I’ve talked quite a bit about Jerusalem and how surprising this city is.
Despite what the media tells you, Jerusalem is not the monotonous, religious, war-zone city that it’s made out to be.
Sure, religion is a big part of the city’s identity and on occasion there are moments of tension. But for the most part, people live and let live and religion is not the only major focus of this city.
You know what is a surprising major focus of the city? …Art.
Yep, turns out that Jerusalem has quite the art scene.
Read More – Photo Essay: The Secretly Cool City of Jerusalem
Typically, when you think of Israel’s cultural scene, you’ll think of Tel Aviv.
While the arts can be found all over the country, Tel Aviv is perhaps the cultural capital, home to a plethora of theatres, art galleries & music venues of all sizes. It’s a city where art can be found all around and is very much revered and proudly on display.
Jerusalem’s art scene isn’t quite like that.
But perhaps that’s what makes Jerusalem’s art scene different and so intriguing – because exciting projects happen that are only on the radar of Jerusalemites in the know.
Tel Aviv’s art scene is the celebrated daughter that puts on a show and flashes her many trophies in front of adoring audiences. While Jerusalem’s art scene is the quieter daughter, the one that people don’t pay as much attention to but is secretly a genius, choosing not to advertise her brilliance to the entire world.
During my time in Jerusalem, I got to delve quite deeply into Jerusalem’s art scene and I became familiar with various different artists & art projects.
I found them so interesting that I had to share with you what I saw.
The Artists’ Colony
The Artists’ Colony is a little compound located in the new neighbourhood of Mamilla, just a few minutes walk from the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. This ‘colony’ was created in the 70’s by then mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, who wanted to encourage and support artists in their work and turn the area into a lively arts centre.
Currently, there are over 20 artists who call the Artists Colony their ‘office’, ranging from painters, jewellers, weavers, calligraphers, photographers and more. Each artist has their own space that acts as both their workspace and their gallery.
One of the artists that we visited was Dina Kopelman. She has been working in the Artist’s Colony for over a year now and just like her peers and fellow residents, her space acts as both a workshop and a gallery.
In conversation, she mentioned that before she moved into her space at the colony, she wouldn’t get any visitors popping in to have a look at her art. Which also meant that she wouldn’t have many buyers. But now that she’s located in a renowned area for artists, she has many more visitors coming to see her work.
Dina is a painter who paints using a variety of techniques, including oil paints, pencil and ink. When I asked about her painting process, she had this to say – “When I’m painting, I’m not thinking. I paint intuitively. It’s important how it feels, not how it looks.”
Another artist that we visited was Sari Srulovitch. Sari is a world-renowned silversmith who has gone on to win numerous international awards for her work.
Sara studied her craft both in London and Jerusalem and her passion is creating Judaica inspired pieces with a story or deeper meaning. Many of her creations have become permanent features in museums located in Berlin & NYC.
When talking about her work, her passion for the subject matter comes across very clearly. She says that she’s always been interested in how humans relate to the pieces and find meaning in them. She went on to express that each decision that she makes during her creative process, is deliberate and meaningful.
For instance, the candleholders above have a very deep and significant meaning.
They’re not regular candleholders, but specifically memorial candleholders – candles to commemorate a loved one who’s passed on, such as on death anniversaries and memorial ceremonies for fallen soldiers.
The one on the left symbolises the loss feeling like a wound so deep that it’s as if you’re almost being cut into half. Whereas the one on the right symbolises how there’s a piece of you that’s been separated from the rest and can’t be glued back on.
This is just one example of the many beautiful and meaningful pieces that she’s created.
Translated to “The Factory”, HaMiffal is the epicentre of the Empty House movement – a group of Jerusalemite artists who turn abandoned buildings into spaces for artistic endeavours. Empty House was formed in 2011 by a group of graduates from Jerusalem’s art schools and HaMiffal is the 6th building they’ve squatted and renovated.
As soon as you walk in, you can tell that the atmosphere is very communal, cooperative and inclusive. And that’s proven in the fact that HaMiffal has a strong open door policy. HaMiffal opens its doors to anyone and everyone, automatically considering aspiring artists members of the community. All they need to do is show up on a consistent basis, form connections and get cracking with their projects.
Art is made from anything and everything and this experimental art centre is a prominent player in the underground Jerusalem art scene. Many of its quirky creations can be found throughout the premise.
Being the main hub of the Empty House movement, it functions as both a collaborative workspace for the community and an interdisciplinary venue for artistic events, dance, theatre, screenings and concerts. They also run workshops, have a vegetarian cafe and sell art created by local artists.
When asked about the vision of HaMiffal, manager Natan had this to say – “Artists come from different sectors of the city and bring their art to this place. We try to make a new way of art-making.”
Walking around and learning all about how it functions and helps the artists who come to create, it’s clear that HaMiffal is very much an artistic space that is created by the public, for the public.
Paley Centre of Arts
This probably had to be my favourite art-related discovery in Jerusalem and one that I think is very special and important. The Paley Centre of Arts was created by the Jerusalem Foundation in 1978 and is the only community arts centre that’s located in East Jerusalem. The purpose of this centre is to strengthen the vulnerable populations of the city through engagement with art, regardless of religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
Paley Centre of Arts has become the most prominent player in furthering art education specifically in the Arab sector, offering classes, workshops, exhibitions and more for children, teens & adults. And as well as holding regular art classes, they also offer music & photography classes and have a multimedia room where different projects can be displayed to the public.
What’s special about this centre is that it offers a preparatory course for teens who want to get in to the top art schools in the city, such as the reputable Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design.
60% of youth who have attended the preparatory course for Bezalel School of Arts & Design were accepted, and over 500 children attend weekly art & animation classes on a regular basis. In addition to that, dozens of women from the Arab community receive computer training for 6 months, 500 people attended the end of year Arts Festival at Paley and 80 children attended Paley’s art summer camp.
Jerusalem Foundation is a non-profit and while the Paley Centre of Arts has made many great achievements, it does run on a donation basis. To read more, check the Jerusalem Foundation website and maybe consider giving a small donation too if you can. It’s a very worthy project.
Extra Ways To Experience Jerusalem’s Art Scene
Since Jerusalem has quite the art scene and there is much more to experience and explore than what I have experienced myself, I have created a quick list of more art related experiences in the city.
Most of these next experiences are ones that I haven’t experienced myself. But seeing as they seem really cool and sound like a great experience, I’m sharing these with you too.
Jerusalem Art Tours – Facebook
Caron Greenblatt created this tour company so that she could showcase the art scene she loves so much. Caron is a longtime artist herself and knows all the ins and outs of Jerusalem’s art scene, making her the best person to guide you and allow for a great experience. She has a bunch of art tours that introduce you to art in different neighbourhoods and this was how I came to know of the Artists Colony and HaMiffal.
Beita Jerusalem – Website
Beita Jerusalem is one of the biggest players in Jerusalem’s art scene, engaging in art in a wide variety of ways. Acting as a whole society unto itself within the scene, Beita allows you to learn, experience and engage in art through art tours, exhibitions, artistic initiatives, workshops, courses and open classrooms. They regularly examine the relationships between art and social issues, both in general and specifically within the city of Jerusalem. A lot of their art program is focused on how to bring art to the people and how to use it to create positive social change.
Paint Party Events Israel – Website
A fun activity that I’m longing to experience, Paint Party Events Israel offers the very enticing experience of wining and painting in a social setting. Created by Nina Brenner, a long time art & drawing instructor, she facilitates the group to enjoy painting in a fun environment with friends and even strangers. You can sign up for an existing public event, but you can also schedule a private event for your group if you’re looking for a way to celebrate or if you want a team building activity.
And if you want to enjoy a unique art-related part of the city that only locals know about, visit the…
Machane Yehuda Market
…on a Saturday. The Machane Yehuda Market was probably my favourite place in Jerusalem and is one that I spent a lot of time in. It’s usually a bustling place with loads of locals trying to find the best prices for their grocery shopping. But on Saturdays it’s a cool part of Jerusalem’s art scene.
Saturday is the day of rest for most of Israel and just like many attractions and businesses, the market is closed. But on the shutters of the market stalls, you can find some awesome and unique street art mostly of notable historical and cultural figures. Created by the British\Israeli street artist Solomon Souza, viewing the art while wandering around the empty Machane Yehuda, is a great way to spend a sleepy Saturday afternoon.
In writing this post, I am reminded of a conversation between myself and the tour manager of Beita. We talked about how art has a lot of social importance and that it’s something that shouldn’t be a privilege that only the wealthy get to enjoy, but a right that every person should get to experience.
Jerusalem’s art scene is an example of just that. It’s a scene that’s inclusive and easily accessible to a myriad of people, allowing anyone to become an artist and art lover.
Jerusalem and art are so intrinsically connected that I now can’t see one without the other. It makes sense to me how & why art is a significant part of Jerusalem’s identity.
With a city like Jerusalem, where there are the occasional moments of tension and conflict, the city’s art scene is extremely important. After all…
“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.” – Victor Pinchuk
Do you enjoy experiencing art in a city that you’re visiting? What do you think of Jerusalem’s art scene? Feel free to share below!
Be Brave & Be Kind,