MUSEUM ON the Seam founder and director Raphie Etgar is excited at the prospect of building a new and larger Museum on the Seam just a little over a decade after opening the existing museum directly opposite the Mandelbaum Gate, which from 1948 to 1967 served as the military checkpoint between the Israeli and Jordanian sections of Jerusalem. That historical role was why Etgar chose the original location, where he wanted to create a focal point for dialogue, understanding and coexistence in tandem with a museum for socio-political contemporary art. The exhibitions, which change once a year, relate to both regional and international socio-political issues, combining local and overseas artists – including some from the Arab world who would generally not agree to exhibit at an Israeli gallery.The new museum will also be located on the former dividing line. Etgar is not yet ready to disclose exactly where in the city it will be, but says it will offer a much wider scope for exhibitions and activities than the existing premises. The current museum will not close once the new one is open, but will be retained as a branch of the larger facility.
AVI CHAI Foundation chairman Arthur Fried and his wife Susan were widely congratulated last week – and not just because they had a new granddaughter. Many of the people who turned up for one or more of the events of the Amateur English Theater Festival, which was held during the intermediate days of Pessah, thought it was an absolutely splendid idea for Beit Avi Chai to join forces with Encore Educational Theater Company, JEST, Center Stage Theater, HaHafuch Improvisation Theater, standup comedian Benji Lovitt, Vocal Group Mycale, singer, songwriter and pianist Ben Draiman and Doctor Jazz Band to give English speakers a choice of several entertainment treats, not only in the one week, but in the one evening.Some patrons just kept going from one to another from 6 p.m. onwards. Those who knew the Frieds, and saw one or both of them at any of the productions, were quick to express appreciation. Rafi Poch, the artistic director of the festival, also came in for a lot of positive feedback.Anyone familiar with the size of the stage in the Avi Chai auditorium could not but marvel at how an opera, The Keys to the City, could be performed in such a cramped setting.One witty scene that met with applause and chuckles on the part of a largely British audience was an English lesson given by Bertha Spafford Vester (played by Mikhal Shiff-Matter) of the American Colony Hotel to Hussein Salim al-Husseini (Yaacov Brody) who was mayor of Jerusalem in December 1917, when the British took control of the city and put an end to Turkish rule of the Holy Land. The mayor, who was keen to speak good English, was totally confused by the differences in pronunciation between rough, which rhymes with tough, and other “ough” words such as though, through and bought, and wanted to know why there was no set rule. Their duet was delightful.
The festival also provided an opportunity for many friends, acquaintances and even relatives who hadn’t seen each other for some time to bump into one other – so it had a lot more going for it than just entertainment value.
ONE OF the legendary characters of the Jerusalem of yesteryear was Avram Suramelo, a taxi driver who told such wonderful stories that the literary glitterati of Tel Aviv would flock to the Holy City to hear his tall tales. Suramelo was as much a part of the Jerusalem folklore scene as the Banai family. In fact, the late Yossi Banai wrote a book based on Suramelo’s stories, and other members of the Banai family have also written about him.Now Gavri Banai, Yossi’s younger brother, has written and recorded a song in tribute to Suramelo. The stories told by Suramelo have not disappeared into the dust of time. His grandson Dvir Suramelo is a Jerusalem tour guide who is always happy to share some of the stories told by his fabled grandfather.
NATIONAL BIBLE Quiz champion Avner Netanyahu, who will compete in the international Bible Quiz contest on Independence Day later this month, utilized some of his biblical knowledge during one of the intermediate days of Pessah when he and his older brother Yair, along with their parents Prime Minister Binyamin and Sara Netanyahu and several bodyguards, visited some of the heritage sites in the Jezreel Valley.Avner was quite familiar with the locations that are mentioned in the Bible. The Netanyahu family mingled with other visitors to the area, many of whom were delighted to be able to personally convey holiday greetings to the PM and shake his hand. It was certainly much warmer than the reception he had received before Pessah at the White House.
KEHILATH JESHURUN, a 138-year-old modern Orthodox congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is closely involved with the State of Israel. Its spiritual leader, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, brings large groups of congregants to Israel at least twice a year, and makes sure that a Shabbat or a Jewish holiday is spent in Jerusalem. The group of some 120 people that he brought with him for Pessah conducted its own services at the David Citadel Hotel, where it was staying, as did many other groups staying in the hotel.In fact there were so many prayer meetings, there was no room at the inn – at least as far as meeting and reception rooms were concerned – for any more. The scarcity of meeting rooms was such that Lookstein’s group, which checked out on the first of the intermediate days of the festival for Diaspora Jews, had to meet for prayer in the aerobics room, because nowhere else in the hotel was available.
THE NATURE of official Mimouna celebrations changed somewhat this year because Sam Ben Chetrit, the chairman of the World Federation of Moroccan Jews, happens to be an intellectual who is aghast at how the spirit of the festival has become distorted. Of course there were thousands of people who went as usual to public parks for massive barbecues and belly dancing, but two of the three official events under the auspices of the Federation took place at major Jerusalem facilities.
On Monday night people flocked to the Pavilion in Talpiot and on Tuesday to Binyanei Ha’Uma. From a political standpoint, the key Mimouna event on Monday night was in Maale Adumim, where a series of ministers and MKs declared that regardless of any final settlement with the Palestinians Maale Adumim would always remain under Israeli sovereignty. Among the ministers and parliamentarians who came to demonstrate support for Maale Adumim were Dan Meridor, Yuli Edelstein, Yossi Peled, Ayoub Kara, Miri Regev, Tzipi Hotovely, Majali Whbee, Arieh Eldad and Otniel Schneller.“We’re here to stay,” declared Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, indicating that no amount of American pressure would take Maale Adumim off the map.Meanwhile Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who joined in the Fahima family’s celebrations in Or Akiva, announced that construction in Jerusalem would continue.One tradition that didn’t change was the huge Mimouna reception hostedon Monday night by former MK Rafi Elul and his wife Ofra at their homein Mazkeret Batya, where Elul was once mayor. The guest list has alwaysincluded cabinet ministers and Knesset members, and here and there aprime minister also dropped by to taste themoufletas.In former years, the Mimouna was a political forum dominated to a largeextent by members of the Labor Party. These days it’s more of anational holiday. President Shimon Peres, who always attends the Eluls’Mimouna celebrations, because both husband and wife are not onlyfriends but are also closely connected to the Peres Peace Center,dropped in briefly at the Mimouna event at the Pavilion in Jerusalemand then continued to Maskeret Batya.Also at the Jerusalem event were Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, whomPeres had visited at his home on Sunday, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
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