The ninth annual Sha'ar International Poetry Festival (SIPF) opens in Tel Aviv on October 29 and, over three days, is set to celebrate a wealth of meaning. Drawing on the Hebrew for 'gate' and Arabic for 'poetry', it is in this spirit that the festival has taken upon itself to open poetic gates to thought, beauty and dialogue.
Poets from conflict zones around the world - such as Korea, Iraq, China, Tibet, Cyprus, Bosnia and Northern Ireland - have been invited to the festival to share their work and experiences. Exploring core concepts of 'dialogue', 'the other' and 'involvement', the festival reflects voices that rise out of oppression and misery in various social frameworks.
"The festival theme was ushered in by the Gaza war that broke out earlier this year. We tried to consider it an opportunity to make the voices of poets and intellectuals heard, as a counterbalance to the politics of fear" said festival organizers.
Each of the festival sessions is dedicated to various aspects of conflicts in the world, society, family and culture. Difficult and tragic stories will be exposed first-hand, ranging from a foreign worker or an abused child, to a troubled couple or children from the periphery. In five conceptual sessions titled 'Political Poetry', 'Hatred and Fear', 'Talk to Me', 'Field Rations and 'Make Love Not War', various aspects of conflict and means of reconciliation will also be brought to the fore.
"Although conflicts between nations, religions or ethnic and political groups are often emotionally charged, they must not be ignored and evaded" continued organizers.
The festival will open with a gathering of poets and intellectuals for an alternative commemoration for Nobel Peace Prize winner Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose assassination fourteen years ago symbolized the clash between the path of war and the path of hope.
One of the events during the festival will be a performance of "Seven Jewish Children", a short play by British playwright Caryl Churchill, with the participation of Sarah von Schwartze and Rami Hoyberger, whose writing was influenced by the war in Gaza. Since the play was released, it has created international controversy and was protested by Jewish groups throughout America and Europe who claimed it was antisemitic. Churchill, however, describes it as "the history of the state of Israel."
Yechezkel Lazarov's movie Lashabiyya will also be featured at the festival. The film examines the way in which violence, militarism and memory penetrate the schoolyard and blend with children's games, so that in hindsight it's difficult to differentiate between them.
On the music front, the band "System Ali" will be performing. This hip-hop ensemble sings in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English, the collective mother-tongues of its members. The band was created in 2006 in a public bomb shelter in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood.
The festival is run by the Helicon Society for the Advancement of Poetry in Israel and will take place at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa and Tel Aviv's Municipal GLBT Community Center. All festival's events are free.
For more info on the festival visit www.helicon.org.il