Four faces, four stories
They come from Israel, they live – at least for a time – in Germany and they actively support encounter and exchange
The building is idyllically situated at Grosser Wannsee. If you didn’t know its history, you would not be able to guess it. The house was the venue of the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis planned the Holocaust. And this is where Tikva Sendeke works. She comes from Israel and has Ethiopian roots. The 26-year-old guides visitors through the exhibition in the villa. Not all of those who follow her through these rooms understand why a Jew would decide to do voluntary service in Germany. And why at this place of all places? But Sendeke was curious. As a blogger she also reports on her experiences as a member of a Jewish minority. “The challenge is being myself without hiding my identity,” she says. When she discovered the opportunity to complete a period of voluntary service in Berlin, one of the most multicultural places in the world, it was as if a circle had closed. “In the past I used to resist learning about the Holocaust,” she says. Now it was her own choice. If Israeli visitors ask her today about her relationship to the Holocaust, she answers: “I am a Jew. It is part of my history.”
The journalist Tal Alon has her husband to thank that she came to Berlin. Because the artist was attracted by the art scene in the German capital, the couple moved from Israel to Germany with their two children in 2009. She learned German and was working for the Israeli media when she had the idea that the large Israeli community in Berlin lacked a journalistic platform. That was how the Hebrew magazine Spitz was created in 2012. It gives Israeli immigrants a cultural, political and social orientation and functions as a practical guide to everyday life in Berlin. Until recently a printed magazine appeared every two months. Since March 2016 it has become a purely online magazine, financed by donations and advertising. “Spitz is a symbol of our Berlin culture,” says Alon. Some Berliners have already asked her whether a German version is planned. She doesn’t know yet whether that will happen. She still hasn’t decided whether she wants to stay in Germany. In the meantime, however, there’s certainly enough to do.
Oz Ben David
Berlin’s best hummus is to be found in a wooden hut near the suburban rail station at Prenzlauer Berg. At least, that is what everyone who has been there says, although it is often not the reason for their visit. Most guests come out of curiosity; after all, Kanaan is run by a Jewish Israeli and a Moslem Palestinian. After his arrival in Berlin, the management consultant Oz Ben David (right in the photograph) was actually meant to advise big firms. But then along came Jalil Dabit, the son of Palestinian restaurant owners, with his idea of offering Berlin some culinary enrichment. And Ben David, who enjoys nothing more in life than cooking, let himself be persuaded: “We had no choice. There was simply no good hummus in Berlin.” So the two of them created a place where Syrians, Palestinians, Israelis and Lebanese can experience the taste of home. A restaurant where differences are soon forgotten over unleavened bread, shakshuka and sesame paste. In fact, however, the food itself has potential for conflict, since hummus is a dish that Palestinians, Lebanese, Egyptians and Israelis all claim as their own. The food in Kanaan, however, unites people. Oz Ben David regularly organises cooking events with refugees at which dishes from Syria and other conflict regions are prepared and the guests discover the associated stories. Sometimes there is live music, and sometimes traditional, almost forgotten festivals are revived. “Actually, I only do what my neighbours want,” says Ben David. “The people around us want just that.”
Why should a theatre director prefer the virtual to the real world? Perhaps because the two could be closer than you think. Michael Ronen comes from Jerusalem. He studied directing at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, worked in London and in Israel, and moved to Berlin nine years ago. There he invented Splash, the first app that can be used to record 360-degree videos on a smartphone, share them on social media and then view them on virtual reality equipment like Google Cardboard. It was important to Ronen that users create content themselves. Of course, he immediately tested the app on his own territory – at Berlin’s Gorki Theater. Plays can be viewed from different perspectives using Splash – as a member of the audience, as the director or as an actor. “You can also do the same thing on a family vacation,” says Ronen. Anyone who has a smartphone can pass on information and thereby convey impressions, also with witness reports during political crises. Ronen’s team is very international: his employees come from Israel, the USA, Germany and Romania. In 2016 the start-up won the prestigious founders’ competition at the American tech festival South By South West in Austin. Ronen advises other business founders to take big risks and have a vision of what they want to achieve.