What’s YOUR Israel story?

Were you speechless in Jerusalem? Swept off your feet by Tel Aviv? Was your trip an adventure of a lifetime? Were you surprised by the people, the food, the landscapes?

Join us throughout Greater Philadelphia to learn to weave the answers to these questions — and many more — into your personal Israel story. At one of our multiple workshops led by professional coaches from First Person Arts, Philadelphia’s premier team of storytellers, you’ll practice the art of narrative, culminating in the chance to record your very own Israel-themed tale at a professional filming session.

Join us at one of the following storytelling workshops, all offered free of charge:

What’s YOUR Israel story?

Were you speechless in Jerusalem? Swept off your feet by Tel Aviv? Was your trip an adventure of a lifetime? Were you surprised by the people, the food, the landscapes?
Join us throughout Greater Philadelphia to learn to weave the answers to these questions — and many more — into your personal Israel story. At one of our multiple workshops led by professional coaches from First Person Arts, Philadelphia’s premier team of storytellers, you’ll practice the art of narrative, culminating in the chance to record your very own Israel-themed tale at a professional filming session.

Join us at this storytelling workshops,  free of charge:

What’s YOUR Israel story?

Were you speechless in Jerusalem? Swept off your feet by Tel Aviv? Was your trip an adventure of a lifetime? Were you surprised by the people, the food, the landscapes?

Join us throughout Greater Philadelphia to learn to weave the answers to these questions — and many more — into your personal Israel story. At one of our multiple workshops led by professional coaches from First Person Arts, Philadelphia’s premier team of storytellers, you’ll practice the art of narrative, culminating in the chance to record your very own Israel-themed tale at a professional filming session.

Join us at this  storytelling workshop. Free of charge.

Ode to Arthur

Arthur Koestler.

By Marie Miguel

There are certainly more than enough horrific tales of how the persecuted lived under fascism in the middle of the 20th century, and indeed dozens of books with “Koestler” on their covers.

“Scum of the Earth” is a unique kind of autobiographical adventure, a guide to suffering atrocious treatment with as much good humor as possible. The book also describes  how a totalitarian regime can subvert the morals of both states and individuals.

For someone who wasn’t actually a criminal, Arthur Koestler certainly saw the inside of a large number of cells. Reprising this aspect of his personal history is possibly the best way to explain what the reader can expect from “Scum of the Earth.”

Having traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, by 1933, Koestler found that Germany was not the best place for a Jewish Communist to return. A well-known journalist by this time, he settled in France instead. It was during this period that he spent some time covering the Spanish Civil War, while also pursuing a sideline as an anti-fascist spy, which eventually led to his capture and death sentence. Fortunately, before he could be executed, he was exchanged for an enemy prisoner. Although Koestler survived, this experience naturally had a major effect on him. He would later draw on his experience in  “Dialogue with Death” and “Darkness at Noon,” the latter being a not-so-subtle attack on Stalin’s Russia.

The events of “Scum” start off as Koestler is busy writing “Darkness” in the south of France. War breaks out, so he and his English girlfriend return to Paris. First he tries to join the French army since, albeit Hungarian by birth, he sees no problem with risking his skin for the country that has played host to him for several years. His application is rejected, and even though he’s known as an enemy of fascism – and therefore the enemy of the enemy of France – he ends up in a French-run concentration camp until the British government insists on his release (while still refusing him a visa).

He’s eventually freed — although under effective house arrest, with the possibility of being handed over to the Gestapo never far off — escapes to North Africa, joins the French Foreign Legion, deserts, attempts suicide, and finally makes it to Britain, where he’s once again thrown in jail as an alien. To be fair, this connoisseur of incarceration has only good things to say about English prisons, as well as the fact that the British at least gave him a fair trial. After this, he joins the British army.

The most moving aspect of this great book isn’t the action, but the pathos evoked by incidents, such as Koestler’s girlfriend driving him to the police station, not knowing whether she’ll see him again, or the secret policeman who gets him out of his own bed before sunrise to sign one of the books he’s written. The moral corruption of French society at that time is also portrayed vividly: soldiers are not interested in fighting, policemen are all too willing to follow whatever orders they’re given, while civil servants don’t mind at all converting their government to a fascist one.

Koestler was a secular Jew, having been born into a Jewish family but showing no inclination to practice the religion. In fact, his imprisonment in France had nothing to do with his cultural identity – he was simply an “undesirable alien,” and an author with socialist leanings. Judaism is hardly mentioned in “Scum of the Earth,” if at all.

As is the case with many secular Jews, and quite reasonably for someone who suffered under the Nazis, Koestler was a Zionist. He lived in Israel for some time prior to 1948, as well as during the 1948 war, working mainly as a journalist. His support for Israel wasn’t entirely without qualification, though: he famously said about the Balfour Declaration that “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third,” and argued that Jews who are unwilling to live in Israel should totally embrace the culture of wherever they find themselves. Since he was an iconoclast, intellectual and free thinker who had the courage of his convictions, it would be surprising if he did not hold one or two controversial opinions.

Koestler and his wife committed suicide together in 1983, as he was ill with both Parkinson’s and leukemia. He was 77 years old. 

Editor’s note: Koestler’s quote about the Balfour Declaration is only partially accurate. He said that “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third.” However, by the date of the Balfour Declaration, the British were in control of much of Palestine and anticipated the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the remainder.

ROCK IN THE RED ZONE: DOCUMENTARY AND DISCUSSION

ROCK IN THE RED ZONE is an intimate portrayal of life on the edge in the war-torn city of Sderot. Once known for its prolific rock scene that revolutionized Israeli music, for thirteen years the town has been the target of ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza strip. Through the personal lives and music of Sderot’s diverse musicians, and the personal narrative of the filmmaker, who ends up calling the town home, the film chronicles the town’s trauma and reveals its enduring spirit.

What’s YOUR Israel story?

Were you speechless in Jerusalem? Swept off your feet by Tel Aviv? Was your trip an adventure of a lifetime? Were you surprised by the people, the food, the landscapes?

Join us throughout Greater Philadelphia to learn to weave the answers to these questions — and many more — into your personal Israel story. At one of our multiple workshops led by professional coaches from First Person Arts, Philadelphia’s premier team of storytellers, you’ll practice the art of narrative, culminating in the chance to record your very own Israel-themed tale at a professional filming session.

Join us at this storytelling workshop. Free of charge.

2018 Israel Ride in NYC

The 2018 Israel Ride (Oct. 23 – Oct. 30) is coming to NYC on Wednesday, December 6! Come celebrate the success of the 2017 Israel Ride, reminisce about past rides, or learn about the experience of cycling 175-350 miles from Jerusalem to Eilat for the first time. You will hear about the Arava Institute & Hazon and how the Israel Ride is much more than just a bike ride. This is an opportunity to join participants past, present, and future, who ride in Israel for sustainability and peace.

RSVPs Appreciated

Reflections on New York Terror Attack, Israel Bike Ride and Beyond

The comments below were expressed in a letter by Nigel Savage, president and CEO of Hazon, an organization dedicated to building a more sustainable world within the Jewish community and beyond.

I rode into work, as I do many days of the year, on a beautiful bike path on a beautiful day. My organization, Hazon, worked quite hard for several years to increase the number of protected bike lanes in New York City. We’re proud of that work, and I sometimes say to people, “and the statistics show that protected bike lanes reduce fatalities and injuries, both for bike riders and pedestrians ….”

But of course those statistics didn’t allow for a day like Tuesday. A few hours after I rode in, a crazy guy — but not randomly crazy, a guy with ideological method to his murderousness — mowed down a bunch of people who happened to be on the bike path at that moment. As we know, eight of them never got up. I rode home an hour later, past the police and the barricades and the camera crews. And past two little kids — wee high, 3 feet tall if that — in cute white Star Wars stormtrooper outfits. “May the force be with all of us,” I thought. [Read more…]

Live in Israel; Study in English

Come to a Philadelphia-area information session about IDC, a Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS) in Herzliya, Israel, near Tel Aviv. The school offers graduate and undergraduate studies. Wendy Keter, RRIS director emeritus, will present at the information session.

Please RSVP here.