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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Cutting-Edge Culture in Ancient Acco

Acco.06I was most surprised to read a recent Jerusalem Post piece decrying an alleged dearth of ‘cultural endeavour’ in Israel. Perhaps as I live in Karmiel - Israel’s northern provinces - it’s a different country from that known by the Post’s Barry Davis who opined that “many mainstream local arts institutions often have to cut their entertainment coat to suit their shrinking budget cloth”.

I’ve lost count of the cultural freebies we’ve enjoyed since emigrating in 2010. Although the quality may have been occasionally uneven, organisers and promoters have shown uniformly big hearts and copious quantities of imagination.

Last night was no exception: We tootled out of town to visit the Acco Festival of Alternative Theatre to find hundreds – perhaps thousands -  of people of all backgrounds enjoying a huge array of ever-changing  street shows held against the majestic backdrop of the ancient Crusader Citadel. All of it proved over and again that young Israelis are suffused with an infectiously joyful, high-spirited, even ingenious talent.

Now I’ll let the pictures tell the story before continuing  below ….

 Acco.16…. Earlier this summer we  attended a film screening in one of Karmiel’s prettiest parks and also enjoyed two open-air concerts featuring big-name singing stars at Nahariya, another a coastal resort near Karmiel. Further, there have been gratis performances celebrating Karmiel’s annual international dance festival, Israel Independence Day and so on - ad infinitum.

All this has had me pondering over the huge cultural gaps lying between Israel and many European countries. 

While the awful weather makes the  idea of arranging regular outdoor cultural events in the U.K. laughably futile, it seems that offering free culture is a very 'Jewish' exercise as it nourishes souls like no edible food ever can. I'm not discussing religious matters but crowd pullers like the movie or the concerts I mentioned earlier.

The pictures taken at this year’s British major rock music festivals showed fields awash with mud, beer cans and food debris. Moreover, the news reports following some shows like that in Heaton Park, North Manchester included angry comments from local residents about noise, filth and anti-social behaviour. 

Social life in Israel is by no means perfect and there are regular incidents of vandalism, theft, drug abuse and some drunkenness, too. But I believe that a city’s priorities are reflected very much in the behaviour of its citizens. Here in Karmiel, apart from occasional unpleasantness, it is largely very good indeed.

I suggest the idea of promoting culture was exemplified by the movie-in-the-park screening when, I’m sure, at the end of the evening the  municipal authorities had very little do except to pack up their gear, lock the gates and go home!

La Misma  Luna – Under the Same Moon – is a prize-winning Mexican film which was shown by the non-profit US ‘States of Minds’ organisation in partnership with the US Embassy in Israel. The event was staged to promote cultural exchange, understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and Israel through an American Film Festival. Other films were  shown in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Holon and Haifa. I believe Karmiel was chosen as a venue because of the strength of its native Spanish speaking community which includes a good number of ex-pat Mexicans.

Under the Same Moon tells the parallel stories of a mother who has been living in the United States as a maid and her son who is still in Mexico. Due to the unexpected death of his grandmother, the son, Carlitos must leave home to try to find his mother. Despite encountering many  obstacles they are confident that they will one day be reunited. I found many echoes with the Jewish experience in the story although a Mexican acquaintance denied this was so. The film stars Adrian Alonso, Kate del Castillo and Eugenio Derbez.


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