Each year, our Speaking Art Conference for Jewish and Arab professionals in the performing arts gets better and better. This year, the 8th annual conference opened on November 16, which was also International Tolerance Day, and was held for two days at the Jerusalem International YMCA, the Beit Masia Theater and the Vertigo Studios at the Blaustein Civic Center. About 70 Jewish and Arab artists came together from all over Israel. This year, for the first time, 70% of the participants came from the Jerusalem area, the highest it’s ever been.
We’d like to thank the Dear Foundation and the Jerusalem Foundation for their ongoing support of the conference. The conference started with a workshop led by social activist Elad Vazana and renowned American choreographer Donald Byrd, followed by a guest workshop with famous singer Achinoam Nini (aka Noa) and guitarist Gili Dor. As part of the workshop, the participants engaged in a discussion with Nini and Dor about using music as a tool for dialogue between the Arabs and Jews.
After the opening, the conference participants engaged in either music, theater or dance workshops led by professional artists in their respective fields. In the workshops, the participants not only had the opportunity to take part in professional enrichment, but were also able to unite with their Jewish and Arab colleagues to learn from them and to create dialogue through art and creativity.
The Jerusalem YMCA hosted the music workshop led by composer, musician and singer Sameer Makhoul. The group played a variety of songs together and explored other cultures through the songs.
The theater workshop was held at Beit Masia in conjunction with Jerusalem’s Psik Theater. Led by Hisham Suleiman, a director, actor, playwright and founder of the Nazareth Fringe Theater, and Shmuel Hadjes, actor and founder of Psik, the participants developed short pieces based on personal stories of conflict, discussing everyday encounters between Jews and Arabs.
The movement and dance workshop was hosted by the Vertigo dance group at the Gerard Behar Blaustein Civic Center, and was led by Ilanit Tadmor, a professional dancer and teacher of improvisation and composition. Donald Byrd, Tony Award nominee and Bessie Award winner, participated in the conference as part of his research project at the Foundation for Jewish Culture, in which he is studying the role of the performing arts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
As part of the Conference, two concerts were open to the public. The first took place at Beit Masia and featured the Jewish performers Achinoam Nini and Gili Dor together with Arab dancer Mona Mashi’l. The conference closed with a performance by well-known Arab singer Amal Murkus to an audience of 500 a new record for closing concert attendance.
Here is a link to a short film taken at the rehearsal for the concert.
We are especially proud of the ongoing activities that have sprouted as a result of Speaking Art. The first is the Jewish – Arab theater group that meets at the Jerusalem International YMCA, Freeze, which was started by Speaking Art ‘graduates’ in 2009. Also of special mention is a core of some 6 musicians who continued to meet in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem after the 2010 conference. Instances of additional cooperative work that have resulted from this past Speaking Art conference include:
- Achinoam Nini and Mona Mashi’l are exploring possibilities of working together further.
- The director of the Jewish – Arab Center in Jaffa is seeking to work with the music group that formed at Speaking Art.
- The Jewish-Arab music ensemble, Na’am, is seeking to add musicians from the music group to its ranks.
- The Jewish and Arab facilitators of the theater group, Shmulik Hadjes and Hisham Suleiman, have met to discuss further work together as well.
Some of our participants’ feedbacks:
“It was the best Speaking Art conference yet”
“Thank you for creating this conference, which provides an excellent platform for acquaintance and mutual activity! May we continue having dialogue and making art in the coming years!!!”
“Many thanks to you at the Jerusalem Intercultural Center and your partners: Dear Foundation, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Jerusalem International YMCA for holding this conference. For Jews and Arabs who wish to listen and cooperate it was a blissful event”.
“This time the event was so much emotional for me that I found myself crying while watching some of the acts. The workshop with Samir was fantastic and the live performances were phenomenal! The standard of the conference this year was highest than ever. Bless you!”
“I want to express my appreciation to the center’s staff. The big effort put into the conference is very evident. Well done!”