Those two names signify so many different views, concepts and even worlds, seeming to encapsulate the distinct worldviews that are so much a part of our life, here in Israel.
In a local and very provincial sense these are the names of two roads in Rechavia, the Jerusalem neighbourhood which was built in the 1920s. Today those roads are clogged with traffic for much of the day, and at the point where they meet there used to be a trendy café whose name was the same as the title of this piece. Gaza Street presumably once led south to the physical Gaza Strip, but of course this is no longer the case. Berlin Street was probably so named because many of the area’s initial residents hailed originally from Germany and still yearned for what had once been its culture.
But Gaza and Berlin are both geographical places that have been much in the forefront of Israeli consciousness in recent months, the former because of the fighting that took place there in the summer and the second due to the publicity given to the fact that the cost of living there is much lower than it is in Israel and that many young Israelis have moved there.
Physical Gaza embodies the culture of the Levant, a mindset that seems to oppose everything that Israel stands for, a dense population living in poverty (although some of the leaders there are millionaires) while cultivating a festering antipathy towards Israel, the West and the values they hold dear.
Berlin, by contrast, personifies the heart of Europe, with all that is good and bad in it, embodying both the pinnacle and the nadir of its civilization. Today, reunited Berlin is a thriving, vibrant city that fosters creativity and promotes coexistence between different ethnic, religious and cultural groups. And the living there is easy, so they say.
These are some of the thoughts that occurred to me at the concert the other night as I listened to the world premiere of Aviya Kopelman’s composition, ‘Between Gaza and Berlin.’ This young composer’s specially commissioned work for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra was full of rhythmic sections, some of them accompanied by lyrical passages, others consisting merely of drumming at varying speeds and tempi. Much of the work was characterized by almost jazz-like syncopation, and the programme notes mention the composer’s cooperation with rock as well as Arab musicians. These and other elements certainly showed through in the music, but the overall concept was interesting and invigorating.
And as the above paragraphs show, it certainly set me thinking.