Leading Israeli artists sign petition urging end to Gaza violence

Barry Davis, The Jerusalem Post, 11/20/12

As the Israel Air Force continues to hit targets inside Gaza, and Palestinian rockets pepper the South of the country, and elsewhere, around 100 leading personalities from the Israeli world of culture and the arts joined a petition to put an end to the violence and begin a dialogue between the sides. The petition is called "We Have to Talk," and the list of well-known figures includes celebrated playwright Yehoshua Sobol, award-winning writer Yoram Kaniuk, internationally acclaimed author Amos Oz, filmmaker David Ofek, Batsheva Dance Company founder Ohad Naharin and author and journalist Yuval Ben-Ami. Ron Arad, a celebrated Israeli designer, artist and architect, also signed the petition. He was not too hopeful the petition will move things along, but felt he had to do something. Sobol said he felt it was the duty of all artists to make their voices heard in such situations. For Ben-Ami, the petition is also a means of getting his voice, and those of like-minded people, out there. Ben-Ami said he was worried about what developments in the South are doing to Israel's moral fiber. "At the moment, we are seeing the almost complete disintegration of the Israeli public's moral standing. When I read a survey that claims 84% of the Israeli public supports this violent and foolish campaign, I am happy that at least a few public figures are willing to stand up to this. There was a similar petition during the Second Lebanon War. The calls are not exactly the same but it is the same spirit."


Some Israel museums hide their art to protect it from rocket attacks

Dan Balilty and Daniel Estrin, Associated Press, 11/19/12

The wine-red walls of the exhibition hall at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art are now bare, like the crime scene of a daring art heist. Tel Aviv's leading art museum, spooked by rocket attacks on Israel's cultural capital, moved nearly 200 works Friday into a rocket-proof safe the size of an auditorium -- including some 100 works by relatives of Flemish Renaissance master Pieter Brueghel the Elder. "Even if there's a very small possibility (of damage), we don't play around," said Doron J. Lurie, senior curator and chief conservator. In the southern city of Ashdod, which has suffered more frequent rocket barrages because of its proximity to Gaza, the curator of the Ashdod Art Museum - Monart Center took down 15 works of leading contemporary Israeli artist Tsibi Geva. On Sunday, he stashed them in a vault four floors underground designed to withstand rocket fire and biological weapons. It was the first time the Ashdod museum had hid its art in the vault since it opened in 2003. Not all museums have rushed to protect their treasures. The Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, which displays Near Eastern antiquities and other art, left its works in place. And, despite one instance of rockets aimed toward Jerusalem that landed south of the city, no extra security precautions have been taken at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the country's central museum housing its most prized antiquities and cultural possessions. "It's business as usual," said director James Snyder.


London theatre steps up security for performances by Israeli dance troupe

Matt Trueman, The Guardian [UK], 11/19/12

[The London dance venue] Sadler's Wells increased security in advance of pro-Palestinian protests planned to coincide with the arrival of Israel's Batsheva Dance Ensemble. The company, who have been touring in the UK since August, have faced a series of protests with 11 performances disrupted in a nationwide campaign called Don't Dance With Israeli Apartheid. At Sadler's Wells, numbers are expected to swell as protesters are joined by those who have been voicing dissent over Israel's recent military strikes on Gaza at the Israeli embassy in London. Staff at the London dance theatre emailed ticket-holders, telling them to expect "groups of peaceful demonstrators" and the possibility of "some form of disruption inside the venue". Campaigners insist the protests are not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government's use of culture to cover human rights abuses and violations of international law. However, Sadler's Wells artistic director Alistair Spalding said: "[We] would never prevent a company performing because of their nationality. We believe in engagement, not disengagement or boycott. Cultural isolation is not a policy that Sadler's Wells believes in." Batsheva's artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly expressed sympathy with the Palestinian people, but in March he dismissed previous protests against the company in the US. "I felt that people were using us as a symbol," he told the New York Times. "It's a publicity stunt for their agenda."


Update: Protests fail to disrupt Batsheva Ensemble's show

Richard Millett on his blog, 11/20/12

The Batsheva Ensemble received a standing ovation at Sadler's Wells last night after an outstanding display of music and dance. Batsheva's Deca Dance show, a collage of impressive pieces, consists of 16 dancers aged between 18 and 24 years-old. The 16 are mainly Israeli although there are dancers from Spain, Russia, America and Japan. Ten minutes into the show, shouts of "Free Palestine" were quickly drowned out by spontaneous audience applause. Security was dotted unobtrusively around the theatre to deter anything more prolonged. Two more similar attempts at disruption took place during the show but they were met with a similar audience response.


Atlanta Jewish Book Festival cancels author's talk on Zionism; uproar follows

Kim Severson, The New York Times, 11/13/12

The Jewish community in the Atlanta area is small, vibrant and close-knit. Relations among the various subgroups have been sometimes cantankerous but largely cordial and supportive. But an appearance [at the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival] by an author who argues for a more liberal look at Zionism [caused] waves of conflict. Peter Beinart, who writes regularly on Jewish politics, was to be one of 52 authors at the popular festival, held by the Marcus Jewish Community Center. But after some members complained, the center canceled his event. "...[We] want the center to always serve as a safe place for honest debate, but we want to balance that against the concerns of our patrons," said Steven Cadranel, president of the center. "No matter what we decided here, the decision was going to have some repercussion either way." He was right. Rabbis criticized the decision during services. Open letters were published in The Jewish Times. "Two cardinal principles of Judaism have been violated: a support of censorship and the public embarrassment of a fellow Jew," wrote Rabbi Philip N. Kranz of the Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs, Ga. He and others vowed to boycott the book festival. Mr. Beinart said he never been met with the response he found in Atlanta. It was surprising, but he is not bitter. "I think the mistake is to think that trying to avoid discussion produces unity. It produces a false sense of unity," he said.


Daniel Barenboim plans academy for Israeli and Arab musicians

Brian Wise, WQXR-FM Blog, 11/19/12

Daniel Barenboim has united Arab and Israeli musicians through his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, an ensemble he co-founded in 1999 with the late Palestinian literary scholar, Edward Said. Now he intends to expand the concept into higher education. The Israeli-Argentine conductor and pianist has announced plans for a conservatory in Berlin geared towards musicians from the Middle East. The academy will comprise training in music, social sciences and international politics, and will be housed in a former warehouse for the Berlin State Opera, where Barenboim is artistic director. About 80 students are expected to attend the Barenboim-Said Academy of Orchestral Studies, all on full scholarships. It is due to open in 2015. Star architect Frank Gehry and acoustic engineer Yasuhisa Toyota have reportedly volunteered to design an 800-seat concert hall named after Pierre Boulez to be part of the facility. The space will host performances by members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Staatskapelle Berlin. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Barenboim said the school's curriculum will be apolitical, even with the inclusion of political subject matter. "We're not involved in political negotiations," he said. "We must simply try to understand and appreciate one another." The German parliament has already approved 20 million euros ($25.5 million) for the academy. An additional eight million euros have been donated by private sponsors.

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