- by Yahav Zohar
Just 10 minutes walk from the Cinemateque and festival, In the midst of the upscale hotel district, two minutes walk from the regular meeting point for Green Olive Tours at the YMCA, is an almost forgotten piece of history. Unseen from the main streets, in the shadow of the massive new Waldorf Astoria and “David's Residence” luxury apartment complex, is a secret little neighbourhood/courtyard/hosh of once stately homes dating from the 1870s and 1880s. Some have been done up, others are run down and abandoned, and one has just been given a surprising burst of new life.
The project is open to the public every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 11am to 11pm and on Fridays from 11am to 5pm. When I arrived, near sunset, about three dozen people were sitting in small groups on straw mats and pillows in the garden. Tea was brewing over a small fire, music was playing, and at the outdoor bar they were serving home made tacos (with a vegan option). Another small group was gathered in intense conversation in a pretty little earth hobbit-house that was built cooperatively by the guests artists and the neighbours. The atmosphere was friendly and welcoming in a way that is rare to find in any busy city center.
As it happens, the event that night was music, and specifically Arabs and Jews playing and singing together. The little hall was packed and sometimes it seemed that half the crowd were also among the performers which kept changing in a range of groupings and styles from folk through hip hop and electronic. Which is where the evening ended, for me at least, in a good vibe sort of dance party which I missed out on in conversation with some of the organisers. Everything seemed to be done in a volunteer spirit and the concert/party was free of charge
I was struck by their story of tracking down, almost by chance, a member of the family who had owned the grand house and lived in it until 1948. Claire Lorenzo is apparently sharp and very much alive in her mid nineties, and she came from very nearby East Jerusalem for the first time in many years to see the house she grew up in and tell of the family's history there. They couldn't really say how she felt or if she cared with what they had done with the house, and if the idea of Palestinians and Israeli Jews playing and dancing together in the house taken from her family seemed to her in any way better than the house being used as a factory or a school or just being shut off to the world.
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