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Architecture enthusiasts head to the capital for Jerusalem Open House

One of the tours will honor Aner Shapira, who was murdered at the Supernova Music Festival massacre on Oct. 7.

The city of Jerusalem. Credit: Pixabay.
The city of Jerusalem. Credit: Pixabay.

The Open House Jerusalem festival will see architecture enthusiasts make their way to Jerusalem again this weekend for architect-guided tours of historical and modern sites.

The event, which began last weekend, was meant to take place in late October but was postponed due to the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught.

“It took us a lot of time to decide whether we wanted to do it. It wasn’t obvious,” Aviva Levinson, the founder and manager of Open House Israel, told JNS. 

“It’s not meant to be a party. It’s an event that brings together visitors and the city of Jerusalem. They hear stories and tour places that ultimately connect them to Israeli history. I think there is value in it,” Levinson added. 

Organized in partnership with the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage, the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Development Authority, the concept was imported from London, where the first Open House was launched in 1992. The festival was brought to Tel Aviv in 2007 and arrived in Jerusalem a few months later. 

The Jerusalem festival features 152 locations including historical sites, private houses, bridges, hospitals and a theater, where the architects who participated in building the sites will interact with visitors. 

Last weekend, the festival opened former President Yitzhak Ben Tzvi’s home in Rehavia to the public. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, of the Yad Ben Zvi Institute, curated an exhibition highlighting art from the northern Negev and Israeli communities facing the Gaza Strip.

This weekend will include a tour of Jerusalem led by architect Moshe Shapira, the father of Aner Shapira, a sergeant in the Nahal Brigade who was murdered at the Supernova Music Festival massacre on Oct. 7.

“Aner was born in Jerusalem. He was a musician who wrote and sang many songs about the city. We decided that it was only natural for us to dedicate one tour to honor him,” said Levinson.

Hamas terrorists attacked the shelter in which Aner Shapira, his best friend Hersh Goldberg-Polin and two dozen other people had taken cover. They threw grenades into the tiny space. Shapira managed to pick some up and throw them out. 

Shapira did not survive the assault but managed to save 10 people. 

“We recently produced an album of Aner’s music,” Moshe Shapira told JNS. “Aner sang of the spirit of unity and against hatred among the Jewish people. I wanted to honor him with a tour of the city he loved so much and where internal conflicts within Israeli society have taken place since the British Mandate until today,” he added.

Shapira has participated in the Open House project for the past 18 years. He said it is meant to combine the architectural aspects and the humanistic approach that Aner viewed as the sole way of solving conflicts in Israeli society. 

“Aner sacrificed his life for people he had met minutes earlier. Even without knowing them, he felt that he had to protect them,” said Shapira. 

“On one hand, this tour will be an opportunity for people to visit old historical buildings which have been restored or are under reconstruction like the old Knesset, and it will also reflect Aner’s view of internal conflict and honor his legacy,” he added. 

The tour will also include a visit to the Bezalel Academy of Art, where Aner took a course, the Hasira pub, where he used to hang out and which is known as a symbol of tolerance, the British Central Prison in the Russian Compound and the Museum of Italian Jewish Art. 

For Shapira, Friday’s tour will also be an opportunity to honor other pioneers of peace and unity within the Shapira clan, including Aner’s great-grandfather Haim-Moshe Shapira, a key government minister in the early years of the state, and grandfather Elyakim Ben Menachem, who headed a mixed secular and religious school and who also preached unity and tolerance. 

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