The Berliner Festspiele on Current Events in Israel, Gaza and Germany

The massacre, hostage-taking and rocket attacks by Hamas have shaken us deeply. The grue-some attack on Israel on 7 October left us stunned and initially lost for words. Our sympathy goes out to the victims, their families and loved ones. Our thoughts and hopes are with the hostages still captured by Hamas, as well as all the people who have been affected by the escalation of violence in the Middle East. We are appalled at the present suffering of the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip that was triggered by Hamas’s acts of terror and which is currently intensifying dramatically.

Furthermore, it is unacceptable to us that Jews in Germany and around the world are being threatened and have to fear for their safety due to anti-Semitic attacks and assaults. As a public cultural institution, we stand against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism. We are committed to anti-discrimination, intercultural understanding and the ex-change of different viewpoints and perspectives. The most effective means we possess to do this lies in encounters with and through art – and it is as a result of these that themes and positions manifest themselves in our programme

Contemporary art often engages with topical issues, which is why this theme will necessari-ly be reflected in our programmes. Artistic explorations and discussions of the violent con-flict in Israel and Palestine have been ongoing for a long time. For example, for some months now we have been in negotiations with the Israeli film director Amos Gitai about presenting guest performances of his new play “House”, which is based on the eponymous documentary film trilogy that he has produced since the end of the 1970s. In the play, Israeli, Palestinian and Iranian participants stand on stage together. We are pleased to be able to show these performances next June as part of a themed week on Israel, Palestine and our joint everyday life in Germany, conceived and curated by Meron Mendel and Saba-Nur Cheema in collaboration with the Federal Agency for Civic Education. Our wish for the fu-ture is that dialogue and exchange of this kind will remain possible or will become possible once again.

Surely, the terror attacks on Israel and the war in Gaza will have more enduring effects on our institution and its cultural and socio-political role – just as most incisive historical events and developments that change our society continually alter and ideally increase our understanding of ourselves, broadening our sensibilities and challenging us to learn from them. This is the basis on which we will attempt to use our work to arouse interest in indi-vidual and social engagement with works of art and the motives, themes and contexts that underlie them: in order to facilitate alternative approaches to complex interrelated topics and look for ways out of intractable situations. As long as people have faith in the imagina-tive potential and creative freedom of art, we will regard this as our mission.

As of 1 November 2023