Two outstanding organizations were represented at the gala benefit concert for the Yad Elie Foundation, which took place at the Jerusalem International YMCA on January 1st, 2016.  The musical program was provided by Chen Zimbalista and the Music Factory.

Yad Eli, established by Marion Kunstenaar in 2002 in memory of Elie Saghroun, provides meals for needy Jerusalem school children, feeding 500 Arab- and Jewish children on a daily basis. It sets up educational programs to teach children about nutrition and health, creating a forum where Jewish and Arab participants can think, work and benefit from each other. Rabbi David Lilienthal serves as chairman of Yad Elie.


Directed by world-renowned marimba player and percussionist Chen Zimbalista, the Jewish-Arab youth orchestra – the Music Factory – was established four years ago. For the Jerusalem concert, it was joined by members of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Beer Sheva Sinfonietta and mezzo-soprano Noa Hope. The concert was preceded by the three-day Music in Omer Festival, consisting of open rehearsals, master classes and concerts. Taking place at the Open Museum in the Industrial Park of the southern town of Omer, this was the second of its kind involving the Music Factory and run by the charismatic Zimbalista. With the high standards of performance and nurturing of Zimbalista, an educator and social activist for bringing together children and youth from city and periphery in high-quality music-making, the 12- to 18-year-olds attending the festival were instructed by renowned teachers, who then joined them to play together in the youth orchestra.


The program included finely-crafted orchestral playing of movements from cardinal works of symphonic repertoire and some chamber pieces, these punctuated by Zimbalista’s dashing, stylish and virtuosic marimba playing. For the performance of works of J.S.Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Bizet, Ravel and Piazzolla, the role of concertmaster alternated between some of the orchestra’s outstanding teen violinists. Introducing Ravel’s “Bolero”, Zimbalista explained that the composer had written it as an exercise for orchestra. With Zimbalista on drum, the players gave a beguiling reading of Evgeny Levitas’ shortened version of the “Bolero”; among the fine small solos, a very young boy – Negev Almog -  gave a richly sonorous and most impressive performance of the flute solo.


Of the chamber works on the program, we heard ‘cellists (and Music Factory tutors) Adiel Schmidt and Erich Oskar Huetter (Austria) in some delicate, imaginative and subtle playing of two movements from a Telemann work. Another enjoyable item was the playing of an arrangement of the subject and three of the variations from Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” elegantly presented by Asher Belchman (violin), Lara Karpalov (viola) and E.O. Huetter (‘cello). (Huetter, having visited Israel several times, has been involved in similar music projects with Arab youth.)


Contending easily and naturally with the orchestra, guest artist mezzo-soprano Noa Hope took players and audience to the world of opera with “Voi che sapete” (You who know what love is) from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, her creamy, substantial voice well integrated with her communicative stage performance. Hope’s dramatic and colourful rendition of the Habanera from Bizet’s “Carmen” displayed her dynamic range, well supported by the competence, accuracy and fine listening skills of the Music Factory players.


The festive concert concluded with two works of tango composer Astor Piazzolla, a rich and soundscape of captivating Argentinean rhythms, yearning and joy. Adding to the nostalgic yet life-affirming atmosphere of this music,  young accordionist, Uri Ofek, relaxed and smiling, wandering across the stage in front of the orchestra, had the audience enthralled by his competence and professionalism.


Throughout the evening, Chen Zimbalista introduced the evening’s artists and works with cheerful informality. Conducting, performing with them and soloing, he directed both young- and experienced players in a vibrant program of outstanding orchestral playing, promoting the harmony of co-existence.


Photo: Angelika Sher





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British Plutocrats from Baghdad  
Presentation by 
Lyn  Julius



Friday, January 6, 2017   at 11:00The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center
83 Mordechai  Ben Porat  Ave. , Or Yehuda

Reservations required, limited seating
Tel: 03-5339278     ext. 8


Free admission For BJHC members


20 NIS  for guests


Members of the Sassoon dynasty, the 'Rothschilds of the East', and their business associates settled in England at the turn of the last century where they aspired to become part of the establishment, spending their wealth on grand homes and valuable collections. 


Lyn  Julius will talk about  such personalities as Sir Philip Sassoon, who hobnobbed with kings, ministers and artists; Hannah Gubbay,  Sir Percival David, Rachel Beer and others.  Are the Saatchis and the Reuben brothers today's plutocrats from Baghdad?


The Event will be held in English


The Center 


The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center was founded in 1973 as a non-profit organisation to preserve the heritage of the Babylonian Jewish exile which no longer exists today.


Located in Or-Yehuda, it is the largest institute in the world dedicated to documenting, researching, collecting and preserving the spiritual treasures and art created by Babylonian Jewry. Babylonia was the location of the most significant works of the Jewish nation, including: the Babylonian Talmud, the writings of the Geonim, the Responsa works, and more.


In order to preserve this heritage, collect the textual and visual materials and make them accessible to the general public, various branches of the Center were established: the museum, the research institute, the library and the treasures and guidance department.






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On Friday January 6th, Ms. Julie Fisher, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro, hosted a reception at their residence as part of the “Art in Embassies” program. The event opened an exhibition designed to foster cultural ties between countries through art.




Mr. Thomas Genton, Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs at the US Embassy, opened the evening’s festivities by welcoming guests and introducing Ms. Fisher. Both Mr. Genton and Ms. Fisher discussed the importance of art as a bridge between nations.



Following these opening remarks, artists were called up to receive certificates of appreciation for their work. Exhibition curator Keren Bar Gil and artists Yair Barak and Ohad Matalon then spoke, describing the role of the art in representing unique artistic expressions while connecting the cultures of Israel and the United States.




The exhibition was part of the Art in Embassies (AIE) program. The AIE program incorporates art into U.S. public diplomacy, using the visual arts and artist exchanges to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and increased understanding.  The program was started more than a half century ago by the Museum of Modern Art and the U.S. Department of State under President John F. Kennedy. Today, AIE has grown to become a public-private partnership engaging more than 20,000 participants at 200 venues in 189 countries. AIE allows the U.S. State Department to create and bolster relationships of trust, respect and understanding, and to build intercultural bridges of peace.



The exhibition featured the work of leading American and Israeli artists, including Ohad Matalon, Yair Barak, Boaz Aharonovich, Tamir Sher, Sivan Sternbach, Mindy Weisel, Deborah Hamon, Isca Greenfield-Sanders, and Enrique Martínez Celaya. The works focused on the theme of childhood, and the shared importance of children in American and Israeli culture. More information on the exhibition, and the artists and artwork shown, can be found here.


Among the guests who attended the event were Yael “Yuli” Tami, an Israeli academic and former Knesset member; Assaf Pinkus, formerly head of the Art History Department at Tel Aviv University and the chair of the Tel Aviv Israeli Art Foundation; and Kena Shoval, the wife of Zalman Shoval, a former Knesset member and Israeli Ambassador to the United States.


Photos by Silvia Golan






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On December 26th, the Hebrew University’s weekly Monday Afternoon Concert Series featured Ensemble Divina Insania, a Baroque chamber music group consisting of Israeli musicians living in Europe or in Israel and performing on period instruments. Guest artist was violinist Shunske Sato (Holland). Joining him were Doret Florentin (recorder), Tali Goldberg (violin) Benny Aghassi (bassoon, Hen Goldsobel (contrabass) and Yizhar Karshon (harpsichord). The Monday Afternoon Series series is directed and introduced by Dr. Sara Pavlov.


The concert opened with all players in an eloquent reading of the Overture to G.F.Händel’s  opera “Giustino” (Justin), which was premiered at Covent Garden in 1737, its formal, homophonic opening evocative of the pomp of the coronation ceremony with which the plot begins. The allegro section offered some charming duets. Händel had a splendid oboist/recorder player in his orchestra, hence the challenging soprano recorder part, managed well by Florentin.


Then to Neapolitan composer Francesco Mancini’s (1672-1737) Recorder Concerto in A-minor, one of 12 of his appearing in a collection of concertos by Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico Sarro, Francesco Barbella, Giovanni Batista Mele and Roberto Valentini (the English Robert Valentine) in a Naples conservatory. Enjoying a solid and vibrant basso continuo section, the ensemble’s reading of the piece, with much lively interaction between Florentin and Sato, was alive and spontaneous, its textures alternating between utterances of only violins and recorder and tutti moments, with some silver-tongued harpsichord spreads adding sparkle to calmer moments. Rich in well-crafted melodies and a sprinkling of surprises, the work, indeed demanding to play, made for fine entertainment. Primarily an opera composer, the list of Mancini’s instrumental works is small. Divina Insania’s colourful performance of the concerto emphasized how unjust it is that this leading figure of Naples’ cultural life and education (he was a rival to Alessandro Scarlatti) should have fallen into oblivion.


Of his more than 550 concertos, Antonio Vivaldi composed 39 bassoon concertos, for whom we can only guess, and the plot thickens if one considers that the bassoon had not yet been used as a solo instrument in Venice. It is thought that these Vivaldi concertos were written between 1728 and 1737. Vivaldi, though not a bassoonist, shows a thorough understanding of the instrument’s expressive and technical possibilities, taking the player on a journey through the bass and tenor registers, however, also through the concept of a string-player, with demanding arpeggios, rapid scales and register leaps. Benny Aghassi had listeners perched at the edge of their seats right from the first notes of the work’s wild unison opening, as he scurried up and down the bassoon range with articulate agility, warmth of timbre and pizzazz, with the violins adding comments and accents to complete the joie-de-vivre of the outer movements. In the Largo movement, with the bassoon’s languorous agenda set against held chords in the strings, Aghassi created small pauses between sections, as if each time searching anew for suitable inspiration for each gesture.  Throughout the work, he communicated closely with his fellow players and with the audience. Benny Aghassi’s virtuosity and musicality left the listener wishing for more!


Performing Vivaldi’s Concerto for Recorder, Violin and Bassoon in D-major RV92, Florentin, Sato and Aghassi interacted vigilantly, the opening Allegro giving each artist much to say, as Sato signed out of it, tugging a little at the heart strings as he leaned into a dissonant penultimate note. Following the second movement, in which Florentin and Sato engaged in a moving dialogue, with Aghassi weaving long lines of gently inégal notes throughout, the artists’ technical command was displayed in the final, somewhat witty, abundantly imitative Allegro movement.


Most of us had no idea of what was in store when Shunske Sato and Yizhar Karshon launched into little-known Italian composer Giovanni Pandolfi Mealli’s Sonata for Violin and Continuo in D-minor opus 4 No.4 “La Biancuccia”. The opus 4 violin sonatas were published in 1660. Here was a vivid example of the “stylus phantasticus”, referred to in 1650 by Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher as being “especially suited to instruments…the most free and unrestrained method of composition…bound neither to any words or to a melodic subject… instituted to display genius and teach the hidden design of harmony…”. In this highly representative piece of the style, bristling with unpredictability and acrobatics, the artists juxtaposed its extreme moods in a continuum of sections expressing frenzy and lyricism (even moderation), coloured with accelerandi and audacious harmonic changes, rumbling harpsichord textures and the profuse ornamentation that emanated from under Sato’s fingers as he quizzically eyed the mesmerized audience. Karshon was with Sato all the way, as they introduced the audience to an uninhibited and totally delectable 17th century musical version of a Hitchcock movie. A musician at the court of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Austria, Pandolfi Mealli dedicated this sonata to a castrato.  In 1669, when a violinist in the Messina Cathedral, he fled Sicily after murdering a castrato singer, then working as a violinist in the Capilla Real of Madrid. Who said music history was boring?


Appropriately timed (December 26th) the last work on the program was Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto in G-minor Opus 6 No.8, with the Divina Insania artists lending supple and graceful expression to its lush, melodic beauty and undulating suspensions, its tempo contrasts and its dance movements, ending with the wonderful lilting pastoral movement, with its folk-like tunes, bagpipe drone effect and sense of wonder.


This was Shunske Sato’s first Israeli visit.


Photo of Shunske Sato: Yat Ho Tsang







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