Are Jews White?

are jews white?

Are Jews White?, is the name of a new exposition in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. As an expert in diversity and inclusion, I went there almost immediately after the opening. Are Jews White? is an interesting and also a bit disappointing exposition. I explain you my mixed feelings in this blog.

When you enter the expo, there are a number of signs on walls and pillars, and a short introducton video. After that, you arrive in a former synagogue which is the religious part of the Jewish Historical Museum. I was surprised: was that all? Indeed it wasn’t. After the religious part, the exposition Are Jews White? continues. Video has a central place. The exposition makers have interviewed around ten persons with different background who reflect on the theme Are Jews White?. After some nice cutting and pasting, they produced a good series of interesting comments on the subject: many aspects of the theme are thus covered from different perspectives. A disadvantage however is that this production does not elevate the theme above the average ‘circus of opinions’. I could not discover where Are Jews White? rises above existing concepts. Are Jews White? rather shows how deeply we are imprisoned in boxes, unable to liberate ourselves from them.

To me, the concept of black and white is evidently not applicable to Jews (and many others). I remember how I visited a camp with Jews from Ethiopia in Tel Aviv who newly arrived, somewhere in the begin of this century. They had been health care workers in Ethiopia and were preparing for a similar job in Israel. They had a good selfconfidence of what they had to offer to Israeli Jews – for example, more respect for the elderly – but many of them felt underestimated and discriminated upon. Therefor I wondered how the exposition would work this out. Are Jews White? failed to do so, but shows clearly that the concept of black and white has strong limits and serves rather as a concept to divide people more than to unite them.

Professor Gloria Wekker is one of the persons interviewed in the video. Her concept of intersectionality has no answer to the Are Jews White? issue. Intersectionality (in my view) was an original concept encouraging us to leave a dualistic world and enter the multifaceted one. Especially when Gloria Wekker just started as a professor and called her concept ‘kruispuntdenken’ (crossroad thinking), it was much more open to the dynamics of diversity. Something went wrong during the years along the intersectional road. Not only did intersectionality create more boxes, these boxes are also more oppressive, there is no escape from them.

are jews white? zijn joden wit?

The result, and that is very clear in Are Jews White?, is that Jews would be called black or white for political reasons, or for the opinion people have about them, or that they have about themselves. The tragedy is that this limits Jews to be who they are. And indeed this may be true for all of us: the concept of black and white limits us all. Of course I understand that the concept of black and white serves to explain the construction of society but let’s be fair: watching the video in the exposition, it is clear that the concept of black and white is more than a methodology. It serves the need of many to be part of a group or to see others as such. It provides a safe world of boxes where skin color and other aspects are all well set and clear and can be explained in predictable terms. The exposition fails to explain this need at a deeper level: why do we need to put people into categories? Why do we get upset when Jews do not fit in?

Maybe the ambition to have more answers is too high. I remember my last visit to Israel when I discussed with a scientist in the Holocaust Museum: why is there antisemitism, and why does it seem to be always there? He admitted that as a scientist, he can prove it is there and describe it, but he can not explain it scientifically.

My guess is that the Jewish Historical Museum created Are Jews White? to open the discussion about (useless) boxes and to prevent that we lock ourselves in and that we try to lock Jews in. We have to live with a rather misty and multi-interpretable reality for ourselves and for others, even though that comes with uncertainties. All-in all, I recommend the exposition. For your notice, it is totally bilingual (English and Dutch).

benjamin en chaila cohen
kaatje cohen

And don’t forget to walk by the paintings I show on the picture here, that I adored above every object in the museum, especially the woman’s dress: Benjamin and Chaile (Kaatje) Cohen from the 18th century. There’s more info about them but you will find that when you visit…

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder

Ons' lieve heer op solder altar

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a special and well hidden treasure in the oldest part of Amsterdam. Ever seen a church in the attic of a canalhouse? For that unique experience, this museum should be on your wish list!

canal house ons' lieve heer op solder

Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) surprises the visitor who starts his tour in a ‘normal’ canal house and suddenly arrives in a church that can host quite a few visitors. You don’t feel that coming and that was exactly the point for this catholic church. In 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, the religious war between roman-catholics and protestants was won by protestants in Amsterdam. Catholicism was officially banned but in the meantime, many catholics could still go to hidden churches all over the city – as long as they wouldn’t be visible, they would not be bothered.

At that time, accepting in silence that people would not give up their faith and letting them to worship according to their own rules and wishes was seen as a strong sign of tolerance. Thus Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is a museum that shows the roots of tolerance in an intolerant world, a characteristic that was very strong in 17th century Amsterdam that also opened the door for many Jews.

Your visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder starts in the canalhouse, with rooms like the kitchen here on the right, with stairs leading up and down in the narrowness that is usual in canalhouses in Amsterdam. I loved the stairs maybe even more than the rooms. Pottery is shown that was found in a cesspool, as well as the bedroom of the canalhouse owner.

There is also a room with 18th or 19th century classical design to give you an idea how people lived there at the time. I particularly liked the painted ceiling that you can see at the photograph. After this look into canalhouse-life, you can climb another staircase and boff, there you are, in a church that is not at all visible from the outside.

ons lieve heer op solder organ

The colour surprised me. The guard at the entrance knew all about Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and answered many questions, also the one on the pink paint in the museum. The church is in it’s original, 19th century state, a Victorian period where this colour was popular. Moreover there are many details and artefacts that are older, like the painting of Jacob de Wit at the altar (first half 18th century) and the organ (1794)

As you can see in the picture, the church has several floors and you can walk downstairs or go to the first floor. The church was founded by a rich German merchant, Jan Hartman in 1663.

peter parmentier priester ons' lieve heer op solder

Next to the church is the room where the priest lived: Peter Parmentier. He dedicated already decades of his life to the conversion of Amsterdam so probably it was logical that he got the job…
While making your tour through the canal house, do not forget to look out of the windows – the view on the canal is beautiful, and at one point also the tower of the Old Church can be spotted!

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is living difficult times (summer 2020) as it seems to loose it’s financial support from the government. I am sure a solution will be found as this is among the oldest museums of Amsterdam and a more than unique reflection of the religiously diverse history of Amsterdam. However, you can contribute yourself by paying a visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder and/or fund them with your donation. Warmly recommended!

Other places to visit in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank Huis
Adam Tower

Another very interesting museum about the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age:
Westfries Museum Hoorn

The Coffee Trader

The Coffee Trader is a good book for you, a friend told me and sent me a second hand version by post. My friend was right. What a story about trade in 1659 Amsterdam, where cultures and religions vary and new ways of doing business occur in the markets. David Liss is a writer who knows the word research: he depicts the 17th century with many details of context and history. A great book!

The Coffee Trader tells about Miguel Lienzo, a Jew who lived in Portugal as a converso – a Jew converted to Catholicism – like many other Jews. However the conversos in Portugal were still facing discrimination and many had to fear for their life. So he flew to Amsterdam, at that time a safe haven for Jews. Jews in Amsterdam could practice their religion and be active in trade – although there were plenty of rules between Jews and non-Jews. That in itself is a story so interesting that it is worth to read the book for it. You’ll learn how different communities found a way to live together in a religiously and culturally divided city and have relative peace and justice; at that time, unique in Europe.

Also it is intriguing how converted Portuguese Jews rebuilt their ‘identity’ in Amsterdam. A well organised structure supported those who knew little or nothing about that identity. I particularly liked the description of a woman’s position, Miguel’s brother’s wife Hannah who was brought up in ignorance, thinking she was a Catholic and unable to read or write. In Amsterdam, she is suddenly a Jew, supposed to adhere to a religion and a people that she had learned to despice. She is not walking on that path automatically.

New for me was also the idea of a Mahamad, an 17th century authority in Amsterdam that dealt with all matters for Jews: religiously, politically and legally. Together with rich Portuguese tradesmen they supported the poor Jews, so that the Dutch in Amsterdam would not complain about a burden on their back that came with the Portuguese refugees. However, when tudescos, Jews from eastern countries like Poland arrive in Amsterdam, that attitude is less generous. Most of the tudescos are poor. Although they faced very severe persecution in eastern Europe, the Mahamad takes measures to make their life difficult in the hope that they will choose other destinations than Amsterdam. There are really surprising details about the historical context in The Coffee Trader – and by the way nothing that could not be seen today…

the coffee trader

Miguel lives in an era where tradesmen can easily become very rich or the opposite: loose everything they have. This period in Holland is called the Golden Age and brought a lot of wealth but it was risky. Miguel lost almost everything in the trade of sugar and now wants to try his fortune in a brandnew product: coffee. He wants to acquire the monopoly over this new drink that he estimates to be very promising. His strategy is breathtaking. And so is his playing field. There are so much rumours and hidden agendas around the trade market of Amsterdam that the story is a dazzling experience for the reader. It is really difficult to remember all that’s happening or has been said or might be possible. And that was exactly the reality for tradesmen in 1659 Amsterdam. How can they make their daily decisions without an excellent memory and the right focus?!

Many ethical questions come with the way business was done amid rumours and hidden agendas. Intriguing is the fact that in the end, the hidden agendas Miguel expected were exagerated. Half of them can be interpreted as misunderstandings or even imagination. An interesting lesson learned – but still, when bankruptcy is around the corner for tradesmen who do not watch their backs in the all or nothing market of 1659 Amsterdam, maybe inevitable.

handelaar in koffie

Even though The Coffee Trader appeared already in 2000, this book is of great interest also in 2020. In the light of history, these 20 years do not matter at all. Go read it if you love Amsterdam, if you love trade, if you love history, if you love Jews and the Dutch, if you love risk taking and of course: if you love coffee!
The Coffee Trader exists in Dutch under the title Handelaar in koffie.

You may also like these blogs:
Anne Frank House
Minorities in Gaziantep
Jewish Museum Warsaw context

Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie op 20 maart!

stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie
Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie

Tijdens de campagne van de afgelopen weken heb ik veel mensen gesproken: op straat, bij mij thuis tijdens de huiskamerbijeenkomsten, online, bij debatten en andere events. Het is zo belangrijk dat mensen zich vertegenwoordigd voelen door iemand, ook in de provincie. Die persoon wil ik graag zijn.

De provincie Noord-Holland lijkt veraf te staan van bestuurlijk Amsterdam en vice versa. Ik wil de komende jaren werken aan verbinding want alleen zo verbeteren zaken als wonen, toerisme en bereikbaarheid. Ik ben de enige Amsterdamse vrouw op de VVD lijst, én een ondernemer die zich graag inzet voor doeners binnen en buiten Amsterdam.

Een onderwerp waar de provincie niet over gaat maar dat in veel gesprekken werd genoemd: hard werken en weinig geld overhouden door de stijgende kosten van huur, zorgverzekering, boodschappen enz. Daar moet de VVD iets mee want werken moet juist worden beloond. Gelukkig zijn er al mensen opgestaan die met dit thema aan de slag willen. Vanuit de provincie ga ik daaraan bijdragen wat ik kan!

Zie hier mijn YouTube over mijn motivatie, inspiratie van mijn betovergrootvader!
Zie hier mijn YouTube ‘Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie’, met tevens beelden van de Spaarndammerbuurt waar ik woon.
Beide filmpjes heeft Martijn Koning bij Jinek met complimenten laten zien 🙂

New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

 

 

 

 

Also in Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Heritage Days
Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read one of the great Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Another blog you might like: Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue
Or this one: Left Handers Day and high giftedness

Daarom stem ik 15 maart op Dilan Yeşilgöz

Ik had een collega die ontslag heeft genomen en de politiek is ingegaan en nu zie ik haar ineens overal”, vertelde een verbaasde ambtenaar me enkele jaren terug. ‘Dilan Yeşilgöz zeker”, zei ik meteen. Zijn verbazing kon ik plaatsen – we kennen allemaal van die mensen die grootse plannen hebben (meedoen aan de campagne van Hillary Clinton en zo) en daarna hoor je er nooit meer wat van. Maar Dilan Yeşilgöz, die leverde meteen aan tal van actuele onderwerpen een belangrijke bijdrage.

Ineens beschikte de Amsterdamse gemeenteraad weer over iemand die veiligheid prominent agendeerde, die opkwam voor vrijheid en die daarbij ook nog diepgaand verstand heeft van diversiteit & inclusie. Dat is belangrijk want veel mensen hebben vooral een mening over diversiteit & inclusie maar weinig inzicht in de maatschappelijke en organisatorische dynamiek die het teweeg brengt. Dat is wel nodig en Dilan heeft het.
Ja, je ziet Dilan Yeşilgöz overal, met veel enthousiasme en energie. Ik loop al wat langer mee in het politieke landschap en niet altijd met blijdschap. Zo zat ik vorige verkiezingen een campagneavond naast een kandidaat-kamerlid dat zich vrij passief opstelde en toen ik vroeg wat die persoon ambieerde, zei: “ik wacht het wel af”. Neem dan Dilan: vol vuur, passie en charme, altijd met uitstekende voorbereiding van zaken, vliegt ze erop af. Niks afwachten. Hup we gaan ervoor. Het is nooit nodig geweest om aan haar te vragen wat ze ambieerde wat dat is glashelder.

Mijn stem gaat daarom op 15 maart naar Dilan Yeşilgöz, lijst 1 plaats 19.

Wat ik bewonder in Dilan is dat ze heel erg zuiver kan redeneren en debatteren; ze gaat tot de kern van de zaak ongeacht met wie ze in debat gaat en wat het onderwerp is. Ze laat zich niet afleiden van waar het haar om gaat, terwijl ze in contact blijft met degenen om haar heen. Als je visie combineert met deze vaardigheden, kun je samen met leden van andere partijen (een noodzaak in dit land) mooie dingen bouwen voor alle burgers.

Anne Frank House Amsterdam: remembrance and reflection

Anne Frank House bookcase
2000 inhabitants of Amsterdam got free tickets to visit the Anne Frank House during evening hours without queues. I was lucky to be one of them: a great initiative, thanks! It was wonderful to wander through the ‘Achterhuis’ in a quiet and respectful atmosphere.
The Anne Frank House is not far from my home and I pass the long rows of tourists a few times a week or I better say: try to pass….It is always busy, noisy, not a place where you’d like to go as an inhabitant.
I think I went there once, as a child – I remember it quite well, especially the book case (on the picture) that served as protection from the entrance to the hide-out of 8 Jewish people. These people spent 2+ years there but were betrayed at the end and only one of them, the father of Anne Frank, survived the holocaust.
anne frank house quoteCompared to my childhood visit many elements were added in the ‘museum’; quotes on walls or on blinded windows – short video’s from witnesses, classmates of Anne and the like. They are very impressive.
What I remember most are the words of Otto Frank on his daughter’s diary. He always felt close to his daughter but when he read her diary after the war, he realized that she never showed the deep thoughts and feelings that she wrote down. Since that moment he thinks that parents rarely know their children to the full. I guess that could be true. The way he expresses is very refined and respectful towards his daughter. I cannot write it down, you have to go visit the Anne Frank House and see that movie to understand the impression it made. And then imagine that he read that diary when she had already died (when she had already been killed). He would never have the opportunity to ask her any question any more…
Anne Frank House opening hoursI really thank the Anne Frank House for this opportunity. I wonder why this does not become more usual in Amsterdam. As for me, it is not about the free ticket, but the fact that I could go at 21.00h (I came home from work only at 19.30 and had to have dinner first) and that I did not need to wait in a queue or go in with plenty of loud speaking tourists. Would it be financially difficult for musea to have similar evening offers or are they just not used to opening hours in the evening?
As for the Anne Frank House tonight, it left me with quite some emotions as we live in difficult times and the idea that ‘it could happen again’ is in the hearts and minds of many. A place for remembrance and reflection, most valuable.

Other blogs that you might find interesting:
Jewish museum Warsaw
Sderot: 15 seconds to run for your life
Mikvé Israel-Immanuel synagogue: religious pearl in orange-loving Willemstad
Grandfathers, Jews and the impulse to act

 

Adam Tower: a must-visit!

Amsterdam tower

It is new and it is brilliant, the Adam Tower – a remake of the former Shell research labs in Amsterdam. I had a great time this week while giving a presentation about dealing with international business and culture in front of spectacular views over Amsterdam. Nevertheless my public was highly attentive, for a moment I doubted whether they would be with me at all but they did 🙂
If you look at the photo above and you see the 9 meter high windows in top of the building, that is where I stood – and here are some pictures of the views:

amsterdam tower  amsterdam toweramsterdam tower  amsterdam tower
The making of the Adam Tower is a story out of a wizard book: three Dutch guys who were succesfull in the international music scene decided to cooperate in this and won the battle for the tower in competition with 34 other interested parties. They turned it into a combination of music company offices, a hotel, different bars, restaurants and clubs with a 360° turning restaurant in top: a music tower!
On top they offer a platform for all inhabitants of Amsterdam and our tourists to watch the spectacular panorama and to take a seat in Europe’s highest swing: the Amsterdam lookout. Alas I had serious business to do when I was there so I definitely have to come back to experience that swing!
Our city is blessed with these creative entrepreneurs who make such major contributions to the quality of life in Amsterdam: well done, thank you guys!
Last but not least an photo-impression (made with my phone, lack of quality, in reality much better) of the elevator going up: the music experience starts already from there…
amsterdam tower elevator  amsterdam tower elevator
Adam Tower, a new experience not to be missed!

Other must-visits in or around Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs
Vlinderado

 

Amsterdam Maker Festival – to be developed

amsterdam makers festival
‘Vague’ is the best word for the impression the Amsterdam Maker Festival made on me. I must have missed something but to me it was more a fair than a festival. I think most people did not spend more than 1-1,5 hours there. Somehow the announcement of this ‘festival’ created big expectations but I guess the floor was too innovative for simple visitors to get any idea of sense and nature of what was going on – especially on the first floor where Makerversity resides. It is clear that the 1st floor is an inspiring working area for new businesses but what on earth were we as visitors doing there? I liked the Javascript-Dress though (< on the left) but it was just hanging there, no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
amsterdam maker cafeOn the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
amsterdam maker festival 3 On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!

Read also: Dutch entrepreneurs then and now
Or: Adam Tower: a must-visit!
Or: Herring Party in Dutch version

Forget about the rules. Be human.

forget about the rules   Forget about the rules, be human. That came to my mind this week. Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…

A blog you might find interesting: 500.000 Syrian refugees in Gaziantep
Or this blog: Perceptions of Power

 

Amsterdam Heritage Days

amsterdam heritage days

 

Today many ‘hidden’ monuments opened their doors, their treasures for the public in Amsterdam on the occasion of Amsterdam Heritage Days. Most of those monuments look like museums but they are not, they are used in ordinary working or private life every day. Imagine to live in places like that! For example the one on the picture (left), that by the way was only recently found: a ceiling dating back to 1585 (!), one of the oldest in Amsterdam and not comparable to anything that you have seen before…
Or the spectacular walls, mirrors and ceilings in the backpart of the Bartolotti house (1755) that is being restaured now to function as a museum and a place to gather.
huis bartolotti amsterdam heritage days  huis bartolotti 2 amsterdam heritage days Ok it was a very very rich guy who built this – he inherited loads of money from an uncle in Italy, this was not for everybody in Amsterdam at that time. He spent the money well, leaving us a heritage that makes people happy. We stood in a long row to enter this place…. but it was worth it. If you visit Amsterdam, keep an eye on this; most problably it will be officially opened as a museum somewhere in 2016.
hammerstein advocaten amsterdam heritage days Another spectacular monument is the Hammerstein Lawyers Office in the 17th century ‘Golden Curve’ of the Amsterdam canals. It is difficult to describe the beauty of that place. Imagine it was your office! 17th and 18th century paintings, mirrors, doors and fireplaces… The marble entrance to the stairs is completely original from the 17th century.hammerstein advocaten 2 amsterdam heritage days  hammerstein advocaten 3

Thanks to organisations like the National Musical Instrument Fund, the Hendrick de Keijser association and Hammerstein Lawyers, both tourists and locals could enjoy many hidden treasures in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Heritage Day is a great tradition.

More Heritage in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank House