Art movement brings culture to every corner of Israel

There is no doubt that Tel Aviv is an incredible cultural center. But can residents outside the metropolis enjoy art of similar quality? And can artists in the north and south earn a living?

If the Tarbut movement has its way, it most certainly will.

“Our vision is that in Israel there will be vibrant and vibrant cultural centers all over the country, not just in Tel Aviv,” says Hadas Goldman, founder and co-director of the Tarbut movement (tarbout is Hebrew for “culture”).

“We have seen that most artists move to Tel Aviv, Berlin, New York or London, and are not present in places in the country where there is a societal need for education in art, culture and centers cultural,” she says of her decision. to create the NGO with a group of friends in 2006.

Participants of the Riada de Tarbut Institute for Arab-Israeli youth. Photo: courtesy

“When we were 20, we decided to take the opposite direction. Instead of going from the periphery to the center, we go from the center to the periphery.

Their reverse migration was inspired by learning from the Zionist movement and the pioneers of early Israel, she says.

“We learned that at the beginning of the 20and century, even before the establishment of the state, groups of young people decided to immigrate to Israel and establish the foundations of what would become the State of Israel.

“We learned these stories and we thought, ‘Okay, even if there is a country, thank God, there are still a lot of social missions to be fulfilled.’ Artists and cultural figures have a role to play in this.

Goldman, originally from Jerusalem, moved to the northern city of Afula with Tarbut. The movement now has some 300 alumni from communities in Afula, Nahariya, Rishon LeZion, Netanya and Jerusalem.

“Our vision is that there will be a permanent colony of social artists in every neighborhood and every city in Israel. Artists who have a social vision and who aim to build the community in which they live,” she explains.

Art for the community in times of crisis

With the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, Tarbut made major changes to its regular activities.

“All of our work in education was more or less handicapped,” Goldman says. “We have moved all of our business online.”

“There were loads and loads of activities for young people, adults and seniors that took place on Zoom and WhatsApp and all kinds of other formats,” she says. “I very much hope that we can resume real activity by the end of June and return to summer activities as much as possible.”

In the meantime, members of the Tarbut community have focused on helping the local elderly, providing them with food, medicine and moral support. They have also collaborated with the Ministry of Education and run small day care centers for the children of medical workers, mainly around hospitals in Haifa, the Western Galilee region and Jerusalem.

Tarbut has moved its educational work online, providing activities for young people, adults and the elderly during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: courtesy

Urban art communities

But how does Tarbut get artists to pack their bags and leave the concrete jungle that is Tel Aviv in favor of greener pastures?

“We have set up a track that starts with children and teenagers. We have a youth movement that operates across the country and then continues with a national service program and military service in Nachal,” she says, referring to a brigade that integrates community work with active duty.

“When they complete their Nachal service, those who leave the military and choose to do so create a new community somewhere in the country,” she says.

Some 2,500 children and teenagers take part in Tarbut’s youth movement and another 120 young people take part in its year of pre-army national service. Some 40 to 50 alumni create new communities each year, developing what Tarbut calls “urban art communities”.

“What they do at the local level is establish cultural institutions such as galleries and theaters as well as cultural and artistic events,” says Goldman. “They unite the community.”

To support these artists in their communities, Tarbut provides the necessary infrastructure for business development. The organization offers financial and legal services made possible by funding from the government and local authorities, as well as donations from Israel and abroad.

During the coronavirus crisis, members of the Tarbut community ran day care centers for the children of medical workers. Photo: courtesy

Operating in 8 Arab-Israeli cities

“It’s a crazy mission to get people to live in these places and not just for a year or two,” Goldman says. “There is a very long educational process here.”

Four years ago, Tarbut began to expand its work to the Arab community in Israel.

“It was at the time of the ‘knife intifada’ that was taking place, which started in Afula. We thought about our response as a social movement. We decided to use the tools of culture and art and our tools of working with children and adolescents to answer this question,” says Goldman.

The Tarbut youth movement now operates in eight Arab-Israeli cities.

“It was very, very difficult because we had to expand our operating system – Arab artists, Arab educators,” says Goldman. “With them, we built a model of art clubs for young people in the Arab community. When we opened, it was a huge success.

Last year, Tarbut opened the Riada Institute, a national service program for Arab-Israeli teenagers who have graduated from high school. It has already grown from eight participating fellows to 32.

When asked what she wants to pass on to a young child or teenager considering joining Tarbut, Goldman is pretty clear.

“I was telling him what I was telling myself and what I was telling the guys every year. As a young generation in Israel, we have a role to play and it is our privilege to shape the future of our society,” she said.

“And that everyone deserves culture and art. And it’s fun.

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Christopher S. Washington