Unique, to everyone: Jerusalem’s Under the Mountain festival

Unique, to everyone: Jerusalem’s Under the Mountain festival

As a city considered holy by three religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and that is claimed by both Palestinians and Jews as their capital, the various identities that make up the fabric of Jerusalem can be filled with magic and intrigue, but they’re also divided, complex and conflicted. It is the aim of the Jerusalem Season of Culture to ’tell the different stories of Jerusalem’, says its executive director, Naomi Bloch Fortis. ’It’s a very, very unique story.’

Until August 28 the Jerusalem Season of Culture will present Under the Mountain, a festival that engages the community by displaying works of visual art. Taking place at Temple Mount – an ancient site in the Old City, on which stands the golden Dome of the Rock, a site deeply significant to Christianity, Judaism and Islam – the festival, canceled last year because of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, is hosting a number of discussions and presentations.

A few highlights of the week include Israeli artist Yael Bartana unveiling a new sound work that examines the life of Simone the Hermetic on the 1,600th anniversary Simone’s birth. Israeli fashion designer Hed Mayner will partner with religious clothing merchant Bilal Abu-Khalaf for Le Dernier Cri, inviting audiences to try on the new collection, made specifically for the festival and rooted in Jerusalem’s religious history. Spanish artist Santiago Sierra will use the human body as a material, featuring veterans of Israel’s wars as living monuments of the violent battles they experienced.

According to artistic director Itay Mautner, the festival is receiving more attention than ever. ’Many things changed because of that war and what happened in Jerusalem before that war,’ he says. ’It’s really harsh times, but addressing Temple Mount, even if you don’t want to look at it – it’s always shining and giving light into your life.’

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