Archive for January, 2010

We spent the weekend in Jerusalem attending a seminar of the Forum for Liberal Thinking with the subject of liberalism in the religions of the Middle East. I hope to find time to say more about the seminar and the other places I have visited, but to start with here are a few photo-shots taken yesterday and today in the streets of Jerusalem.

The welcome sign when entering Jerusalem on Highway 1 has become the spectacular bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava.The photo is taken today, the blue color is not the sky (it was a desert storm day and poor visibility) but the light filter in the windshield of my car :-)

Jerusalem, the Calatrava bridge

Yesterday we started in the Jabotinsky and HaNasi streets, in the area where the President’s House is located. It’s a mix of old and new buildings, united in style by the Jerusalem stone, until today compulsory on any external walls of the houses built in Jerusalem according to a city regulation dating from the British Mandate period.

Jerusalem, new architecture

Here the blue belongs to the sky, it was a beautiful day yesterday.

Jerusalem, Jabotinski Street

The target of the morning visit was the Museum of Islamic Art, where we wanted to see two exhibitions. They were interesting, I will talk about them separatly.

Jerusalem, Islamic Art Museum

Close by I photographed another beautiful building. It’s the Israeli Bar Association, here is the place for my friend Asher, who is a new immigrant and Hebrew student right now, and will be an Israeli lawyer sometimes soon, I hope.

Jerusalem, lawyers association building

About the Notre Dame Center which hosted us and the seminar I will write separatly. It’s a beautiful building, with a captivating history and present.

Jerusalem, Notre Dame Center

The building is just near the Flowers Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, The Flowers Gate into the Old City

It’s one of the smaller and less spectacular access gates into the Old City of Jerusalem, but it was enough for us to enter and wander through the streets which were getting empty with the sunset.

Jerusalem, Armenian Restaurant in the Old City

Jerusalem, street in the old city

The old city walls area is under permanent construction, the ‘light train’ (tram) line takes forever to build, new underground passages seem to pop up all the time, and there seems to be something new being excavated and build all the time I am there. While during the day traffic is a nightmare, at night the area empties, the construction works are not that visible, and the Old City walls look even more spectacular.

Jerusalem by night, by the Old City

Jerusalem, Old City walls by night

One of the greatest writers of our times J.D. Salinger, the author of Nine Stories and of The Catcher in the Rye died. The Catcher in the Sand salutes his memory.

Prietenul meu dr. Vlad Solomon a rugat sa fie transmis urmatorul apel:

In vederea unei expozitii organizate la Jewish Museum din Amsterdam, pe tema Avangarda Evreiasca Interbelica din Romania, expozitie care va fi itineranta, rugam persoane care poseda (sau pot procura) materiale (opere, carti, filme,  fotografii documentare sau de familie, acte de nastere, documente publicate, manuscrise inedite, reviste, fotocopii, inregistrari, articole din  presa, critici, cronici, corespondente, obiecte), sau au amintiri relevante despre  perioada romaneasca a artistilor Victor Brauner, Marcel Iancu (Janco), M.H. Maxy, Arthur Segal, Tristan Tzara, Paul Paun si Jules Perahim, sa ia legatura cu Dr. Vlad Solomon, email [email protected] , sau pe adresa postala, 11, Janusz Korczak Street, Kiriat Ono, 55602, Israel, tel ++972-3 – 5350453 / 6356660, seara, dupa orele 21.
Rugam transmiterea acestui apel in toate colturile lumii.

David Krakauer is one of the well known clarinetists of our times, an acclaimed artist expressing himself in traditional East European Jewish music, in jazz, and classical music.

Born in 1956 Krakauer and his band band Klezmer Madness! are promoting a style that is both true to the traditional origins of the Jewish music, and also takes the genre in new territories in fusion with jazz, rock, and even hip-hop.  Here he is playing with his band in what is today the world capital of klezmer music – Krakow, home city of the famous klezmer trio Kroke.

See and hear him playing with local musicians in the synagogue in Dneipropetrovsk.

Here he is with a couple of more rock-oriented arrangements, and also saying a few words about his music.

Krakauer collaborated with famous chamber music ensembles including the the Tokyo String Quartet and the Kronos Quartet. in collaboration with jazz pianist Uri Caine. Krakauer performed music written for him by Osvaldo Golijov for a BBC documentary ‘Holocaust, A Music Memorial from Auschwitz’ which won an International Emmy in 2005. The film deals with the experience of the musicians who were forced by the German to play for the deportees during their last walk to the gas chambers.

David Krakauer’s Web site can be accessed at

January 27 is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Many events are taking place on this occasion, I will mention two that drew my attention,

Angela Furtuna sent me the poster of an event organized on this occasion in the city of Suceava, in the North of Romania. The program includes a conference on the European Nazi movements, readings from books about the Holocaust, a DVD about the liberation of Auschwitz, the launching of a book about the Jewish Community of Suceava, and a musical program that comprises recordings by Arthur Rubinshtein, Glenn Gould and Itzhak Perlmann.

Holocaust Day Event in Suceava

Of the many museums and memorials that describe the atrocity of the tragedy inflicted to the Jewish people, preserve the memory of the martyrs, and educate the younger generations, the most impressive remains by far Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

The current temporary exhibition at Yad Vashem that has opened on the occasion of the remembrance day deals with ‘The Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints’:

The documentary directed by Oliver Horn and Anne Riegel, prezented by the European culture TV chain ARTE brought up a fascinating period in the history of the 20th century China – the years of development and expansion, of conflicts and contradictions of the city of Shanghai betweent 1911 and 1937. This was the background on which the first part of Ang Lee’s Se,Jie (Lust, Caution) took place.

The landscape of the ultra-modern city of today is still marked by the front shore buildings of the Shanghai of the 20s and 30s and the authors of the film play repeatedly with this juxtaposition, maybe in order to underline a continuity beyond the convulsions of history.After the proclamation of the Chinese Republic in 1911 the city became a  crossroads of commerce and industry and a cosmopolitan center of banking and entertainment. The Foreign Concessions relying on the clauses of extra-territoriality granted to them after the Opium Wars in the 19th century extended their influence, and many of the documents in the film rely on the writings of journalist and writer Albert Londres, who lived in the city for two periods and wrote sharp investigative articles as well as deep analysis of the life of the area. (Londres also visited the mandatory Palestine in 1929, at a pick period of Arab attacks against the Jewish community. He was supportive of the creation of a Jewish state, but pessimistic about the chances of peace between Jews and Arabs.)

Du Yuesheng

The foreign influence was matched only by the influence of the mafia controlling the opium traffic. The central figure described in detail in the documentary was Du Yuesheng, the leader of the Green Gang, which won the local mafia wars, kept good relations with the foreigners and both with the ruling nationalist Chinese government of Chiang Kai-Shek as well as with the emerging Chinese Communist Party which was founded actually in Shanghai. The intrigues and crime stories of the epoch take an important part of the film, and they are both interesting and entertaining.  Incidentally, many of the mafia heads had a passion for cinema, studios were open in their villas, and the film production flourished in the city in the 30s, and to it we own many of the filmed sequences we can see in Horn and Riegel’s film.

old Shanghai shore line

The good life ended with the Japanese invasion in 1937. An American newsreel included in the film shows the horror of the bombing, which was a prelude to the massive bombing and destruction of cities in World War II.

Horn and Riegel’s fim presents a complex and well commented view of a city that played an important role in the history of the first part of the 20th century and seems to take back its place in the 21th century as well.

Caesarea este unul dintre locurile in care ii iau cu mare placere pe prietenii care ne viziteaza din strainatate. In aceasta sambata de ‘iarna’ israeliana, cu soare intre doua reprize de ploi binecuvantate, am revenit impreuna cu prieteni apropriati stabiliti de cativa ani in Statele Unite.

muzeul Ralli

Primul popas l-am facut la muzeul Ralli, pe care nu il mai vizitasem de cativa ani. Istoria muzeului este legata de istoria familiei Recanati, muzeul fiind intemeiat de Harry Recanati, fiul lui Leon Recanati, conducatorul comunitatii evreilor din Salonic, bancher imigrat in Israel in 1935 si intemeietor al bancii Discount. Din cei patru fii ai sai, Harry a luat drumul operelor de binefacere si al colectionarii artei, in timp ce fratele Rafael a ramas la conducerea bancii fiind implicat in scandalul care in anii 1980 a zguduit sistemul bancar israelian, ducand la reformarea acestuia si un nivel de control care i-a permis sa treaca mai bine criza economica si bancara din ultimii doi ani decat alte tari. Mai multe note vizibile la intrarile muzeului subliniaza ca muzeul si patronii sai nu au fost in legatura de decenii cu cei implicati in scandalul bancar. Muzeul din Caesarea a fost infiintat de Harry in anul 1993, alte trei muzee din aceiasi familie sunt operate in Uruguay, Chile si Spania.

poarta spre memorial si aripa de arta biblica a muzeului

Intrarea la muzeu este gratuita, el functionand ca o institutie non-profit. Lipsesc si obisnuitele vizite ghidate, audio-guides, chiar si brosuri se obtin doar la cerere si sunt foarte succinte. O singura pagina de Web exista pe Internet cu informatie destul de succinta – Mai mult despre muzeu se poate afla dintr-un articol din Ha’Aretz de acum cativa ani – Ideea este de a atrage vizitatorul prin ambianta si estetica lucrarilor, permitandu-i contemplarea in liniste, cu minima informatie dincolo de arta insasi.

memorialul evreilor sefarzi

Partea forte a muzeului ramane cred colectia originala de arta latino-americana. Foaia explicativa sustine ca muzeele Ralli in totalitatea lor cuprind cea mai insemnata colectie de arta latino-americana a artistilor in viata. Este de regretat aici totusi lipsa informatiei suplimentare, caci aceasta zona artistica este cunoscuta mai ales prin varfurile sale – Siqueiros, Botero, Kahlo – care nu sunt prezente in muzeu – ori ei sunt intr-adevar exponentii celebri dar nu singurii ai unei scoli artistice de o mare vitalitate, bazata pe o imbinare unica de traditie si modernism asimilat si asumat. Exista aici si o colectie a statuilor replicate in serie mica dupa creatiile lui Salvador Dali – interesanta desigur pentru cei care il cunosc pentru prima data pe Dali.

monumentul italian

Muzeul a crescut si s-a extins de cand l-am vizitat ultima data. Impresia mea este amestecata in legatura cu aceste noi elemente ale complexului. A fost adaugata o noua aripa care intr-o arhitectura amintind curtile interioare ale palatelor si manastirilor epocii de aur iberice constituie un memorial al evreimii sefarde – cu statui si busturi ale marilor ganditori evrei ai epocii de aur si secolelor urmatoare de la Maimonides la Spinoza, ca si busturile unor personalitati care se presupune ca ar fi fost evrei convertiti fortat sau urmasi ai lor. Eu personal pentru prima data am auzit de exemplu ca evreii si-l revendica pe Cervantes.

monumentul dedicat intemeierii statului Israel

In continuarea curtii noua aripa a muzeului numita si muzeul Ralli 2 include pictura europeana din secolele 16-18 inspirata din Biblie. Ideea mi se pare excelenta, si sunt cateva lucrari interesante in colectie, dar in mare majoritate nivelul artei expuse aici este destul de mediocru. In mare parte este vorba despre lucrari produse in atelierele artistilor importanti ai epocii, dar lipsesc cateva varfuri calitative si stilul repetitiv si cantitatea obosesc si plicitsesc destul de repede vizitatorul.

Caesarea - trec pasarile

Si mai discutabile sunt cele doua noi adaosuri exterioare. Nu ca idee in sine ci ca conceptie artistica. Un obelisc omagiaza pe italienii drepti intre oameni care au ajutat pe evrei si le-au salvat viata in timpul razboiului. Idee frumoasa, dar legatura cu restul complexului este intamplatoare, exceptand faptul ca obeliscul este localizat in fata memorialului evreimii sefarde, din care face parte si ramura italiana. O colonada in stil grecesc doreste sa fie un memorial dedicat crearii Israelului, cu bustul lui Herzl in mijloc, flancat de Ben Gurion, Weizman (Haim), Balfour si Truman (?). Cu toata dragostea si admiratia fata de cultura clasica a antichitatii nu pot sa nu ma intreb daca o colonada in stil grecesc este cea mai potrivita scopului.

Caesarea - golful

Am continuat vizita cu vizitarea ruinelor cetatii cruciate, a golfului si promotoriului extrem de pitoresti si fotogrenice la orele dupa amiezii si amurgului.

Caesarea - poarta cetatii

Nimic nou pe aici – dar magazinele turistice si restaurantele sunt intotdeauna un loc bun de adus turistii si prietenii.

Caesarea - promontoriul

The six characters of Shmuel Hasfari’s new play ‘Havdalah’ do not need to seek for a playwright. Hasfari is well in control of the members two families representing two poles of the Israeli society immediatly after the six days war, and taking responsibility on directing he drives the play and its nuances up to the very last detail.

The name of the play which means in Hebrew ‘separation’ is of the Jewish ceremony that marks the end of the Shabbat and the start of the new week. It’s the symbolic separation between holy and profane, between the spirit of the Shabbat and the dealings of the day-to-day life.

Separation and departure is the theme of the play. Apparently it is a story about the cultural gap between two Israeli families – one of Holocaust survivors, the other of ‘aristocratic’ Jerusalemites whose kids fall in love and decide to marry. Looked more attentively the text says much more about the separation between the idealistic and moral pre-1967 Israel and the euphoric and materialistic post-1967 Israel, about the departure from the values that led to the foundation of the country. Although located in time in 1968 it says a lot about Israel four decades later.

The Cameri performance is not as serious or dull as it sounds, it’s actually funny, well acted, and has moments of great comedy, especially in the first act. The story is well written and works well until close to the end. Each character is well defined and relates well with the other. All the actors team is good, and it’s clear that the writer-director worked with each of them to the last details of their characters. Anat Waxman especially shines, while Gil Frank matches her with a deep and human performance. At the end of the play all characters have twisted their personalities and ‘adapted’ to the new times, only Frank’s moralistic character is almost reduced to silence, an anachronism in a new world deprived of values.

One of the Internet groups I am subscribed to brought up one in a series of articles about the exhibition at the Shoah Memorial in Paris which redsicovers for most of the world the personality of the Jewish Romanian poet Benjamin Fondane (Fundoianu).

The portrait made by Victor Brauner seems extraordinary to me with its fascinating premonition:

On one of the Internet discussion lists I am subscribed to discussed a few weeks ago the work of Zaha Hadid. Some of my architect friends were less than enthusiastic about some of her works, criticizing the way she storms over urban landscapes and changes them in an irreversible manner rather than melding into or graciously complementing them.

The Metropolis cultural weekly at ARTE ran last week a segment about the inauguration of the building of the MAXXI Museum of the 21st century art in Rome. I say the building and not the museum, as for the time being it’s only the building that is open for a few weeks for visitors to see:

Fellow architects and critics are again less than enthusiastic. Some of the pieces of news back in November were indicating that the financing of the project got into some kind of trouble:

And yet, if we are to believe the ARTE report the first exhibition in the galleries will open in May. Until then one thing is sure – Zaha Hadid’s work leaves few people indifferent.