By Jordan Elgrably
Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Second World War, the map of the Middle East and North Africa has been rewritten by colonialism, war and internecine conflict.
Whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran, the first and second Gulf War in Iraq, the invasions of Afghanistan, or the Lebanese Civil War, millions of people have been displaced. Millions more have seen their lives changed forever with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria that began in 2010.
In the 21st century, it is easy for us to forget that World War I was said to be "the war to end all wars." Here I am, writing on the 100th anniversary of that brutal conflagration that killed over 15 million combatants and civilians in Europe.
The Levantine Cultural Center presents its flagship comedy show, the Sultans of Satire: Middle East Comic Relief, to celebrate peace and benefit a new cultural arts center for the Middle East/North Africa, opening in 2015. Come enjoy this long-running and inspired comedy show for a healthy dose of satire and universal humor, laugh about life and the Middle East with one of L.A's hottest comedy troupes. Hosted by the outrageous Tehran (Iran/U.S.) and headlined by Palestinian American Aron Kader (Comedy Central's Axis of Evil), this show features six of the funniest young comedians on the circuit today. With Sammy Obeid, Marie-Thérèse Abou-Daoud, Melissa Shoshahi and Sherwin Arae.
Find out why the Sultans of Satire are a riot, relieve stress, celebrate peace with fans of the Levantine Cultural Center, presenting arts and education programs on the Middle East and North Africa across Southern California since 2001. Your ticket purchases and program ad support will help re-establish the Levantine Cultural Center in a new facility opening Summer 2015. Read our Capital Campaign plan here. Download the gift form here and become a Founder of the new Center.
For tickets to the 12/13/14 comedy show, go here. More info.
In conjunction with the new exhibition War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, four Southern California-based poets read from two recent collections of poetry, Dear Darwish and With Our Eyes Wide Open, that explore the effects of war and exile on people in South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, focuses on the impact of recent wars on populations around the world specially the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.), Central America, and the Middle East. This international anthology of poetry explores the impact of the United States in wars as well as upon the "nobodies"-outcasts, immigrants, the working class: "They [the poets]...represent an emerging poetic consciousness which is helping todefine and shape the imagination and language of the 21st Century." Using a call-and-response pattern, the poems look at the impact of the United States' wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central American, and Iraq on lives. Vietnamese-American poet Teresa Mei Chuc, and Julia Stein read from their own poems. Dima Hilal, a Lebanese American will read her work. We will also read some of the Middle Eastern poets in the anthology from Turkey, Oman, Egyptian-American, Morocco, Iraq, and Chechnya.
Read reviews of With Eyes Wide Open here and in Counterpunch here.
On the Side of the Road is an Israeli documentary film written and directed by Lia Tarachansky that focuses on Israeli collective denial of the events of 1948 that led to the country's independence and the Palestinian refugee problem. It follows war veterans Tikva Honig-Parnass and Amnon Noiman as they tackle their denial of their actions in the war. The film also tells the story of the director, an Israeli who grew up in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank, but as an adult began to realize the problems of the Israeli Occupation for the Palestinians. The film was shot over the course of five years and premiered at the First International Independent Film Festival in Tel Aviv.
Lia Tarachansky follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying to uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever. She then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country's biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.
The filmmaker will introduce the film amd do a Q & A after the screening. This special director's screening with Tarachansky presented by LA Jews for Peace and the Levantine Cultural Center, with support from JVP-LA. New Voices in Middle Eastern Cinema with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
We are especially pleased to present our November 2014 line-up to you. As you know, we founded the Levantine Cultural Center during the summer of 2001, dedicating ourselves to a cultural and community center that champions a greater understanding of the Middle East and North Africa, from Afghanistan/Pakistan in the east to Morocco in the west. We are also dedicated to exploring our communities in diaspora. To rsvp for any of these programs, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 323.413.2001.
The Inside/Outside Gallery is pleased to present the first American solo show for Egyptian master painter Mohamed Khedr, featuring 40 works on canvas and paper, Oct 4-Oct.26, 2014, with an extended closing reception on Sunday, Nov. 16, 5-7 pm, at 5998 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90035.
Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 am-6 pm, and Sat/Sun by appointment only, 310.657.5511. The work is also on view evenings during scheduled events, on Nov. 5 and 6.
Nov. 5: On the Side of the Road a new documentary presented by director Lia Tarachansky that examines the 1948 Nakba-the expulsion of Palestinians from the emerging state of Israel-from the perspective of Israelis.
Nov. 6: Gaza and the Arab Jewish Divide, a talk by anthropologist-author and Professor Smadar Lavie, author of Wrapped In the Flag of Israel, who finds that there is a direct correlation between social protest movements in Israel, Ashkenazi-Mizrahi relations, and attacks on Gaza.
Nov. 7-9: The Arab Film Festival presents multiple features and documentaries at the Harmony Gold, with support from the Levantine Cultural Center.
Nov. 10: Sacred Spaces in Syria: Stories, Music and Discussion. Presented by Jason Hamacher, widely traveled in Syria and other regions of the Middle East, who discusses his experiences. Hamacher will play selections from his "Sacred Voices of Syria" series, and show photos from a forthcoming book. He is an internationally recognized musician, photographer, writer and public speaker (NPR, Aljazeera, Smithsonian).
Nov. 15: Muslims Who Combat Fundamentalism Around the World, a talk by the Algerian American professor at Stanford, Karima Bennoune, author of Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. (An afternoon salon in a private home in Orange County, by reservation only.)
Nov. 21, War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, a new exhibition,focuses on contemporary art and artifacts gathered from artists, war refugees and their children. The exhibit focuses on the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Israel-Palestine Wars of 1948 and 1967, the Lebanon Civil War (1975-1990), and the Syrian War (2011-2014), and also includes two performance lectures. Artists include Melissa Chimera, Dorit Cypis, John Halaka, Kinda Hibrawi, Khalid Hussein and Kaveh Keshmiri.
Nov. 25: Ramy Essam Live in Los Angeles, concert & public conversation with the Egyptian revolutionary rocker whose song "Erhal" help drive Hosni Mubarak from power, and who is featured in Jehane Noujaim's acclaimed documentary, The Square.
One of the biggest uncovered stories in the Middle East is the chasm between Israel's Euro-American Jewish population (Ashkenazim), and the Jews from the Arab/Muslim world, the Mizrahim. Deep-rooted racism continues to play a role in Israeli society between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim (sometimes called Sephardic Jews). Indeed, often there is a direct relationship between how Israel treats the Palestinians and the way Israeli society stratifies its own Jewish population, with Ashkenazim occupying more seats in the Knesset and more overall government control now than at any time since 1977, according to anthropologist and Professor Smadar Lavie.
Smadar Lavie suggests that there is a direct correlation between social protest movements in Israel, Ashkenazi-Mizrahi relations, and attacks on Gaza. Her talk will address Gaza 2014 and the Mizrahi predicament, right-wing politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Author most recently of Wrapped in the Flag of Israel, Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture, Smadar Lavie is a Scholar in Residence at the Beatrice Bain Research Center, UC Berkeley's feminists of color think tank, and at the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century, University College Cork (Ireland). Her book looks at the role of gender in the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi divide with particular emphasis on how Mizrahi women (whose roots are in Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East) navigate right-wing politics in Israel, noting that many Mizrahim vote for right-wing parties.
Professor Lavie will give a rare talk in Los Angeles on the relationship between the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi divide and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 7 pm. Book signing and reception to follow.
Many times we have heard the question, "Where are the peaceful Palestinian protesters, who advocate for their cause non-violently?" Infrequently profiled in the mainstream media, such Palestinian activists are legion. Like Bi'lin peacemaker Emad Burnat—who made the fabled doc 5 Broken Cameras—Bassem al-Tamimi (Arabic: باسم التميمي, born c. 1967) is one such Palestinian activist. He is an organizer of protests against Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. He was convicted by an Israeli military court in 2011 for "sending people to throw stones, and holding a march without a permit." Tamimi's lawyers denied those charges saying, "He believes in passive resistance and says he never asked anyone to throw stones."
Jewish Voice for Peace-Los Angeles and the Levantine Cultural Center present this program in an on-going series of talks that examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Past speakers include Leila El-Haddad, Eran Efrati, Sami Shalom Chetrit, Ghada Karmi, Laila Al-Marayati, Miko Peled, Basem Ra'ad, David Sheen and many more.
Chapman University, Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dept. of Political Science, History and Peace Studies and the Levantine Cultural Center present present a rare evening with celebrated author and blogger Juan Cole (The New Arabs; Engaging the Muslim World), introduced by political science associate professor Nubar Hovsepian. The talk is on "How the Arab Millennial Generation is changing the Middle East." There will be Q & A and a book signing, along with a light reception. All welcome, free to the public. Copies of Juan Cole's books will be available for purchase and signing.
Friends of the Levantine Cultural Center present a rare evening with celebrated author and blogger Juan Cole (The New Arabs; Engaging the Muslim World), introduced by historian Mark LeVine (Why They Don't Hate Us; One Land, Two States). A delicious sit-down dinner and dessert will be followed by conversation with Professors Cole and LeVine on "the New Arabs," the thesis of Cole's latest book, in relation to the Israel/Palestine question, and the future of the Middle East/North Africa, notably the debate about the supposed demise of Arab civilization, debated recently by Hisham Melham in Politico and Juan Cole with respect to the rise of the Islamic State.
The conversation, followed by a public dialogue engaging the audience, will conclude with a concert of Arab/Egyptian music performed live on kanun by Jim Grippo and on 'oud by Ziyad Marcus. Dinner tickets are $75 per person Patron of the Arts ($40 is tax-deductible) benefitting the new Levantine Cultural Center. Seating is limited to just 40 persons, so advance reservations are strongly advised. Seats are not guaranteed without RSVPs. Call 323.413.2001 or reserve here online.
The Levantine Cultural Center is pleased to present live in concert Omar Faruk Tekbilek & Friends. Omar Faruk Tekbilek is a Turkish virtuoso in the Sufi tradition, musician and composer of many albums, performing on ney, baglama, zurna, percussion and vocals. He will give two concerts only, in Los Angeles and Orange County, on Saturday/Sunday, Oct. 25/26, featuring the talented Hamid Saeidi on santour, the eclectic Chris Wabich on drums and percussion, and the versatile Daniel Mandelman on keyboards. The concert benefits the Levantine Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization opening a new multidiscplinary space to explore the cultures of the Middle East/North Africa in 2015. Watch/listen!
Seating for the Los Angeles concert is limited, we advise reserving your seats early to guarantee attendance: 323.413.2001. $30 general admission, $25 members, students, seniors (if purchased by Oct. 15 only).
SNACK & BEVERAGE MENU: Moroccan bastilla (homemade pies), cheese fatayer, spinach fatayer and sandwiches, everything served with a little side of salad. Soft drinks and hot maté tea!
For those closer to Orange County, the concert will take place in a more intimate, 80-seat venue, so reservations are strongly advised: Sunday, Oct 26, 2014 at 7pm, Hoson House, 1961 Irvine Blvd, Tustin, CA 92780. Buy tickets for Oct. 26 show here.