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
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.”
Backgammon helped bond participants