Jewish Journal

Making the Cultural Connection to Israel

by LW Ben Yechezkiel

July 12, 2012 | 4:30 am

I have had on my to blog list (which is long and getting longer) writing something on the cultural connection. A few recent chavayot (experiences) have gotten me motivated to begin a series of entries on contemporary Israeli culture.
I was particularly motivated after attending an evening program connected with the seminar for American Rabbis which takes place every July. One of the presenters was Arthur Green who like his co presenter David Ellenson (Dean of HUC) was not shy about criticizing current Israeli policies and expressing a deep close connection to the country.
Green was certainly a stronger critic. But he might have surprised the group in his response to a question from the audience. When asked how the Rabbis could create a greater connection to Israel among his congregants I have no doubt that many (including me) expected an answer connected to politics. Instead his response was that the American Jews should gain greater exposure for the great cultural outpouring from Israel ranging from popular culture to the Jewish scholarship as evidenced by an academic conference on kabbala he was attending.
I couldn’t agree more. The cultural output is overwhelming. Everyday I open the “galereya” section of Haaretz to find notices for art exhibits, concerts, and academic conferences open to the public, pop concerts, etc etc.
Two examples: tonight July 12 at the Israel Museum is Contact Point an all-night event (actually until 3 am) with interactive exhibition. It seems Israelis are very into all-nighters Btw I learned that layla lavan the name of that all-nighter in tlv has a double entrendre layla lavan refers to tel aviv as the white city and an all-night training mission in the army is called a layala lavan
For something quite different there is the international festival of puppet film and theatre in Holon. The Tel Aviv suburb of Holon h itself has become a center for the arts with lts of public art a cutting edge arts museum and many arts education programs….and the year round puppet theatre.
Why is the cultural connection so important? It has the potential to give a more multifaceted connection and insight with a dynamic culture rather than what is often a limited view dominated by political issues. Even if American Jews often do not share a common language with Israelis—-or the common language they share is English—there are plenty of opportunities to gain access to Israeli cultural life even without making the trip. In future blog entries I will be writing about film, literature and music.

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