Originally published 2007
In Eurovisionland, things like this aren’t supposed to happen.
In Eurovisionland everybody is smiling, all songs are catchy, and boom boom bingabang is a challenging lyric. This year, it’s all going to be different. And it’s all Israel’s fault.
The Eurovision Song Contest is Europe’s leading annual song contest, drawing huge numbers of viewers, and the continent’s greatest musical talent. Every country selects their own favorite original song, and sends off their hero to compete for the crown of the best song in Europe that year. Unlike X Factor, the emphasis here is on the song-writing itself, and not necessarily on the performer.
Image by Neil Mercer
I would like to talk about the L word.
It is a word that went out of fashion many moons ago for many people, but it still lives in our relationships. To Full Post
Some eighty years ago this discourse arose about whether an artist’s creation stands on its own without reference to the beliefs of the artist – with the refusal of the Israeli Philharmonic to play the compositions of Richard Wagner.
On 12th November 1938 the Philharmonic Orchestra had planned to perform “Lohengrin”. Since Kristallnacht had taken place only three days previously, the conductor Eugene Shenkar decided not to play Wagner. This was not an official or institutional decision: Just the gut feeling of the conductor and the fellow members of the orchestra about the connection between Wagner and the Nazi Party. There were no anti-Semitic lyrics, or anti-Jewish names of the works. The Philharmonic decided not to play the works because of their human connection. Since then the Israeli Philharmonic has never played Wagner in a publicized event. To Full Post
Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”
It would seem that the gusts of wind currently swirling through the Hillel environment are throwing up a similar assumption and a similar question. The assumption is that Hillel is someone’s home which visitors are welcome to enrich but not to change. And there is a hanging question as to what might knock us off our feet?
A fascinating and healthy discourse has emerged over National Hillel’s guidelines for Israel programming on campus. We at Makom have been following the discourse with great interest. As key advisors to the Hillel-Jewish Agency Israel Engaged Campus initiative, as seasoned practitioners of complex dialogue on Israel throughout the Jewish community, and as consultants to Jewish organizations around the world on exactly the same issue of guidelines and red lines – we’ve noticed a few anomalies and a few opportunities. To Full Post
My favorite character from the Chazal period, the Rabbis of the first and second century, is Rabbi Meir. He was a smart cookie. He was married to a strong and smart woman, and was an original thinker. At the same time, his superior intellect made him slightly suspect in the eyes of his contemporaries. It was said, (admiringly or disapprovingly) that he could argue a point of law one way, and then argue it equally fluently the other way. When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.
When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.
Meir’s most famous moral and intellectual choice was in his ongoing friendship with R. Elisha Ben Avuya. Ben Avuya had been the top scholar of his generation until he lost his faith and was excommunicated. In the moral universe of Chazal, to renounce one’s faith was disgraceful. Like being a child abuser in our days. In the Talmud his name was obliterated, his teachings were accredited to “the other”, and no one was allowed to come near him, let alone study with him. R. Meir, my hero, totally ignored this ban. He continued to study with his old friend and teacher, arguing: “When one eats a pomegranate, one can spit out the seeds yet still gain sustenance from the juice.” Quite apart from the fact that this is actually more difficult that it sounds (ever tried it?), it is also more morally complicated than Meir admitted. To Full Post
In 2013 Makom was commissioned by Pears Foundation to research and write a report into Israel Education taking place in the UK Jewish community.
You are invited to read the entire report here, and join the facebook page discussing the report here.
Below are the five recommendations we offered in the executive summary of the report:
1. Rethinking the Israel-engaged Jew
There is a lack of understanding as to what we are aiming toward. Why does Israel matter to Jewish life? What are our ultimate goals? Israel Education in the UK is an interwoven eco-system, that can be best influenced when driven by a rigorous ongoing sophisticated process of goals articulation.
Establish a think-tank process for leaders to develop their dynamic and evolving definition of the ideal “graduates” of Israel Education. This will act as the North Star for all ensuing enterprises, aiming not for a lowest common denominator but for the highest common factor in Israel educational endeavours.
2. Realising Israel Tour
The place of Israel Tour in the eco-system of Israel Education should be recalibrated to acknowledge changes in Israel and in Jewish life for 16 years olds in the UK.
Rather than relating to Israel Tour as the primary hook on which to hang our Israel Education hopes, we recommend the development of a range of interventions, of which the Israel Tour would be a fundamental component. Israel Tour should then act as the anchoring experience for a broad range of Israel education interventions, including a flagship Israel education festival for pre-University students.
3. Reimagining Long-term Immersive Programmes in Israel
The dramatic fall in the numbers of Israel Gap Year participants is extremely serious, bringing with it long-term damage to the future leadership of the community.
We recommend convening an incubator process involving all stakeholders, to seriously and fundamentally alter the nature and structure of Long-term Programmes in Israel. This incubator would include a Summit, where participants would thrash out a radical approach to long-term programmes according to what we call the 4 c’s – Convictions, Connections, Content, and Conversation.
4. Embracing the vibrant complexity of Israel
Complexity tends to be approached with trepidation, through the lens of politics in the public Jewish discourse. We would instead recommend galloping towards complexity with the energy of the arts and public celebrations.
- a. Celebration Recommendation
The inauguration of an Israel Festival, that empowers people and groups in the community to celebrate NGOs in Israel that inspire them and give them hope for Israel’s future, while reinvigorating the language of Partnership.
- b. Arts Recommendation:
The community should work to maximize the multi-dimensional role that Israeli arts can play throughout the community’s interactions with Israel, presenting Israel’s complexities in inspiring ways. Educational opportunities abound, but are as yet to be taken up. To this end we recommend the creation of the position of an Israel Arts and Education Coordinator.
5. Enhancing professional capacity
To enable the adoption and creative implementation of the visions that are articulated as a consequence of Recommendation 1, there is a need for a portfolio for Israel Education Training and Development. Teachers and youth and community educators need the professional opportunities to expand their own knowledge, develop their own educational stances, and create and use programming that speaks to the sophisticated ideas and realities of contemporary Israel. This function would coordinate and expand training opportunities, and would also lead the drive for the creation of a GCSE in Israel Studies.
Are HaDag Nahash coming to perform for you?
Why not make sure that everyone enjoys their lyrics as well as their music?
All you need to do is set up a screen above the stage, a computer projector, and download these powerpoints…
Then all you need is someone who is a fan of the band, whose Hebrew is as good as their English, and who has a spare finger to keep clicking…. You can find a few more tips here in our section on booking Israeli bands.
Two more things:
- Please keep our logos on the slides – we’re not asking for any payment, just acknowledgment.
- Find out more about HaDag Nahash from their official site, here.
In late November, as part of the Jewish Agency’s Assembly, Makom hosted a fascinating conversation between former UK Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, and historian and writer Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger. Hosted by Yonatan Ariel, the conversation turned out to be a highly-enjoyable and intelligent meeting of two very different intellectuals – one orthodox, one secular; one male, one female; one British, one Israeli.
Along with the heart-felt tributes to Arik Einstein, there has been a fascinating undercurrent of emotional hoarding on the part of some Israelis. Assuming that no one outside of Israel has ever heard of Arik Einstein or any of his songs, they then make a further assumption that it is their job to explain what he and his music meant. Yet after this double-assumption, everything closes down. Writes Israeli-born Liel Leibovitz: “I have nothing to say to you about Arik Einstein. I’m sorry to sound like a prick, but you wouldn’t get it.” It’s an extreme comment, but sums up a prevailing sentiment. Those non-Israelis, they won’t get it.
There is something rather beautiful and also sad about this kind of response. The character and the music of Arik Einstein made its impact in the way the best of art should: Through our hearts. His music touched millions, each of whom received it as if created for them alone. This is the paradoxical magic of art. As a result, when feeling his loss, it is a personal emotional loss that – when we are sad – we sometimes fight to “own”. “You wouldn’t get it,” is a perfect way to maintain the purity and unique authenticity of my pain. To Full Post
Jerusalem has been a-popping with assemblies and conferences. The Assembly of the Jewish Agency for Israel overlapped with the General Assembly of Jewish Federations (GA), which fed into the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency… A real party!
Makom was highly involved in all these gatherings, and as well as working like dogs, we also learned a few fascinating lessons…
1. We were surprised that non-Israelis were surprised that Israelis are engaged on meaningful journeys of Jewish Identity.
Yes, that’s right – a double surprise. At the session we ran at the GA on the Jewish identity of Israelis, we decided to take multi-vocality to its ultimate conclusion. Instead of having a panel of a few Israelis, we invited over 27 Israelis involved in all sorts of different Jewish identity questions, and sat them around small discussion tables. That way everyone would hear at least three different stories. From the head of a Secular Yeshiva, to the leader of a group of Orthodox gay men, to the orthodox woman working for the New Israel Fund. People from the far North, deep South, trendy center. People born in Israel and born elsewhere. All of them engaged and committed to expanding their own and other Israelis’ Jewish horizons. To Full Post