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Peeping Tomer: Jerusalem bares its interiors to the public

by Ziva September 17 2008
Things to doArt
Visit the Rotem family in Musrara

Ever wonder how the other half lives? Ever dream of living like a Sheikh for a day? Ever hope to travel back in time and relive a historical period? Ever wanted to know what lurked beneath Jerusalem's newest luxury building projects? Or wonder why Jerusalem's beautiful neighborhoods all look so different? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions, then you're in luck because this weekend, Jerusalem's most amazing and impressive sites and styles are open for investigation as the Jerusalem Municipality's Houses from Within festival kicks off this weekend September 19th and 20th. 

This free - and largely popular - festival returns to the Holy City for its second year with free tours and access to more than 100 incredible structures and sites across the city. Led by certified tour guides, architects, city planners, historians, or Jerusalem lovers, learn about how the physical design of the building influences your experience of the place; or, in other words, how architecture works. While most tours are open to the public (just check the site for visiting hours), some tours are limited to 30 participants and therefore pre-registration is required (available through the website).

And the list of places to invade is long and varied, including a Sheik's residence, Israel Museum restoration labs, historical synagogues, the Mormon university, the old train depot, modern Jerusalem renovation projects, old Arab houses and Old City ruins. For us, the most alluring sites listed were those that piqued our voyeuristic tendencies: the private homes. For example, the Shalom House, 20 Ehad Haam Street, Talbia, belonged to Israel's leading lawyer during the British Mandate, Shalom Horrowitz. Visit his home to see the ceiling he imported from Damascus or the cedar trees he had shipped to his garden from Lebanon. Experience Israel's earliest upper class lifestyle for yourselves. Or, at the open house of Sigal and Chenchel Benga's Home, 2 Hanotrim Street, Katamon Het, see how Indian art Chenchel Benga was influenced by Indian village architecture and culture in his home-meets-gallery design. Finally, at the colorful Rotem House, featured above, 2 Hulda Hanevi'a Street, Musrara, interact with Turkish, Ottoman and modern design both inside and out. The family's renovation keeps the architecture of the past while its decor takes from today's contemporary styles.

Aside from the tours, there are several related events including art exhibitions that draw upon the themes of home/ privacy/ shelter/ and security. There's also a musical bells concert on Friday afternoon in the YMCA garden - apparently, the YMCA tower's bell collection is the only one of its kind in the Middle East (who knew?). And environmental-related events including a 'take and give' free market, recycling and building activities for the kids, and a lecture on sustainable building practices in Jerusalem since the British Mandate.

Please keep in mind that barging into anyone's home this weekend is clearly not encouraged - we (strongly) suggest you stick to peeking into the homes and places listed as part of Houses from Within only.

Photo of The Rotem Family House, Musrara, Jerusalem, courtesy of Houses from Within.


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This week in Jerusalem

by michael September 11 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsSportsThings to do
Jerusalem's Kidron Valley
Plumb the depths of the Kidron Valley this week in Jerusalem

Less than three weeks until the High Holidays begin, and the city is all aflutter with the activity of hundreds of thousands of people preparing for the most enjoyable holiday since... uh... Purim? But just because everyone's busy doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do this week:

  • And once the aforementioned kids are safely tucked in, have some more adult fun at the Yellow Submarine with Aya Korem - the pop singer behind the immortal line, "Yonatan Shapira, make me babies."
  • A lot is going on religiously in Jerusalem lately - Ramadan for Muslims and Elul for Jews. Find out what makes the faiths tick by joining Beit Shmuel Friday on an English-language walking tour of religion in Jerusalem.
  • Special-needs children know how to take a pretty compelling photograph - see for yourself Friday at the newly-opened Children's Photography Exhibit at the Naggar School in Musrara.
  • Walk through the valley of the shadow of death (in a sense) with the Jerusalem Municipality on Shabbat as an expert guide takes a group on a free English-language tour of the Kidron Valley.
  • Canaanites get the blues too - hear the proof at "Canaanite Blues," a Saturday night Beit Shmuel concert covering Levantine shepherd, cowboy and farmer folk songs. Just like Willie Nelson, only with more glottal stops.
  • Thank God for those Mormons - without Brigham Young's concerts, Jerusalem would be totally dead on Sunday. This week, see the Gropius Ensemble play Bach, Debussy and some originals, all for free.
  • Nobody does self-flagellation like the aesthetes of Israeli theater. The politically charged Holy Ground, a localization of an Algerian play, is running at the Khan. Catch it Sunday night.
  • Even if you're from that country where they don't play football "soccer", now that you're in the wider world, there's no excuse for you not to put down a pint and let out your inner hooligan Monday night when HaTaklit broadcasts the Tottenham match.
  • Speaking of theater aesthetes, if you fancy yourself one, don't miss out on the opportunity to audition Tuesday evening for the Merkaz's English-language staging of the one, the only Rent!
  • And to atone for that audition, join the Tower of David Museum Tuesday on a nighttime tour of the Old City that ties the city's holy sites to the slichot, special prayers of penitence sung by Jews during the month of Elul.
  • Like wine? Like art? Then join the good people at the Merkaz Wednesday for an up-close encounter with the artists of Chutzot HaYotzer, with lectures, discounted art prices and wine - all in English.

And do we have to say it again? There are always plenty more events for the coming week in the Jerusalemite Events section. Have a great weekend!

Image courtesy of ChrisYunker from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Jerusalem stone gets colorful

by Ziva September 10 2008
ArtThings to do
Gabriel Cohen's triptych on the Gerard Behar Center
So it's time for Jerusalemite to get Art Historical and we hope you'll enjoy this moment, 'cause we think it's pretty cool. We've headed down Bezalel Street like a million times – now that it's the city's central artery with all the nearby downtown renovation and train construction going on. But stuck in a recent traffic jam, on a beautiful late summer day, we looked up to the heavens for some salvation. Instead of receiving flowing traffic, we came upon a vision: Appearing on the wall of the Gerard Bechar Center, at 11 Bezalel Street, is a massively impressive and engaging three-part painting. It's awesome. Inspiring. Fantastical and even wacky. So we decided to look into this painting a bit more.

"Around the World in 92 Days," as the painting's called, is by Jerusalem-based artist Gabriel Cohen. Cohen was born in Paris in 1933 and came to Israel in 1942. He has been living and working in Jerusalem ever since. His work has been featured in Israel and worldwide. He even received the prestigious Jerusalem Prize in 1987 for his contributions and accomplishments in the arts; he is widely considered one of Israel's leading Naïve-style artists.

For Jewish exiles returning to their homeland in Israel, this style offered a way to explore their surroundings. It's wide-eyed and almost childlike, like everything is suddenly new and exciting (hence the term Naïve). Adopted by many early artists here, including Reuven Rubin, the style soon came to be known as the "Eretz Israel School". Following in the traditions of the art form, Gabriel Cohen leaves no Jerusalem-stone unturned as he explores the world from Jerusalem in 92 days - or three easy panels.

In this gigantic painting – the original belonging to the Israel Museum collection is smaller – countries, people, transportation all collide and interact as if they're all at the same tourist attraction. Glance over the entire work and you'll recognize: Jerusalem's skyline with its Old City walls and Dome of the Rock, Paris' cityscape with the Eiffel tower and Arc de Triomphe, Indian architectural wonders (is that the Taj Mahal?), London's bridges, Egypt's pyramids, Italy's Pisa and other international architectural wonders. In between the buildings, down on the streets and bridges, notice the mix of people, colors, animals and more - horses, camels, carts and bikes to name a few.

There's no starting point and no end in these three panels - the format of which takes from the Christian church triptych tradition in which a religious story is played out over the course of three panels, positioned around a central altar. Living in this city is often described as a spiritual experience - one in which religions, people, traditions, cultures and politics all intersect and collide, much like the people and countries in Cohen's painting.Gabriel Cohen's original piece

That might explain why the Jerusalem municipality was behind this public art project, joining French-based urban art production studio, Cite de la Creation to paint this and other outdoor murals across the city. A collaboration which also entailed the training of local Israeli artists by the French team in their special mural-painting techniques.

Cohen's Around the World in 92 Days is the only work in Jerusalem, painted by Cite de la Creation, that replicates a real work of art - the others recreate Jerusalem street scenes on the sides of buildings or walls. No doubt, Cohen's triptych, proudly positioned at the entrance to downtown, Jerusalem invites viewers and visitors to open themselves up to the excitement, sensations and experiences of Jerusalem. After all, there's more to this city than its ancient and modern streets of Jerusalem-stone gold, there's Cohen's newness of the colors, sights and sounds of our everyday lives here. Just open your eyes to it.
Ziva Haller Rubenstein writes about art and design in, by and from Israel on her blog Designist Dream and for other leading blogs and websites. 
Photo of the Gerard Bechar Center by Ziva Haller Rubenstein for Jerusalemite. Photo of Around the World in 92 Days is courtesy of
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael September 04 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFilmThings to do
My Sweet Husband and My Dear Wife
All gussied up for My Sweet Husband and My Dear Wife

Welcome to September, kids. You can't wear white anymore, but you can make yourself feel better about the arbitrary sartorial cruelties of the approaching fall by reminding yourself that September is one of the best months to be in Jerusalem. The weather begins to ease off a little, and with both the Jewish High Holidays and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan taking place at the same time this year, the entire city takes on a buzz of impending celebration. So join in by taking in all Jerusalem has to offer this week:

  • Speaking of intoxication, if nostalgic hippies don't do it for you, try "Sensation of Intoxication," a concert/poetry reading/whatever tonight at Makom L'Shira.
  • If you prefer your music to be original, don't miss hip-hop outfit Coolooloosh at Beit Avi Chai, also on Saturday night.
  • How often do you get to hear flamenco in Jerusalem? Swing by the back-from-summer-break Yellow Submarine Tuesday for Estampa Flamenca, Jerusalem's very own ambassadors of that romantic Spanish music.
And that ain't all - see the full listings for the week in the Jerusalemite Events section. Have a restful weekend.
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael August 28 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsThings to do
Nikolai Gogol's Marriage, this week at the Khan

It may not quite feel like it yet, but summer is winding down. And with festival season ending and the nonstop fall blowout of Jewish holidays still a month off, the late-summer doldrums have descended on the Holy City. But even during these languorous days, Jerusalem still offers plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained:

  •  Tonight is your last chance to give a toast to Jerusalem at the Beer Festival. By Friday, all the beer vendors will be gone, and it'll be nothing but Goldstar and Tuborg 'til next summer.
  • Even the Municipality is on the end-of-summer tip, and they've organized a free outdoor concert to commemorate it tonight in Independence Park. Sagol 59, HaYehudim and other big names will perform.
  • Introduce your kids to the magic of larger-than-life chimpanzee puppets on Sunday with Trained Animals, another winning Train Theater production.
  • Of all man's institutions, none is as ripe for parody as marriage. Nikolai Gogol knew it, and so does the Khan Theater, currently staging a Hebrew adaptation of his famous comedy Marriage. See it Monday night.
  • Let the Israel Museum mess with your head a little Tuesday by checking out Secrets and Ties, an avant-garde exhibit slapped together from the museum's deep archives.
There's plenty more where that came from in the Events section. Keep cool out there.
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Jerusalem Art Starts Here: Agripas 12

by Ziva August 19 2008
ArtThings to do
In order to really understand - and appreciate - Jerusalem's underground arts scene (read: all the Jerusalem art that's exciting and new), start with a trip to Agripas 12. Down a narrow alleyway and up on the second floor, nestled above the city center'Einat Arif, Self Portrait 2008s shopping streets and beneath the bustling shuk, you're as removed and hidden from Jerusalem commercial shopping as possible. As if only once you're away from it all, are you ready for the Agripas 12, true art experience.
Agripas 12 is a cooperative art gallery that was founded in 2004 by 15 independent Israeli artists - themselves renowned and accomplished graduates of such prestigious Jerusalem-based schools as Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Hadassah College and the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. The gallery is non-profit and not commercial in that all its exhibitions are collectively decided upon by the founding group who view the gallery space as an extension of the creative process: make art, show art, be art.
Agripas 12 is all about immediacy and accessibility to art. There are no agents, middlemen or commercial aims. Here, artists and visitors interact directly. Works of art either speak for themselves or get you talking, whether in the exhibition space or out on the streets of Jerusalem below. The gallery's goal is to break the traditional relationship between artists and artistic institutions. Leave all your artsy-fartsy pretentiousness at the door, because here no one is going to dictate Art (with a capital A). It's up to you to decide and draw your own conclusions about.
As one of the first cooperative artistic groups in Jerusalem, Agripas 12 has been paving the way for newer artistic collectives, such as Hagigit or Barbur, to take hold of Jerusalem's burgeoning cultural scene in different directions and media. Since its opening, Agripas 12 has hosted dozens of solo and group exhibitions, along with gallery talks, music performances and poetry readings. Exhibitions have featured works of the 15 founding artists, including married, accomplished photographers Einat Arif and Yossi Galanti.
Currently on view is First Chance - 1, an open call by Agripas 12 to artists across the country who have not held a solo exhibition. Close to 200 artists responded from various media, a reflection of the need and interest among young Israeli artists for exhibition spaces to showcase their works. Twenty artists were selected to participate in the exhibition which features photography, installation and video art, and painting. This is the first in what Agripas 12 hopes will be an annual art exhibition and event for young, independent artists in Israel.
The exhibition is scheduled to close on September 6th. But just before it does, Agripas 12 is hosting a lecture on September 4th comparing artwork on view in First Chance - 1 to the more "established" artwork currently on view in six exhibitions at leading Israeli museums that collectively paint a picture of Israeli art over its past six decades. A formative lecture that will certainly provide some perspective for new and up-and-coming artists in Israel - especially if they aspire to be as good, bad or just plain "interesting" as those deemed museum-worthy from Israel's past 60 years.

Above, Self Portrait by Einat Arif.
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Arts, crafts and Sakharof: time for Chutzot Hayotzer

by michael August 08 2008
Things to doArtFoodFor the kidsShopping
Chutzot crowds.
White-robed Israeli folk dancing? Par for the course at Chutzot Hayotzer

It's August, and you know what that means: It's time to buy some handicrafts. The beloved Jerusalem tradition Chutzot Hayotzer, an international arts and crafts fair encompassing hundreds of Israeli and foreign artists and artisans selling their wares and dozens of musical performances, is returning to the Sultan's Pool. It's the largest cultural attraction of the summer, so if you're around, you've got no excuse not to go.

The focus of the fair is everything handmade and aesthetically pleasing, from jewelry to woodworking to sculpture to religious artifacts, with special attention paid to the work of the 150 Israeli artists participating this year, many of whom maintain a permanent presence in the Chutzot Hayotzer artists' colony during the off-season. It's all for sale, and it's mostly one-of-a-kind.

And Yitzhak Moshik-Levy's carping notwithstanding, the list of international participants is impressive, a veritable who's who of countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel (and two that don't), including most of South America, much of Europe, much of East Asia, all the 'stans in Central Asia, a smattering of Africa, Jordan as the lone representative of the 'hood, and more, all selling their respective traditional handicrafts. Will the Nepali delegation defend their nation's honor by tramping all over the city blazed on hash and half-baked mysticism like Israeli twentysomethings do in Kathmandu? Probably not, but worth watching out for anyway. Also worth watching out for is the Korean delegation, staging a dance performance drawing on both traditional dance and martial arts on Wednesday and Thursday, which rates as a vast improvement over the regular artistic offering of the Korean community in Jerusalem, namely singing enthusiastically in Korean about Jesus on Ben Yehuda St.

But what really makes the price of admission worth it are the nightly concerts, featuring some of the brightest stars of Israeli music, carefully selected to make sure every segment of the national pop-listening audience is covered: Rami Fortis, Shlomi Shabat, Mosh Ben Ari, Ethnix, Aviv Geffen, Meir Banai, Gali Atari, Yizhar Ashdot, Boaz Sharabi and Berry Sakharof. Non-mainstream concerts, from flamenco to jazz, also take place nightly, and, in a terrible bit of planning, overlap the main stage pop performances.

And there's more: children's theater and activites. Food stalls. Workshops. Even if for some reason you hate handicrafts, you'll find a way to amuse yourself.

Check out the full schedule in English at the official Chutzot Hayotzer website. Or, as they spell it, Khutzot HaYotzer. Or Khutsot Hayotser. Ahh, consistency.
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If you can't stand the heat... start Kooking

by josh August 06 2008
Things to doArtFoodJerusalem strolls
Ticho House Rorscach test. I see an artist married to her cousin.
Wall-E Shmall-E. Catch real animation at the Ticho House

Between wine festivals, film festivals and crazy bridge opening celebrations, Jerusalem's pretty much got the party at night thing down pat. But what to do during the seemingly endless sharav-like days of summer in the city? The wonders of air conditioning make a day spent inside seem the perfect cure, but denizens need not only rely on the staycation (or holistay, take your pick) as a means of respite from the sun. Though not as people-watching-tastic as its big brother Ben Yehuda Street, nearby Rav Kook Street offers a slew of quirky and educational spots to visit while remaining comfortably indoors.

The street was once home to one of Israel's most celebrated rabbis, Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, hence the name. Kook worked to close the distance between the ultra-Orthodox and the non-religious Zionists during the mandate period, fostering the eventual creation of the religious Zionist movement. His apartment is now home to the Rabbi Kook Museum, a shrine to the rabbi and his teachings. The entrance to the house, featuring a turreted wall reminiscent of the nearby Old City walls, takes visitors into the residence that looks much as it did when Rabbi Kook occupied it, complete with mikveh (ritual bath) and beit midrash (study hall).

For those looking for a less straightforward religiously educational experience, there is the uber trippy Museum of Psalms. Though the paintings that make up the museum may look at first glance like just another deadhead trying to channel his or her energy into psychedelic representations of the his or hr most recent LSD-enhanced Phil Lesh concert, the art is actually the work of kabbalist and Holocaust survivor Moshe Tzvi Halevi Berger. Berger's paintings bring the 150 psalms to life, though the years they have spent on permanent display have begun to show in some of them.

A short walk away is the Anna Ticho House, a former Ottoman era home occupied by artist/social butterfly Anna Ticho and her husband/cousin Avraham, who also ran an eye clinic at the site, during the early 20th century. The gallery is filled with Anna's artwork, for which she was famous, and Avraham's chanukiah collection. There is also a special exhibit of sculpture, video and animation with the aim of bringing Ticho house back to life.

You can hit up the acclaimed Little Jerusalem restaurant without even having to venture outside. The dairy joint serves up standard European and Middle Eastern fare with a bevy of breakfast options.

Though Hadassah College is situated just up the street, you will have to venture a bit further out to catch two exhibits highlighting the artwork of Hadassah's newest graduating class. At the Underground Prisoners Museum next to nearby Safra Square you can see an exhibit of photography and digital media through August 21.

A bit further away at the Jerusalem Theater is another display of photography and digital media from the same institution, with a bit of print production and industrial design thrown in for good measure. The exhibit runs through the end of August.

Pictured is Raaya Karas' Some Place for Tomorrow, currently on display at the Ticho House as part of the Animating Ticho House exhibition.
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A conversation with Liat Margalit, curator

by simone July 27 2008
InterviewArtFor the kidsThings to do
Tower of David Museum

Liat Margalit first began working at the Tower of David Museum 10 years ago, while still a student at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. She worked her way up through the ranks, and now, in addition to serving as the curator of the museum's new Fortress and Fantasy Exhibit, serves as the Museum's Assistant Curator, a job coveted by history buffs the world over. Jerusalemite spoke with her after the exhibit's grand opening on July 20.

What was the inspiration behind this exhibit? Who thought of it and how did it come to be? We always try to think of interesting new exhibits that are somehow connected to Jerusalem and its history. I've been here for many years and I realized that many of our visitors don't seem to realize that the museum is housed in a fortress. Or, if they do realize it, they don't pay attention to this aspect of it, but in truth, the Tower of David is not just a museum, but a fortress with its own story as well. So it seemed natural to create an exhibit that paid tribute to this aspect of the museum.Fortress and Fantasy

We also wanted to do something from the world of fantasy. Fortresses can be found in many fairy tales and adventure stories – it's a very evocative image. The new exhibit lets visitors walk through the Tower twice: once physically, noting the walls, the moat, the arrow slots in the walls, and one time in their minds, in their imaginations.

The Fortress and Fantasy exhibit provides them with the triggers – throughout the museum there are little stands that take the children into fantasy worlds where they can enter the world of the imagination. At one point, visitors come to what seems like a dead end, and just when they think they've reached the end, there is a hidden door which leads them into a fantasy world.... (click here for the full interview)

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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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