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:
The single chords of a piano, the melodic flute, water runs in the background and a bird on occasion. Some vocals, some strings.
It opens me up in an effortless way. Immediate effect. And it works on so many others.
I see a group of American kids posing in front of a beautiful backdrop that they created. I cry. Why? Because I wish I could be teleported into that picture. Happy, smiling. For that particular moment, they’re together and their only goal is to have a picture taken to mark their existence.
I look at them and wonder when our kids will be having that experience. It seems like we’re in for war tomorrow. They cancelled the train from Ashkelon to Sderot. That translates to heavy odds towards renewed rocketfire, missiles being aimed at a chunk of the country. I clearly don’t want to think about it, but it’s hovering right there, just above my right shoulder.
The bamboo flute reminds me that this too will pass. The future doesn’t yet exist. One move made by one person could change everything. One move leads to another. I could be sitting here tomorrow morning praising the wisdom of those sitting at the negotiation table. Or their folly.
Humankind doesn’t seem to learn that flexibility comes with practice. If each human exercised daily, meditated daily, listened to Chinese bamboo flutes, then perhaps, human beings would be able to reconsider the old ways. Perhaps those ways don’t suit the current reality. It could be that there’s a new way of dealing with things right in front of our eyes, if only we were to be open enough to look and see.
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.
Have you heard about the tent cities in Israel? Since July 2011, young people, students, married couples, families with children, older citizens, all have come to live in the tent cities found around Israel.
The media dropped away, but the fight for social justice is very much alive. I had an opportunity to speak to someone active in the movement. Here’s the interview conducted Thursday September 1, 2011.
Conversation with Ayelet Shturman
Since July 2011, citizens of Israel have banded together to protest the rising cost of living. The simple fact is that even working multiple jobs is hardly able to cover monthly expenses, even the most modest basic needs. Young couples can’t afford housing, and students are desperate for affordable accommodation. The government has done nothing concrete to answer the needs of the people.
To rally together and make sufficient noise to be heard, tent cities around the country have been erected. The largest is in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard.
Ayelet Shturman, a former pupil of mine (back in the 7th grade) came to the first day of school at Nofei Habsor Comprehensive School and suddenly appeared in the Teachers’ Room, holding posters and a rolled up tent.
After warm greetings, we sat down and spoke. She told me that she’s been living in a tent on Rothschild Bld for the past two months. And I asked her if she still drew (thinking what a wonderful thing to publish – her drawings of the goings on in the tent city.)
She replied that she didn’t really have much time to draw since she’s been busy teaching kids in the tent city. I asked her to explain.
Judih: How do you teach the kids?
Ayelet: I’ve been doing children’s games. Card games like Quartets for the revolution and Memory games for the revolution, everything designed with many terms and expressions, about the economy, and so on.
Judih: For the kids staying in the tents?
Ayelet: For the kids in the tents and for the kids who come to visit the tent city. Parents want their children to experience it as something good, but more than that, they want their children to understand. They need someone to simplify the concepts so that even their seven-year olds can grasp them and so they’ve asked us to find ways to educate the children.
J: That’s great. You’ve found a way to help them interact with the concept.
A: Yes, and it’s called a School for the Revolution and it’s taking place all over the country. Today, (Thursday, Sept 1) we have a huge tent in front of the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem. Right at this moment they’re starting.
I hope we can do something on Sunday as well. It’s very important that we make a big impression. Today in Nofei Habsor, we’re setting up a tent and inviting students and their teachers from grades 11 and 12, especially Civics classes, to come out and ask questions. We have thousands of people working on this.
J: Are you working through Facebook or do you have some other network to get out your message?
A: I’m just helping. If they need money, I work to raise it. If they need somebody to set up, I help. If they’re short of water, I help. The entire thing is run by the efforts of many people.
J: Who’s in charge? Who’s the head of the School for Revolution?
A: There’s a professor at the Seminar haKibbutzim, who teachers Sociology and Gender Studies and she’s the one who organized us, recruited people, and motivated us to act. But various people are in charge of various responsibilities.
J: So it is a movement run by the people.
A: Yes. For example there is someone in charge of all the social activities and communication. He will organize TV, internet time and radio spots.
J: A total media network.
A: Yes, and he’s in charge of that aspect. I’m responsible for education. All round Israel there will be tents and I’m responsible for them and for organizing the tent in Jerusalem. I hope to continue doing it all over the country.
J: It’s a lot of work.
A: Yes, but the media is very tired of it
J: Well, hurricanes upstage you. But people aren’t tired of not having enough money. The people are behind you.
A: Yes, but the problem is that if you don’t live in Tel Aviv, and you don’t have the opportunity to come to Rothschild, the tent city, and see what’s going on for yourself, if you live in the Kibbutzim like Tze’elim and Gvulot,
J: But there is a tent city in Be’er Sheva
A: Yes, and there is a tent city in Kiryat Shmona or Shlomi but if you’re not right there, you live by the media. You trust it to tell you what’s going on. If the media doesn’t air it, it doesn’t exist.
But the media has become really immune to what we’re doing, right now. Three months ago there were 20,000 people going around Tel Aviv, on Rothschild, maybe 30, 000 people. Then there lots of reporters and a lot of media exposure. But now?
J: I was in America visiting with my family. And I was speaking with my Uncle, who’s a Judge and 90 years old and he said:”I wish that the American people would learn from the Israeli people and do what the Israeli people are doing.” And he’s someone with a lot of influence and there are people who think of us overseas. So don’t give up. There may not be a lot of noise right now, but the noise will come back. I’ll do what I can.
A. Einshalla (by the grace of God in Arabic)
J: I’ve got a blog.
J: and I’ll do what I can. I’ll try.
A. Fabulous. Come out to Tel Aviv on Saturday. Please spread the word. I hope it will be a one million man march.
One million will make a difference. Because that’s their language. That’s what attracts media. They don’t understand anything but numbers. Half a million. They speak by numbers. Everything else doesn’t make an impression.
Bezalel, Israel’s leading academy of art and design, and one of the top art schools in the world, is turning the whole of Israel into an art gallery, from February 16 to 26.
Some 1600 students from all eight of Bezalel’s art and design departments will contribute one piece of artwork to the largest outdoor exhibition ever in Israel. Each piece of art is being reproduced on billboards and they will be distributed and displayed across the country.
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.
Strange to say that during Democracy Week last week in our Western Negev School, I had little contact with my students. Some were off on a week of pseudo-Army experience, called the ‘Gadna‘. Some were off in Jerusalem in order to sum up their experience of travelling to Poland in August, where they experienced the actual Holocaust location, empty and green as it may be at the moment.
For me, my experience of Democracy Week was grabbing a chance to pursue my right to be a human being despite the incessant calls to create powerpoint learning units and to devise creative ways to stimulate learners to absorb the English language. My human rights were happily exercised as again I interviewed Martina Newberry (soon to be posted here), and entered into that part of my brain that deals with the more bizarre connections of experience, my own and others’.
But enough about me.
This post is to commemorate the ceremony in Nofei Habsor, on Wednesday, October 20th, marking 15 years after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, killed during a public gathering in what was then called the State Square, mid-Tel Aviv. It’s now Rabin Square, and since that mind-boggling night when a citizen named Yigal Amir murdered our Prime Minister because of a difference in point of view, we struggle with what it means to be Democratic.
How far from a Democracy are we, and what can we do to strive to work towards equal rights for all?
I include the clip filmed and edited by our Media Department, and below the jump, you’ll find some photos of the interactive seminar rooms in which students of all grades participated.
The clip, in Hebrew, shows Grade 10 students reading important statements about Democracy from the beginning of the existence of the State of Israel, in 1948 till later days. You’ll hear songs, you’ll see the release of doves as a pledge to search for freedom. Finally, you’ll hear one girl announce that the Student Council initiated a petition pledging students to resolve to work towards freedom and equality for all. After collecting signatures in Nofei Habsor, the student council will circulate the petition to other schools to create a butterfly effect.
Salute to those who search for the way to a Democratic way of living in peace and co-existence.
In the spirit of the recently concluded Soccer World Cup, 80 Palestinian, Arab-Israeli, and Jewish children graduated from a summer camp recently in which they learned coexistence through the popular sport.
The camp was part of a year-long program called Barkai-Jenin, held by the Maccabim Association. The children in the program, 40 of whom reside in Jenin and 40 of whom reside in Kibbutz Barkai, meet once every two months to share conversations and games. In honor of the World Cup a week-long soccer camp was held.
…………..Please read this article, another journalist’s coverage of positive promotion of cooperative, authentic efforts to open minds.
Hope you’re all enduring a super-hot summer. Round here, in the Negev, it’s a brave soul who ventures out for longer than a few minutes after the sun hits full blast.
Amir, Lotan: During the Purim break – it took us 3 days.
J: What gave you the idea?
Amir: Arieh! (Arieh Schkolnik, who we’ve met before demonstrating how rockets can be powered by water)
Amir: But,there’s a story.
J: Tell me
Amir: You see, Arieh already had a wind-bike and we asked him if we could borrow it. But, the kibbutz safety manager had seen Arieh try it out on the road with kids, and he was concerned that it wasn’t safe enough.
So Arieh, of course, didn’t agree to let us use it. So, we decided, right then and there to build a new one, one of our own.
J: How did you start?
A: We went to the kibbutz bicycle storage area and started to look for parts. We needed wheels and a good seat. We put them together, attaching them to the front part of a bike and built a kind of triangular frame.
After that, we needed more bike parts and pipes and other pieces of iron and steel. We built the steering wheel and the housing for the mast (which we already had). We made the steering wheel from two handlebars (one was already attached and we mounted the other one a little further back.
Finally, we started to build the chair and finished the assembly, and we were ready to experiment.
A: We had to figure out how to attach the sail. At the beginning, we were doing all this on the kibbutz, but we didn’t succeed much. When we went to a more open space outside of the kibbutz, we managed to travel. We were able to catch the wind and it worked.
J: How’d you feel?
Amir: We felt great.
Let me tell you how it works.
To steer the sail, we use our feet on the handlebar. There’s a string on the sail that catches the wind. We usually try for 45 degrees into the wind.
J:How fast can you go?
A: We managed to go about 20km/hour
J: Is that fast?
A: It’s fun. We even managed to crash. At least I did. But the vehicle was fine.
Lotan: There are no brakes.
J: Is that a problem?
A: Yes. The only way to slow down is to free the sail, and then the wind can’t catch it or push us.
J: Do you have plans to make more of these bikes?
A: First we need to work on some form of brakes!
Lotan: We also need to lower it, to make it more stable on the road.
J: Who is Arieh Schkolnik?
A: He works with my father in electronics on the kibbutz. And he has always invented things, including this wind-bike. A few years ago, Lotan and I found a wind bike that some other kids from school had made. We just needed a sail for it. We went to show Arieh and he got very excited and he built a new sail for it.
Our wind-bike includes parts from my father’s wind-surfboard – the sail and mast.
J: Ah, so you were lucky. Do you have any other projects?