With the increasing rise in the number of Ukrainian immigrants arriving to Israel, Ukraine cultural events and programs have become more prominent around the country in recent years.

“I’m glad that our unique cultural heritage is being recognized and demonstrated in Israel,” Vyacheslav Feldman, of the NGO, Israeli Friends of Ukraine told Tazpit Press Service, in light of Israel’s international Ukrainian film festival held from October 8 – 13.

The first-ever international Ukrainian Cinema Week was held in several Israeli cities including Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Haifa and Ashkelon. The film festival was held as part of the annual initiative of Ukrainian Days in Israel, and featured screenings of films by a number of Ukrainian directors.

“The aim of the festival was to introduce the Israeli audience to Ukrainian filmmakers and dip into the history, culture and the realities of today’s Ukraine. We are grateful to our partners, and the organization of Ukrainian Jewish Encounter for their support and for the excellent opportunity to bring Ukrainian cinema in Israel,” said Emilia Margolin, a representative of Israeli Friends of Ukraine.

“This project is extremely important for us as representatives of the Israeli-Ukrainian community in Israel. Cinema carries cultural codes and through the lens of the director’s vision of the world, it presents the viewer with aspects of life of the Ukrainian people,” Margolin added.

The film festival was organized and supported by the Embassy of Ukraine in the State of Israel, Cinema State Agency of Ukraine, Ukraine’s Highlight Pictures film investment company, Open Air Cinema, Canada’s Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, the Municipality of Ashkelon, and Israeli Friends of Ukraine.

“The goal of the festival was not just to showcase Ukrainian culture or even Jewish-Ukrainain culture,” Feldman told TPS. “It was also a part of our larger goal of bringing the two countries and nations together, through our common heritage.”

The festival guests included notable Ukrainian filmmakers who also held panels and workshops after the screenings along with Israeli filmmakers.
“We organized screenings in a museum in Haifa and even open air screenings on the beach in Ashkelon. The response from festival goers and participants was overwhelmingly positive,” said Feldman.

According to Feldman, there are more Israeli-Ukrainian cultural exchange events slated for the year, with a Ukrainian fashion event in Tel Aviv and a concert by Ukrainian pop band Frayda, taking place in November.

Israeli Friends of Ukraine began its cultural activity about a year ago after having first only engaged in humanitarian relief projects following humanitarian crisis in Crimea.

“Everything started in Maidan, when we brought injured Ukrainians for treatment in Israel. Later we began sending humanitarian packages to Eastern Ukraine,” recounts Feldman.

“Eventually we realized that cultural and artistic events are also a way to both raise awareness and bring our countries and cultures closer, while at the same time celebrating our own heritage in Israel.”

Following the film festival, both Ukraine and Israel are to finalize agreements between the two countries for cinematic cooperation which will make it possible for directors and actors to shoot joint-films together according to Phillip Illienko, the head of the State Film Agency of Ukraine.

Anav Silverman, TPS

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