Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem Film Festival’

Israeli Culture Explosion Snuffed Out by Real Blasts

July 10, 2014

This piece first appeared on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

Maybe Next Year: Contact Point, which in previous years attracted 5,000 attendees, has been postponed. Photo Credit: Barak Aharon

Maybe Next Year: Contact Point, which in previous years attracted 5,000 attendees, has been postponed. Photo Credit: Barak Aharon

JERUSALEM – Usually, there is an explosion of culture in Jerusalem in the summer. But with Hamas striking Israel with hundreds of rockets and missiles daily, popular arts events in the country’s capital have had to be cancelled or postponed.

When the current war with Hamas broke out early Tuesday, Jerusalemites were not particularly fearful of rockets landing in their city. While one or two sirens went off in Jerusalem during Operation Pillar of Defense in late 2012, the capital was largely spared from missile fire. However, when the wailing siren sounded and was followed by three explosions on Tuesday night, residents realized that things may actually be different this time.

Within minutes of the attack on Jerusalem, authorities ordered that the concert by Israeli rocker Berry Sakharof taking place that evening at the outdoor Sultan’s Pool venue just outside the walls of the Old City be stopped and its 6,000 attendees immediately evacuated.

Large outdoor gatherings, which are traditional during cool Jerusalem summer evenings, are problematic security-wise at a time like this. People have at most a minute and a half to reach shelter when a air raid siren goes off, making it difficult — if not impossible — to hold such events safely.

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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

The Old Man In The Garden

May 27, 2011

Neal Levy, left, with his boss, the legendary Teddy Kollek in 1993.

I can’t let this day pass without acknowledging the fact that it marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Teddy Kollek, the legendary former mayor of Jerusalem, whose persona, more than anyone else’s in history (with the exception, perhaps, of King David’s), is most tightly intertwined with that city. He died on January 2, 2007.

Born in Hungary on May 27, 1911, he was named by his Zionist parents for Theodore Herzl. After growing up in Vienna, he and his family made aliyah to what was then British Mandate Palestine, where he was a founder of Kibbutz Ein Gev. In the 1940s he got involved with The Jewish Agency and the Hagannah, and the rest was history, as they say, in terms of his political career. In addition to leading the Israeli capital for an unmatched 6 terms, from 1965 to 1993, the internationally recognized Kollek was founder of the Jerusalem Foundation, which has raised huge amounts of funding for projects that have changed the face of the city and the quality of life for all its residents.

Kollek always seemed to me, as he did to so many others, to be larger than life. While in graduate school at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I wrote a major paper on him (its title, as I recall, was “Teddy Kollek and Jerusalem: A Symbiosis”). My professor, the well-known political scientist Yaron Ezrahi, didn’t give me a top grade on it, remarking that it read far too much like a laudatory PR booklet than an analytical piece of critical research. Apparently, I was too dismissive of the viewpoints of the mayor’s detractors. What could – and can – I say? I was probably guilty as charged.

I did have the opportunity once of seeing Kollek in person. It’s just too bad that this chance to meet someone of his stature was squandered on my youth. I was 17-years-old at the time. At some point during the 6-week Gadna pre-army program I was on, we met with Kollek in a garden somewhere in Jerusalem. Not fully appreciative at the time of who he was, I remember sitting exhausted on the ground, trying to listen to what this old man seated on a chair among us was saying, but probably spending more energy on just trying to keep my eyes open as the midday summer sun beat down on my weary head.

My colleague Neal Levy, on the other hand, had the privilege of working for Kollek as the West Coast Regional Director of the Jerusalem Foundation. Today, he shared with me a photo of him with Kollek taken in June 1993 at the home of Norman Lear. Kollek was in L.A. hobnobbing with Hollywood bigwigs in an effort to fundraise for the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Jerusalem Film Festival and the newly established Jerusalem Film and Television School (now referred to as the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television).

I, too, have a photo of Kollek from that summer back in the mid-1980s, when to me he was just an old man sitting in a garden telling stories to a bunch of teenagers. It’s in an album stored away somewhere in my garage. I should go and look for it.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.