Dis­solv­ing Jerusalem’s di­vi­sive bound­aries

Half a cen­tury on from the Six Day War, a cul­ture fes­ti­val at­tempts to bring to­gether a flour­ish­ing, di­verse pop­u­la­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY RE­BECCA SWIRSKY

EM­PA­THY WAS at the cen­tre of this year’s Mekudeshet, the Jerusalem cul­tural fes­ti­val, as the city con­tem­plates the prospects for Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace in the 50th an­niver­sary of the Six Day War.

Now in its sev­enth sea­son, Mekudeshet con­veyed a pro­gres­sive fo­cus through mu­sic, food and art that ac­knowl­edged the city’s many dif­fer­ent re­al­i­ties.

The tone of the fes­ti­val, which ran from late Au­gust un­til the mid­dle of Septem­ber, is cap­tured in a two-minute film, “Open Jerusalem”. It fea­tures a kalei­do­scope of images: Has­sidic boys and Pales­tinian girls, Cop­tic Ortho­dox Chris­tians and club­bers, Is­raeli flags and Pales­tinian flags, Su­fis and drag queens, black and white, gay and straight — all jux­ta­posed against a stir­ring sound­track.

Or­gan­is­ers say the video pro­motes “a new con­ver­sa­tion in the back­drop of the 50th an­niver­sary of the Six Day War”. With thou­sands of views on­line, its suc­cess is clear.

“A new voice is com­ing from Jerusalem that no longer lives by left and right. That came to a dead end,” said Itay Maut­ner, the video’s artis­tic di­rec­tor.

“Jerusalem is more com­pli­cated – now it is about open and closed. You can be an open-minded Charedi and a closed-minded left wing Jew. Our nar­ra­tives can co-ex­ist without deny­ing, eras­ing, negat­ing or den­i­grat­ing.”

An­other fea­ture of this year’s fes­ti­val was the or­gan­ised tours across Jerusalem’s many dis­tricts. Th­ese fourhour trips helped peo­ple con­nect with re­mark­able in­hab­i­tants across the city – right or left-wing, re­li­gious or sec­u­lar, East or West, Pales­tinian or Is­raeli – through their work and the ex­tra­or­di­nary steps they take to bring about change.

Mekudeshet calls th­ese in­hab­i­tants “bound­ary dis­solvers” and the tours to meet them were a great suc­cess: a thou­sand tick­ets quickly sold out.

The bound­ary dis­solvers in­ter­viewed by this news­pa­per of­fered a freer, more em­pathic vi­sion of their city: they be­lieve that in di­ver­sity flour­ishes hu­man­ity and in dif­fer­ence thrives com­mon­al­ity.

As Maut­ner said: “An open com­mu­nity is emerg­ing. Jerusalem does not be­long to any­body. We are all guests.”


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