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Once upon a time, or so we are told, before radio and TV became omnipresent in our lives, we'd spend our evenings sitting around chatting and, often, telling and retelling stores. Life was lived at a gentler pace then, but if Beit Ariella in Tel Aviv has any say in the matter, those days may at least partly be making a comeback.
All week, the organization's first Storytellers Conference will offer the chance to sit back and enjoy a good yarn or two about all manner of subjects, with a wide range of musical entertainment thrown in for good measure.
The festival kicked off Monday with "Dancing in the Streets of Jerusalem," a session devoted to the work of the late Yiddish and Hebrew writer Yossel Berstein, who wrote numerous tales about Jerusalem. His granddaughter, Yael Inbar, was among the event's five storytellers.
The agenda of the five-day event leaves almost no known subject untouched, with one of today's sessions featuring a six-member storytelling team that will venture into landmine-strewn territory with "Mother-in-law Stories." The "I Could Only Talk about Myself" session will feature a 13-person team of raconteurs sharing some of their most intimate personal experiences with the general public.
If you really want to grab the public's attention, of course, it helps to serve some food. Wednesday's "Talking and Eating" session will involve seven storytellers preparing a meal as they speak, with the stories timed to end as dessert is served.
Music is another way to upgrade an entertainment event, and there will be plenty of that to be had throughout the week. Shlomo Bar and members of veteran band Habreira Hativit will perform Thursday evening, with classical music and jazz to be performed separately as well.
Bar's band will provide the musical backdrop for what may be the most intriguing session of the conference, the "Beyond the Border" session revolving around stories about neighborly relations. Those relations, as the event program puts it, include those "between neighbors, enemies and friends, Jews and Arabs, and more."
One of the participants in the "Beyond the Border" session is Yoram Tuito, who has been formally involved in storytelling as both a student and practitioner for the past three years. He feels that traditional storytelling is making a return, citing Holon's annual Storytellers Festival as evidence. "I think a lot of people want to slow the pace of their lives down," says Tuito. "I come from a large Algerian family, and I remember lots of stories from my childhood. These days we don't have time for anything, despite all the technological gadgets that are supposed to make our lives easier. I think that if, from time to time, we stopped to listen to a story, we'd find life a lot more manageable."
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