Jerusalem celebrates a Festival for every season, attracting some of the best national and international talent. Jerusalem Festivals cater to every taste in music, film, dance and the plastic arts. There are also plenty of food and beer Festivals, as well as a Light Festival. But before enumerating the highlights of Jerusalem Festivals, it is no less important to describe some of the unique venues where festivals take place.
Sultan’s Pool is an ancient water basin located at the bottom of Mount Zion, which fed water to the city via its lower aqueduct. It was enlarged into a reservoir by the Ottoman Sultans, which measured 67m X 169m X 12m. This amazing pool which is now dry is used for concerts and festivals. It is flanked on one side by the Jerusalem Ramparts and on the other by the picturesque neighborhood Yemin Moshe, the first neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City.
If there is a special moment when one can appreciate the outstanding beauty of a summer night in Jerusalem, I bet it’s at Sultan’s Pool, as the sun is coming down, tainting the city walls in pink, just minutes before the special lighting around the walls and its impressive buildings create a magic effect, amidst tall trees in the backdrop of a cobalt sky.
Chutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Festival
Don’t miss the upcoming (August 15 to 27, 2016) Chutzot Hayotzer (Potter’s Edge in Aramaic) Arts and Crafts Festival, taking place in August every year. Sultan’s pool fills up with craftsmen and artists, exhibiting wares in open stalls. You can shop for precious artifacts from India, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Kenya, knits, fabrics, hats, musical instruments, mirrors, paintings, jewelry! Bask in a rainbow of colors and admire a rich variety of creative skills! North of Sultan’s Pool, the Artists’ Colony, an elegant venue flanked by art galleries offers visitors the opportunity to mingle with artists, either for a glass of beer or to discuss a million topics, including art. During the 12 days of the Festival, some of Israel’s more popular recording artists play nightly. Food and beer stalls abound, as well as, shows for children and art workshops. A tip for buyers: try to get there on the last day of the Festival so you can haggle the price of precious items in Swahili.
Jerusalem Film Festival
Among this collection of events, the Jerusalem Film Festival certainly stands out. It is a 10 day movie festival, offering special screenings, events, honorary guests and panels, featuring between 150 and 200 foreign and Israel movies, including documentaries, student movies, Jewish movies and Television Drama. This year, I was fortunate to attend the opening of the Jerusalem Film Festival, featuring Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta” and I felt hypnotized from beginning to end, as if removed from this world for the duration of the film, taking in the breeze, the nascent moon and the atmosphere of joy. I also had a chance to listen to Emma Suarez and Tarantino. Not that I am much of a name dropper, but just for the record.
The Festival is organized by the Jerusalem Cintematheque, a magnificent venue above the valley of Gehinom and opposite the Old City Walls, where screenings are on offer at all hours of the day and evening during the Festival.
The Light Festival
The Light Festival is a display of colored neon lights dancing on the Old City streets and buildings, offering different paths of light in and around its walls. This year, the Light Festival presented a three-dimensional installation of light displays, multicolored musical water fountains, depictions of the city on the walls, as well as a Pyromania musical production, starting at the Armenian Patriarchal corner. This premiering show at the Festival was a procession of light and rhythm, featuring five musicians forming a luminous orchestra and collecting the audience of festival goers who danced along with the artists from stop to stop.
The Sacred Music Festival
The Sacred Music Festival is celebrated annually in the fall, around October- November. Festival organizers fly-in classical liturgical musicians, representing different creeds from all corners of the world. The Festival is a multi-sensory and pluralistic experience that connects all spiritual traditions through music, singing and chanting in the Holy City.
The Israel Festival
The Israel Festival is the jewel in the crown of Jerusalem’s Festivals. Happening in late spring, around May-June, its timetable includes opera performances, symphony concerts directed by renowned orchestra directors, theatre troupes and acrobats, classical ballet and modern dance performances. Sultan’s Pool, the Jerusalem Theater, YMCA, St. Andrew Church, Bet Shmuel and Gerard Behar are some to the venues where you can enjoy and appreciate the creativity and genius on offer. Hundreds of artists and tourists flock-in from Eastern Europe, the USA, Britain, France, South America, India and Japan for this exclusive international event. Ticket prices range from reasonable to downright expensive. However there is no shortage of street performances and jamming sessions to join the fun for free and meet the artists after hours, when everyone is warmed up.