(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is a cold Monday night at the “Winter Noise” festival, a mosaic of cultural happenings that takes place once a week throughout February in Jerusalem, each time in a different area of the city.
I wander the streets wearing a woolly headband to protect my short-haired head from the cold. There are musicians playing under makeshift pergolas and dancers performing in store windows, transformed into moving mannequins.
Cafes offer special deals on beer and sandwiches, and in a bookstore basement, passers-by are creating collages of love letters. Head phoned DJ’s in dimly lit rooms stand behind computer screens, while bodies bob in the semi-darkness. A long line of people huddled in winter coats and hats wait to hear a lecture on journalism in dangerous lands.
In a nearby community center auditorium, Jews and Arabs 'Simply Sing,' in an ongoing project to create dialogue through music.
I approach to the sound of yelling and chanting, and see orthodox men and women holding placards proclaiming 'Jewish women for Jewish men,' and 'Enough assimilation!' They sing 'Am Yisroel Chai.' In their minds, singing together can lead to intermarriage, a situation that to them, is much more severe than ongoing enmity and violence. The singers and the demonstrators stand side-by-side, symbolizing two opposing visions of a heavenly Jerusalem.
Twenty meters from where the orthodox men and women demonstrate, there is a glass-walled dance studio, in which the dancers breathe steam onto the windows, and arch and tilt their bodies, beckoning onlookers forward. I find myself being drawn to them.
Their performance explores the boundaries of our comfort zones. During the performance, they eventually all strip down to their underwear, discarding one piece of clothing after another. The chanting outside serves as an incessant auditory backdrop. One male dancer, who earlier in the performance (while still partially clothed) deeply kissed another man, has a bright pink and yellow tropical scene embroidered on the back of his shorts. The last scene of the show is a nearly-naked, hora-like circle dance, while just outside the studio, the orthodox demonstrators chant their version of ethics. The irony is so extreme that it verges on parody.
This is my earthly Jerusalem, sacred and profane, life lived on endless edges, endless extremes, co-existence and resistance, eternal and ephemeral. Faith, fantasy, fanaticism and fervent belief in infinite, ultimate truths. Noisy indeed, in my ears and in my mind.
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