Turning Darkness to Light

‘We put light in the darkness so the darkness goes away.” When I heard our friends from Tarbut in Afula utter that line, it all clicked. Tarbut, another organization our Federation supports, is an innovative social enterprise aimed at renewing arts and culture, particularly in resource-scarce areas. It’s an arts collective of sorts, a kind of arts “kibbutz” whose members opt to live communally and bring their talents to the communities where they settle. This network of culture activists, artists and educators lead programs ranging from theatre and dance to painting, drawing and more, in order to inspire local children and adults to express themselves through the arts and open their horizons. The Afula-based Tarbut is taking things even one step further. They identified the old marketplace in the center of the city as a target to regentrify and have been working with the local merchants and municipality to bring life back to this deserted part of the city. Once a bustling center, the old marketplace had fallen on hard times, with people drawn to the more modern, newer businesses that have been popping up all over Afula. But to Tarbut members, an opportunity crystallized. They worked with the city government to open a storefront in the market, a gallery of sorts, and what’s more, they have begun to transform the walls of the marketplace with gorgeous street art that reminds me of the Wynnewood area of Miami. Their next step is to work with the area merchants who are welcoming them with open arms, to create a thriving shuk that will become a destination — filled with shops, galleries and cafes. With the introduction of the new rail line from Haifa to Afula, it’s not hard to imagine that this could become the next hot destination in the North! But, that is only a piece of Tarbut’s future plans. They have just negotiated with the city of Afula to take over a former school building and transform it into a Tarbut center - not only to train their cadre of volunteers but to offer arts programming to the community in a central location, filled with up-to-date studios and theatres. This will be a welcome relief to the program, which up to now has brought arts programming to more than 5000 youth. This movement has grown so much in 10 years that today, there are more than 300 soldiers in the IDF who work in Tarbut programs and 140 pre- army volunteers each year who do a year of service in Tarbut before joining the IDF. It is clear that Tarbut shines its light on this city.

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