News & Events

An Exercise in Awakening: On Art in Times of Crisis

Against the backdrop of protests about the nature of Israeli democracy, the Mandel Leadership Institute, the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio and the performing arts schools at the Jerusalem Campus for the Arts held an event to explore art in times of crisis

Five panelists sitting on a stage Panel of Mandel graduates discusses art in times of crisis (Photo: Yoni Kleberman)

How has the world of Israeli art and culture responded to the current social struggle in Israel? What role do cultural agents play during profound moments of social upheaval? These questions took center stage at an event organized by the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture, together with the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio in Jerusalem, at the new Jerusalem Campus for the Arts.

Aharon Feuerstein, director of the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, said in his introduction to the event, “This evening is an attempt to hold complex, responsible and diverse dialogue in the wake of the recent political and social events in Israel. It will challenge our students while providing them with a safe space in which to hear and express diverse opinions.”

“The goal of this evening is to clarify what our role is – as cultural and creative leaders – during moments of social struggle, and to facilitate a conversation that is different from the public discourse that is taking place: a conversation that includes nuance, attentiveness and broad context, and is not immediately oriented toward conflict,” said Mishael Zion, a faculty member of the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture who leads activities in the field of culture on behalf of the Mandel Leadership Institute.

One man talking and one man listening Eli Bijaoui and Ariel Horowitz (Photo: Yoni Kleberman)

The centerpiece of the event was a panel discussion featuring graduates of the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture. Moderated by journalist and television personality Roni Kuban, the panel was made up of musician and author Ariel Horowitz; translator and director Eli Bijaoui; comedian Henya Shochat; and journalist Chen Artzi Sror, director of the Mandel Program for Leadership in Jewish Culture, who stated that we should be talking not only about rights but also about belonging, because people want to feel that they belong and want recognition for the values of family and homeland. The panelists told stories, argued, and shared their pains, fears and hopes for the future.

Prior to the panel, actors from the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio performed short scenes related to the social struggle, which enriched the evening and demonstrated the ability of art to deepen social discourse. The panel was followed by roundtable discussions in which the panelists discussed the issues raised with students and faculty members of Nissan Nativ.

A circle of artists and students discussing the issueRoundtable discussion of panelists and students (Photo: Yoni Kleberman)

The students and leadership of the participating institutions thanked the Mandel Foundation–Israel for fostering discourse on the current challenges faced by Israeli society. At the end of the evening, one of the students summarized her experience as follows: “I discovered that it is possible to think and speak differently, to show understanding, and to want to understand the other side….” She concluded: “The meetings in the classrooms after the panel discussion also gave me a sense of hope... The panel itself reinforced for me the meaning and importance of theater, creativity and art – in general, and particularly in our country, in my country.”

A circle of panelists and students discussing the issue Students and panelists discussing art in times of crisis (Photo: Yoni Kleberman)