Crossing the Cross-Cultural Divide in Jerusalem

An American Jewish group sends four top experts to the Israeli capital to launch a project to cross the Israeli and PA Arab divide.

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Chana Ya'ar,

Jerusalem's light rail praised by all
Jerusalem's light rail praised by all
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Despite the oceans of conflict that continue to divide Palestinian Authority Arabs from Israelis, a U.S.-based American Jewish group has begun a cross-cultural initiative to create dialogue between the two.

U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro will officially launch the program, coordinated by the U.S.-based Foundation for Jewish Culture, on Thursday evening (tonight). The first season of the project, called the "American Academy in Jerusalem," will last for nine weeks. Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur is also scheduled to attend the event.

Four fellows, each of whom is a leader in his field of expertise, will collaborate with local Israeli and PA Arab professionals to develop a program in their specific disciplines.

All four -- urban planner David Karnovsky, Donald Byrd, a Tony-nominated choreographer, David Herskovits, an award-winning theater director and Lynne Avadenka, a visual artist -- will produce projects related to Israel and "the conflict."

Organizers revealed that Karnovksy is the General Counsel for the Department of Urban Planning for the City of New York. He will focus on ways to benefit Israel's capital city, with special attention to projects in eastern Jerusalem. Karnovsky will study the land use regulations of Jerusalem, and how incentives used in New York City can be adapted to Israel's capital to effect change in the cultural fabric of the city.

Byrd will work on a ballet to address the Israel-PA conflict, while Herskovits will collaborate with directors in the local Yiddish Theater to reinvigorate that art form.

Avadenka will be engaged in designing a work inspired by the stories of Joseph and his brothers in Jewish and Islamic liturgy.