Kinder Sculpture

 

Dec 2003 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Anyone opening the newspapers or watching the news in England or anywhere else tends to think that Israelis live in a perpetual state of tension, with people constantly being blown up on buses and in restaurants. For that reason many potential tourists, even Jews, who should know better, have refrained from visiting Israel in the last few years.

Although there is some truth in that view, it is far from being the whole picture. People get up in the morning and go to work or school in Israel much as they do anywhere else in the world (only the weather is usually better). Where I work there have always been guards at the entrance, but that is as much because of what the central bank contains as to preserve the lives of its employees. In the daytime people toil in offices and factories, shops and banks. In the evenings they can see alarming stories on television about riots in Bolivia, racism in the British police force, or any other news item that has been selected by editors to be given prominence that night.

News programmes must, by their nature, seize on terrible and unusual events in order to fill their hourly, daily or weekly slot or column inches. And terrorist attacks on civilians certainly fall into that category. Yet daily life in Israel is quite different from the picture portrayed by scenes of shattered buses and screaming ambulances.

There are many aspects of life in Israel which are not given prominence but occupy an equally important place in the lives of people here. The cultural life of the major Israeli towns is comparable with that of any large European city. A plethora of concerts, exhibitions and plays cater for a wide range of tastes. There are currently at least three symphony orchestras offering concerts almost every night in Jerusalem, where I live, and many more chamber ensembles of various kinds. Numbers of people sing in choirs, participate in amateur dramatic societies, attend lectures or go to classes on any subject under the sun. The Hebrew professional theatre is flourishing, and plays are put on almost nightly in the Jerusalem and Khan Theatres. In addition to the Israel Museum, which provides permanent and changing exhibitions, museums and art galleries offer exhibitions to meet a variety of tastes. Cinemas and clubs provide another popular form of entertainment. Tel Aviv likes to think of itself as culturally more advanced than Jerusalem, and that may be true, but Jerusalem has certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

One outstanding cultural event is the Choral Music Festival held in the village of Abu Ghosh, just outside Jerusalem, three or four times a year. Most of the concerts are given in the church, which has excellent acoustics. The audience consists primarily of Jews but there is also a sprinking of Christians and Muslims, all coming to listen to (mainly Christian) music. The church is situated in an Arab village whose denizens welcome patrons to their restaurants and cafes. This constitutes just one of those gems of coexistence which are more common in Israel than is generally believed, but which of course are not deemed newsworthy.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

previous article:Central Office for Holocaust Claims
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