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Get out your graggers, it's time for Purim

by michael February 25 2010
HolidaysFor the kidsPhotographyReligionThings to do

Once again, it's Purim in Jerusalem, where we celebrate the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia a day later and a lot harder. This year's panoply of Purim partying includes plenty of unique holiday-themed events, street theater performances all over town, and a pitched battle between students of Hebrew U. and the Bezalel Academy to see who can throw the wildest Purim soiree at the Jerusalem Theatre. Right on.

And to whet your appetite, check out this photospread of Jerusalem Purims past, produced by our big sister website,

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People from the fringes on display

by ben May 03 2009
PhotographyArtThings to doThis week in Jerusalem


Also known as the Musrara school, The Naggar School of Photography is beloved among Jerusalemites for its edgy cultural endeavors. The school's social issues-themed exhibition room is currently hosting All of Israel Are Friends, an appropriately provocative collection of photographs from 13 different artists, as curated by Daphna Ichilov, showing through June 26.

The exhibit opened back in February to much fanafare, which included experimental interactive elements for its first visitors. Check it out here:

The exhibit's moniker is a reference to the Hebrew name of France's Alliance Israélite Universelle, a Zionist organization founded in 1860, at a time when the Jews of Europe felst ike they were on the fringes of society and needed to band together. In contemporary Israel, we take it for granted that most Jews are not outsiders, although the images from this exhibit - which depict residents of development towns in the Negev, prostotutes, the handicapped and the elderly - make the argument that as a nation, we could use a bit more unity.

With Nir Barkat serving as Jerusalem's mayor, the city's many alternative arts institutions have been scheming for ways that they can band together and gain strength in the times of a culturally friendly administration - but, of course, such efforts should never be at the expense of the alternative arts cridibility that these organizations cling to so dearly. In this context, a walk through All of Israel Are Friends is all the more poignant: We're reminded that we ought to treat "the other" with kindness because we are all outsiders, and the reminder itself is being issued by an insitution that remains relevant by positioning itself as "the other."

Still more fringe art is showing this week with the Yellow Sumarine's show by New Yorker Ben Simon. Not interested in edgy visual statements? Prefer live jazz? Perhaps a community sing-along? Or a multimedia extravaganza? You won't be bored this week - check out our team's full cultural event calendar for Jerusalem, which is constantly being updated, over at our sister website,

Detail from Micha Kirshner's portrait of a foreign agricultural worker courtesy of The Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music.

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Lighting the candles

by ben December 28 2008

Lighting the Chanuka candles

With many solstice celebrations afoot in Jerusalem and all over the world, Jerusalemite would like to bless us all with peace and successes. Here at Jerusalemite, we're still hard at work on our latest developments, which we believe will bring much pleasure to lovers of Jerusalem the world over.

In the meantime, although we have been publishing a mere fraction of the content we had planned for you this season, we do plan for it all to see the light of day soon, and we've got these great images of Chanuka candle lightings – in Zion Square and beyond – to share with you. Don't eat too many sufganiyot!

Lighting the Chanuka candles

Lighting the Chanuka candles

Photos of Jerusalem chanukiyot by Adina Polen for Jerusalemite.

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Cooperation? In Jerusalem? It must be...

by josh November 18 2008
ArtFilmMusicNewsPhotographyPop culture
Agripas 12
I once drew a picture this big

Yes, it's the artists. In fact, Jerusalem does not want for lack of institutions that cater toward artists. Ever since Boris Schatz started sculpting old ladies and founded the Bezalel School of Art and Design, the city has been rife with galleries, academies, musicians, poets and starving artistes all dedicated to "the scene." Now, a new project is being formulated to turn that scene into more of a community of artistic minded Jerusalemites. Ruach Chadasha, a student rights organization founded by next mayor Nir Barkat, recently gathered together movers and shakers of the Jerusalem arts movement to lay the groundwork for the communities.

The meeting took place at Agripas 12, a gallery well known for fostering cooperation between the various artistic institutions in the city. Among the cognoscenti there were Avi Sabag of the Musrara school and members of the Zik, Koresh and Hagagit groups. Maya Felixbrodt, director of young artists for Ruach Chadasha said she had been approached by many others about working with them to create the community, which is meant to made up of those already out of school who want to remain in Jerusalem. "We mean to give them some framework to go and create together and to give to Jerusalem as artists," she said. The community is meant to be something completely open to the participants' choosing, meaning they or may not live together and create together and eat together and work together. Basically, it may be about as communal as a privatized "kibbutz."

Though Thursday night brought cold and rain over 20 interested artists crwoded into the gallery to hear what would be going on and get in on the ground floor. Felixbrodt said she wasn't sure what Barkat's victory would mean for the project, but hoped it would translate into more support from city hall, though she said the project would go ahead no matter what happens.

Of course, this effort is far from being the first to try and bring artists together to create in Jerusalem. Chutzot Hayotzer (the artists colony right outside the old city, not the related festival) touts itself as being one such place, though its fine arts showcases have more of a commercial tilt. The Jerusalem Artists House also brings artists together under one roof, though it is more a gallery than a community effort. Plus nobody even lives in the house. In September, Jerusalem was the home to Lift-Off, the first, possibly annual, installment of an event that sought to bring together over 100 artists to display their work in a number of venues throughout the city. And there's always artsy tchochkes and expensive Judaica available at Ben Yehuda and the Cardo. In short, art did not leave Jerusalem with the original Bezalel.

If you're interested in joining the movement, you can contact Ruach Chadasha. Or if war-torn, biblical tinged, or scary Tim Burtonesque art isn’t your cup of tea, you can always book it for one of the thousands of artists communities already up and running all over this big ol' artsy world.

Photo of the artsy summit courtesy of Ruach Chadasha.
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A city of many hats

by michael November 11 2008
Nice hat.
Hello pork pie hat.

The true language of Jerusalem doesn't appear on any street signs. You won't hear it spoken on Ben Yehuda or Emek Refaim or Salah Ad-Din streets, or anywhere else - yet every Jerusalemite speaks it. To become one of them, to truly gain fluency in Jerusalem, you must acquaint yourself with the arcane code language of the hat.

Head coverings may have fallen out of favor decades ago in the West, but in Jerusalem they remain de rigueur for huge percentages of the population. And like police officers who can sniff out gang affiliation by the color or placement of a bandana or the style of a tattoo, veteran city residents can identify to which of the city's many ethnic and religious factions passersby belong merely by what hides their hair. A scarf or a wig. Hijab or niqaab. Fedora or pork pie. Velvet or knit. Keffiyeh or kufi. Western or Byzantine mitre. Each piece of headgear is a dictated by firm tradition, and each tells a story about its wearer.

So it was only a matter of time until some intrepid photoblogger embarked on an ambitious program of documenting the hats of Jerusalem. That photoblogger is the aptly-named Jerusalem Headgear.

As I walk the streets of Jerusalem, where I have lived for two years now, I am constantly amazed by the variety of headwear. Here, more than anywhere else I know, people express their identity through their hair and head coverings. There are the black hatters, the knitted kepah wearers, and all manner of variations. There are wigs and scarves for the ladies, both Jewish scarf wearing styles and Muslim scarf wearing styles. There are nuns' habits and Eastern Orthodox hats, and the occasional monk wearing a hood. And that doesn't even include the secular element, who, though they don't have religious significance, still flaunt their individuality through their head adornment, from outrageous dye jobs to the latest haircuts and styles.

Now that's street fashion Jerusalem-style. The blog is only a few days old, but already is home to a couple collections documenting the hats of religious Jews, male and female. Jerusalemite loves it so far, especially the context and history. Hopefully next we'll get to hear how each Hasidic sect came to choose its unique hat - it doesn't get any more obscure than that.

Image courtesy of Jerusalem Headgear.

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Pastels and stilts amid the sukkot of Nachlaot

by ben October 17 2008

Sukkot of Nachlaot

In memory of the temporary dwellings inhabited by the ancient Israelites during their sojourn from the bondage of Egypt towards autonomy in the homeland, Jerusalemites join Jews all over the world in celebrating Sukkot by setting up camp in eponymous booths in the great outdoors. Of course, "the great outdoors" can have many meanings when one lives in a sprawling metropolis such as ours.

And when it comes to the tight alleyways of Nachlaot, one of the city's oldest Jewish neighborhoods, eclectic and colorful residents must excel in creativity for finding ways to place their sukkot under the stars - some erecting huts that sit on makeshift stilts above street level, others barely leaving space for passers-by to circumvent the temporary dwellings.

Here, in the guise of a throwback ritual meant to reconnect the individual with the fleeting nature of the collective's surroundings, form and function meet in ways that.... (for more photos of Nachlaot sukkot, click here).

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Kapparot in Jerusalem

by harry October 06 2008
Taking a last look at the world.

 His fate is sealed

"Zoo Kapparati," goes the refrain in the chanting associated with the ancient ritual of Kapparot, by which Jews who choose to partake are absolved of their sins by transferring their bad karma to a chicken. The chicken is traditionally waved above the head of the absolvee before being ritually slaughtered -- so who says that contemporary Judaism is animal sacrifice-free?

The period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, also known as the ten days of repentance, are full of opportunities to shed one's sinful ways, be it through seasonal Slichot prayers, Tashlich (symbolically casting bread morsels towards a body of water), pledging to reform one's evil ways and even Kapparot, which has become such an institution in recent years that a special zoo-like courtyard adjacent to the Machane Yehuda market has been dedicated to performing the chicken-waving ritual well into the evening hours. With row upon row of stacks of clucking chicken crates and a steady line of superstitious Jerusalemites ready to exchange cash for bloody salvation, the Shuk Hakapparot has effectively transformed what was a mystical oddity into a photographer's dream.

Further complicating the matter at hand is the presence of placard-toting protesters claiming that animal cruelty is the real scoop at Shuk Hakapparot, an argument that is difficult to take seriously when we consider that the only two differences between this place and any other slaughterhouse are that the proceeds go to charity and that the relatively humane Kosher-supervised slitting of chicken throats is sensationally laid out for the public to observe.

The vast majority of Kapparot-practicing Jews today, however, are far less barbaric than the ones shown here, as a second custom has people transferring their sins to blood-free cash which is given to the poor following the ritual. But as one Jew who takes the ten days of repentance extremely seriously explained to me on the sidewalk on Agrippas St, "When you see the chicken's heart racing and then you witness the end of its life, the experience can really drive home how fragile our existence can be."

Chicken being slaughtered
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael July 24 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFilmFor the kidsPhotographyThings to do
The photography of Gustavo Sagorsky, now at the Jerusalem Artists House

Summer festival season has wound down, and the citywide High Holidays bashes are still a couple months off, but don't mistake this for the doldrums: even during the hottest days of a hot summer, Jerusalem and her many fine institutions continue to offer more culture than a Tel Avivi could shake an unearned sense of superiority at. Dig:

  • Comedian Nadav Bosem and uni-monikered singer Rili are mounting a comedic/musical tribute to the popular Israeli entertainers of the '50s and '60s tonight at Beit Shmuel.
  • Take the kids to the Israel Museum Sunday for a taste of what childhood was like in the austerity-stricken early days of the country with a hands-on exhibit of bygone childhood pursuits. Maybe they'll appreciate their lives more afterwards?
  • Give yourself a little grounding in pressing international affairs Monday by attending Foreign Ministry official Menashe Amir's lecture on the Iranian people at the Hebrew University.
  • Wrap yourself in the warm, if sometimes limiting embrace of the Jerusalem Anglo community at Mike's Place Tuesday night for some musical democracy in action: a freestyle, take-all-comers jam session. Bring your axe, as long as you like guitar rock and Shlomo Carlebach niggunim.
And as always, there's plenty more to do, and you'll find it all in the Jerusalemite Events Section. Click here for a full listing of the week's events.

Image of Gustavo Sagorsky's photography courtesy of the Jerusalem Artists House.
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The evolution of Calatrava's Bridge of Strings

by harry July 04 2008
Bridge of StringsCity planningMunicipal newsPhotography

Sketch of the Bridge of Strings

With projects rarely finishing even remotely according to schedule, construction in Jerusalem is so pervasive and continuous that it's hard to believe that work on the Bridge of Strings has finally ended (or has it?). The past six years of bridge building (and its limitations on our city's main circuits) has certainly been infuriating at times, but the result is unquestionably fascinating. Let's look back at the evolution of the bridge from the initial sketch by Santiago Calatrava to the completed architectural marvel.

We'll start off with some interesting (and not so interesting) facts about the bridge provided by the Jerusalem municipality and Moriah, the engineering company that constructed the bridge.

Location: The bridge is located near the main entrance to the city, near the Central Bus Station.

Reason: The bridge was built to carry Jerusalem's future light rail lines across a dense urban area, resolving traffic and pedestrian issues, and to create a new landmark for the entrance to the city.

Construction began: 2002

Inaugurated: June 25, 2008

Type of structure: Steel arch bridge, cable span bridge with pylon

(The specs and photos continue here.)

Bypassers check out the construction of the new bridge.

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This week in Jerusalem

by harry June 27 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFilmFor the kidsPhotographyThings to do
Carsten Daerr and band
Carsten Daerr (center): straight from the tar rooftops of Berlin

Who said Jerusalem is a lame town? Please step forward and reveal yourself. The coming week, as with all weeks, is marked by a cornucopia of culturally enriching offerings for all tastes....

  • After Shabbat, Beit Avi Chai's Saturday night concert series continues with a performance from middle-aged alternative singer-songwriter Ari Gorali, who will surely perform his edgy radio hit "Its All Honey."
  • On Sunday, the hora lives on as the Gerard Bechar center offers Israeli folk dancing for beginners and experts alike.
  • On Monday afternoon, two former Soviets, on cello and piano, perform the works of Chopin and Masana for free at Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus.
  • On Tuesday night, an American college (and post-college, if you ask Will Farrell) ritual called The Naked Mile comes to Hebrew U on Tuesday, including drink specials at the Reznik student nightlife hotspot.
  • On Wednesday (and every day through 19 July), photographer Arnon Toussia-Cohen's free exhibit of candid photos taken at a popular Tel Aviv train depot wrestles with issues of privacy in the contemporary age. Through these photos at the Artists' House, "the intimate is exposed and takes form," as Toussia-Cohen puts it.
  • Also on Thursday, the Old Train Station compound springs back into action with a reservations-only free performance by the Kolben Dance Company, accompanied by 18th-century Viennese waltzes played live by the Israel Camerata Orchestra.
  • That same day, Beit Avi Chai stages the finale of its series of special screenings and lectures entitled Fact and Fiction: 60 Years of Israeli Film and Filmmakers, as Yulie Cohen Gerstel presents her 2007 documentary memoir about the tensions surrounding her brother becoming charedi, My Brother.

Jerusalemite threatens to present you with another batch of recommended activities on the eve of next weekend. And don't hold back: Live a little and enjoy our Events section, searchable by neighborhood, date range and more. Additional events are being added all the time.

Courtesy photo of Carsten Daerr and band, back at home in Germany.

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