Amsterdam-Tel Aviv twinning at CIDI: pffff….

IMAG0205 I got an invitation to a meeting at CIDI about Amsterdam-Tel Aviv as potentially twinning cities, quite a heavy debate at this moment in Amsterdam because the leftist parties in our city council have turned against it out of fear to introduce the problems of that region to Amsterdam. A matter of overconfidence in the city council’s powers, by the way, because the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision…
The main reason for me to go to the meeting was that CIDI invited Eytan Schwartz, the senior political advisor to the mayor for this issue, and Mickey Gitzin, member of the left-liberal Meretz party in the Tel Aviv city council. So this was an opportunity to get direct information from people involved, an opportunity not to be missed.
Arriving at the CIDI was the first painful moment. I pass the Anne Frank House and the Hollandse Schouwburg several times a week, and here I saw the same thing: the police protection unit that is now, in Amsterdam 2015, permanently there (see the picture above). A reality that does not become normal in our city that is so free in general…
Moreover I had to pass a guard, a special fence, a double door at the entrance and then I was in… and nobody seemed to bother. I expected some kind of reception but there was none. So as a new person I decided to direct towards the coffee corner just to give myself an attitude and I was not disappointed there, like in many places the women do the hospitality, they were very nice and made me feel more at ease.
The meeting did not disappoint me in the sense that the guests were brilliant. They explained very clearly what Tel Aviv is like, how they work, what they want to achieve (a great city for their citizens, not creating peace for the whole world but building a better day-to-day life which contains also ‘boring’ aspects like the sewing system). They showed that Tel Aviv is a vibrant and tolerant city that could exchange in many aspects with Amsterdam to the benefit of both cities. Their aim is not to do diplomacy but to come to practical solutions that work.
Also they impressed me with their explanation of how they deal with the complexity of the region they live in: they got very, very critical questions from the public at the CIDI meeting and they were capable to explain their private moral standards, dilemmas, decisions in a way that is rare to hear. I learned more from them in an hour than I learned in the whole last week and maybe even month. I love to learn so they made my day. I could have learned more, though…
The meeting did disappoint me when it comes to the point ‘public’. There were some people in the public who already seemed to know what they thought and approached the guests from Tel Aviv with questions that were not meant to get information but to make them ‘accountable’ for all Israeli politics. This was not just tiresome, it was also offensive and I felt embarrassed at several occasions. Two things they said surprised me in particular. 1. that Tel Aviv would have a right wing majority of 51%; a factual statement that anybody who prepares meetings would have looked up in advance but apparently that guy didn’t mind to do the preparation effort – so the guests explained, 31 seats in the Tel Aviv city council, 2 for Likud, 3 for religious parties, 5 seats in total, not exactly the alleged 51%. And 2. blaming Tel Aviv, a city of 450.000 inhabitants, for being inadequate in dealing with 60.000 refugees, while at this very moment the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, is showing a hard attitude in European negotiations to invite just a few thousand refugees from the Mediterranean – some self reflection is useful at times!
What impressed me also emotionally is the remark of Eytan Schwarz about how he works on good things for citizens and ideals and many positive steps to make this world a better place and then is often confronted with negative emotions about Israel that are projected on him as a person; his self awareness and also his strength of vulnerability to say this in public. Wow. And the remark of Mickey Gitzin, short and to the point among all these prejudices of life in the Middle East commented on (my wording, not his) from Amsterdam sofas: talk less, listen more. So true. And it would have made this meeting so much more interesting because the guests had a lot to tell but not everybody was ready to hear, to listen, they just wanted to make their point about their opinion about Israel versus Palestine, and about perceived immorality of Israelians, even the guys in front of their nose, no dialogue nothing, very strange.
Thanks Cidi for organising. It was only 2 hours but I was dead tired after this meeting – not their fault and I learned a lot and also got inspired. But I also worry because of what I saw.
As I said above, the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision, the meeting made that very clear… So the best the city council can do is to make sure that we will not loose the dialogue and to organise that we will meet as humans: not to discuss the big issues of world peace as long as we are not the UN-president, but to make the daily life of our citizens better with practical projects and solutions found across borders.

Taxi Teheran

taxi teheran  How to make a movie that is only playing in a taxi and does not bore any minute? Taxi Teheran is a succesfull try-out of that concept although not by free choice alone. Jafar Panahi, maker of the movie and also its main character has a history of struggling with censure and oppression in his country Iran. He is not allowed to make movies during 20 years and this movie, Taxi Teheran, was made secretly and smuggled out of the country.
The movie is very funny with many surprising moments, and it has a groundtune of sadness underneath. As such, it is very Iranian: Iranians usually are well developed, social, bright and full of life, they know how to make the best out of difficult circumstances. But that does not mean that they do not feel the difficult circumstances, especially the oppression.
In Taxi Teheran we see a wonderful mix of people entering and leaving Jafar Panahi’s taxi. Even the concept ‘taxi’ in Teheran is different from other countries and that in itself creates unexpected situations. Taxi Teheran shows a lot of interesting interaction between a variety of inhabitants of Teheran. And it gives some great insights in the well developed double face of Iran, in survival and creativity against the odds.

Adana archaeological museum: closed???

adana archeological museum   The Adana archaeological museum is one of the ten oldest museums in Turkey – opened already in 1924, the official government website mentions: www.adanamuze.gov.tr. You don’t need to speak Turkish to understand the unique pieces to be seen in this museum: “Neolitik, Kalkolitik, Bronz, Proto-Hitit, Hitit, Yunan, Roma, Bizans, Selçuk ve Osmanlı devirlerine ait eserlerinin yanı sıra, az miktarda Asur, Fenike ve Ermeni eseri….” But you can find some English information here: Adana_Archaeology_Museum and here, including beautiful pictures: adanaarchaelogical. Unfortunately that is all you will see as they closed this museum completely. I was in Adana for a trademission with our ambassador and I decided to book a later return ticket the next day, because I really wanted to see this museum. I found myself in front of a locked fence. ‘I will talk myself into it’, I thought. In Turkey, most things are possible if you are kind and you speak Turkish. But the guard at the fence was different: there was no way to see even a glimpse of the beauty in this museum. ‘There were not enough visitors’, he explained and ‘it is my responsibility, I cannot do it’.
In the meantime, I am reading the book Toprak from Buket Uzuner. I bought it at the airport in Istanbul, it was in the Top 10 of Turkish books. In that book a teacher says about the Hitite city of Çorum (page 31, sorry for failures in translation, my fault): “Children, if the Hitites had lived in a western country, I guarantee you, the world’s most important archeologists and historians would work there, all the world’s tourists would stream into the city. If the people of Çorum would become master of their local history, Çorum would already have developed as an international star with trade and book fair, food and tourism festivals on world level. Be sure children that if you want it, the Hitite heritage will attract as much attention as the Egyptian pyramids, an important jewel! (…)”
Need I say more. Heritage, a matter of neglect or a matter of joy and wealth.
Let’s keep hope that one day the museum will open again. It is not difficult to find, if you see this spectacular new Sabancι mosque, go around the corner and you have arrived.
sabanci mosque

 

 

Turist and the myth of heroism

Turist is aturist great movie with many layers and enough humour not to make this too serious a movie. The maker of this movie, Ruben Östlund, has thought a lot about the psychology and behaviour of survival in sudden extreme circumstances like disasters. Statistically, he says in an interview in Het Parool (Amsterdam newspaper) 18/2, most men run away and do not save the women and children. Still, we stay with the myth of heroism in extreme circumstances. It interests Östlund why we do that and we can see that in this brilliant movie Turist. The difference between the myth of heroism we believe in and the confrontation with reality is a fundamental theme in the movie: how to face, how to deal with that reality?
We follow a Swedish model family on their ski holidays in France. Confronted with an avalanche, the father of the family runs away leaving his wife and two children behind. Lots of stories arise from that split second. You won’t be bored. The pictures in Turist are very beautiful. You won’t be disappointed there either. Also, you will learn why to never fly your drone inside the house.

Jewish museum Warsaw context

jewish museum warsaw context  Like most tourists I walked in the streets of Warsaw-Center and visited shops like a souvenirshop and a antiquitiesshop. Well, that was quite a surprise.
In the souvenirshop it was possible to buy magnets with symbols of Poland, like one finds magnets with canalhouses, tulips and wooden shoes in Amsterdam. One magnet was a yellow ‘Jewish’ star that mentioned ‘ghetto Warsaw’. I couldn’t believe my eyes, stood there thinking for some time considering whether I should buy it as proof.
jewish star warsaw  But I did not want to buy and thus encourage such souvenirs so I ended making a secret (and not well succeeded) photograph. I am sure that this yellow star would not be sold in the Netherlands but maybe this had a different meaning for the Polish people. I asked in the Jewish museum, showing the pictures but they reacted in a very neutral way, telling that they couldn’t read that it said ‘ghetto Warsaw’ which was true of course 🙂
In the antiquitiesshop it was possible to find all kind of symbols and pamphlets from the last century: communist and anti-communist posters, lots of stuff. I even found a poster in Dutch mentioning ‘Indonesië moet bevrijd worden’ showing an Indonesian guy in chains resisting against a Japanese soldier. As said it was in Dutch and not in Indonesian, this is a real historic thing as Indonesia was freed from the Japanese but then subject to a colonial war with the Netherlands, this poster maybe symbolized that already. The shop also offered Nazi objects. The picture on top and the one below were made secretly in this shop. Maybe it was not necessary to make them secretly, I didn’t know; as a Dutch person I had the feeling that it was a risk to take those pictures but maybe it wasn’t in the Polish context.  nazi stuff warsaw
All together this tourist street gave me many reflections about the context of the new and beautiful Jewish museum in Warsaw, Poland.

Jewish museum Warsaw dilemmas

jewish museum warsaw dilemmas Creating a completely new museum comes with lots of opportunities (that the Museum for the history of Jews in Poland discovered well) and also with dilemma’s. From my visit to this museum I remember two of them.
1. How do you present your history when it has got possibly unfavourable elements? Especially in the light of a history where others have tried many times to present your people as bad people and that this had fatal consequences. The first image of the Jews in Poland happens to be one that connects them to trade of slaves. It was by the way for the first time for me that I learned that the word ‘slave’ is actually connected to the Slavic people, that they were the slaves of the Middle Ages.
jewish museum warsaw6  The image shows Jews trading slaves and a bishop protesting against it; not because he was against slavery as such but because he was against the trade of Christians as slaves. Slavic people were already Christians by that time. Jews are recognizable with a 2-pointed hat. Could this image make actual prejudices increase? Is a scientific approach ‘this is the very first image and thus reality’ the correct one or should the museum be more careful and avoid a possibly bad image? The museum chose to show the 12nd century reality…
2. During war, the Polish were the only people to have an organizational structure to help Jews and this shows their heroic side. Opinions differ on the scale of effectiveness of the organisation. jewish museum warsaw7  How small or large should that part of Polish resistance take in the presentation of the 2nd world war part of the museum? You can imagine the discussions…
Most probably there were many more decisions to take that were a dilemma. What I like about this museum is that the makers are not afraid of decision making and also not of discussing the decisions made afterwards.They are transparent and they are accountable; a great sign of modernity that one can only appreciate!

Jewish museum Warsaw beauty

jewish museum warsaw beauty  28 October 2014 Warsaw could open the doors of the brandnew Museum of the History of Polish Jews and for certain, that museum is a beauty. First of all it is a beauty from the point of view architecture: jewish museum warsaw beauty
The size of the museum is enormous which offers opportunities for spectacular projects like: telling the story of the Jews coming to Poland 1000 years ago with moving images on glass walls; rebuilding an old wooden synagogue with all its special paintings; and redesigning a street in a Warsaw Jewish neighbourhood in the 19th/20th century with all its cultural and political activities, see these 3 pictures for an impression.
jewish museum warsaw beauty  jewish museum warsaw beauty jewish museum warsaw beauty
Apart from the special projects you can find interactive expositions for all centuries (I loved the medieval ones), and learn a lot about Polish history in general, too. The way the partition of Poland among other countries in the 18th/19th century was symbolised by a big and empty throne, overlooked by foreign rulers is impressive. Of course many people like to have their picture taken at the throne so it is never empty for a long time. The museum allows this kind of jokes and activities which is very nice.
This is a museum that deserves your time, wandering from one room to another through 10 centuries of history. It is different from other museums: it is an impression, not an explanation. It is an atmosphere and a way to live the lifes the Jews in Poland lived since the Middle Ages. If you visit Warsaw, remember to go there!

Make the world a better place (3)

make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)  Some cities are good at special Chrismas lightning, soms are less good. Amsterdam for example is not so good, not very creative in Christmas street lightning, but they also have the Amsterdam Light Festival (which is not the ordinary street lightning but specific enlightened art objects) and that is rather spectacular. Warsaw in Poland has very good designers for Christmas lights; look at the beautiful pictures. It gives class and style to the city and makes it a real joy to walk around:
  make the world a better place (3)  make the world a better place (3)Make the world a better place (3)
What amused me in Warsaw is that they also have this:
make the world a better place (3)     make the world a better place (3) Some wouldn’t call it class or style but the Polish citizens probably do. At least Warsaw is not afraid to combine these styles in the same street. And the children are happy with it!

Naziha’s spring – an outstanding IDFA documentary

naziha's spring  It was a coincidence that I went to an IDFA documentary, I never have / take time for things like that but in this case the maker of the documentary was the daughter of a friend with whom I participate in a Turkish litterature club – yes, all Turkish spoken so you understand I do not speak a lot, however I do read all the books (in Turkish) while not every participant does 🙂
I have to say that Gülsah Dogan presented an outstanding documentary that should be obliged learning material for any organisation involved in the problems of Amsterdam-West families. She has succeeded to make an inside picture about one of the (former) most problematic Dutch-Moroccan families Amsterdam-West has known. And anyone in the public can recognize and feel the characters, the conflicts, the existentialist problems that occur in this story. It is very moving – there were many tears – and the complexity of extreme family situations is revealed. This is a documentary that deserves a price and I hope it will win.
See http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=5273991f-70a3-431d-836f-264b6b41bce6, for more info and also times to visit next wednesday, thursday and saturday 26/27/29 November. Don’t miss this one! For me, it will still be on my mind for many days; it is really, really impressive!

Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue

puteaux  Puteaux: anger has risen in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris. In this city, the mayor provides school materials for the kids – in itself a most interesting fact. And he chose to give pink schoolbags to the girls, filled with jewelry stuff, and blue schoolbags to the boys with a constructable robot for the boys, thus inclenching a heavy debate:
http://www.lexpress.fr/education/puteaux-cartable-rose-aux-filles-bleu-aux-garcons-l-opposition-voit-rouge_1572098.htmlThe year before, the bags were black and it seems the mayor wasn’t aware and was completely surprised by the national and even international comments he got. It is very funny to see how some people still live somewhere ‘outside’ of the developing world and great to see that reactions are allover the place and bring him back to the real world; although there is quite some politics in there, too.

Now that we speak of Puteaux, a little puzzle for all of you who like the French language: how do you call a person living in Puteaux? Un(e) Putéolien(ne)…

 

Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014

Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014: in Amsterdam we have the Canal Parade as a unique event that can hardly be copied because only Venice would have canals like Amsterdam has them. It was, again, a very joyful event; it is so nice to be hundreds of thousands citizens celebrating together that we are a free country where we can love whoever we want. And the creative way it is expressed makes the party even better, see for example:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
And the Mensa boat ‘gayniaal’, alas not recognisable as such but beautiful colours:
gay pride canal parade 2014
A specific problem for the boats is that there are lots of low bridges to pass. Those who want to make ‘volume’ have to think of a way to bring it all down to pass the bridge and come up again after it. See how this works:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014
Also for the Army Boat, notice how all uniforms bow for the bridge – and notice also the American militaries on the boat who brought their own flag, a political statement!
  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
Another political statement that I like: gay pride canal parade 2014
And finally a great message:
gay pride canal parade 2014
See you next year for the next Canal Parade!

Grandfathers, Jews and the impulse to act

grandfathers  It is one of the myths in our family history: my grandfather ‘saving’ a Jewish girl from a Nazi. It was in the 2nd World War. In villages, children from Jewish families lived as if they were part of the farmers’ family, trying to escape a certain death when the Nazis found out they were Jewish. A 14 or 15 year old ‘secretly’ Jewish girl, described as very beautiful, accidentilly fell in the village street and bumped her head against a stone right in front of the house where one of the Nazis in charge was temporarily located. He came out of the house, saw the beautiful girl and took her into the house to take care of her. All of the village worried, they were talking about it: what is he doing to that beautiful girl and also, most of all: what if he finds out that she is Jewish? They were extremely nervous!
The worries and talks in the village took a great part of the day, then at the end of the day my grandfather returned from work and heard about it. When he was told, he didn’t even think for a minute but just got angry and went to the house of the Nazi. Did he have a plan? I don’t think so. He did not talk, he did not ask questions, as he never did. He just had the impulse to act.
Did he save her? He didn’t I guess, everybody who was in this story agreed that the girl saved herself once the opening was given. As soon as my grandfather appeared at the doorstep, this ‘wounded’ girl stood up from the couch where she lied down, she ran to the door, embraced my grandfather and acted as if he was her father: ‘o dad, dad, please take me home’. The Nazi guy nodded and my grandfather took her ‘home’. S

Summer 2014 we are living a period in Europe, and to my great great regret also in Amsterdam, where antisemitism is fully alive. And just like the village in the 2nd World War, everybody is talking about it. Everybody is ‘worrying’, like all of the village did in the War. But how many of us are acting?
What my grandfather did seems easy > he just went to the house. Anybody could have done that… but nobody did. So the real question is: why didn’t they do it? As the girl could save herself just upon the impulsive action of my grandfather.
I wonder about the conclusion of this story. Doing has more value, more effect than talking? Don’t spend time worrying, just act? Maybe that is true, also today…