FEATURES Ofra Farhi: “Culture is my life”

ofraBy Ada Treves

For Ofra Farhi, the cultural attaché of the Israeli Embassy in Italy, it’s time to say goodbye. She will be returning to Israel at the end of August, after four and a half years in Rome. A meeting with the editorial staff of the Union Jewish Communities of Italy has become the opportunity to discuss what she has accomplished during her Italian years, and to explain the way she has worked.

With the overwhelming energy that characterizes her, Ofra has managed to charm everyone with her passion for her job, and with her pragmatism. Upon her arrival in Italy, something she has wanted very strongly, also because of her Roman roots, she found a peculiar situation: Israeli culture was known for some of its most famous representatives, but there was no structured programming, and for six years there had been no cultural attaché at the embassy.

A very special diplomatic, well capable even of statements that are not exactly diplomatic: “We all know that when there are budget problems, the first thing that gets cut is culture, and it is a huge mistake, an outrageous choice!” The value of her work, shows in every issue of the newsletter Cultural Office of the Embassy’s newsletter, that at the top has a quote by Amos Luzzatto: “Culture is the strongest weapon of democracy”. And Ofra Fahri with her impetus, has been able to overcome even the resistance of the ambassador that – following the instructions arrived from Israel in these days of tension – did not want to let her travel, one of the key traits of her work. In her years in Italy she has travelled everywhere, to learn about festivals and about the various opportunities to showcase the beauty and the interest of Israeli culture, and to meet people.

Israel is a country rich in music, dance, literature, art and science, cultural events, and there are regularly organized days – the “exposures” in which all the best in a specific field is presented to potential “buyers”. The participation in the ‘”Exposure” on contemporary dance by Luca De Fusco, director of the Napoli Teatro Festival is an excellent example of her way of working. The budget available for culture makes organizing events an impossible approach, so it was necessary to find a way to raise an awareness of the possibilities. Her choice, than has been to build networks, to – as has often repeated – “open a window, sometimes very small, a small window, sometimes larger, and my job is then to transform that into an open door “. And this is exactly what happened in Naples: the curiosity of an interested person and the absolute quality of contemporary Israeli dance have met and from that emerged a rich program that brought three years ago some of the best companies in Naples, for a focus on contemporary Israeli dance. And that was only the beginning. “The initial financial investment it was very small, and the cost of a few nights in a hotel got me to a result that I think is one of my best achievements.” What she does not say, but that transpires from every single one of her words, by her smiles and by the joy with which she presents the amount of initiatives built in these past years, is that the most important part of her work has relied mainly on her personal ability to build relationships, to create networks and to have a contagious enthusiasm.

Thanks to her tireless work – and to her team of collaborators, never enough to support her projects – all Italians interested in art, beauty, literature have had the opportunity to enjoy Israeli culture. It is now present in all the major cultural festivals in Italy, but also as a myriad of meetings, concerts, shows and exhibitions that make up a beautiful mosaic of initiatives that will be a strong, solid legacy that will grow under the guide the next cultural attaché, which will arrive in Rome in September. Because, as Ofra Farhi is never tired to repeat, “Culture is the strongest weapon of democracy”.