by: Annelize Williams, BFP Staff Writer
Celebrating life to the fullest and maximizing the opportunities to have fun, are two of the things Israelis do best. Israel has cultivated a few unique festivals which are hosted during summertime, catering to a wide variety of tastes. From festivals you can actively participate in, like the Karmiel Dance Festival; to those that tickle the taste buds with sensational dishes, like Taste of the City; to those of sublime aesthetic value like the Israel Festival. Some of the festivals like the Israel Festival, the International Arts and Crafts Fair and the Haifa International Film Festival have a long, rich history, dating as far back as 40 or 50 years. Summer in Israel has become synonymous with superb entertainment and there is a festival suitable for every individual!
The Israel Festival, which starts at the end of May, is probably the oldest of the Jerusalem festivals and quite possibly the most renowned. In 1961 the first performance was held in the ancient Roman amphitheater in Caesarea, but in the late 1980s the festival relocated to Jerusalem. The Israel Festival is renowned for producing outstanding dance, music and theater performances by world-class performers like the Batsheva Dance Company and the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra. This year the focus of the festival will be on local Jerusalem talent, with a number of performers who are personally linked to the city by birth or upbringing.
For those who seek active participation and not merely spectatorship, the Karmiel Dance Festival in August is exactly the place to be. The festival, which originally began as a celebration of Israeli folk dance, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Featuring a unique blend of local and international dancers, the event boasts over 120 different performances. The festivities last for three days and three nights and members of the public can join the excitement by learning local folk dances or entering either of the two major competitions held annually—a choreography competition or a folk dance competition.
Another truly enjoyable event is the Red Sea Jazz Festival which is hosted in the seaside resort town of Eilat. Stretching over four days in August the festival includes about eight concerts per evening. What makes it unique is that members of the public can become involved in the events. There are a wide variety of different interactive groups with guest artists who make it possible for the lay people to join in the nightly jam sessions. Every evening at 7 p.m. up-and-coming Israeli jazz artists are given the opportunity to showcase their talent in the open concert, thereby gaining much-needed exposure in the music industry.
The Jerusalem Light Festival in June is a dramatic and truly enchanting experience. Visitors who are normally mesmerized by Jerusalem’s ancient walls will be even more captivated as those walls come alive with dazzling displays of light during this remarkable festival.
The light show includes breathtaking exhibits of statues, light structures and three-dimensional animated displays, each with a different theme. Multiple routes offer different imaginative light presentations. Wandering through the Old City you will also encounter different real-life performances tucked away in their individual corners. Usually there are four routes for spectators to choose from, with each walkway immersed in colorful displays of lights. The Jerusalem Light Festival is truly a unique and unforgettable way to experience the Old City.
For those drawn to a variety of artworks, there are the magnificent presentations of the International Arts and Crafts Fair during the month of August. The festival has been running for over forty years at Hutzot Hayotzer which literally means “the creator steps out.” True to its name, crafters and artisans from all over Israel as well as from Europe and Africa step out and come together to showcase their diverse works of art. It is indeed a buzz of creativity and it includes live concerts in the evenings with dance and other performances by famous Israeli artists, as well as a variety of food stands and workshops!
The Haifa International Film Festival is definitely another cultural highlight of the summer. Regarded as one of the 50 most important film festivals in the world, this event draws a huge international crowd. Hosted on top of Mount Carmel with the breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea, the festival screens 280 new films from all around the globe. Seventy of the films are usually from Israeli directors and produced locally, covering a variety of genres. The festival gives a platform for local talent to be internationally recognized and chosen for further screenings at other international film festivals.
Israeli films are submitted to the Haifa Film Festival where they are judged for excellence in the Israeli film industry. The directors also compete for accolades like the “Golden Anchor” for films produced in the Mediterranean region and “Tomorrow’s Filmmakers,” an award for first-time directors. What makes this festival so incredibly exciting is the fact that there are delightful cultural events running parallel with the movie screenings. The festival program promises to entertain all ages and includes music, food stalls, open-air movie screenings and an artist market.
Taste of the City (Ta’am Ha’ir) is a food connoisseur’s dream. The finest restaurants and wineries in Israel entice visitors with offers to sample gourmet dishes and wines at discount prices in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. It is a culinary event that attracts around 400,000 visitors each year which comes as no surprise considering the financial incentive. Live bands and famous Israeli chefs make special appearances throughout the four-day festivities. This is definitely a festival not to be missed.
Open House Tel Aviv (Batim MeBifnim) is a yearly event that runs for a weekend in May and showcases different styles of architecture, landscape gardening and interior decor. This celebration of design takes you on a tour throughout the city to see some of the oldest houses in Tel Aviv. Participants will be transported back in time as they are given the rare opportunity to visit historical homes, usually closed to the public. A must for the creative at heart and those interested in architecture and design!
With a sublimely colorful and diverse culture, the nation of Israel certainly knows how to be festive and there certainly is no better time than the summer with its long warm evenings and sun-drenched days to come and make the most of these opportunities!
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