A Musical Revival in a Chinese City Stirs Memories of a Jewish Past

Aug. 16 2016

In response to President Xi Jinping’s call for a “cultural renaissance,” the city of Harbin has invested many millions in building concert halls and sponsoring musical performances. The city, located near the country’s northeastern frontier, had been a major center of Western music a century ago, largely because of an influx of Russian Jews. Amy Qin writes:

The arts—and especially classical music—flourished [in Harbin] throughout the early 20th century. Nicknamed the St. Petersburg of the East, [it] was home to a thriving Jewish community that helped build a rich cultural scene, including China’s first symphony orchestra, made up of mostly Russian musicians. . . .

This summer the city . . . hosted . . . two concerts conducted by Zubin Mehta, featuring the Harbin Symphony Orchestra and fifteen members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. . . . City officials have a “vision of building a cultural bridge with Israel,” said Mehta, the longtime music director of the Israel Philharmonic. “So I came as a catalyst between the two sides.” . . .

During the 1920s, the city was home to as many as 20,000 Jews. . . . [It] soon became a gateway for Western classical music in China. . . . Harbin had as many as 30 music schools where a number of prominent international musicians trained. . . . There were jazz orchestras, ballet performances, drama groups, theater companies, and even a Yiddish theater.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Arts & Culture, China, Harbin, Israel Philharmonic, Israel-China relations, Music, Russian Jewry, Yiddish theater

What’s the Purpose of the Hamas Chairman’s Grand Tour?

Dec. 12 2019

Egypt recently made the unusual decision to allow the head of the Hamas politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, to travel abroad. On Tuesday he was in Turkey, from where he is expected to travel to Qatar—these two countries being Hamas’s most reliable supporters—and then to Russia and Malaysia. Hamas’s other major patron, Iran, is conspicuously not on the itinerary. Shahar Klaiman speculates about the reasons for Cairo’s decision:

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Egypt, Hamas, Iran, Ismail Haniyeh, Russia, Turkey