Jewish world

The five-day TLV in LDN fes­ti­val in the English cap­i­tal is Is­rael’s gam­ble that un­der­stand­ing the coun­try’s cul­tural face will turn the tide against BDS

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • NOA AMOUYAL The writer was a guest of the fes­ti­val.

As hun­dreds of thirty-some­things swayed to the pul­sat­ing beats of the In­fected Mush­room duo Fri­day night in Lon­don’s Round­house Theatre, lit­tle did they know they were tak­ing part in a bold, new and pos­i­tive ap­proach to com­bat­ing Is­rael dele­git­imiza­tion. As one of the most touted acts in the TLV in LDN fes­ti­val, the pop­u­lar Is­raeli per­form­ers were part of the largest cul­tural ex­change Is­rael has had with a for­eign coun­try.

The fes­ti­val, which spanned five days across mul­ti­ple venues in the city, show­cased the di­ver­sity of Is­rael; renowned con­cert pi­anist Gil Sho­hat, Dana In­ter­na­tional and Is­raeli/Pales­tinian singer/song­writer Mira Awad are just some ex­am­ples of Is­raeli artists who de­cided to spend the bet­ter part of the week be­ing cul­tural am­bas­sadors to Is­rael.

“There are so many artists in Is­rael, but we wanted to choose the ones that are renowned around the world. Un­like Shlomo Artzi, who would at­tract Is­raelis and Jews, we wanted names we know will at­tract peo­ple from all over,” Tali Tzemach, the TLV in LDN artis­tic di­rec­tor, said.

It was a strat­egy that paid off as the crowd at the In­fected Mush­room per­for­mance and the TLV “beach” party that fol­lowed felt like the UN in a night­club. Pol­ish, Ital­ian and, of course, English were some of the voices that were heard in be­tween songs.

“I think it’s re­ally cool,” Valentina, an Ital­ian liv­ing in Lon­don, said when asked what she thought of com­ing to an Is­raeli fes­ti­val. “You al­ways hear of DJs from Amer­ica or Lon­don, so it’s great to sup­port some­one from a smaller, lesser-known coun­try.”

And it is ex­actly peo­ple like Valentina that the fes­ti­val hoped to tar­get.

“BDS is not the cen­tral el­e­ment here,” Strate­gic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Gi­lad Er­dan told The Jerusalem Post. “We’re cop­ing with the boy­cott bat­tle, but this is about a greater is­sue: how does the next gen­er­a­tion re­late to Is­rael? Are we a coun­try that is al­ways just as­so­ci­ated with mil­i­tary con­flict or are we a coun­try that has a rich, joy­ful cul­ture that is ex­tremely var­ied and di­verse?”

Talk of the fes­ti­val be­gan over two years ago, when for­mer Bri­tish Am­bas­sador Daniel Taub ap­proached Lon­don’s then mayor, Boris John­son, about do­ing some­thing cel­e­bra­tory be­tween the UK and Is­rael to mark the cen­te­nary of the Bal­four Dec­la­ra­tion.

Taub en­listed the help of Bri­tish phi­lan­thropist and busi­ness­man Marc Worth to help get the fes­ti­val off the ground. The co-founder of the World Global Style Network, a fashion trend fore­caster, quickly jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to com­bine his two great­est pas­sions: Is­rael and art.

“I was look­ing for some­thing to do on the phil­an­thropic side and to com­bine my love of Is­rael with the arts and this was too good an op­por­tu­nity to miss,” Worth said.

Worth sees the fes­ti­val as chance to change the nar­ra­tive about Is­rael that is dom­i­nant in the for­eign me­dia.

“Peo­ple think if they go to Is­rael they’re go­ing to walk into a war zone,” he said. “But peo­ple don’t re­ally un­der­stand what Is­rael is all about.”

And al­though a fes­ti­val – even of this mag­ni­tude – can’t sway the mil­lions of peo­ple in Lon­don, it is an at­tempt to move the nee­dle for peo­ple who are cu­ri­ous

about the coun­try and have an open mind.

“This event rep­re­sents com­mu­nity and cul­ture and the food is in­cred­i­ble and it seems re­ally fam­ily-ori­en­tated. I guess if this is a re­flec­tion of Is­rael, then it’s a great place to be,” Emily, a work­ing ac­tor in the city said while sam­pling one of the many dishes cre­ated by chef Shaul Ben Aderet at the fes­ti­val’s food mar­ket on Satur­day.

The event on Satur­day and Sun­day was truly a fam­ily af­fair, as stu­dents, both Jewish and non-Jewish, learned Krav Maga, spent time with the Is­raeli drum­ming band Mayu­mana, baked honey cakes and cre­ated Is­raeli choco­late at day­long work­shops.

“We want to broaden their hori­zons and see as many per­spec­tives as pos­si­ble,” Ian Bot­ter­ill a teacher at the Lista Com­mu­nity School in east Lon­don said of the 40 stu­dents from his school who at­tended the fes­ti­val. “I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that our stu­dents are ex­posed to dif­fer­ent opin­ions and there are al­ways peo­ple try­ing to po­lar­ize a de­bate. We want our stu­dents to be able to de­velop a body of knowl­edge that will en­able them to make their own de­ci­sions.”

The fes­ti­val proved to a be a teach­able mo­ment for Jewish chil­dren as well.

“It’s al­most Rosh Hashana! If I don’t know how to make these honey cakes, how will my chil­dren know how to make them one day?” said doe-eyed six-yearold Amelie, of the Akiva pri­mary school, when asked why she thought her par­ents and teach­ers felt it was im­por­tant for her to be there that day.

Non-Jewish stu­dents were sur­prised to hear tales of the di­ver­sity in Is­rael as fig­ures like Sho­hat and judo cham­pion Yar­den Gerbi re­galed them with their per­sonal sto­ries Satur­day morn­ing.

Of course, not ev­ery­one could be con­vinced – cer­tainly not the small crowd of BDS pro­test­ers who cre­ated a bit of a stir on Satur­day after­noon. After a few mo­ments of con­fronta­tion with pro-Is­rael ac­tivists, Ben Aderet ar­rived with choco­late mousse in hand as a peace of­fer­ing. Some took the choco­late de­light hap­pily, oth­ers re­fused claim­ing it was “prob­a­bly poi­soned.”

There were members of the Jewish side who couldn’t get on the Is­rael di­ver­sity train ei­ther. One at­tendee of Mira Awad’s lec­ture where she openly talked about her iden­tity as both a Pales­tinian and an Is­raeli, walked out mum­bling “it’s not right,” after hear­ing of Awad’s dual iden­tity. “You can’t be both!” she shouted at the singer before walk­ing out of the room in a huff.

Con­sid­er­ing the fes­ti­val was the first of its kind, Er­dan is im­pressed with how it was run and is con­tem­plat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of more fes­ti­vals like this in the fu­ture across Europe.

“This is a process and a long-term strug­gle,” he said. “I asked my min­istry to pri­or­i­tize where the most ur­gent places are. In Europe, the sit­u­a­tion is ur­gent. Why? First, you have a large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion that is ac­tive against Is­rael. Sec­ond, we don’t have a large Jewish com­mu­nity here like they do in Amer­ica, so we need to em­power them,” he said.

“We wanted to break down bar­ri­ers; we wanted peo­ple to get to know each other. We have dif­fer­ent lan­guages, but ul­ti­mately, we’re all the same and we’re all hu­man be­ings. We need to get to know each other,” Is­rael’s Am­bas­sador to the UK Mark Regev, said. ■

(Sha­har Azran)

MUSICAL DUO In­fected Mush­room per­forms at Lon­don’s Round­house Theatre last week.

(Sha­har Azran)

CHEF SHAUL Ben Aderet of­fers choco­late mousse to BDS pro­test­ers out­side the Round­house Theatre.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel

© PressReader. All rights reserved.