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Cultural Exchange

The Israeli government is very keen to encourage international cultural exchange programmes involving Israeli artists, arts groups and arts organisations, with a view to promoting the Israeli cultural heritage overseas, encouraging cultural dialogue with foreign artists of all disciplines and promoting international understanding, peace and stability through cultural relations. The planning of exchange programmes involving either Israeli artists travelling abroad or overseas artists visiting Israel inevitably involves liaison with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy in the country with which the exchange is being planned.

Israeli artists travelling overseas

The work of Israeli artists has long made an important contribution to the international arts scene. To date performances by Israeli theatre groups, orchestras and dance companies and screenings of new Israeli films have attracted considerable critical acclaim at festivals throughout the world; contemporary Israeli painting, sculpture and photography has been featured at many international exhibitions; and Hebrew literature in translation has reached wide and appreciative audiences in over 30 different countries. The diversity and quality of artistic expression on offer to international promoters is quite remarkable for a country of Israel’s size and whilst this directory offers a general guide to the cultural sector, the Culture and Arts Administration (CAA) of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports will be pleased to answer more specific enquiries and give up-to-the-minute advice to those organisations which are planning to present Israeli arts overseas.

Promoters who already have an Israeli artist or arts organisation in mind should make contact with that artist or arts organisation in the first instance to establish availability, discuss terms and request them to make initial contact with the Division of Cultural and Scientific Affairs (DCSA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to investigate what Israeli government subsidy, if any, may be forthcoming for the visit. It is also very important for promoters to secure the backing of their local Israeli Embassy from the earliest stages of the negotiations, since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will undoubtedly make contact with the Embassy’s Cultural Attaché to obtain further advice regarding the host organisation, its reputation and credit-worthiness.

Overseas artists travelling to Israel

Foreign artists and arts groups considering a visit to Israel should be aware from the outset that Israeli audiences are amongst the most sophisticated and arts-literate in the world. The quality of home-grown product has given them high expectations where visiting artists and arts groups are concerned and they will not settle for second-best.

Overseas artists and arts groups may either organise their visit themselves or apply to be included in the annual programmes of overseas cultural missions such as the British Council. However, it should be note that unless the visitors have particular skills to impart it is very unlikely that the Israeli government will contribute in any way towards the cost of the visit.

Israel is well-resourced in cultural facilities, and whether visiting major cities or touring to more outlying regions, there is unlikely to be a problem in identifying appropriate venues for the presentation of visitors’ work. The Israeli government will be pleased to give advice regarding the practicalities of touring the country and enquiries should, in the first instance, be addressed to the Cultural Attache at the nearest Israeli Embassy.

Where theatre is concerned, Tel Aviv is the main hub of activity and accordingly offers the widest selection of venues. Their distinguished theatrical history makes the Habimah, Cameri, Beit Lessin and Tsavta Theatres the first choice for many overseas touring companies performing in the city, but since these venues are virtually always occupied by their resident companies, other options such as ZOA (Zionist Organisation of America) House, or slightly further afield the Noga Theatre in Jaffa, the Ramat Gan Theatre and the superb new Givatayim and Bat Yam Theatres, are well worth considering. Jerusalem’s principal venues are the Sherover Theatre of the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts, the Gerard Behar Auditorium and the Jerusalem Khan Theatre.

For music, Tel Aviv’s Frederic R Mann Auditorium (home of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) is the principal venue for symphony concerts, whilst smaller concerts in the city are held variously at the new Felicja Blumental Music Center, the Enav Cultural Center, the Stricker Auditorium of the Israel Conservatory of Music and the Recanati Auditorium of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center (TAPAC), which opened in 1994, incorporates the country’s only purpose-built venue for opera. Jerusalem’s large-scale symphony concerts are held at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts (home of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA) and at the Ussishkin Auditorium of the ICC Jerusalem International Convention Center, whilst smaller recitals are generally presented at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Wise Auditorium and at the new Meyerhoff Cultural Center of the David Yellin Teacher’s College.

At the time of researching this directory Jerusalem had no dedicated venues for dance, although the Sherover Theatre of the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts and the Gerard Behar Auditorium were used regularly for this purpose. However, at the time of going to press the latter is being turned into a dedicated dance centre and is now the home base for the Vertigo Dance Company. Tel Aviv has two dedicated dance venues – the Bat-Dor Theatre and the Suzanne Dellal Center.

Around the country a large number of performing arts venues are located on kibbutzim; the remainder are administered by universities, municipal, regional or local authorities or non-profit organisations or form part of the matnas (community centre) network. Predominantly of a multi-purpose nature, these venues are nonetheless spacious, modern and able to host a wide variety of performance genres, including dance. However, relatively few have their own professional lighting and sound equipment, the practice being for touring companies to bring their own.

Most of the satellite towns surrounding Tel Aviv – notably Holon, Kfar Saba, Lod, Ness Ziona, Or Yehuda, Ra’anana and Rehovot –have well-appointed multi-purpose auditoria. In the north of Israeli the city of Haifa has a well-equipped Municipal Theatre, an important concert hall known as the Haifa Auditorium and a multi-purpose auditorium at the International Convention Center; major cultural centres may also be found in the nearby towns of Carmiel, Kiryat Haim and Nahariya. Other principal centres on the northern touring circuit include Netanya in the Sharon Coastal Region; Nazareth, Safed, Kfar Blum and Beit Gabriel in the Galilee; and Megiddo and Afula in the Jezreel Valley. Be’ersheva, the largest conurbation in the south of Israel and the gateway to the Negev desert, has a Municipal Theatre and an Heichal Hatarbut (Cultural Centre). Important touring venues may also be found at Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea and at Eshkol, Revivim, Kfar Menachem, Arad and Eilat in the Negev.

Provision for the display of touring art exhibitions is equally impressive. Tel Aviv’s principal venues for changing exhibitions are the Genia Schreiber Art Gallery of Tel Aviv University and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art and various temporary galleries, but as with the Israel Museum in Jerusalem there is a long waiting list. Smaller but no less important venues include the Artists’ House Tel Aviv, the Lighthouse Gallery Jaffa, Limbus Photo Gallery, the Rachel and Israel Pollak Gallery of Kalisher – The Israel Pollak Tel Aviv School of Art, the avant garde HaMumheh, Alternative Space, Misrad BeTel-Aviv – Office in Tel Aviv and the Tel Aviv Artists’ Studio. Though primarily a commercial space, Chelouche Gallery for Contemporary Art is also a recipient of regular changing exhibitions. The foyer galleries at Tsavta and Givatayim Theatres are similarly worth considering.

Apart from the temporary display galleries of the Israel Museum which are booked years ahead, Jerusalem’s leading spaces for changing exhibitions of contemporary art include the Artists’ House Jerusalem, the adjacent Morris Louis Gallery – ‘Bezalel Downtown’ and the tiny Jerusalem Municipal Art Gallery. Other popular spaces include the galleries affiliated to the various academic departments at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the J Robert Fisher Hall at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the Jerusalem School of Photography and Computer Imaging Gallery and its neighbour Habayit BeMusrara; and the foyer of the new Meyerhoff Cultural Center at David Yellin Teacher’s College. In recent years the foyers of the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts have also become an important venue for the visual arts.

The standard of gallery spaces around the country is generally high. As with performing arts venues, a significant number of galleries around the country are situated on kibbutzim. Others are run by the matnas (community centre) network or by universities, local authorities and non-profit organisations. A large number of galleries are also housed within the Yad Lebanim, memorial halls to fallen IDF soldiers which are found in almost every major centre of population. Three of Israel’s important purpose-built gallery spaces – the Museum of Photography at Tel Hai, the Open Museum at Tefen and the Omer Gallery – are located within the high-tech industrial parks of industrialist and arts enthusiast Stef Wertheimer.

Gallery spaces may be found in many of Tel Aviv’s satellite conurbations; those at Bat Yam, Herzliya, Holon, Kfar Saba, Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion and Yavne are of particular note. The city of Haifa boasts the Haifa Museum of Art plus Beit Hagefen, Haifa Artists’ House and the University of Haifa Art Gallery. Other important centres on the northern touring circuit include Netanya and Giv’at Haviva in the Sharon coastal belt; Bar’am, Beit Gabriel, Eilon, Kabri, Kiryat Tivon, Ma’alot Tarshicha, Nazareth, Tefen and Tel Hai in the Galilee; Ein Harod and Hazorea in the Jezreel Valley; and Ashdot Ya’aqov in the Jordan Valley. Temporary gallery spaces are less plentiful in the south, but Be’ersheva, Omer, Arad, Be’eri and Mitzpe Ramon have galleries of note.