Forward Thinking

Avant-Garde Aliyah to Berlin

By Martyna Starosta

  • Print
  • Share Share

“There’s always this joke that half of Tel Aviv is actually here,” Liad Hussein Kantorowicz told me when I interviewed her in her Berlin apartment.

The numbers back her up: According to the latest estimates, 15,000 to 20,000 people have left Israel in recent years to forge a new life in Berlin. Most of these new migrants come from Tel Aviv and are relatively young. Many are trying to make it professionally in a creative field.

But why Berlin, of all places? The idea of “historical irony” sounds like an understatement when you ask yourself: Why are so many descendants of Holocaust survivors deciding to move to the exact same city in which the Nazis planned the Final Solution 70 years ago?

Maybe it’s fair to assume that we are talking about a very different Berlin. Today, Germany’s gritty capital offers a lot more than just affordable rent. It’s a fertile ground for longing and transgression, especially for artists.

Keren Manor / Activestills.

We often think of migration as a major rupture in one’s life. But Hussein-Kantorowicz’s biography shows significant continuities. In Israel, she co-founded Anarchists Against the Wall. In Germany, she presents lectures on pinkwashing, arguing that Israel promotes its gay-friendly policies in an attempt to downplay its alleged human rights violations. In Israel, she was one of the first spokespeople for the rights of sex workers. In Germany, she’s deeply invested in a peer education project run for and by sex workers. But the most important continuity is the fact that she’s always creating performance work, which blurs the boundaries between life, art, and politics.

Hussein-Kantorowicz’s story may not be representative of the vast number of Israelis in Berlin. But it’s worthwhile to listen closely to her if you want to understand why the city feels so welcoming to people who felt marginalized in Israel:

“When you object to state apartheid, which is what is done in Israel at the moment, and on top of that you look strange and you conduct a lifestyle that is different, you’re not only seen as an outsider, you’re potentially seen as a terrorist. And Berlin is definitely a place that has very wide margins of society where all the “others” can find their place.”

Will the new Israeli community settle permanently in Berlin? Or will thousands of Israelis soon look back on these years abroad as exciting but temporary life experiments? It’s hard to predict the future of this nomadic generation, which often questions the concept of national loyalty in favor of ambitious art and an ongoing commitment to social justice.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Sex Work, Performance, Migration, Love, Liad Hussein Kantorowicz, Kreuzberg, Jewish Women, Israelis in Berlin, Israel, Hydra, Germany, Exodus, Berlin, Avant-Garde, Anti-Occupation, Art, Anarchists Against The Wall, Aliyah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.