Panim- Faces of Art and Culture in Israel- December 1999-January 2000

Panim- Faces of Art and Culture in Israel- December 1999-January 2000


Panim: Faces of Art and Culture in Israel

December 1999 - January 2000


Moshe Ivgy in the prize winning "Aharon Cohen's Debt"

Silver Screen Successes

Israeli films have a built-in disadvantage when it comes to competing in the international arena - the Hebrew dialogue. Even though the subject matter of Israeli films, both documentary and feature productions, has proved to have strong box-office appeal, audiences abroad need sub-titles in order to understand the language of the Bible. Nevertheless, despite this handicap, Israeli films have been gaining increased recognition, with unprecedented exposure in film festivals around the world. It could be a local community mounting a Jewish film week, a week of Israeli culture, or participation in a major international film festival. The number of Israel Film Weeks in 1999 was double that of 1998, and an even greater number of events is planned for 2000. Israeli films are undoubtedly on the world map.

Katriel Schory, Director of the Israel Film Fund says that because the Israeli film industry is Hebrew-speaking it is deserving of solid government support. "The Hebrew language is the common denominator of all parts of Israeli society", says Schory. "The call to invest in cinema as part of the preservation of Hebrew, our language, is not a demagogic or manipulative argument."

The Israeli Film Fund was founded 20 years ago by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and to date has supported more than 130 full-length feature films. The aim is to create opportunities for the most talented filmmakers in Israel to bring their vision and creativity to the screen. These goals are achieved by direct investment in script development, productions and co-productions, and in the distribution of the films supported by the fund. More than 100 scripts are submitted annually. The fund supports the development of about 25 scripts, out of which 6-8 films are selected and granted financial support. The average budget of an Israeli feature film is between $450,000 - $800,000. The fund invests up to two thirds of the total approved budget of a film. "There are hardly any private investors in Israel" Schory says, noting that an average local production would have to reach more than 250,000 admissions - more than the present annual audience of all Israeli films put together - in order to break even.

Israeli films are a mirror of the turbulent and complex society of the country, as seen through the lens of the filmmaker. The fund celebrates 20 years of creativity and talent, as reflected in the films it has supported, many of which have become milestones of the Israeli cultural heritage. Films supported by the fund that have garnered international awards include "Hamsin" 1982, "Beyond the Walls" 1984, "Avanti Popolo" 1986, "The Summer of Aviya" 1988, "Cup Final" 1991, "Amazing Grace" 1992, "Life According to Agfa" 1993, "Passover Fever" 1996, "The Milky Way" 1998.

Local made-for-TV movies have also received international acclaim. This year, at the Banff Television Festival, the hotly contested Rockie Award for the best TV movie went to Israel Television's Channel Three for "Aharon Cohen's Debt". The film, an Israel Cable Programming Company production, directed by Amalia Margolin, stars Moshe Ivgi as an ordinary fellow who falls behind with his alimony payments. He is hauled off to prison and enters a nightmarish world of Kafkaesque misunderstandings, petty bureaucracy and prison violence, ending in his death. Last year another ICP Channel Three production, "Kalinka Maya", directed by Eitan Londner, captured the Banff Rockie Award for TV Drama. With 38 countries represented this year, the Rockie Prizes of the Banff Festival are the only awards that pit North American against all-comers.


Music off the Shelves: A Profile of Josef Bardanashvili

by: Shelley Kleiman


Josef Bardanashvili
  His favorite photo shows him holding a miniature piano, the score of one of his major musical works and a basket of groceries: corn flakes, powdered soup mix and scallions. "It sums up my life in Israel", says Josef Bardanashvili, immigrant, virtuoso composer and one-time gofer in a Tel Aviv grocery store. But it is really his engaging grin that says it all: the story of a musical wizard willing to leave - midlife - fame and fortune and start from scratch. And not lose face.

Born in Georgia near the Black Sea coast in 1949, Bardanashvili immigrated to Israel in 1995 with a hefty musical resumé. He holds a doctorate from the Music Academy of Tbilisi, was the in-house composer of the world-famous Rustavelli Theater, the director of the Music Academy in Batovei, organized international music festivals, won numerous awards, and - if that isn't enough - served as Deputy Minister of Culture in Georgia. His compositions include symphonies, concerti for violin, guitar, piano, and cello, string quartets and piano trios. Add to the list choral music, a rock opera and rock ballet and music for over 20 films and 40 theatre productions. He plays the piano, trumpet, and he paints. And if that's not enough, he's a very nice, forthcoming, even self-deprecating kind of guy.

Israel's music industry, and the country's cultural scene, couldn't ask for more. But as the lines at the Absorption Ministry move slowly (as Bardanashveli himself can attest), so goes the discovery process. Eventually your number is called. It just takes time and a lot of patience. "I knew I would be starting from nothing" Bardanashvili says, betraying no signs of bitterness. One of his first musical commissions was for a play by the late Hanoch Levin ("I didn't even know who he was at the time"), which he received from a producer friend - "a member of the Russian musical mafia" he jokes. His score received much praise and Bardanashveli was sure that with one foot in the door the second was soon to follow. But after the Levin hit, his phone did not ring.

With no steady income, a mortgage to pay and elderly parents to support (they immigrated with him; his daughter, now married and the mother of two, had come a few months before him), Bardanashviili took a job as a clerk in a grocery store in the artsy Sheinkin street area of Tel Aviv. While shelving goods, he composed - in his head - symphonic works. While talking to customers, he practiced his Hebrew. "I knew it wouldn't last forever", says Bardanashvili of his half-year apprenticeship into Israeli society. And he was right. After leaving the tins of tuna, Bardanashvili began composing for the Haifa and Cameri theaters, the Musica Nova Ensemble and the Kfar Blum Music Festival. His music for the Habima Theater's production of "The Dybbuk" earned him the Margolit Award, and in 1998 Bardanashvili received the Composer of the Year prize from the Israel Artists Academy. He is in-house composer for the Ra'anana Symphonette Orchestra, for whom he writes original works. One of them, "Children of God," premiered last year at the Israel Festival with counter-tenor David De'or singing the solo role, accompanied by Eti Ankri and the monks choir of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem. It is Bardanashvili's ode to interfaith cooperation and what he calls "pluralist universalism".

Despite his successes, Bardanashvili remains frustrated by what he calls his linguistic ineptitude. Although he speaks Hebrew fluently, this man of many talents remains doggedly convinced he doesn't. He apologizes for mistakes he does not make and says he feels like a young child just learning to express himself. As a teacher at the Tel Aviv Music Academy, Bardanashvili says he feels constrained, unable to be as forthcoming as he would like to be. "I walk out of class feeling like a squeezed lemon" is how he puts it.

Bardanashvili admits that it is difficult to define his music. He composes - during his nightly walks by the sea - modern and classical (his masters include Bach, Mahler and Stravinsky), folk and even jazz. He draws an imaginary map on a table in a Jerusalem coffeeshop. "I've been influenced both temperamentally and philosophically by the east and the west", says Bardanashvili, who likes to say he is a man of "conceptual music". He sighs, not sure if he has got his point across. "You know, silence is also music."

So are sound effects. "They can tell a whole story," says Bardanashvili, referring to one of his true loves: the film industry. "Music for film will ultimately dominate the entire music scene" is his prediction. With five films to his credit since moving here, Bardanashvili is frustrated by many an Israeli director's just-throw-in-some-American-tunes' attitude. "They don't confer with the composer. They present a finished script with a very fixed idea of what they want," says Bardanashvili. "And they usually want the music yesterday." For Bardanashvili, it is the music - and sound effects - that create the mood of a film. "It is not meant to dominate, but it is meant to be felt."

True to his nature, Bardanashvili remains optimistic that he has much to contribute to Israel's film industry. As if on cue, his cellular phone rings. "It was some producer, interested in discussing a film idea with me," he explains, apologizing for the interruption. Bardanashvili shrugs, producing one of his infectious smiles. "Who knows, this might just be the start of my sixth film in the country."




"With Rules"




Assi Dayan
  Package Deal

One reason for the exponential increase of Israeli participation in international film festivals can be found in a small room, stacked high with demo video tapes, in a distant corner of the Foreign Ministry compound in Jerusalem. Yoram Morad is in charge of the Film Unit of the Ministry's Department of Cultural Relations, and acts as an intermediary between Israeli filmmakers and audiences overseas. He proudly presents 13 "packages", a total of 46 selected Israeli films, which can be obtained through Israeli embassies and consulates throughout the world. Each package contains 4-6 films, and is available in different formats. The "2000 Package", for example, includes the films "Kadosh" (see Panim October-November 1999), "Saint Clara", "Under Western Eyes"(a tragic-comic road movie), "The Dybbuk" (an adaptation of the famous legend) and "With Rules". A popular package comprises films by director/writer/ actor Assi (son of Moshe) Dayan. His trilogy, "Life according to Agfa" and "Electric Blanket Syndrome", is rounded off by "Mr Baum", a macabre comedy in which the hero finds out he has only 92 minutes left to live. The Dayan package, which includes a documentary portrait of Assi Dayan called "Living. Period" can be ordered with English, French or Spanish subtitles. Packages subtitled in Portuguese, Russian and German will soon be available. In addition to the feature films, the best of Israeli documentary movies are available in separate packages.

Bookings for 2000 are already completed but orders can be placed for 2001 with Israeli embassies and consulates throughout the world.

Cinematheques and Film Festivals

Israel boasts three cinematheques - in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa - providing the movie afficionado with round-the-year programs of rare and classic movies, revivals and the best of Israeli cinema. The Jerusalem Cinematheque also contains the Israel Film Archive, a major resource for filmmakers, which has recently developed a separate Holocaust multi-media research center. This includes Nazi propaganda films, early Israeli newsreels and documentary films, together with a collection of feature films both Israeli and international. The cinematheque, housed in a picturesque old stone building overlooking Mount Zion, also offers members a program of cinema studies and a comprehensive film library.

The cinematheques are also the venues for Israel's major film festivals. Jerusalem and Haifa both present annual international festivals (Jerusalem: 6-15 July 2000, Haifa: October 2000). The Tel Aviv Cinematheque hosts DocAviv, an international documentary film festival, scheduled for 21-26 April 2000. Workshops and symposia will be conducted, and a prize awarded for the best documentary film. Film entries, minimum length 45 minutes, English-speaking or with English subtitles, must not have been publicly screened in Israel. Entry forms can be submitted until January 15, 2000, accompanied by videotape, stills, synopsis and press kit.



"School- children of Sejera, 1919"
  Spielberg Jerusalem Film Archive

The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive is an academic institution dedicated to the preservation and recognition of the Jewish and Israeli film heritage. It contains a documentation and research center, a publications department, and a major collection of Jewish films, and is administered jointly by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Contemporary Jewry and the Central Zionist Archives.

In October the Spielberg Archive was honored at the Silent Film Festival, in Sacile, Italy, for its work in film preservation. The prize, equivalent to nearly $11,000 in laboratory services, was awarded for the preservation of the film "The Land of Israel Liberated" made in 1919 by the motion picture pioneer Ya'akov Ben Dov, and produced by the Menorah company. The recently discovered footage is devoted to the Galilee, and features some of the first Jewish settlements there, such as Sejera and Rosh Pina.




"My Yiddishe Mama's Dream" -
conductor Daniel Oren
  "My Yiddishe Mama's Dream"

This film reveals the personal drama of the Israeli opera conductor Daniel Oren, skillfully juxtaposed with his performances of "La Boheme", in Rome, Milan and Tel Aviv. The son of an Arab father and Jewish mother, Oren has been called "stinking Arab" and "dirty Jew", the embodiment of the Jewish-Arab conflict. Before he was born, his mother dreamed that her son would be a musician, later directing and dominating his life in what seems a near-parody of the Jewish mother syndrome. Oren is torn between his ties to his mother, his feelings of guilt and alienation towards his father (their eventual reconciliation is a very moving moment), and his need for personal freedom to pursue his own life. Oren reveals himself with touching candor, and Puccini's music is used with stunning effect as a background to the film. "My Yiddishe Mama's Dream" is a triumph for veteran filmmaker Asher Tlalim, who was responsible for the film's direction, script, photography, editing and production.

"Oscars" for Yanna

"Yanna's Friend's" (see Panim, August-September 1999) was the runaway winner at the recent Israel Film Academy Awards ceremony, taking the best film, best director (Arik Kaplun), best actress (Evelyn Kaplun), and best actor (Nir Levy) awards, as well as prizes for the best supporting actor and actress, photography, script, editing and design. It was a triumphant moment for the Kaplun husband-and-wife team, both of them immigrants from Russia, who drew on their own experience for the film which deals with the trials and frustrations of newcomers to Israel. In 1999 "Yanna's Friends" was screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival where it took the Grand Prix, the best actress and the ecumenical jury awards. The film carried off awards at film festivals in Moscow and Montpellier, and the top prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It also participated in film festivals in China, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, USA, Poland, Korea, Slovenia, UK and Greece to date. In the coming months the film will be seen at numerous film festivals including Washington, Palm Beach and Miami (December), Brussels (January), New York (February), Los Angeles and Denmark (March), Houston, Chicago and Hong Kong (April).

Contact producers:

For festival details contact your local Israeli embassy or consulate.



Levin's last play "Requiem"
  Requiem for Hanoch

In August this year the Israeli theater lost one its most prominent figures, Hanoch Levin. Playwright Michael Morris Reich pays tribute.

Hanoch Levine arrived at center stage of the Israeli theater from the marginal world of political protest. His early cabaret pieces, sharp and satirical, shocked audiences with their outspokenness. Levine attacked the smugness of Israeli society in the wake of the Six Day War, questioned the inevitability of endless military conflict, and warned of the danger of becoming a society of conquerors and exploiters. The public reacted with fury. His play "The Queen of the Bathtub" (1970) was lambasted for desecrating the memory of the fallen and their bereaved families. It was withdrawn from the Cameri Theater after 18 performances, following attempts to remove the actors from the stage by force. In retrospect one can see Levine's statement as prophetic, anticipating the message of the peace movements.

Levine's subsequent encounters with the public were less violent. He abandoned direct political satire with a series of plays that are difficult to categorize. He brought to the stage a unique human world that is merciless, in which the strong exploit and humiliate the weak, and are in turn humiliated by those stronger yet. Whilst the characters and plots are often extreme and grotesque, and the situations absurd, the humor stems from the Yiddish tradition. The ills of Israeli society are reflected in the crooked and multi-faceted mirror of Levine's writing. In plays such as "Ya'akobi and Leidental" (1972) or "Hefetz" (1972), he depicts in garish comic colors the bourgeois Israeli, his courting and marriage conventions, his pursuit of money. These comedies transported Levine with astonishing swiftness to the forefront of the theatrical establishment. His plays were received with great acclaim in the major established theaters. His impressive productivity provided at least one play a year. Levine directed his own plays, creating a unique aesthetic experience in which his grotesque plots and characters are combined with stylized acting, nostalgic music and movement that borders on dance, offering moments of breathtaking beauty.

Over the years the sources of his inspiration broadened, and in the plays "Execution" (1979) and "Job's Sorrows (1981), he used mythological themes to illuminate the human condition. He expressed in language that is both poetic and sharp, his deep disappointment in man's baseness and pettiness. The last few years saw a softening. In "The Dreaming Child" (1993), "Those Who Walked in the Dark" (1997) and in his last play "Requiem" (1999) (see Panim, June-July 1999), there are moments of grace and a sense of comradeship in a shared fate. But there is always death, mysterious and terrifying, throwing its huge shadow, filling one with grief and despair.

Levine was hugely prolific. He wrote 50 plays (of which 20 have not yet been staged), stories, poems, and plays for children. He conducted rehearsals of his last play from his hospital bed to his very last day. In spite of his heroic efforts, he was defeated by cancer before he finished the work. The play, Habachiyanim ("The Crybabies"), will be produced next season by the Cameri Theater.

One cannot overestimate the importance of Levine's influence. The Hebrew Israelis write is his Hebrew, our humor is fed by his comedies. The artistic standards he set - the precision and seriousness, placing the creation of art above all else - provide an ideal and model to emulate.



"Two Jews and a Berber on Donkeys"
  "In The Heart of The Atlas"
Photographs of the Jews of Morocco at the Diaspora Museum

In the Atlas mountains and the oases of southern Morocco of the 1940's, there were still more than 150 mellahs, the Jewish quarters adjacent to the walled Berber villages. Elias Harrus was a prominent leader of the Alliance Israelite Universelle educational network in Morocco, and an amateur photographer. He frequently visited these remote communities while setting up and supervising the Alliance school network. He began taking pictures in the 1940's and continued until the early 1960's. A native of a town in the central Atlas and a graduate of the Alliance teachers' college in Paris, Harrus belonged at one and the same time to two cultures - indigenous and European. While his photos reveal his innate sense of beauty and composition, they also reflect an intimate involvement with his subjects, and an awareness of the importance of photographic documentation.

The Jewish communities of southern Morocco were among the most ancient and deeply rooted of Diaspora communities, going back perhaps 3,000 years. They had ceased to exist in the mid-1960's, mainly due to immigration to Israel. Harrus, born in 1919, today resides in Casablanca, while many members of his extended family live in Israel. At the opening of his photographic exhibition at the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, Harrus was greeted by a former Alliance student, Professor Joseph Chetrit, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Haifa University, who was born in the Atlas mountain region.

Also present at the Tel Aviv opening was Talal Rhoufrani, head of the Moroccan Liaison Office in Israel. Earlier this year, Morocco's Ministry of Culture sponsored an exhibition of Harrus' photographs at the Museum of Moroccan Arts in Rabat, called "Roots and Memory".

The exhibition was also on display at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme in Paris in September, and some 50 of Harrus' photographs have been shown at the Judah L. Magnes Museum of Berkeley, California. The current exhibition of 80 color and black-and-white photographs (selected out of the hundreds of rolls of film shot by Harrus) remains at the Diaspora Museum till the end of December. Catalog in French and Hebrew.

Museum of the Diaspora:


Man and Beast


"Don Quixote": Zartisky
  Quirky and idiosyncratic, Dan Zaretsky's bronze sculptures of figures and animals refresh the eye and bring a smile to the lips of the viewer. Thin plates of metal are wrought into quasi-realistic images of camel, fox, boar or frog, alongside stylized human figures. Yet another fine exhibition from the ever-inventive Wilfrid Israel Museum of Oriental Art and Studies at Kibbutz Hazorea, in northern Israel.

Tel: 04-9899566,

Dance Award


"Aide Memoire"
  The creativity prize in this year's national awards for dance went to the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's artistic director, Rami Be'er, for his overall contribution to Israeli dance. Be'er, who joined the company in 1980 as a dancer, going on to become lead choreographer, was cited for the integrative quality and emotional intensity of his work. The company has built up an impressive repertoire of Be'er's choreography, including solo and chamber works alongside major creations for the whole company, such as "On the Edge", "Aide Memoire" and "Naked City", exemplifying Be'er's wry view of the human condition. In November, audiences in the United States had a chance to see for themselves the achievements of Be'er and the KCDC. In January the dancers are once again on the move, with performances of "Naked City" in Taiwan (14.1) and "Aide Memoire" in Leverkusen, Germany (17.1) and "Aide Memoire" in Florence (25/26.l) Pisa (27.1) Turin (29.1) and Verona (31.1).


Trees and Roots

The Jewish Genealogy Center of the Diaspora Museum is probably the world's greatest resource for tracing and recording Jewish family history. Visitors to the museum can search a computerized database containing genealogies of Jewish families from all over the world, and enter their own family trees. This year the Museum offers a course for amateur genealogists on how to go about gathering and coordinating family data, given by the center's director Diana Sommer. There is also guidance on how to enter the material into the Museum's data bank, with sessions for users of the many genealogy software programs which are available.

Contact: Museum of the Diaspora




Singing in the Millenium

Israel's churches are opening their doors to welcome pilgrims, tourists and music lovers with offerings of choral music for the festive season. In the Arab village of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, there are performances of Handel's oratorio "Judas Maccabeus" for Chanukah (4.12), Handel's "Messiah" for Christmas (24/25.12), and Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana"(29.1) for the New Year. The setting is the beautifully situated Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant, famed for its magnificent acoustics. Another performance of the "Messiah", this time on period instruments, can be heard at the YMCA in the heart of Jerusalem (15.1). This event is sponsored by the British Council and features singers from the UK. The town of Nazareth ushers in the New Year with a two day "Festival of Musica Sacra" (31.12-1.1). Choral and instrumental works by Bach, Vivaldi, Rossini, Mendelssohn and Faure will be performed in 12 concerts at the Church of St. Joseph, the Church of the Sisters of Mary and the Salesian Church. And in Jerusalem Christmas music can be heard at the Augusta Victoria Church on Mount Scopus, and the International Evangelical Church in the Street of the Prophets - both concerts 18.12. The Dormition Abby on Jerusalem's Mount Zion is the venue for a Liturgica Festival concert (20.12), while a concert of sacred music will usher in the New Year at Jaffa's Maronite Church (31.12)

Threesomes, Foursomes and Fivesomes


New Israel Wind Quintet
  The Jerusalem Music Center, situated in the picturesque Yemin Moshe quarter, is Israel's finest showcase for young talent. Founded by Isaac Stern, the center attracts world renowned musicians, who inspire and encourage budding instrumentalists and vocalists with workshops and master classes. But the goal of every musician is performance, and here too the music center plays a role, providing a platform for a rich program of chamber concerts. Under the aegis of the center, the cream of Israel's young musicians have formed ensembles - trios, quartets and quintets - some of which are already winning prizes and plaudits in Europe and North America.

Heading the list is the Huberman String Quartet, (Guy Braunstein, Yonatan Brick, Gilad Karney and Zwi Plesser), all graduates of the Jerusalem Music Center's program for youth, and now following successful individual international careers. They return periodically to Israel to work together, and contribute four concerts to the current series. Still to come are concerts on 8 December, 23 February (with Bracha Kol, alto) and 25 May (with Yuri Gandelsman, viola).

The Jerusalem Quartet, the youthful prodigies of the center, whose international career began while they were still in the army, perform on 30 December. The Aviv Quartet, founded in 1997, who this year won first place at the Melbourne Chamber music competition, will appear on 2 April. All the chamber concerts are broadcast live by Israel Radio's classical music network "Kol Hamusica" The series opened with a polished performance by the New Israel Woodwind Quintet, five instrumentalists who have been playing together for five years. And rounding off this impressive showcase of young Israeli talent is the Jerusalem Piano Trio, winners of the 1999 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition. Nurtured and supported by the center, these groups of musicians, return this season to Jerusalem to touch base with their home audience.

Contact: Jerusalem Music Center at



Kaprizma: Taking a bow in Seoul
  Contemporary music is an acquired taste, not always easy on the ear. The Kaprizma Ensemble, founded in 1991 by guitarist Hanan Feinstein, has taken upon itself the task of promoting and performing new Israeli music, but without renouncing the classical repertoire. The flexible ensemble of some 12 young musicians, (string, wind and keyboard players, depending on the program) relish the challenge of premiering new works by Israeli composers, and convey their enthusiasm and dedication to the audience. Composers such as Mark Kopytman, Michael Wolpe, Abel Ehrlich and Israel Sharon have written works especially for the group, and their joint efforts have already produced a number of CDs. Recognition of Kaprizma's contribution to the contemporary music scene has come with their growing involvement in international projects. This year Kaprizma was invited to participate in the St. Petersburg Spring Festival, giving two concerts of chamber music, mixing modern with classical. And bridging the cultures of east and west, Kaprizma recently took part in a cultural exchange with the Kyungwon University and Music Research Institute of Korea. This project, sponsored by the Israel Foreign Ministry, resulted in joint concerts and workshops held in Jerusalem and Seoul.


The Jerusalem Saxophone Quartet
Alongside the series highlighting its successful graduates, the Jerusalem Music Center continues to offer a platform for the current crop of students, the hopefuls of the future. There is an excitement and buzz about the Friday morning broadcast concerts called "Youth at the Center", and the thrill of discovering yet another talent heading for stardom. This year's series opened Jerusalem Saxophone Quartet with the debut of the Jerusalem Saxophone Quartet, four dedicated teenagers, who stunned the audience with the professionalism and musicality of their ensemble playing.



Aaron Appelfeld
  Aaron Appelfeld - His Life Story

The autobiography of Aaron Appelfeld - one of Israel's leading writers, author of more than 30 books, 13 of them translated into English - is a major publishing event on the Israeli literary scene. A survivor of the Holocaust, Appelfeld has drawn on his own experiences in many of his books, evoking the lost world of pre-war Europe, its flavor of the cultured Jewish petit bourgeoisie, and a sense of impending doom.

Appelfeld recently introduced his latest work and read extracts to a Jerusalem audience. It was of memory that he spoke, particularly the recollection of early childhood that ended abruptly at the age of eight; memory of the senses held in the palm of the hand or the sole of the foot, the evocation of a smell or sound. It is to the haven of these memories Appelfeld said, that he turns in moments of need - to the aroma of wild strawberries gathered with his loving parents, the touch of a gentle wind blowing the curtains in his grandfather's study.

Born in Bukovina, that outpost of Viennese culture that produced so many distinguished writers (among them Paul Célan and Dan Pagis), Appelfeld survived the Nazi terror, wandering by himself, an eight-year-old, through the forests of eastern Europe, having run away from a concentration camp. The conviction that he would find his parents at the end of the next path kept him going. Without in any way avoiding the grim and obscene experiences, Appelfeld prefers to catch the moments of humanity he encountered, such as the bedraggled woman he saw at a railway station, seated on her bundle, combing the tangles out of a tiny strange waif's knotted hair.

Appelfeld writes in short sentences, his language simple, the key minor, "to avoid sentimentality and self pity," he says. The facts speak for themselves, embellishment would only detract. One can only stand in awe at the power of the human spirit as he reveals it.

Aaron Appelfeld's autobiography, "The Story of a Life", is complemented by the companion volume "All Whom I Loved" (which he describes as a "sort of autobiography"). Both are published in Hebrew by Keter, and will appear in English translation in 2000, published by Schocken.

"Jesus coins" found near the Sea of Galilee

  Rare coins bearing the likeness of Jesus can be seen in a special exhibition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The coins, bearing inscriptions in Greek such as "Jesus the Messiah, King of Kings," and "Jesus, the Messiah, the Victor," were found last year in excavations south of Tiberias, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. They were minted in the Byzantine Empire, and date from the end of the tenth to the middle of the 11th centuries. Professor Hirschfeld who directed the dig says that the "Jesus coins" - 58 of the total of 82 coins found at the site - are known technically as "anonymous folles," meaning coins which contain neither the name nor the image of the ruler of the time.

Also found at the Tiberias site was a large cache of Moslem artifacts, dating from the Fatimid rule in the region. The candelabra, jugs, bells and bowls display exquisite craftsmanship and inscriptions in the ancient Kufic script, and were found in three large clay pots hidden in the foundations of a building. Archeologists speculate that the owner of the house might have been a dealer in metal objects who hid his merchandise, fearing the Crusaders who invaded Tiberias at that time.

Mokady in his studio, Ein Hod


"Painter beside Easel" Moshe Mokady
  Forthcoming editions of the Biblical Archaeological Review (English) and Kadmoniot (Hebrew) will contain articles on the finds. The exhibition remains open at the Hebrew University till June 2000.


Mokady Retrospective

One of the founders of modernism in Israeli painting, Moshe Mokady (1902-1975), was an early exponent of abstract art and the trend towards internationalism.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art pays homage with an interpretive display of some 130 paintings and drawings.

The exhibition opens 28 December and is timed to coincide with the publication of a comprehensive book on the artist and his work, edited by Yona Fischer and exhibition curator Irith Hadar.


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