a different side of Israel

Category: Culture (page 2 of 22)

Local Israeli music, art, theater, celebs and talent. Culture in Israel, Middle East and around the world as it relates to Israel.

Meet the artist Shraga Landesman

Pomegranate Hebrew Seder Plate by Shraga Landesman

When you visit the Website of artist Shraga Landesman you’ll see this quote:

“My spiritual sources are the Bible and the ancient cultures that lived in the region. A disappearing world that I miss which does not exist anymore. I confront this world my way, trying to decode familiar cultural codes from those magic objects that these cultures left behind”.

Shraga Landesman was born in Israel where he studied sculpture and painting at the Oranim College of Art and Tel-Hai College. There was seemingly no limit to the borders of Landesman’s creative output. In 1982 he won first prize in a documentary photograph competition in Israel. His photographs were widely exhibited in Haifa.

At this successful juncture in Shraga’s career, he traveled through Europe where he was exposed to the origins of Western culture, hints of which were left there by the ruins of ancient civilizations such as that of Greece and Rome. Inspired by this, he enrolled at Haifa University, concentrating on small scale sculptures. A constant itch for creative expression led him to the designing and creation of ceremonial Judaica – this is what he is best known for, and this has been the focus of his artistic output since 1996. Shraga Landesman’s creations in functional Judaica are even featured at several museums, galleries and fine craft-stores throughout Israel, Europe and the United States.

Shraga’s Judaica comes in the form of mezuzot, Hanukkah menorahs, pesach items, candle holders, serving items, havdallah sets, Kiddush sets, and more. Currently his photography focuses on Birds of Israel.

The Israeli Art Market is Doing OK

Mordechai Ardon, The House of the Maggid (1954)In the past decade the Israeli art market’s turnover topped $180 million. In 2007, the Israeli art market was estimated to have reached its all-time high of $36 million. While annual sales dropped about 40% in 2008 and 2009 in the wake of the global financial misfortune, the 2nd half of 2009 saw signs of recovery ahead of the new decade.

With a price of $643,200, Mordechai Ardon’s Timepecker holds the record for a piece by an Israeli artist.

During the 1990s, annual auction sales leaped from a few million dollars for a couple of hundred items sold to $12 million for nearly a thousand items sold in 1999. Though, due to various factors at the time, art in the Jewish Country suffered a sharp drop in sales. Annual turnover dropped from $13 million for approximately 900 items sold in 2000 to nearly $5 million per approximately 700 items sold in 2003. In Comparison to the rest of the world, the Israeli art market experienced a sharper drop as global reduction in auction sales turnover was only 10% at the time.

Chagall, ParentsOn the spur of the first signs of economic recovery in Israel in late 2003 and early 2004, Sotheby’s Israel branch took its contemporary Israeli art sales to be auctioned in New York, providing exposure to Israeli art and artists. The single most lucrative Israeli art auction was held in the 2nd quarter of 2006 in Sotheby’s NY, where a $6 million turnover was recorded.

Well since then things have been a lot better. Pieces which were sold at hammer prices of $100K and higher, increased by an average of 49% from 2003 until the end of 2007. Mordechai Ardon’s Ascension of a Watchmaker was sold in Sotheby’s Tel Aviv in 1988 for $30,800 and then resold in 2005 at Sotheby’s New York for $108,000.

The highest return on an item sold in an Israeli auction house was 320% and belongs to Marc Chagall’s Personnages de cirque, which was sold in 1997 for $57,500 at Christie’s in Tel Aviv and resold ten years later at the same location for $240,000.

Restoring Egypt’s Synagogues

Farouk HosnyJust in time for the festival of Pesach, Egypt’s culture minister says that it will shoulder the costs of restoring the country’s synagogue’s.

Farouk Hosny says that his ministry views Jewish sites as much a part of Egypt’s culture as Muslim mosques or Coptic churches and the restorations would not require any foreign funding. This marks a turn in attitude for the Egyptian artist and culture minister.

On Sunday, the 12th century Ben Maimon synagogue, named after Maimonides, was rededicated in a ceremony including half a dozen Egyptian Jewish families who fled the country long ago.

Ben Ezra SynagogueHosny committed his ministry to restoring all 11 synagogues across Egypt, three of which have already undergone renovation. The most visited synagogue is that of Ben Ezra – located in Cairo’s Christian quarter near a number of old churches, was restored some years ago.

“There were some lectures on the Jewish sites in Egypt and the temple. It was nice, emotional and nostalgic,” said Raymond Stock, an American “close” to the Jewish community in Cairo.

The Jewish community of Egypt, which dates back millennia and at its peak in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly. The remainder were driven out decades ago by mob violence and persecution.

Synagogue, CairoEgypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed. None the less, Egyptian vibrations remain deeply unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still appear in the Egyptian media.

Last September, Hosny blamed a conspiracy “cooked up in New York” by the world’s Jews when he lost a bid from becoming the next head of the U.N.’s agency for culture and education.

During this time, Hosny’s candidacy raised an outcry because of a threat which he had made in the Egyptian parliament in 2008 to personally burn any Israeli book he found in the Alexandria Library.

Celebrating Purim on a Rainy Day

Rain got you down? Don’t want to leave the house to hear the Megillah again at shul? Well, in honor of Purim, the Israel Antiquities Authority is presenting a new virtual exhibition on its Website of masks and rattles which were discovered in archaeological excavations throughout the country.

Appearing in the exhibition are various masks that portray humans and animals, the oldest of which is from the Stone Age and dates to c. 6500 BCE.
Many ceremonial masks were used for ritual purposes such as rainmaking, curing disease and exorcising spirits and demons. Oftentimes such masks were in the image of deities or demons.

The use of rattles during the reading of the scroll is a symbolic expression of the extermination of the Amalekites, the first people whom the Israelites fought when they were wandering in the desert. According to tradition, the wicked Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites.

Clay rattles that contain small stones or other materials for making noise were found in archaeological excavations around the country. The rattles occur in a variety of shapes, some adorned with a painted or engraved decoration, but all of them produce the same noise that is characteristic of a rattle.

The majority of the rattles were found in a cultic context or inside tombs and therefore there are those who believe that they were primarily used for ritual purposes. The frequency with which rattles occur in excavations throughout the country is explained by the fact that they are small objects which were relatively simple to manufacture and were used by the general population.

There is also the assertion that the clay rattle was a very important musical instrument in the religious services of the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah during the First Temple period.

Tell Me Lies Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

At least 30 Arab youths who barricaded themselves in the al-Aqsa Mosque plaza at the Temple Mount and hurled stones at passers-by, provoked Israeli Police last night and early this morning.

Stones were occasionally thrown at police officers in the alleys of the Old City, including near the Antonia Fortress, which is one of the entrances to the Temple Mount. There were no reports of injuries. One suspect was detained for questioning.

After the scuffle, police again opened the mount’s gates to worshippers, but restricted entrance to the site to male worshippers with Israeli identity cards over the age of 50 and to female worshippers of all ages.

It seems obvious that Sunday’s fray at the Temple Mount is related to the tension that arose over Israel’s decision to include the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites.

Members of the Waqf and various Islamic organizations, including the Islamic Movement, advocated for Muslims over the weekend to flock to the Temple Mount, claiming that

“radical Jewish organizations have called on their followers to arrive at the mount today and on Tuesday in an attempt to lay the cornerstone for the temple.”

The Islamic organizations also warned Muslims to be on high alert around March 16, when they that said extreme Jewish organizations were planning to mark the global day for the temple’s reconstruction.

Now Dig This

Diggers for the truth have had a lucrative month. A Jewish archaeologist on Monday said that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem, not only date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon, but attest to the authenticity of the biblical narrative.

If the estimated age of the stone structure is true, the finding is an indication that Jerusalem housed a strong government which had the resources and manpower to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.

This certainly matches the Bible‘s account that the Hebrew Kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem at about that time. The archaeologist behind the dig, Eilat Mazar belongs to that school of thought.

Other archaeological chuckle heads in the Jewish country claim that they know enough to prove that the kingdoms of David and Solomon are strictly mythical.

Dr. Mazar, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called her find

“the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel.”

She also said

“it means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction.”

The fortifications found, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of the Old City in Jerusalem – right next to the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

Archaeologists have previously excavated the fortifications, first in the 1860s and again in the 1980s. But Mazar claims that her dig was the first complete excavation and the first to turn up strong evidence for the age of the wall: a large number of pottery shards.

Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

“Political or not political, when you stand up on that stage in Tel Aviv, you line yourself up with a racist state,”

wrote a group of British academics in an open letter to Elton John on Monday. The British Committee for Universities of Palestine, wants to convince the singer to cancel his upcoming performance in Israel this June.

Dear Elton John:

Like much of the world, we think you’re a good bloke. You came out when it was difficult; you admitted your addictions were stronger than you were; you’ve poured money into AIDS research. Oh, and then there’s the music – not bad at all…

…But we’re struggling to understand why you’re playing in Israel on June 17. You may say you’re not a political person, but does an army dropping white phosphorus on a school building full of children demand a political response? Does walling a million and a half people up in a ghetto and then pounding that ghetto to rubble require a political response from us, or a human one?

…You’re behaving as if playing in Israel is morally neutral – but how can it be? How can the cruelties Israel practices against the Palestinians – fundamentally because the Palestinians are there, on Palestinian land, and Israel wants them to go – be morally neutral?

…Okay, you turn up in Ramat Gan, and it gets to that ‘Candle in the Wind’ moment, and thousands of lighters flicker – but there won’t be any Palestinians from the Occupied Territories swaying along with the Israelis – the army won’t let them leave their ghettoes…

The organization requested that Elton John read the Goldstone Report as well as reports from human rights groups regarding the decades of what they labeled

“crimes committed against the Palestinians.”

Head of the organization, Professor Haim Bresheeth, said:

“The letter we published is on Elton John’s homepage and is already posted on all of his fan sites on the internet, and has drawn responses that we hope will influence him not to come to Israel.”

According to Bresheeth, a similar initiative resulted in the cancellation of Santana‘s Israel show, about two weeks ago.

Bresheeth, who spearheaded the demand to place an academic boycott on Israel more than two years ago, added:

“Unfortunately, we did not succeed in convincing Paul McCartney from canceling his concert, but we will continue to take similar action in order to prevent these respectable artists from arriving in an occupying country that breaks international law. The decision ultimate is in the hands of the artists themselves.”

Here’s why Elton John should not cancel his show:

The fundamental source of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict is the former’s unwillingness to broaden their horizons and accept the impressive artistic and other accomplishments of cultures which are different than their own.

I am quite sure that if residents of Jenin were given to roam freely throughout Ramat Gan, their first stop would not be the Elton John concert. That is ridiculous.
Palestinians are no friend of the arts in England or in America. And if this is unfair or untrue, then by all means, let the good people of Palestine step up and prove it!

The Palestinians have their own universities, artists, industry, etc. So if they’re jealous, let THEM book their OWN Elton John concert.

But please, please, don’t take my Tiny Dancer…

Santana’s Not Coming: Fans Are Singing the Blues

Last week there was a rumor surrounding the upcoming performance of Latin-American rock guitar god, Carlos Santana. The show at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa was postponed, but as to a new date and a reason why, fans were left tripped out.

Santana was being brought by producer, Shuki Weiss. A few thousand tickets had already been sold to the show. The Israeli production company was even considering adding another show.

Much to our dismay, it became clear today that the show has been cancelled.

“Our clarifications revealed that he received messages from anti-Israel figures who pressured him to cancel the performance. Of course, no one there claimed that any connection between these pressures and the show’s cancellation, but we are certain there is a very close connection,”

said a production company representative.

Pressures placed on artists from abroad performing in Israel by anti-Israeli groups and individuals is not a new phenomenon. Paul McCartney, leading up to his concert in September 2008, was given the shpeel as was Leonard Cohen before his show at Bar Ilan University this past summer. Both of these artists however decided to perform in Israel.

Israel’s music industry is praying that Santana’s cancellation does not create a chain reaction. Elton John, Rod Stewart, Rihanna, and The Pixies are all slated to perform in Israel over the summer.
Producer Shuki Weiss gave this response:

“We have been aware for a few days of the difficulties that arose in everything surrounding the production of Santana’s concert in Israel. We apologize to the thousands of ticket holders and hope that they will continue to attend and enjoy the other cultural shows slated to arrive in Israel throughout 2010.”

Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Santana Management Michael Vrionis said in an official statement:

“We are sorry that our schedule has forced the postponement of certain dates previously scheduled.”

To Be Or Not To Be: Screening “Jenin, Jenin” at Tel Aviv University

The highly controversial film Jenin, Jenin, directed by Palestinian, Mohammad Bakri is being screened at the Tel Aviv University branch of Hadash, this coming Wednesday. Well needless to say many TAU students are vehemently opposed, including the on campus organization, ‘Im Tirtzu’.

Im Tirtzu’s Director-General Amit Barak said:

“As is known, a group of reservists who fought in Jenin and buried their comrades at the end of the fighting filed a civil suit against Bakri for his fallacious film, which slanders and accuses IDF soldiers of executing a massacre and war crimes in Jenin. It has been brought to our attention that Hadash activists plan on screening the film and its fraudulent blood libel as part of an evening of incitement and slander against the State of Israel.”

Students involved with Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to Tel Aviv University President Professor Yosef Klafter:

“We, as students and as a state, must not fall victim to the deceptions and lies of cheaters, in the likes of Mohammad Bakri. The revered principle of freedom of speech has nothing to do with the freedom Bakri took for himself to incite, to make false accusations of blood libels, and to sully IDF soldiers.”

Tel Aviv University issued a response that read:

“We are screening the film. We are acting in accordance with the High Court decision that has authorized the screening of Jenin, Jenin.”

Recently Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided against issuing an indictment for slander against the film’s director. However, Mazuz insisted that he supports the soldiers in their civil suit against Bakri.

Jenin, Jenin, is a 54-minute documentary (featured in its entirety below). It was originally featured at the International Documentary Film festival (IDFA) in Amsterdam, in 2002. Bakri says that the film is about “human suffering as such – about a wounded soul, a demolished home, a felled tree, a picked flower, a broken heart.”

His previous documentary, “1948”, recorded testimonies of the Palestinian collective memory. This one documents the “atrocities” in April 2000, by the IDF in a Jenin refugee camp.

Happy Birthday Hamas

Happy anniversary to Hamas…Has it really been 22 years already? I guess time flies when you are engaging in guerrilla warfare. To mark the event, hundreds of activists and supporters of the terrorist organization in the West Bank were summoned to several branches of the Palestinian Authority, where it was requested of them to sign a document in which they pledge to refrain from public celebration.

Hamas Birth DayThe PA has taken it upon them self to ban celebrating Hamas’ birthday for the last four years. In Nablus alone, more than 600 Hamas supporters and activists were asked to sign the written statement, promising to refrain from participating or organizing public events. Altogether, about 1,500 men and women have been warned that they would be arrested if they broke the ban.

In the past 48 hours, 25 Hamas supporters were arrested in Nablus, Kalkilya, Ramallah and Hebron. Among the arrested was Muhammad Srour, the former mayor of Ni’lin.

Hamas is planning a mass rally in Gaza City on Monday. Obviously this is under Hamas’s own “jurisdiction.”

The decision to ban Hamas celebrations in the West Bank came just a few weeks after the Palestinian Authority banned Fatah supporters from marking the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death.

Let’s Go Out to Dinner and See a Movie

klawansLast week we sent a Mazal Tov to Israeli film director Haim Tabakman, whose flick Eyes Wide Open has won awards in the MedFilm Festival in Rome, as well as the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium. Now I am happy to report more Israeli cinema news.

This time the moving picture entertainment comes to the public under the auspices of one jointly directed project by Yaron Shani Jewish Israeli and Skander Copti an Israeli born Arab. The film is called Ajami. Also we want to tell you about another film that is in a much different vein called Defamation.

ajamiThe joint project will be the first Arabic language film to represent Israel at the Oscars. Shot as a raw documentary, the film is about life in Ajami, a former slum in Jaffa. The documentary portrays the street life of impoverished Israeli Arabs, who are caught on film carrying out brutal mafia-style murders and other crime.

The movie has already won the Israeli Ophir and Wolgin prizes and was even honored with special mention at Cannes.

The other Israeli film to be on the lookout for is “Defamation” by director Yoav Shamir. This documentary is a first-person excursion into the taboo subject of anti-Semitism. The filmmaker explains that it is a phenomenon which he has heard of but never actually witnessed first-hand. The idea of the film is that anti-Semitism matters less today than many Jews care to admit, or would like to believe.

But the film does not actually become quite as cold as that. Instead his aim is examining the moral effect on Diaspora Jews and Israelis, of their fear of anti-Semites. The previous description is more of the way which Shamir teases his audience into watching the film.

The film’s greatest moment and example of anti-Semitism comes from his grandmother in Jerusalem who says, “Jews? They’re nothing but schemers and layabouts…liquor-store owners and interest gougers, too lazy to do any real work but skilled in every sharp practice.”

Mazal Tov to Haim Tabakman

Mazal Tov to Haim Tabakman, an Israeli film director whose first feature-length picture, “Eyes Wide Open” won first prize for the “Eros and Psyche” award at the 15th annual MedFilm festival in Rome, Italy.

“Eyes Wide Open” is an Israeli, German and French co-production. The story is about a kosher butcher who has a homosexual love affair with a young man in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighborhood.

The festival was held on Nov 7-14 and showcased 130 films from countries all around the Mediterranean region.
“Eyes Wide Open” also won the grand prize last month at the 36th Ghent International Film Festival in Belgium.

Trouble in Paradise: The Latest From Al-Haram al-Sharif

Sunday was a day of chaos in Jerusalem’s old-city – which houses the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.
Organized Palestinian protestors stormed the area which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock mosque, famous to Jews as the site of the Temple mount, while a conference by the Jewish National Religious Temple Institute in Jerusalem was underway.

Israeli police in Jerusalem gathered early at the site early in the day, in anticipation of the violent protests, which called for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Things got out of hand when Israeli police were hit with rocks and one Molotov cocktail, thrown by the Muslim rioters. There were reports that even tourists, who always frequent the holy area, were also being attacked with rocks. Palestinian demonstrators also poured oil through the streets to prevent Israeli police from gaining access to the site of the mosque.
In response the Israeli forces stormed the area of the al-Aqsa Mosque, using stun grenades. When the rioting had ended, nine policemen were reported as having suffered light injuries, after being pelted with rocks. Palestinian medical sources said that 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries; and 21 Palestinians were arrested.

Flag Burning by Our Turkish "Fans"According to an article in “The Age”:

The Jordanian Government’s spokesman in Jerusalem has demanded that Israel prevent its soldiers from entering the area known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif because, he said, it desecrated the area.

The Palestinian Authority Minister Hatem Abdel Kader, who is responsible for all PA Jerusalem affairs was arrested, and so was Islamic Movement cleric Ali Abu Shiyahe. Further details are pending on this latest eruption of the world’s Holy volcano.

Meanwhile, today in Turkey, demonstrators gathered to protest Israel’s actions in Sunday’s incident. According to an article in World Bulletin:

“[protesters] gathered in front of 4. Levent Metro station, thousands of people marched to Israeli consulate general. Shouting slogans to condemn Israel, protesters burned the Israeli flag in front of the consulate.”

Mosh Ben Ari – One Perfect Memory

Mosh Ben Ari is an amazing singer. This is from his latest album, its called One Perfect Memory (Zikaron Ehad Mushlam).
Shabbat Shalom 🙂

An Idea for Getting Gilad Shalit Out of Hamas Hell

If you read this blog religiously, or even secularly but often, then you may have noticed that I don’t cover the Gilad Shalit issue all that often. I don’t give updates, and I generally avoid commenting on the topic. There is a reason for this. I assume, and rightly I believe, that the government of Israel does not need any pressure in order to push a deal through for Shalit. In fact, any pressure exerted by any “Free Gilad” campaign is counterproductive and irresponsible.

giladWhen someone has something you very much want, and you have to pay for it dearly, then to have your friends badger you about making a deal to get it just ups the price. The other side sees you are under pressure, and feels it can increase its demands.

Who are the Free Gilad troupe protesting? More precisely, WHAT are they protesting when they march for Gilad’s release? Are they assuming that the sitting government would rather he sit in his hellhole in Gaza?

The force of their protests is quite Orwellian actually. They say they want Gilad’s release, as if anyone in Israel doesn’t. I say, though they want Gilad’s release, that’s not really what they’re protesting. They’re not rallying against Hamas to free him, as if Haniyeh and Zahar cared at all what the Jews want.

What they’re really doing is protesting the government’s reluctance to release murderers. What they really want is the release of terrorists, nothing else. I’m not blaming them for this. But I am saying that if they want this, then they should be brave and say it, out loud, if that’s what they really believe is best. Stop chanting “Free Gilad” as if you’re talking to Hamas, and start chanting “Free the Murderers!” Use the correct language and picket the Prime Minister’s residence with signs that say “Bibi – release murderers NOW!” Granted, it would look odd and arguably embarrassing. But that’s precisely the point. They don’t want to say what they actually want, because what they really want scares them. They’d rather mask it in language that everyone can agree with but few truly understand. That is, “Free Gilad“.

I’m willing to bet that if this government attempted a rescue operation and Gilad was heaven forbid killed, these groups would protest the incompetency of the government, claiming that “wasn’t what they meant” when they chanted “Free Gilad!” I say, if it’s not what you mean, make it clear starting now. Chant in favor of releasing 1,000 murderers, and then at least you are being honest with yourselves and with us.

But here’s my idea. It was reported today in several papers that Israel does indeed know exactly where Shalit is being held. The problem is, the building is surrounded with explosives that will be detonated by remote if soldiers get too close. Now, of course I haven’t worked out a whole plan by any means. But part of what needs to be done in a possible rescue attempt would be to shoot an electromagnetic pulse that would shut down any electronic transmissions in the area, making remote detonation impossible.

They’d have to clear the area of as many terrorists as possible beforehand, and it wouldn’t be easy. I’m willing to admit that it would probably fail. But I think it would be smarter than releasing 1,000 terrorists around Palestinian election time to ensure a Hamas victory and trigger a third intifada, with many more kidnappings in the cards.

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