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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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This week in Jerusalem

by michael November 13 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsMusicThings to do
Machane Yehuda produce
Unlock the culinary secrets of Machane Yehuda this week in Jerusalem

It's the first week of a new Jerusalem. Or at least a different Jerusalem. Well, provided outgoing mayor Lupolianski doesn't cap off his useless term by seizing total control of the city and devoting 100% of the municipal budget to his twin initiatives of delaying the light rail and making his beard wispier. Hey, you can't rule anything out. But assuming the transfer of power goes well, this is a good week to make a toast to the fading reign of Mr. Lupolianski, and as always, Jerusalemite has plenty ideas of how to go about it:

  • Jerusalem has some of the world's greatest food. Learn about (and sample) the many foods Jerusalemites love, including the offalicious meorav yerushalmi, as you follow Beit Shmuel through Machane Yehuda today.
  • And tonight is your chanceto catch some rare English-language Jerusalem theater with After Eden at the Merkaz.
  • Is there any better place to see a 18-piece choral ensemble specializing in Jewish and Israeli music than at the the Tower of David? Dunno. Ask the Jerusalem Cameri Choir tomorrow.
  • Jerusalem is an orthodox city no matter what religion you follow, but if you happen to be a Conservative Jew, don't feel alone and uneducated: English-language Conservative Torah study starts up tomorrow.
  • This Saturday tour is not optional, even if you observe Shabbat, keep kosher or don't speak Hebrew. Beit Shmuel is taking a group of gourmands to the hummus restaurants of east Jerusalem and the Old City, and all that wonderful, historic hummus is worth the eternal punishment for any transgression.
  • Everybody in Israel loves rock ensemble Beit Habubot (except those guys who think music is a sin). Hop on the bandwagon Saturday night at the Yellow Submarine.
  • As if Jews and Arabs don't got enough beef, in The Return to Haifa, a Jewish family and an Arab family tussle over an adopted child in the post-War of Independence era. Catch it Sunday at the Jerusalem Theatre.
  • Sunday is also your last chance to catch Shakespeare's Henry V in English at the Ma'abada.
  • Don't you wish your children cared at all about music that didn't sound like the pitiful dying screech of the last of an endangered species? Try to introduce them to some classical music with Speak to Me in Sound at the Jerusalem Theatre on Tuesday.
  • How can Jerusalem sustain multiple Dixieland bands? Gain some insight, maybe, by seeing the New Orleans Function Tuesday at the Yellow Sub.
  • How's your Jewish identity lately? If you don't know the answer, consider attending the first in a series of English lectures on the subject at the Shalom Hartman Institute on Wednesday.
And remember, you can always check the whole week's listings in our Events section. Have a good week in this new Jerusalem.

Image courtesy of Beit Shmuel.
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael November 06 2008
This week in JerusalemMusicThings to do

The art of Avi Sabah
Unless the afterlife is absolutely not what it's cracked up to be, it does appear that the cosmic order survived this week's elections in America, contrary to all expectation. So Jerusalemites everywhere have cause to celebrate - at least until their own firmament-shattering elections, coming up in but a few days. But hey, the coming end of Uri Lupolianski's reign of inefficiency is also cause to celebrate. At Jerusalemite, we'll celebrate just about anything, the best way we know how:
  • Pop group Shotei HaNevuah may have broken up, but their frontman forges boldly ahead, while still sounding exactly the same. Catch Avraham Tal at the Yellow Submarine tonight. 
  • Chanteuse Yael Badihi is hosting another musical party/luncheon Friday at her Nataf home, this time all about the poetry and life of the famous Rachel.
  • If you're curious about delving deeper into Jesus' final day than the Via Dolorosa, meet up with Beit Shmuel for a Jesus in Jerusalem tour ranging from the Kidron Valley to Mount Zion. 
  • Want to inculcate your children with hyper-nationalist values using only puppets and poetry? Check out the Train Theater's puppet show version of the poetry of Hayyim Nahman Bialik on Saturday.
  • Beatniks take over Saturday night with a night of "ecstatic avant-jazz poetry" at Yakar. Hey beardie, your lunch appears to be naked.
  • Want to be a pop star? Well, you're in the wrong place. But you can still shoot for fleeting local fame at the Mike's Place open mic night on Monday.
  • Tuesday is votin' day. After you choose Jerusalem's next mayor, quiet your lingering doubts with the sweet sounds of jazz at the Yellow Sub, finally back after a holiday hiatus.
  • On Wednesday, the battle will be over. Relive a far more stirring conflict with Henry V at the Ma'abada.
See you next week, if the city's still standing. Don't forget to vote, and don't forget to check out our full listing of this week's events...
Image courtesy of the Jerusalem Artists House.
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Dancing in the Emek

by michael October 24 2008
Things to doArtFoodFor the kidsMusicShopping
Emek Refaim
Ain't no party like an Emek party, cuz an Emek party don't charge admission.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the anti-gravitational effects of a thousand constantly puffing cappuccino steamers and ten thousand constantly lightening wallets will lift Emek Refaim completely above the more pedestrian streets of Jerusalem, whereupon those lucky enough to be carried heavenward with the street of the gods will shower the less fortunate with great torrents of upscale kosher dairy bistro fare. But hopefully that won't happen before you can hit the annual Emek Refaim Street Fair on Tuesday.

What's the Emek Refaim Street Fair about? Well, uh, imagine Chutzot HaYotzer...good...and then imagine it smaller in scale and taking place on Emek Refaim. The Emek, as nobody should ever call it, will be lined with dozens of local artists displaying and selling their pieces, including paintings, pottery and glass works, with avant-garde assists by the Hagigit collective, who will be taking photographs of the merriment around them, futzing with them on computers and then displaying them on a giant screen. Meta.

Then there are, of course, the bands: homegrown Balkan-booty-stomping brass band Marsh Dondurma and that band they get for every festival in the city, Ethnika, as well as some lesser names. Oh yeah, and fire dancers.

And if all that art and photo-twiddling and Balkan brass and fire-twirling makes you want to get a burn on, stop at one of several wine stalls for a glass or four of the red (or white, stuff. Sop that up by stopping in any one of the many, many, many restaurants lining the street, all of which are running festival-only discounts. It's the cheapest mountainous Mediterranean salad money can buy!

Festivities last from 17:00 until the decadent hour of 23:00, and entrance is blissfully free.

Photo courtesy of the Merkaz Tarbut HaAmim.

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This week in Jerusalem

by michael October 23 2008
This week in JerusalemFor the kidsMusicThings to do
See Giselle. See Giselle haunt. Haunt, Giselle, haunt.

Hey there Jerusalemites. We've all successfully made it through another non-stop month of holidays, so get out there and take down your beautiful, elaborately decorated sukkah before your neighbors complain. Once that's out of the way, you deserve to ease yourself back into the grueling non-holiday schedule with a bit of local entertainment - and once again, we're here for you:
  • Get to know the green-eyed monster by taking in the Khan's oft-recurring production of Othello, also tonight.
  • If the kids are bugging you on Saturday, give them a subtle warning about potential consequences by taking them to see Peter and the Wolf at the Train Theater.
  • Monday night is open mic night at Off the Wall Comedy. You think you're funny, punk? Prove it.
  • Wine! Art! Fire dancers! Marsh Dondurma! Credit card olim! It all comes together Tuesday at the annual Emek Refaim Street Fair.
  • On Wednesday, Binyanei HaUma will host the Moscow City Ballet, currently touring Israel with its production of Giselle. Don't get too excited - it's not the Bolshoi Ballet, after all - but it's bolshoi enough for our little desert capital. 
And as always, you can dig deeper into Jerusalem culture with this coming week's full complement of events. Have a good week!
Image courtesy of the Moscow City Ballet.
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Canticles for Leibowitzes, Jabbaris and Smiths: Abu Ghosh music festival returns

by josh October 07 2008
MusicHolidaysThings to do

 Osh Kosh B'Abu Ghosh

The closest thing (thankfully) Israel has to a Renaissance fair

Abu Ghosh has long been known as the place where both hummus is king, and the King is, well, there. But the friendly Arab town right outside Jerusalem is also a place where people flock twice a year, not to hear "Hound Dog" and taste dueling chickpeas, but rather for a music festival considered one of the best in all the land. Though the town is mainly Muslim, a number of churches dominate the village's skyline and it's in two of those churches that the festival takes place. One, the Kiryat Yearim church, or Church of the Ark of the Covenant, is believed to stand on the spot where the ark was once housed, in somebody other than God's house, before King David moved it to Jerusalem. Had he not, you would probably be reading Abu Ghoshemite as we speak.

Many of the concerts will also take place in the crypt of an ancient crusader church that sits in the middle of the town, and pretty much was the town until the Abu Ghosh clan established the city about 500 years ago in the hopes of one day attracting a music festival and/or taxing pilgrims.

The four day fest, starting October 18, takes place every Sukkot and Shavuot and focuses mostly on vocal classical music. The event draws some of the best classical and baroque musicians from around the country, and the world. This go round, the headliner is English countertenor Michael Chance, who, together with lutist David Miller, will perform the English Orpheus, with works by Dowland and Purcell, among others. Other notables include Israeli guitarist Shlomo Yidov, Austrian Daniel Johannsen and more quartets, symphonetts and choirs than you can shake one of those composing wands at.

While you might not need as much scratch as this guy, or as much bread as this guy, to enjoy the festival. Each concert requires its own admission fee. Prices range from 95 NIS to 140 NIS at the high end, a lot of garbanzos, to be sure. The suppers being sung for these days, it seems, are six course meals.

Image courtesy of the Abu Ghosh Music Festival.

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A conversation with Shaanan Street, Hadag Nachash MC and frontman

by simone October 05 2008

 Shaanan flying solo

Shaanan Street, lead singer of hip-hop groove collective Hadag Nachash, which recently won international acclaim after scoring big with the Zohan soundtrack, is a major player in the Jerusalem cultural scene. As the band's last Jerusalem hold-out, Shaanan is making the holy city a little hipper, one venue at a time. As the band prepares for its November tour of the US, Jerusalemite caught up with Shaanan and spoke with him about his various initiatives. 

How did you get involved at Beit Avi Chai? Has it been hard to maintain Chet7's alternative arts credibility? Beit Avi Chai called me and asked if I wanted to be the artistic director of their Chet7 Saturday night series, and I said yes. I never tried to make the series alternative or mainstream. Basically, I just wanted to put on music that I like. Some of my choices were vetoed, but basically it's very important to Beit Avi Chai that I approve all of the musicians included in the series.

What's your role at the Reznik pub? What are your goals over there? I'm a partner there. Reznik is a student pub on Mt. Scopus with live music. We're trying to establish some campus life. Jerusalem doesn't really have any student bars, and with Reznik we're trying to establish that type of vibe. It's actually closed right now because the university is on vacation, but we'll be opening up again in November.

With your solo career, Hadag Nachash's recording and touring schedules in Israel and abroad, and your various nightlife initiatives, is it hard to keep all of your hats in order? How do you balance it all? I have to add something to your list there: I also have to balance my family. I have a wife and two sons. And the truth is, I don't know how I balance it all. It’s a daily struggle. In terms of work, Hadag Nachash takes priority and everything else, the bars and the solo projects come after that. I think all parents have to struggle with balancing work and family issues, so in terms of that, my life's not too different.

With all your various projects, it sometimes seems that your career's successes has instilled in you a sense of responsibility – that you're trying to give something back to the alternative arts and nightlife-starved Jerusalemites. Is that the case? Not really. I'm trying to do my work in a responsible manner, but I don’t do it out of a sense of responsibility. When I am involved in projects, I try to make them projects that I would like and I would appreciate. So there is a sense of responsibility in my work, but I don't think to myself, "Oh the most responsible thing I can do right now is open a bar."....(for more questions and answers with Hadag Nachash frontman Shaanan Street click here).

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The End of Free Jazz on Tuesdays

by michael September 19 2007
Municipal newsMusicThings to do
Free Jazz on Tuesdays at the Yellow Submarine, a steady fixture of the Jerusalem cultural scene and about the best thing going in Israeli jazz in the Holy City, has come to a premature end - or at least an extended break. The organizers of the event put out a bitter-toned press release which blames the failure of the admirable venture on neglect by city institutions and a culture war that the city of Jerusalem is waging against its inhabitants, but reading between the lines seems to indicate that the real reason Jazz on Tuesdays is closing up shop is lack of interest. That's too bad - Jerusalemite loves good jazz, and especially free jazz, and is sad to see it go - but it seems a little excessive to blame the end of the jazz shows on a culture war. These aren't the Swinging '20s or the Beat-dominated '40s and '50s - nobody really feels threatened by jazz these days.
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Mazal tov to missFlag

by michael September 18 2007
Municipal newsMusic


Homegrown Jerusalem Britpop band missFlag is on its way to breaking out of its tiny Israeli niche into the wider music world. The band just performed live by request on the Morning Becomes Eclectic show on Los Angeles' KCRW, a show whose DJ, Nic Harcourt, is renowned for his star-making tastes (his early promotion helped break artists from Massive Attack to Alanis Morissette in America). Exposure for missFlag means exposure for many of the great bands in Israel currently unknown to the nations, and it also means that someone is out there projecting an image of Israeli culture that has nothing to do with conflict. So a big Jerusalemite mazal tov to you, missFlag, and may you spark a new trend of internationally-admired Israpop.

Promotional photo of missFlag by Pierre Terdjman

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