls, in the parks, and in galleries such as Urban Secret Gallery, Tiny Tiny, Under 1000 and Meshuna.

However, it would be a mistake to overlook street-art culture in other Israeli cities, as some of these artists are getting international recognition as well.

Top billing in this category goes to psych-pop collective Broken Fingaz Crew of Haifa.

Broken Fingaz and other established Haifa crews, like 048 and NRC, have inspired a younger generation to go outside and paint. Now in their late 20s and early 30s, Broken Fingaz members Desa, Kip, Tant and Unga spend half the year doing exhibitions and commissions in cities such as Los Angeles, London, Rome, Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Vienna, Amsterdam, Chengdu, Osaka and Hong Kong.

 Broken Fingaz’ Unga recently did this drawing in Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook

Broken Fingaz’ Unga recently did this drawing in Hong Kong. Photo via Facebook

Speaking to ISRAEL21c from Tokyo, Unga said the crew is “figuring out what we want to say when we’re inside; it’s a different aesthetic or overall approach. Just taking something you did outside and putting it inside doesn’t always work, because street art and graffiti is all about context. Inside, you have to find a way to do something strong enough that can stand alone without the context of the street. So we jump in the water and try new stuff. It’s important to keep things interesting.”

 Broken Fingaz’ “Reality Check” exhibit in Rome’s Gallery Varsi. Photo by Blind Eye Factory

Broken Fingaz’ “Reality Check” exhibit in Rome’s Gallery Varsi. Photo by Blind Eye Factory

Shutters and shoes

Solomon Souza, 23, has attracted media attention for spray-painting some 200 shop shutters so far in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market (shuk) with portraits of everyone from his grandmother to Bob Marley to famous Israeli Muslims, Christians and Druze.

“We try to pick characters that would inspire anyone,” Souza tells ISRAEL21c.

 This Solomon Souza work in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market was sketched out by his mum. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

This Solomon Souza work in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market was sketched out by his mum. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Souza also sprays in downtown Jerusalem and hipster neighborhood Nachlaot and in the cities of Safed (Tzfat) and Tel Aviv.

Souza says he’d love to collaborate with other Israeli street artists such as One Love of Ashdod and Spine B7 of Beersheva.

 A work of Spine B7 of Beersheva. Photo via Facebook

A work of Spine B7 of Beersheva. Photo via Facebook

French lifestyle brand Bensimon has introduced three new shoe models in collaboration with Israeli street artist and designer Pilpeled(Nir Peled), available in Israel and online.

Pilpeled was the first Israeli artist to design a bottle for Absolut vodka, collaborated on a clothing brand with Puma, drew billboards for a Coca-Cola Zero ad campaign, and did two commissioned murals for WeWork Tel Aviv.

 ROS, a Bensimon shoe featuring Pilpeled’s signature white eyes. 

ROS, a Bensimon shoe featuring Pilpeled’s signature white eyes. 

Trends in street art

 A Staypuff work on the streets of Tel Aviv.

A Staypuff work on the streets of Tel Aviv.

The styles and motifs of Israel’s street artists are instantly recognizable to those in the know.

If you see a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man or a creatively altered stop sign, it’s a sure bet that Staypuff has been there.

Simian images are the calling card of Wonky Monky.

Stylized Band-Aids on walls in Tel Aviv, London, New York or Berlin indicate Dede, whose new art book can be purchased online and in shops including at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

As the better-known street artists mature beyond the walls of Israel, new ones are taking their place.

 A Wonky Monky work. Photo via Elishavanotes.com

A Wonky Monky work. Photo via Elishavanotes.com

Shay “Tra” Litman, at only 15, has already been the star of a documentary and several exhibitions.

#Tag, working in Florentin, “is mixing classic art with social media, like an image of the Madonna and child taking a selfie,” says Blickman.

 Israeli street artist #Tag titled this “Will you take my banana?” Photo: courtesy

Israeli street artist #Tag titled this “Will you take my banana?” Photo: courtesy

Tiny Tiny owner Murielle Cohen, whose puzzle poems, framed dancers and other series appear in Florentin and environs, says up-and-coming artists are even incorporating technology.

“Street art has changed a lot from tagging, from the pioneers with spray cans,” Cohen tells ISRAEL21c. “It evolved to stencil work and images, and now people are doing out-of-the-box things like digital collages, printed out large and pasted onto walls.”

 Murielle Cohen with one of her works in Florentin. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Murielle Cohen with one of her works in Florentin. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Beadwork, knitting and other 3D elements are seen in the works of artists such as Mr. Leaf (Mati Ale) and Yifat Raz, who places patches of velvet or fake grass to create petting corners around Tel Aviv.

 Beadwork graffiti by Mr. Leaf in Tel Aviv. Photo via Facebook

Beadwork graffiti by Mr. Leaf in Tel Aviv. Photo via Facebook

As the old carpenter shops and seedy apartments of Florentin are gradually being gentrified out of existence, Cohen says developers plan to incorporate street art to keep the area’s flavor and tourist appeal fresh as was done in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.

“The world is going in the direction of accepting street art but putting it into a modern context,” says Cohen.

Israeli Street Art: Not Just Writing on the Wall #streetart

 Debbie Kampel’s “Waterboys/Water Heart Face” for the Jerusalem Biennale. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

Debbie Kampel’s “Waterboys/Water Heart Face” for the Jerusalem Biennale. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

The Biennale runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 16, 2017, encompassing 25 Jewish contemporary art exhibitions in several venues across the city.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

If you’re in Jerusalem between October 1 and November 16, don’t miss the third Jerusalem Biennale, encompassing 17 group and eight solo exhibitions interpreting the theme “Watershed” through the lens of contemporary Jewish art.

The show includes photography, video, installation and performance art created by 200 artists hailing from diverse locales: New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Budapest, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Singapore and of course Israel.

“We’ve really become international,” Jerusalem Biennale founder and director Ram Ozeri says with pride. “This fulfils the vision we had from the beginning, to create a meeting point in Jerusalem for all those interested in the intersection between contemporary art and the Jewish world of content.”

The first Jerusalem Biennale in 2013 featured 60 artists, mostly Israelis. The biennale in 2015 attracted many artists from outside Israel but few from Europe. The third time was the charm, as Ozeri and his committee fielded 95 exhibition proposals from hundreds of artists across the world, not all of them Jewish.

The theme this year is “Watershed,” Kav Parashat Hamayim in Hebrew.

“In Hebrew, kav parashat hamayim is the drainage divide, the line at which raindrops split. If they fall west of the line they go into the Mediterranean and if they fall east of the line they fall on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea. Jerusalem is that line,” Ozeri tells ISRAEL21c.

“In English, a ‘watershed moment’ changes the course of history. Jerusalem is a city where so many watershed events have changed the course of Jewish and world history.

“The theme allows us to ask metaphorical questions about identity, about the places in which we split into separate streams as human beings,” says Ozeri.

Venues include the Tower of David, Van Leer Research Institute, Austrian Hospice, Bible Lands Museum, Bezeq Building, Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College, Museum of the Underground Prisoners and Achim Hasid.

Umbrella of Peace

A group of nine Indian artists built their biennale exhibition, “War and Peace,” around a shared watershed moment: Indian and Israeli independence from the British Mandate, which occurred in 1947 and 1948, respectively.

“When I read the history of Israel I found a lot of similarities between India and Israel. And I have been working on watershed themes for years, inspired by events in New Delhi,” curator and participant Hemavathy Guha tells ISRAEL21c.

She had no trouble finding artists eager to join in the group exhibition even though they are not Jewish.

One of the artists, Arpana Caur, “has given two of her paintings which depict the dual concepts of love and war with the use of guns and flowers and also touch upon the relevance of Buddha. She loved the magical Jerusalem, which she had visited earlier and recommended strongly that I should visit too,” says Guha.

Guha will bring her “Umbrella for Peace,” created from a sketch she’d done years ago.

“Flags of different countries have been printed on cloth and pasted on an umbrella, and all the countries have been connected with stitches and lines. I wish this earth would be devoid of war, terrorism and border conflicts and we could all live peacefully as it was intended to be,” she explains.

Vessels explored

Israeli artist Ofer Grunwald came to Ozeri’s attention because of his critically acclaimed exhibition in October 2016, “Disconnected Medium,” using bonsai (living tree sculptures) as a platform for contemporary artistic expression.

“My emerging artist status is based on the shockwaves of that exhibition,” says Grunwald, an Israeli native and resident of Jerusalem since 2009. He currently is “reimagining” the bonsai collection at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens as part of a strategic partnership.

For the biennale, Grunwald created “Vessels,” a series of five installations that capture the tension inherent in waiting to see on which side of the divide the raindrops fall, or metaphorically the emotive sense of tension within the context of contemporary Judaism.

“The series tries to explore that by taking Jewish religious objects like tefillin and fetishizing their utilitarian attributes — for example, the tefillin’s leather straps have fetishistic overtones of restraint,” Grunwald says.

He made a tefillin-shaped cube with a sculpture inside, and peep holes operated by pulling the leather strap. “Opening one peep hole closes the other, and so the work creates a conflict between visitors to the exhibition, where one’s gaze negates the other,” Grunwald tells ISRAEL21c.

Private and group tours of the biennale are available in English. Information: tours@jerusalembiennale.org

For general information, click here.

Jerusalem Biennale displays works of 200 global artists

 Women at the Wall” by Iris Cohenian. Courtesy of Passage to Israel

Women at the Wall” by Iris Cohenian. Courtesy of Passage to Israel

Works of 21 noted Israeli photographers showcase unique and unexpected images of the land of Israel.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

“Soul of the Land” is an exhibition showcasing the stunning photos from the book Passage to Israel contributed by 21 Israeli photographers.

Last November, when the show opened at Anderson Contemporary Gallery in New York City, ISRAEL21c posted some of the unexpected sights, sounds and colorful people captured by Jewish, Christian and Muslim photographers. The show has been traveling the world and was most recently on display at The Brownstone in New York City and at Jaffa Salon of Art in Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Below are a few more of the pictures.

Featured photographers include: Itamar Grinberg, Rina Castelnuovo, Yuval Yairi, Gadi Dagon, Elad Matityahu, Dor Kedmi, Tzachi Yaffe, Mario Troiani, Iris Cohenian, Elad Gonen, Laura Ben-David, Noam Chen, Luis Curiel, Udi Goren, Yehuda Poch, Nathan Marko, Markus Gebauer, Eli Basri, Baruch Gian, Ammar Younis, and Doron Nissim.

To book the exhibition or purchase any images from Passage to Israel, contact KarenLehrmanBloch@GrafiaBooks.com.

To purchase the Passage to Israel book, click here.

 Article courtesy of  Israel21c.org

Article courtesy of Israel21c.org

21 Noted Israeli Photographers Showcase Unique and Unexpected Images of Israel

 Lola Marsh photo courtesy of Anova Music.

Lola Marsh photo courtesy of Anova Music.

‘Diversity here makes Israeli music stand out … people should move here for the music.’

By Viva Sarah Press

There are so many Israeli musicians producing top-quality ear candy that keeping track of them all is a near impossible feat.

"There's too much going on to follow everyone," says Ayelet Dekel, founder of the Midnight East Israeli culture website.

AWA, Balkan Beat Box, Ester Rada, Asaf Avidan, Idan Raichel – who are expected to add great tunes to 2017's soundtrack-- are examples of Israeli musicians already being promoted by record labels.

TheAngelcy, Garden City Movement, Lucille Crew and Red Axes are examples of the many Israeli groups taking part in international music festivals.

In fact, it seems that this year will witness many bands – in all genres of music -- emerging from Israel and winning fans the world over.

Deaf Chonky, a garage punk teen duo, is an example of local talent expected to make a mark on the music scene in 2017 but not necessarily beyond Israel's borders.

Other musicians like Gili Yalo, Nechi Nech, Uzi Ramirez, Ravid Kahalani, Yoel Shemesh, Gedy Ronen, Ronen Green, Tal Fogel, Tomer Yeshayahu, Dani Dorchin, Gilad Dobrecky and Eyal Talmudi are also up-and-coming in the local scene.

"If you want to hear good music, get to know the musicians who may not have the spotlight on them," Dekel, one of the country's top music purveyors, tells ISRAEL21c.

There is no one genre set to triumph over the year of music.

"Bands are inspired by different musical genres and a new sound is emerging," Dekel tells ISRAEL21c. "You'll feel you recognize a sound but realize it's not anything you've heard before."

She says diversity here makes Israeli music stand out.

“The music has world influences from other countries and is also coming from individual experiences," she says. "There's so much going on musically here that people should move here for the music."

ISRAEL21c checked in with music critics to create this list of 12 emerging bands to keep an eye on in 2017.

1.    Lola Marsh

Indie-pop band Lola Marsh has the music world delighting in its perfectly synced harmonies. The band formed in Tel Aviv in 2013 as a duo (Gil Landau/guitars, keyboards and Yael Shoshana Cohen/vocals), and today is comprised of five-members.

They've released just four tracks but they've got a huge international following waiting for a full-length album.  

" You're Mine ", from Lola Marsh's first EP 

Nylon called Lola Marsh "the Middle East's coolest alt-folk band."

Their song "Sirens" gained over 1 million streams and ranked fifth on Spotify's top 10 most viral US tracks. "Sirens" also featured in the American TV show “Scream.”

"You're Mine" followed up with 2 million hits on Spotify.

"[Cohen's] grounded, gritty vocals, combined with Landau’s picturesque indie rock, make Lola Marsh an unstoppable pair. I am highly excited for their future," wrote a reviewer for New York Theater Guide

2.    Jane Bordeaux

Tel Aviv's acoustic folk-country trio, Jane Bordeaux, is kicking up the local music scene with some incredibly original Hebrew-language Americana folk music.

The trio -- Doron Talmon, Amir Zeevi and Mati Gilad – were included on the 2017 Forbes Israel 30 Under 30 List, comprised of top young innovators who are transforming culture, business, technology, media, and other fields across Israel and beyond. 

In 2016, Jane Bordeaux won over Internet users with a visually captivating music video for the song “Ma’agalim” (Cycles). Over 1.7 million viewers liked and shared it.

"They have an uncanny knack of capturing Americana in its folk, country and rootsy grandeur while singing in Hebrew. Instead of sounding forced, it's unaffected and charming," David Brinn, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post and a longtime music critic, tells ISRAEL21c.

Official music video for Jane Bordeaux's 'Ma’agalim'. In a forgotten old penny arcade, a wooden doll is stuck in place and time. 

3.    Hoodna Orchestra

 Hoodna Orchestra photo via Facebook.

Hoodna Orchestra photo via Facebook.

Hoodna Orchestra is an ensemble from Tel Aviv creating a fresh blend of free-flow Afrobeat, traditional Middle Eastern music, dance-floor Afro funk rhythms, and different styles of jazz.

Hoodna Orchestra is one of Israel's most sought-after live shows.

"People listen to this music and it just makes them dance like crazy. It makes a room full of strangers grab other strangers to dance. It has that kind of effect," says Dekel.

The band formed in 2012. In 2015, they released a debut album to wide acclaim. In 2016, they started on a follow-up album.

The orchestra says it is now "delving deeper into east African music, particularly the different styles of Ethiopian music, which inspired many new compositions and a lot of exciting new collaborations."

Says Dekel: "Music that is influenced by Ethiopian jazz of the 1960s and ’70s is a trend in jazz in general now. When you listen to their music, you hear Ethiopian influences. But when you listen to the original Ethiopian jazz you realize that Hoodna Orchestra is actually offering something very new.”

Alemitu - Hoodna Orchestra - Yaarot Menashe Festival 2015 

4.    OSOG

OSOG (On Shoulders of Giants) is an eight-member music collective with a catchy and original sound.

Their musical backgrounds are punk, metal, jazz and classical, which they've fine-tuned to a wholly unique sound. Simply said, OSOG is a carnival of music.

Dekel calls OSOG "phenomenal" and lists them as one of "the bands that make me say, ‘wow!’"

A reviewer for Indie Spoonful raves about OSOG’s song “Who Who.”

“With mandolin, ukulele, bass, lap-steel, violin, percussion, vibraphone, and great vocal work, OSOG is a band that offers a full acoustic experience that is stellar recorded and live and will thrill fans of folk, Americana, acoustic and indie music." 

OSOG formed in 2013 and has already performed in North America and Europe at festivals and clubs. They regularly perform around Israel, too.

Lyrics: "Tic-Toc-Tic-Toc" the clock goes, Time is up Time to carry on Like shadows we move I whisper to you That you're my rock and you're my treat One more time and that is it And I'll make up for such the life I put you through Spoiled in riches,

5.    Quarter to Africa

This multicultural roots ensemble will get you humming to their sounds even on a first listen. The band was born in 2014 in Jaffa with an idea that African and Arabic styles should be fused with composed and improvised jazz and funk.

Musicians Yakir Sasson (of The Apples fame) and Elyasaf Bashari (opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers) founded the band and today lead a changing ensemble of up to 10 musicians.

Quarter to Africa layers oud and wind instruments, drums, percussion, Arabic keyboards, bass and vocals into a whirlwind of colorful tunes.

"A fun dance band," says Dekel. She describes their live shows across Israel as "very upbeat, fun and full of incredible dance music."

According to the band's Facebook page, they'll release a new album sometime this year.

6.    The Paz Band

Vocalist and songwriter Gal De Paz, dubbed the "Israeli Janis Joplin," leads Tel Aviv's lively rock band, The Paz Band.

De Paz, a solo performer for many years and often found sharing the stage with Lucille Crew, created the band with longtime keyboardist/co-songwriter Ariel Keshet, guitarist Motti Leibel, bassist Raz Blitzblau and drummer Or Kachlon (formerly of The Genders) in 2014.

In 2016, The Paz Band ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund a debut album, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” released in April last year.

The Paz Band is best seen live performing rock and soul with a touch of blues. They perform all over Israel and are regularly asked to open for visiting international acts (The Dead Daisies, Cedric Burnside, Kovacs, Gregg Dulli and others).

Uploaded by The Paz Band on 2017-01-19.

7.    System Ali

System Ali is headed for a big year in 2017, believes Dekel. The hip-hop ensemble that sings in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English includes MCs and musicians rapping about daily realities.

Their sound blends classical Arabic music, klezmer, Romanian tunes and rock. Their lyrics quote from Israeli and Egyptian poetry, as well as jargon from the four languages in which they sing.

Founded in 2006 in Jaffa, System Ali's members have matured together to offer a powerful stage performance. Some of the musicians, like Luna Abu-Nasar (percussion, vocals, guitar) and Muhammad Mugrabi (rap) have also performed solo but continue with the System Ali ensemble as well.

System Ali performs 'War - Wayina' for BalconyTV 

8.    Forest

Six-member Forest serves up a sound that blends psychedelic klezmer, melodic folk, spoken word and chill-out styles.

"Why travel to Goa when you can have a spiritual journey at a local club in Israel? Forest's repetitive intensity, magnetic group dynamics and blend of world and Middle Eastern rhythms and acoustic pop stylings create a swirling house of worship that's impossible to resist," Brinn tells ISRAEL21c.

The group says it takes inspiration from shamanism, meditation, storytelling and prayer.

The band is constantly on the move around Israel, playing its spiritual folk songs to sold-out audiences everywhere it plays. Keep up with its schedule on Facebook

 

9.    Alaska Snack Time

Alaska Snack Time is a Tel Aviv outfit creating electronic music based on live instruments.

After Tatran and Tiny Fingers, both featured on ISRAEL21c's 2015 bands to watch list, proved that electronic instrumental works in the Israeli music scene, new bands are helping the genre grow.

Alaska Snack Time's four members say their sound can be defined as "electro-acoustic-instrumental-abstract." Catch them live if you can!

Watch the music video for "Gnawa" now!

10. Tigris

Tigris describes itself as an "Afrodelic Power Pop band."

The five musicians behind this project -- Roy Harmon/keyboards; Ilan Smilan/guitar, Amir Sadot/bass, Oded Aloni /cajon and percussion, Ben Aylon/African drums and percussion -- are creating some crazily catchy tunes.

Tigris's music is a diverse platter of styles – influences from Ethiopian, West African and Caribbean sounds from the 1970s with a splash of contemporary pop, electronic and rock music.

Tigris explains its music as "traditional grooves deconstructed and reconstructed with an explosive modern feel, addictive melodies and rich yet succinct harmonies all wrapped in a psychedelic sound and texture."

The band members are all active on the music scene beyond Tigris.

Smilan was founder and guitarist of reggae band Zvuloon Dub System and guitarist and musical director of Hoodna Orchestra, among other musical projects.

Aylon is part of the One Man Tribe project with producer Yossi Fine; Aloni also plays with Marsh Dondurma jazz funk ensemble; Harmon put out his own album, “Pagim,” recently; and Sadot plays with Armon and Hoodna Orchestra.  

Recorded by Eyal Shindler Filmed by Gosha Demin, assaf machnes, Dan Messer, and Omer Ben David. 

11. Cut Out Club

Seven of Tel Aviv's talented musicians and singers have formed one of the country's busiest bands, the Cut Out Club.

The band describes its music as having a "unique rock 'n' roll orchestrated sound with a late 70’s – early 80’s Bowie-esque style, a Jack Whitish big-band feel, with disco and synth in the mix."

"They hearken back to the genre-bending days of the Talking Heads expanded multi-rhythmic extravaganzas. There's so much to watch onstage that you'll forget you're dancing," Brinn tells ISRAEL21c.

In 2016, they played in Spain and Switzerland, among other places. The Cut Out Club kicked off 2017 with a tour through Germany and Austria.

"Positive, fun, glamorous – Cut Out Club got everything. If you don't believe it just press Play and live the experience," wrote a reviewer for MTV Spain.

Cut Out Club - We are The Ghosts / off the album Cut Out Club (2015, Granted Records, Kamea)

12. Shye Ben Tzur

"Sufi devotional music with lyrics in Hebrew" is how Dekel describes Shye Ben Tzur's qawwali music. "The music really sweeps the crowd."

Ben Tzur is a known world musician for his unique combination of Sufi-style singing mixed with Hebrew poetry.

His newest album, “Junun,” is a collaboration with Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express group of Indian musicians. The making of the album was filmed and made into a documentary by the same name.

Ben Tzur splits his time between Israel and India and can be found performing everywhere. He is currently touring Israeli venues with a local band playing his signature hypnotic music.

SHOSAHN Shye Ben Tzur 

 Article courtesy of  www.Israel21c.org

Article courtesy of www.Israel21c.org

Twelve of the hippest emerging Israeli bands

Still from the trailer for Gett (2014), directed by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabtez

Israeli films have made a global impact. Important recent contributions include Keren Yedaya’s Or (2004); Gidi Dar’s Ushpizin (2005); Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (2011); Meni Yaesh’s God’s Neighbors (2012); Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void (2012); and Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s trilogy, To Take a Wife (2004), Seven Days (2008), and Gett (2014).  All of these have met with much acclaim from overseas audiences; Footnote was nominated for an Oscar; Or and God’s Neighbors both won major awards at Cannes; and the most recent of the Elkabetz’s films was nominated for a Golden Globe. Themes range from the ultra-secular to the ultra-Orthodox, from the harrowing to the comic, from the personal to the universal—sometimes all in a single work.

Israeli films have made a global impact.

Israel is of course at the center of one of the most fraught political situations in history; it is difficult even to mention the literary and cinematic arts without acknowledging that political tensions and clashes often provide pivotal subject matter—as with Grossman’s moving 2008 novel To the End of the Land, and Shani Boianjiu’s 2012 The People of Forever Are Not Afraid; and in film, Yaelle Kayam’s Graduation (2008), and Ari Folman’s devastating 2008 animated feature Waltz with Bashir (another Academy Award nominee).

But one recent documentary—made by U.S. filmmakers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon (and produced by Lin Arison)—gave audiences hungry for good news about Israel something to think about. Their 2010 film Strangers No More focuses on a remarkable school in Tel Aviv called Bialik-Rogozin, where children from a wide variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and faiths come together to learn. The film, which leaves viewers hopeful for a peaceful future for Israel and the region, in the hands of these wise and loving young people, received an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary.

The film Strangers No More, is available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel.  

Trapped in a loveless marriage, Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) seeks a divorce from her devout and stubborn husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) in Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s Gett (2014)

 

Contemporary Israeli Film: A Sampler

The roots of contemporary Israeli literature run deep, with important foundations laid, beginning in the 1960s, by prose writers such as Amos Oz, Yaakov Shabtai, Shulamit Lapid, and A. B. Yehoshua, and poets such as Yehuda Amichai and Natan Yonatan.

All these voices, in translation, have reached out to readers around the world.

These authors are joined, more recently, by David Grossman, whose novels often touch on Israel’s painful political realities; Meir Shalev, who spins fantastical stories set in the Israeli heartland; Etgar Keret, who concocts surreal, and sometimes jarringly short, tales that juggle hilarity and tragedy; Orly Castel-Bloom, a postmodern experimentalist; and Zeruya Shalev, whose work often focuses on intimate family dynamics—to name only a few.

All these voices, in translation, have reached out to readers around the world, giving deep insights into Israel’s complex mind and culture. The range of styles and concerns is endlessly wide, but issues of identity, responsibility, and confrontation are present throughout.

David Grossman on Amazon >

Meir Shalev on Amazon >

Orly Castel-Bloom on Amazon >

Zeruya Shalev on Amazon >

Contemporary Israeli Literature: A Sampler

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Photo by Ron Shoshani, courtesy Creative Commons

Israel’s is, to say the least, an old story, and a layered one. Scratch the surface of nearly anything here, and you will find yourself going back in time: Ottomans, Mamluks, Crusaders, Early Muslims, Byzantine, Roman—on and on, a bewildering litany of civilizations that have come and gone. The many tels that dot the landscape provide a perfect metaphor for the nation’s past: giant mounds of earth that represent multiple strata of human occupation, human bravado, human thinking. Many of the towns and cities are a historical jumble of architectural styles—nowhere more clearly seen than in Jerusalem, where Santiago Calatrava’s gloriously contemporary Chords Bridge soars toward the sky from streets that lead to some of the world’s oldest and most venerated structures. Or consider the proximity of Tel Aviv and Jaffa: at just over a century old, Tel Aviv is the infant sibling of Jaffa, whose foundations are thousands of years old.

The so-called White City of Tel Aviv was deemed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

In its single century of life, Tel Aviv has developed from a discouraging line of sand dunes to one of the most beautiful and thriving seaside cities on the planet. In the 1920s and ’30s, as the metropolis began to flare into activity, it served as an open field for many Bauhaus and International Style architects, among them Genia Averbuch, Dov Karmi, Erich Mendelsohn, Josef Neufeld, and Arieh Sharon. The handiwork of such designers—more than four thousand still extant buildings—sets the architectural tone to this day throughout the city: pale stucco; simple, curving balconies; and solid, minimalist building blocks. Because of these stylish Bauhaus-inflected buildings, the so-called White City of Tel Aviv was deemed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003.

Contemporary architects have taken up the mantle from their innovative forebears, bringing new shapes and ideas to Tel Aviv’s streets and plazas. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, designed by American architect Preston Scott Cohen, is a stunning example: it soars out from the original building like a white marble prow of a ship, dotted with small triangular and rectangular portholes. Its interior is filled with architectural motion: angles and trajectories that direct the roving eye and the roving feet—leading visitors from one gallery to the next.

Tel Aviv Museum of Art > 

Preston Scott Cohen Inc. > 

 

Tel Aviv’s Architecture: Bauhaus and Beyond

Design Museum Holon (Ron Arad, architect)

A colorful riff on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Design Museum Holon is a small institution housed in what might be described as a colorful riff on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Designed by artist-architect Ron Arad, the museum’s exterior resembles swirling lines of ribbon in shades gradating from orange to deep rusty purple. The museum opened its doors in 2010; since then the themes of its shows have been wide ranging, including: the nexus of technology and fashion, Japanese master couturier Yohji Yamamoto, designer/illustrator Bruno Munari, 3-D printing, Bedouin women’s folk art, bicycle design, and an examination of the role of shade in urban settings (of particular interest in a country as sunny as Israel). The Design Museum is transforming the city of Holon into a cultural destination.

Design Museum Holon >

Design Museum Holon

Dani Karavan’s Way of Peace (1996–2000), 100 sandstone columns leading from Nitzana 5 into Egypt. Photograph by Neil Folberg

 Many of us live our lives at the computer screen—here we are, in fact—and that can get us quite a distance. But our time spent in the blue glare gives us, perhaps, a new kind of appreciation for encounters that are straight up and live, unmediated: that is, for experiences in the world.

Each column in Way of Peace is inscribed with the word peace in a different language, representing all the peoples who have traveled through or lived in this area through the course of history.

Dani Karavan’s magnificent site-specific sculpture Way of Peace (1996–2000) can of course be admired with the help of the Internet, but to experience it in reality is something else entirely. The work consists of a hundred sand-colored columns, running from the hills of Nitzana in the Western Negev Desert to the Israeli-Egyptian border—about three kilometers. Each column is inscribed with the word peace in a different language, representing all the peoples who have traveled through or lived in this area through the course of history. If you are lucky enough to be here—with your feet in the sand and the warm air in your mouth—as the sun sets in the wild desert sky, you will see the shadows cast by the columns, running far into the distance. The engagement with place, time, and history here is intense, even electrifying. Straight up and live. It is for this kind of experience that we travel.

Dani Karavan’s Way of Peace

The Batsheva Dance Company performing Ohad Naharin's "Last Work", "Virus" and "Yag" . Photos by Gadi Dagon, courtesy Batsheva Dance Company

 The Batsheva Dance Company was founded in 1964 by Batsheva de Rothschild and the revered American dancer Martha Graham, whose brilliant innovations in choreography set the tone for the troupe’s fearlessly experimental work. Today, Batsheva performs around the world, but the company’s home is in the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theater in Tel Aviv. If you are lucky enough to be in the city during their performance season, you may have the opportunity to experience a truly electrifying production. As Mikhail Baryshnikov says of Batsheva: “This group . . . my jaw is on the floor. I never saw the combination of that kind of beauty and energy and technique.”

It’s what we share, what we have in common, that is very important to encourage and to develop.
— Ohad Naharin

Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva, has the ageless presence of a lifelong mover. Although his mother was a dance teacher, Naharin did not begin dancing himself until the age of twenty-two (ancient in dance years). He joined the Batsheva company and within a year was recruited by Martha Graham for her troupe in New York. Naharin remained in the United States for more than a decade, returning to Israel in 1991 when he was invited to become Batsheva’s director. 

Naharin’s name is often associated with an approach to dance called “Gaga.” Naharin refers to it as a “movement language”: it’s not a dance technique but a “toolbox”; not something he invented, but something that was discovered. “It was there,” he says, “like the North Pole was there before someone discovered it.” The term (coined long before the appearance of Lady Gaga, he points out) stems from a kind of primal utterance or gibberish—baby talk—in keeping with the Gaga tenet of letting go, not thinking too much. Is it a philosophy, or a movement technique, or a larger approach to life? His response:

All of the above. It has a lot to do with the way I reflect about dance, which I am trying to share with other people. Also with the belief that it’s not about how different we are from each other—I take that for granted. But it’s what we share, what we have in common, that is very important to encourage and to develop. . . .

Gaga is a very particular toolbox that we’re building that has to do with the sense of discovery. It’s a lot about giving dancers and people keys to open up something that exists in them. That’s the beauty of it. This action of opening something is very quick. You can have amazing results if you have the right key. . . . That’s something that happens a lot in Gaga, people with those keys.

The documentary film "In the mind of Ohad Naharin: Mr. Gaga" by Tomer Heymann, debuted this year inspiring viewers "to escape the gravity of the every day life," according to one reviewer.

Choreographer Ohad Naharin and the Discovery of Gaga

Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre's Instagram Feed

Tel Aviv’s Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre is a crucial catalyst in the Israeli performing-arts world. A complex of theater and dance spaces, halls, and classrooms, it is an anchor point in the colorful Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and a pioneer in the area’s recent renovation. Its campus was originally constructed in the late 1800s as a school, in the very earliest days of Tel Aviv’s history, and its airy courtyards and calm cafés today offer a pleasant break from the busy shopping area just outside its walls. The Centre is home to the Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, the Orna Porat youth theater, and—perhaps its most celebrated component—the Batsheva Dance Company, under the direction of choreographer Ohad Naharin.

A complex of theater and dance spaces, halls, classrooms, an anchor point in the colorful Neve Tzedek neighborhood.

Superstars from all over the world have performed at the Dellal Centre—from French ballet troupes and Spanish flamenco masters to Mikhail Baryshnikov, who wowed audiences with an all-Russian production titled In Paris in 2011. As Baryshnikov notes: “You walk around Suzanne Dellal and there are hundreds of dancers and choreographers . . . from Germany, and England, and France and the United States. . . . what’s great is that there’s support, and this enthusiasm.”

Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theater > 

Suzanne Dellal Center Instagram Feed > 

Batsheva Dance Company > 

Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollack Dance Company >

Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth >

 

The Suzanne Della Centre: Performance in Tel Aviv’s Hipster Hub

On a green hillside in the western Galilee is the Gottesman Etching Center. It is housed in a vast, clean space at Kibbutz Cabri that hums with a hive-like vibe of peaceful, focused productivity. The workshop’s large windows overlook mountains and sea, the light pours in on the streamlined structures of printing presses, and the walls are pinned with etchings in progress, experiments and successes. Founded in 1993, the workshop offers residencies and classes with artists from both Israel and abroad; over the years, their lineup has included Menashe Kadishman, Jim Dine, Zadok Ben-David, Hila Lulu Lin, Hannah Farah-Kufer Bir’im, and many others. Gottesman also produces exquisite portfolios and artists’ books, and their building includes a pristine exhibition area where prints are shown to the visiting public.

Art acts as a stimulus, and contributes to the community.
— Gottesman Etching Center

The Gottesman Center’s role as part of a busy kibbutz is integral to its mission: “Art acts as a stimulus,” according to their motto, “and contributes both to the community and its individuals as well as to enterprise.” The perspective here, as throughout this forward-looking nation, is that creativity must be fostered, and that through an open exchange of ideas and a willingness to see beyond preconceptions—that is, by thinking artistically—Israel may follow a course to a successful and peaceful future.

Gottesman Etching Center >

 

The Gottesman Etching Center, Printmaking Residencies on a Kibbutz

 Jerusalem’s Old City, Al Wad. Composite photograph by Neil Folberg 

Jerusalem is a vortex. What might a newcomer expect here? Stones resounding with unfathomable history. An intimidating mix of inflexible faiths and truths. The holiest place on the planet for legions of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. A much-contested hub. Jerusalem is certainly all that. It is also a thriving city, in many ways not so different from other urban hubs: big, heterogeneous, and filled with the unexpected.  

Artists are inspired by the complexity of Jerusalem, where the ancient and the modern are in constant touch.

Here, the ancient and the modern are in constant touch: the glow of laptops illuminates faces in cybercafés tucked under ancient archways. A boy balancing a tray of freshly baked bagels on his head winds his way through a crowd of hipster tourists. Young soldiers in uniform gaze into pastry-shop windows. In the Old City, an Orthodox man hurries down the stone steps toward the Western Wall, wrapping up a conversation on his cell phone. And artists are here, inspired by the complexity of the city’s energy.

Jerusalem is a maze of cobbled alleyways, hidden courtyards, and grimy industrial zones, with countless corners where artists have set up shop. The Mamuta Art and Media Center is situated behind a low stone wall in Jerusalem’s Talbiye neighborhood, in a historic former hospital. The Center provides studio spaces for artists in various media and is a venue for exhibitions, film screenings, workshops, conferences, and a residency program for contemporary Israeli and international artists. The venerable Vision Gallery, tucked into a side street off busy Jaffa Road, is run by our friend the photographer Neil Folberg, whose stunning images grace this project. The Museum on the Seam—located, as its name suggests, on what was once the official border between East and West Jerusalem—presents innovative exhibitions that fearlessly take on sociopolitical issues. And the city is also the home of Israel’s premier art school, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; its students help keep the creative vibe of Jerusalem young and vigorous.

Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design >

Mamuta Art and Media Center >

Museum on the Seam >

Vision Gallery >  

Jerusalem: A Vortex for Artists and Arts Venues

Gaga dancers with Ohad Naharin. Photo by Gadi Dagon, courtesy Batsheva Dance Company

Gaga is not a dance technique but a way of life, according to choreographer Ohad Naharin. His mission, he says, “even more than giving [Gaga] to dancers, is to give it to people. You don’t have to have an ambition to be onstage. You don’t have to have dance training. It’s about finding a connection between effort and pleasure, and places of atrophy, groove, the ability to laugh at oneself, the scope of sensations. Isolation. Recognizing flesh, bones. Movement patterns. Enjoying it!”

Gaga is about finding a connection between effort and pleasure, and places of atrophy, groove, the ability to laugh at oneself.
— Ohad Naharin

Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre offers Gaga classes for nonprofessionals—studios filled with men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Before the session starts, some of them limber up impressively, stretching or balancing yogically; others move more gingerly, simply attuning themselves. There are no mirrors on the walls. (“Not allowed,” Naharin explains. “Actually, dancers without mirrors learn much more about the form, and they become much more efficient about the movement than people who work with mirrors.”) One of the Gaga mandates is “Listen to the body”: be aware of sensations and abilities and limitations. “Go to places where the pleasure in movement is awakened.”                  

Teachers lead sessions with calm energy. Participants follow the gentle instructions: Float around in your skin . . . then remove the skin to feel the bones . . . then put the flesh back on until you are very “juicy” . . . fill yourselves with more and more juice until you are completely swollen with it . . . now squeeze yourselves out until you are rags on bones. Use the “traveling silliness” in your bodies to dance, just a little. It might feel something like real grace.

 “It is a lot about yielding,” Naharin explains. “A lot about the idea of the advantage of letting go, which can actually make you more available and more sensual, more dangerous, more animal . . . more ready to snap.”

Batsheva Dance Company > 

Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theater > 

Gaga: A Way of Living (and Dancing)

Cover of Grandmother Days: A Taste of Bedouin Life, produced in Lakia.

In the Bedouin town of Lakia, in the upper Negev, is an extraordinarily forward-thinking enterprise that was conceived, initiated, and is today run by Bedouin women. The Desert Embroidery project, under the auspices of Lakia’s Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status, brings together unique time-honored skills and a much-needed source of income for the Bedouin community. Their products—vividly colored embroidered clothing, bags, and other goods—are irresistibly beautiful.

These skills were not being learned by the younger girls. If we didn’t do something to preserve the skills, they would be lost.
— Hessin Elsana

The project began with fifteen women and has trained over 160 to date, expanding into neighboring Bedouin communities. The operations are simple but groundbreaking for this community: a core of women is responsible for design and development, obtaining embroidery materials, worker training, and marketing; and another group looks out for quality control of the finished goods. As of this writing, some sixty women in and around Lakia are working from their homes doing hand embroidery. They visit the center twice a week to collect materials, drop off finished items, learn new designs, and attend workshops and lectures. Each woman chooses how much she can work and is paid according to the amount she produces.

Hessin Elsana, one of the Desert Embroidery project’s founders, acknowledges it is difficult for outsiders to imagine the isolation that is possible in such a culture. In the Bedouin culture, she says, “the woman is the center of the household. She’s supposed to help with the education and raising of the children.” But among traditional Bedouins, embroidery is a respected and accepted activity for women, even in the most conservative of households. Furthermore, as Lakia grew, new infrastructures and amenities, such as running water, were changing the pace of the day: if women didn’t have to spend time fetching water from a distant well, how else might that time be productively spent? And now there were new costs such as mortgages to be paid. “The women wanted to do something to contribute that they felt comfortable with, an activity that was suitable for them, that they already knew something about, and that they could do something with,” explains Hessin. “Also, these skills were not being learned by the younger girls. If we didn’t do something to preserve the skills, they would be lost.”

Desert Embroidery > 

 

The Lakia Desert Embroidery Project, Run by Enterprising Bedouin Women

 Neve Tzedek shops, Tel Aviv–Yafo. Photo by and © Vision Studio

Neve Tzedek shops, Tel Aviv–Yafo. Photo by and © Vision Studio

Neve Tzedek may be Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhood, but it has a fully contemporary life and atmosphere. Shabazi Street is a hive of shops—from the asymmetrical cuts and cunning miniboots offered at Mizo to the hand-embroidered shawls at Badim TLV to Maya Zukerman’s lightweight cotton goods at Mayu, in hues made for layering. (And to ensure that there will be a full range of body shapes to clothe, one must stop at the Anita gelato parlor while shopping.) 

Tel Aviv offers the full gamut of options: from freaky chic to the most refined elegance.

For slightly fancier selections, there are the boutiques at nearby HaTachana: the recently restored old terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. This beautiful complex was originally built in 1892, and its vintage stone buildings now house clothing shops, cafés, and design stores. Walk west to the water and you’ll run into Tel Aviv–Yafo’s smart portside shopping centers, with big-name brands from around the world, as well as small boutiques featuring local designs. For occasions that require absolute grandeur, you might try the upscale stores, such as Alon Livné or Yosef Peretz on the north end of Dizengoff Street—often termed the Champs-Élysées of Tel Aviv.  For the fashion conscious, Tel Aviv offers the full gamut of options: from freaky chic to the most refined elegance.

Alon Livne > 

Anita  >

Badim TLV >

HaTachana >

Mayu > 

Mizo >

Yosef Peretz > 

Shopping in Tel Aviv: Neve Tzedek, HaTachana, and Beyond