Grapevine: coffee and culture

The Culture Ministry has taken up Tmol Shilshom's "Meet the Writer" concept, and this week it's spreading all over the country.

cup of coffee_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cup of coffee_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Patrons of Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom coffee shop and restaurant have long been familiar with the concept of Meet the Writer. From its very beginnings, Tmol Shilshom has fostered such meetings with readings of prose and poetry, as well as lectures by both leading and upcoming writers – and not only those who write in Hebrew. The Culture Ministry has taken up this concept and as of this week, it’s spreading all over the country, with one essential difference – the focus is entirely on Hebrew-language writers. The coffee- shop meetings that began on Sunday will continue until the end of June, with the final meeting scheduled for June 29 at the Yael Coffee Shop in Sderot with Ophir Tusha Gafla.
All in all, these literary meetings will be held in close to 40 cities, towns and villages from the far north to the far south. Among the participating writers are Dan Toren, Yehudit Rotem, Sammy Bardugo, Avirama Golan, Yoram Kaniuk, Orly Castel Blum, Nir Baram, Nissim Calderon, Ram Orion, Eshkol Nevo, Emuna Eilon, Nurit Zarhi and Zeruya Shalev. The cherry on the cake is Amos Oz. As he is expected to attract a very large audience, he will meet the public in the Arad Municipal Library on June 13.
Writing in the first issue of the new Jewish Quarterly of the Shir Hadash congregation, founding rabbi Ian Pear, in an adaptation from his Shabbat Hagadol sermon, reveals that he recently became a global citizen. In search of an affordable graphic artist to design a new logo for Shir Hadash, he came across a website that “puts out to bid” various projects to freelancers throughout the world. The client gets to view all these bids and then decides on the best one. To his surprise, the project Pear offered – the design of a new logo for an Israeli-based Jewish religious institution – garnered tremendous response.
Two things in particular surprised him. First, the bids were incredibly low. There were professionals in India, individuals with college degrees, some with second degrees even, willing to work for him until he was satisfied for about $25. “Heck, in Israel, I can’t even get someone to work for me ‘until I’m almost not totally unsatisfied’ for double that amount,” wrote Pear.
The second thing that surprised him was the tremendous diversity of the respondents. In addition to many responses from India, there were also responses from Pakistan, Latvia, Estonia, Italy, Mexico and England among others, with England being the most expensive. But the most fascinating response, he says, was from Egypt. “He [the graphic artist] saw that I’m Israeli (in fact, next to my name, the website placed a large Israeli flag), he saw that I’m Jewish and he saw that I was asking to have work done for a synagogue among other things. Did he flinch? Not at all. ‘Shalom’ he wrote me. ‘I’m not sure you’d be willing to hire an Egyptian, but if you would, I promise I’d do a great job. I’d love to work for you!’”
Pear was moved. He had always harbored negative feelings towards Egypt, partly because the Children of Israel had been slaves in ancient Egypt and partly because modern Egypt waged war against nascent Israel. But this uplifting note from a total stranger caused him to think about the positive effects of the forces of globalization.
That kind of reasoning got him thinking about the Exodus. What was the situation then? Was it simply Pharaoh the dictator running the show while the average Egyptian and the average Jew actually get along? Or was the anti-Semitism introduced by Pharaoh actually a national pastime? The article does not reveal whether the Egyptian respondent got the job.
Should organizations with a haredi leadership take the sensitivities of the haredi community into account when planning functions?
From recent events, it is obvious that many don’t, as a result of which there are occasional ructions or other forms of negative reaction that could have been avoided. Case in point was the May 5 ceremony at Binyenei Ha’uma celebrating 100 years of Clalit health services. Guests of honor were President Shimon Peres and Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman. The key entertainer was Rita, who had been scheduled to sing after the speeches so that Litzman, whose degree of observance does not permit him to listen to a woman singing at any time nor to listen to music during the period of the counting of the Omer, could leave as soon as the speeches were over.
Organizers had taken this into account, but Peres was seemingly unaware of the fact that Litzman could not remain in the hall if Rita was singing. Because he had to leave almost immediately after giving his own address, Peres asked that Rita sing before he made his speech. Litzman excused himself to the president and left.