Introducing Tel Aviv’s Culture Column

Ever wanted to learn more about the rich and complex culture of Israel from those who experience it on a daily basis? At The Culture Trip’s Tel Aviv hub, our goal is to portray Israel in an apolitical, unbiased and cultural light. We write about various topics, including food, art, design and literature through the local perspective. We do not only report on well-known facets of Israeli culture, but rather aim to dig below the surface to reflect the innovative, diverse and beautiful cultural aspects of the country. This could mean sampling street food in Jerusalem, exploring hidden parts of Old Jaffa, or learning which Israeli chefs post the best pictures on Instagram.

Although there are many foreign and Israeli news sources that cover Israeli culture, several do so in ways that inextricably link culture with politics, often leading to divisive dialogue and deterring results. Two clear examples of this portrayal of Israeli culture can be seen in the news coverage of the global 2012 Batsheva dance troupe boycotts and the Israeli government’s attempt to shut down the November 2014 Nakba film festival in Tel Aviv. In reporting on the boycotts of the Batsheva dance troupe, news sources from all over the world often bypassed the technique and style of the dancers to rather focus on the disruptive protestors who targeted the dance troupe. Although not every article written on the protests had an explicit political angle, the fact that so many words were devoted to these protests means that these articles were unable to also include reviews or descriptions of the hardworking dance troupe’s performances, which were beautifully executed and not politically charged. It is a shame that readers of such articles were unable to learn about these performances from a technical standpoint, since the Batsheva dance troupe is known for its strong skills and progressive choreography.

The aforementioned Israeli governmental attempt to shut down the 2014 Nakba Film Festival, which contained films expressing Palestinian anguish over Israel’s victory in the 1948 Independence War, led to outcry both inside and outside of Israel. Some news sources called for funding to be pulled from the Tel Aviv Cinemathèque, the venue hosting the film festival. Although the festival is controversial, since it challenges the result of and reaction to Israel’s 1948 victory and subsequent creation as a Jewish homeland, but we at The Culture Trip find that it is important to not censor particular cultural products, even if they challenge our opinions and deep-rooted perception on an issue.

In contrast to these examples of how media outlets often react to Israeli culture, The Culture Trip strives to report on cultural happenings and products in an impartial and innovative way. We work with local writers who report on Israeli culture in a personal, realistic and in-depth fashion. We think that by allowing locals to write about topics such as which Israeli photographers and contemporary art galleries in Jerusalem are the most interesting to learn about, we can project an image of Israel that is not centered on conflict and controversy, portraying instead the country we see: rich in creativity, cultural innovation and beauty. We do not shy away from potentially controversial cultural events or products either, but instead of focusing on the controversies found within these topcs, we focus on its intrinsic cultural value. This could mean showcasing masterful storytelling in all types of Israeli film, the acceptance of both Palestinian and Israeli performance, music and poetry in Paris or the diversity and richness of the local film festival scene in Tel Aviv.

By expanding from just the political contexts our articles, we are able to present a wide array of viewpoints surrounding Israel and its burgeoning cultural scene. Israel is a country bursting with creative potential, and we hope that by shifting focus away from political and social struggles, we will be able to show our multifaceted and culturally rich country in a different light. For people who have never experienced Israel for themselves, accessing our content and learning about facets of Israeli society that are not often portrayed in the media can shatter their preconceived notions about life in Israel and expose them to the country’s extensive creative opportunities and institutions. With a readership of over 1 million people per month and a social media community in the hundreds of thousands, we at the Culture Trip are committed to presenting often-underrepresented voices from Israel to the world’s cultural community.

About the Author
Sydney Dratel lives in Tel Aviv, where she is an editorial assistant at The Culture Trip and an educational intern at The Ilana Goor Museum. She graduated magna cum laude from Tulane University in May 2014, where she studied History, Art History and French. Sydney is passionate about art, food, Israel, coffee, and cats.