Bikurim, or “First Harvest” offering an invitation to artistically gifted students from 9th to 12th grades, opened its doors in September 2014 and has progressively welcomed students from all over the country.
Some of my most interesting pupils have studied there and have enriched our high school, Nofei Habsor, with a blossoming artistic environment, kickstarting the already lush Art Department and offering their gifts cultivated in a rich new Music Dept. This past May, a film was created to highlight the dream of the founder, Jonathan and his associates, of bringing gifted pupils from all over Israel or from abroad to our home-town, Eshkol to study art and music, and more!
I’m proud of Bikorim and long to see it develop into a larger hub of artistic pursuits for students of all ages.
Please read what Prof. Jonathan Dekel-Chen says below and watch this film.
“In these difficult times for communities and people around the world, I am delighted to share with you a beacon of hope and joy: Bikurim Youth Village for the Arts. I invite you to view this short film, in English:
This film is a window onto Bikurim, located 2.5 miles from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, a most unlikely place to establish an exciting, new professional incubator for excellence in the arts, while narrowing the gaps of opportunity for our country’s gifted, but marginalized, young people from cities, small towns, kibbutzim and moshavim.
For more information or to explore partnering with us, please contact:
J: Tell me about The Mustache Theatre – (Teatron haSafam) – what is it, how long has it been active?
D: The Mustache Theatre has been active for quite a while – more than a decade. The theatre is for teenagers from Grade 8 till 12. It’s a theatre group for people who love theatre. They come and participate in all kinds of acting exercises, acting, drama play, fooling around and just enjoying themselves. Of course, every so often, we perform a play
J: Okay. Who are the professionals you work with? D: We have a director, Yaacov Amsalem. He’s everything for us – our director, someone who makes us laugh, and organizes everything. There’s Arieh, in charge of our finances, and who arranges the logistics of where and when we perform, all the technical details.
J:What play did you do last year? D: Last year’s play was I am Me, a play that I unfortunately wasn’t a part of. But it was very successful
J: Where did you perform last year?
D: it was performed in the Bat Yam Theatre Festival, and won Honourable Mention. And this year, I’m in the play.
J: Tell me about your current play. How did it begin?
D: This year’s play is called The Newspaper. It’s a play that’s based on all the newspapers for youth – like Ma’ariv leNoar and others that deal with stories about and for teens – funny stories, stories about problems between teens and their parents who try to get close to them.
J: How did you begin work on the script? D: We worked with a scriptwriter who watched us do warm-ups and exercises in our rehearsals. Then we went to books and took texts from there. If it was Meshkenat Tzedek or Ha Na’an Ve Aru (from India) from the Tea House from the book Cunchiat ha Kesem. (The Magic Shell)
We took all kinds of books and constructed the texts of the play.
J: Who was the scriptwriter?
D: I don’t remember the name. But he sat with Ya’acov our director and chose parts for everyone.
J: I see. Is there anything else you want to add about the process?
D: Actually it was a really short process – from the first read-through of the script till performance. We barely had to time to rehearse or run through the script. And after only 2 weeks, we already went to perform in Bat Yam, at the Festival.
D: And we got another Honourable Mention! From the Directors of the Festival and from the Critics.
J: Do you have a monologue? Can you tell me about it?
D: Yes, I have a part. I was Aru, the owner of the Indian Tea House. And I’d verbally abuse a young Indian. Young Indian, Tea House – everything must run perfectly. If within 3 minutes the tea doesn’t get to the client, well then he’ll go to another Tea House. So, all the time I tell him, go there, go over there. I played the “bad guy”.
J: Did you enjoy playing him?
Dor: Yes, but on the other hand no. When I walked around, half the girls came to me crying that I was a bad man, an evil man.
And I’d say, half-cynically,”Okay”….
J: Yes, how did it really feel.
D: It was weird. On one hand, it was wait a minute, I’m not really like that, but on the other hand it was great – it really made them feel something. One friend told me that if people in the audience yelled to me: “Stop getting him crazy, stop sending him from side to side”, then it really meant that you succeeded in being believable.
J: Yes, you really did it! And congratulations
D: Yes, and we performed here in the Eshkol Auditorium, we also managed to get the message across, very well! Rami (Zvilli, Jr. High Principal of Nofei Habsor) said to me that I can take over his job.
J: You succeeded to that extent! Good for you.
J: How did you prepare for your role as Aru?
D:.The truth is that I was myself, as a mean human being, that I didn’t have to consider him or his needs, but only that he needs to work on schedule and I listened to the Director. Ya’acov gave me very clear directions, to emphasize things, to move in a certain way
J: Okay. So you brought it from within yourself.
J: So tell me more about the play. Is it about the relationship between parents and their children?
D: Yes the whole story is about a couple who go to see the school counselor and he tells them about the problems at school, academic and social and how he doesn’t do anything. He asks where its coming from, if its due to circumstances at home, or some other place. And that the parents have to learn how to communicate. He gives then a paper ‘The Newspaper’ and there they read articles about how to relate to their son.
J: Were there parents who came to you and said that they related to the idea?
D: Yes, someone came up to the director and admitted that it was true
J: Excellent. No doubt there were others who felt the same.
J: Do you think the Mustache Theatre will be doing this play next year?
D: No every year we do a new play, with fresh ideas. If there’s a huge demand, then there’s a chance we would give another performance. It’s a really good play. We have another performance on June 15th at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.
J: Okay, now speaking personally, what was your favourite part of the play?
D: To stand in front of the audience, to act, and to see that they got the message, that they were really attentive and didn’t disrupt us.
Part 4: Future and other Comments J: What are your plans for next year?
D: I plan to continue with the Mustache Theatre because I really enjoy it there, even though I live quite far. There’s a great atmosphere and the people really enjoy theatre. But even if someone doesn’t think they have a sense for theatre, they can still come. It’s free and whoever comes is welcome. Come, take a look, and if you enjoy it, stay!
J: so you love it!
Dor: I love it. It’s not the first time that I’m involved in theatre. Since the 8th grade I’ve been doing theatre, directing plays for the local council or in Ashkelon with a friend of mine, a scriptwriter, who asked me to direct his play, That play was well received. We also performed it in Ashdod and we received a lot of good feedback.
Theatre is the one thing that I’d give anything for.
J: Do you see yourself working in theatre in the future?
Dor: Yes, as an actor, or a director.
J: Great. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Dor: I hope that people will see the play, that they’ll come because it’s fun. We laugh and enjoy ourselves. It’s for those with a theatrical sense and even for those who don’t! Come, take a look, and give it a try. It’s fun!
J: Where do you do your rehearsals?
D: For the plays, it’s in Moshav Amioz or in Nir Itzhak in the Little theatre. The workshop is on Mondays here at school (Nofei Habsor Comprehensive), from 4:30 – 6:30. And it’s worth coming.
J: Okay! Good luck to you, Dor. Thanks so much for talking to me.
This is the poster for ‘I am Who I am’, a performance by the Mustache Theatre.
The last time I saw the community Mustache Theatre perform was during Operation Cast Lead. The performance at that time was based on authentic fears and experiences during a time when we, in this area, were experiencing constant rocket attacks, usually early morning as children boarded their school buses or in the evening when a family was home, without access to a fallout shelter. Those dreadful times bred deep fears that were compounded with every boom.
At that time, the Mustache Theatre offered a forum for kids to pen their anxieties and shape them into skits. With every rehearsal and later every performance, this drama therapy worked its magic. Talking about fears released the pressure. “Red Alert” (Tzeva Adom) was the resultant play.
Now, two years afterwards, rocket attacks are fewer and other problems have stepped into the foreground. Last night’s performance of “I Am Who I Am” focused on individual stories of normal everyday kids.
One was embarrassed because of her Russian roots. She only wanted to be like every other Israeli teenager. Another had an eating disorder. A third coped with a mother with diagnosed schizophrenia. And on it went. Each character had his or her moment to express dilemmas or pain within the environment of a youth camp.
The script, based on the participants’ stories, was edited into final form by Na’ama Goren. Direction was by Ya’acov Amsalem, himself brandishing the mustache for which the troupe was named.
Actors: Yonatan Malchi, Yonatan Segal, Ya’ara Melinski, Liron Malchi, Mor Lavie, Miri Sosnovski, Nisanit Cohen, Idan Hameiri, Shirli Vinogradov and Tom Segal are all students in Nofei Habsor Comprehensive School, ranging in age from 13 – 17.
The backing for this project comes from the heart and soul of one woman, Aliza Ben Yehuda, who works with the Eshkol Regional Council in the Youth Social Services Department. She, in her wisdom, saw that theatre was an immediate remedy for alienation during troubled times, and through her efforts, the theatre group was created ten years ago and has been nurtured ever since by other members of the Youth Social Services branch.
After the performance, the participants offered thanks to all of the adults who gave them a hand, to one of their fellow actors, Dvir, who acted as Assistant Director.
The show was enthusiastic, clearly a labour of love for all involved. This troupe generally performs in national festivals throughout Israel and I expect they will be on the road with the show in the near future.
There are few cities in the world which have gone through so many names as did Tel-Aviv in its early years.The Home Building Society was the original name of the association that had decided to build the new neighborhood. It soon became “Ahuzat Bayit” but, at the end of 1909, about six months after the neighborhood’s establishment, its members were already engaged in a lively debate over the appropriate name for the new neighborhood: New Yafo, Neve Yafo, Nof Yafo, Aviva, Beauty, Tranquil, Ivria…” read more:
That’s right. Life is a criss-cross jumble chaotic piece of work. Yes it is.
What am I talking about this week?
We’ve had terror in Mumbai, all too close to home for comfort, both in Al-Quaeda overtones and in the fact that almost every high school student sets their sights on a trip to India or South America or Thailand after graduation and all these places seep into our lexicon. Who do you know who’s in Mumbai these days? Have you heard from them? Are they safe?
With every terror attack, we all run through our personal directories, our e-mail friends, our acquaintances from work or school or army or yoga or wherever we meet people we become close with. Are they safe? What about M who went to India with her husband for a new life? Is she safe? We all shake when we hear of terror. In Israel, we all know the drill. First comes the news report and then come the phone calls and investigations.
We go through this all the time. We’re ‘used to it’. Yeah, right.
This week I’ve learned that Sderot is beginning drama therapy workshops for its children at the Sderot Community Treatment Theater. I’ve been invited to an Intensive Day-long Seminar at the Sheffayim Hotel, on January 8/09 for teaching techniques for remediating victims of trauma. This amazingly rich schedule of workshops and lectures is being offered to all therapists and anyone else interested as well as to the graduates of Lesley College, the Cambridge University with world-wide branches, including one in Netanya. This is the home of MAs in Expressive Therapy and Holistic Therapy and B.Eds in Creative Education. Teachers with such degrees are invited to participate. The day is presented by Natal, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War. The Schedule of the day can be seen here, in Hebrew, for anyone interested in registering.
We, in Israel have got to accrue expertise in remediating victims of terror. We’ve got no choice. Yet, I’ve read that the authorities of Mumbai have refused help from Israel in dealing with the hostages in the Chabad House. I ask you, why would they choose to refuse?
Back to home affairs, our school Ma’ale Habsor has been working inside and out.
Our teachers are involved in a two week after-school stretch of meetings, long marathon Pedagogical meetings which take us into the situation of many of our students. We share information, look at the dynamics of each class, sociograms (thanks Racheli of the 8th grade), special cliques, (thanks, Chico also of 8th grade), and girls working together to help tame a few boys who would prefer not to learn and would if not for those girls (thank you, Ilani – yes 8th grade). Eighth grade has always been fondly called Hormone year, but now with higher incidences of shorter attention span and greater environmental distractions, it’s all on higher frequency.
So, teachers at our school are more tired but stalwartly attending these all too important meetings. The new school building is coming along well. As I was photographing the outside structure, I was invited to step inside and look at the ‘finished’ bare walls. Have a look:
other view inside
Did you know this is how a school is built?
Architecture is fascinating, no?
Also in school this week, our Tenth grade students were involved in a Citizenship Seminar. I can’t comment on the success or failure, but I can note that some of my students were happy to get back to studying English. (for which I’m grateful).
The Swim team did great and brought back medals from the REED (National Rural School District Council) Championships.
Our school soccer team won this round of the Tournament and is going on to the Finals in the REED Soccer Championship.
Our area’s been free of booming sound effects this week, for which I’m grateful. I’d love to hear from someone in Nahal Oz or Kfar Aza as to what’s going on in their communities. If anyone is reading this, please post a comment.
May it be a peaceful week. May those in Mumbai survive this and get on with remediation in their lives.
Anyone for art? Please drop by the White House, Nir-Oz’s Art Gallery, to see the Exhibit presenting artists of Otef Aza along with those from Mexico. I’ll be there and will be back to post my impressions.
Without further delay, but most probably with edits and an added photo of wonderful Ya’ara, I proudly present an interview with Ya’ara Messika, recently graduated student from Habsor Comprehensive High School, Eshkol Region.
Interview with Ya’ara Messika, member of TheMoustache Theatre, Eshkol Community Youth Theatre, in the Western Negev.
We spoke about the Theatre and about the play ‘Tzeva Adom’.
Judih: Hi Ya’ara. Could you introduce yourself?
Ya’ara: My name is Ya’ara Messika. I’m 17 years old. I live in Pri-gal in the Negev. My main interests revolve around theatre. I also write poems and short stories for myself.
J: Tell me about The Mustache Theatre – (Teatron haSafam) – what is it, how long has it been active?
Y: It’s a community youth theatre and it’s about 7 years old. Each year, the kids decide what play they are going to produce. Then a writer comes and writes down our ideas and the stories that come up. Basically, the work is cooperative – the actors work with the writer.
J: Which professionals do you work with? Y: a professional writer, a director and a choreographer. Our director is Ya’acov Amsalam, a very good actor and director.
J:What play did you do last year? Y: We did “That’s How It Is” about families and family relationships.
J: Where did you perform last year?
Y: We performed at the Eshkol Municipal Hall and at a youth festival.
J: How does that compare to this year’s performances? Y: This year we performed three times: at the Eshkol Hall, at the youth festival and a third performance for Ma’ale Habsor and Habsor High Schools. We have a fourth performance coming up on August 5th for the Military.
J: I know that some of your performers are out of the country, or some may be unavailable. How will you put on the show without them?
Y: Since the play is made up of short skits, if someone isn’t here, we can either replace him or her or simple leave out their segment.
J: Tell me about “Tzeva Adom”. How did it begin?
Y: Well, it’s a funny story. The very place we work in, a qassam fell, just about the week we had to decide on a new play.And we moved to a shelter to continue our work temporarily. It was quite obvious that that was going to be what we were going to talk about. Because a lot of us had experience andit seemed to be the best topic.
J: How did you begin work on the script? Y: Improvisation – we did a lot of improvisation and took everything that came up, showed it on stage and then the group decided what would work best for the play.
J: Is there anything you want to add about the process?
Y: It’s a very communal process – we all work together and everyone gets a chance to speak his mind – no one gets left out. It ‘s like a family.
J: You had a monologue, Ya’ara. Can you tell me about it?
Y: Well, my monologue is about a mother talking about her son. My mother told me a story about a kid she taught, who had a qassam fall on his house . Well, he moved away and then a qassam fell on his new place. And he said that the qassams were after him. That sentence burned itself into my head and I turned it into a monologue about the parents and how they deal with kids, who don’t really know what’s going on.
J: How did you prepare for your role as the mother?
Y: It was easy for me to get into the character because the monologue is mine and I’m very connected to what was said. And my mother helped me a lot. Also I heard a lot from many other parents with small children, because everyone talks about it. People tend to talk a lot about kids when they talk about qassams because it’s a very tense topic. All this going on around me helped me prepare.
J: Why did you wear white?
Y: It was a director’s decision. We all wore loose, comfortable clothes, because those clothes represent peace and calmness and the topic we’re talking about is war and anger. We wanted to make a dramatic contrast.
J: The costumes were red, black and white. Did you choose white for yourself?
Y: The director thought white was better for the character I was playing.
J: At a certain point in the play, the sound system wasn’t adequate and it was hot in the theatre. Some kids in the audience weren’t listening. Was that the 1st time that something like that happened while you were performing?
Y: Two years ago in the Bat Yam Festival, kids got up and threw a pencil sharpener and an eraser onto the stage! That happens with teenagers. They can lose patience if they can’t hear well or if the topic doesn’t interest them. Kids sometimes do stupid things on stage. That’s just how it is.
J: After the show, Aliza Ben Yehuda, technical advisor of the group and professional youth counselor, proposed opening up a dialogue between the actors and the audience. She asked for people to offer their responses to the show: if the topic spoke to them. When no one volunteered, she asked a few of the actors to offer their reactions to what they had performed. What did you think of that?
Y: I did not participate in that segment. I felt very offended. I think that when people don’t show respect for what is done on stage, they don’t deserve my respect. We were there for them. We weren’t paid, we were invited to perform for the schools. I didn’t think we should initiate a dialogue if they didn’t respect us.
I think it’s a good idea to have a dialogue but not with that kind of audience.
J: Was that the first time that Aliza had suggested the post-performance discussion? Y: It was the first time. When we were in the festival, we didn’t have the time and in the other performance it wasn’t appropriate.
I think for the dialogue to work, people have to be prepared. You need to know who you’re talking to and what it is you want to say. It could work in the future.
J: What is Aliza’s role in the Theatre?
Y: Aliza is there almost all the time, she feeds the process. She takes care of us, she handles the technical stuff backstage and in rehearsal. She’s isn’t there to act as a counselor, she’s there strictly for the theatre.
J: Do you think the Mustache Theatre will be doing this play next year? Do you think it will still be relevant in the light of the current cease-fire?
Y: I hope so, it’s a very interesting topic. The play opens the eyes of people who don’t know what it’s really like. It gives them an idea, albeit a satiric view, but still it gives a good idea of what we’re living. Along with that, we live so far away and we’re only a community theatre, so I’m not sure how many opportunities we’ll get to perform ‘Tzeva Adom’.
J: What was your favourite part of the play?
Y: That’s hard, there were a lot of parts I really liked. I like the birthday party. It shows a real situation. It could really happen.
J: I loved the way the little girl was dressed (she was totally padded with a crash helmet). It was very comic. I wish there was a clip of that scene on youtube.
Y: There is a promo of the play up on Youtube. It gives an idea of the play.