2018 Israel Festival looks at renewal as Israel celebrates its 70th

Three weeks of culture at Jerusalem’s annual event bring concerts, plays and performances to the capital from all over

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

A scene from '10000 Gestures' by Boris Charmatz, who will bring his work to the 2018 Israel Festival (Courtesy Tristram Kenton)
A scene from '10000 Gestures' by Boris Charmatz, who will bring his work to the 2018 Israel Festival (Courtesy Tristram Kenton)

This year’s Israel Festival, three weeks of cultural events held May 23-June 16 in Jerusalem, features performers from near and far, celebrating eclecticism, surprise and Israeli creativity.

Headliners include American musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson, French choreographer Boris Charmatz and Portuguese actor Tiago Rodrigues.

The locals aren’t any less impressive, with a world premiere of Batsheva Dance Company’s collaboration with choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas, the Israeli Opera’s performance of “Madame Butterfly” at Sultan’s Pool and the Israeli premiere of Broadway musical “Soul Doctor,” about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, starring Israeli singer Ester Rada.

A scene from the Broadway performance of ‘Soul Doctor’ about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, premiering at the 2018 Israel Festival (Courtesy Carol Rosegg)

Kicking off the dozens of events is Hiphopland, one of the gala opening events marking Israel’s 70th with a spoken word, rap and hip-hop-driven performance of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in the Talpiot industrial zone with Shaanan Streett, Karolina, Jimbo J, Guy Nar, Nechi Nech and others.

The other opening event is a night of song starring three divas, Miri Mesika, Dikla, and Nasreen Qadri — and Arab Israeli who often sings in Hebrew — at Sultan’s Pool.

The festival, now in its 57th year, aims to challenge the local cultural scene with uber-contemporary performances that reflect the world stage.

In a first, the Foreign Ministry will be showcasing original Israeli works in theater venues and public spaces, as well as conferences, workshops and meetings.

Eyal Sher and artistic director Itzik Giuli said they continued to work to identify artistic trends and cultural fare worldwide, in order to offer several weeks of a closeup view of contemporary art in Jerusalem.

Soul singer Ester Rada will star in ‘Soul Doctor’ about Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (Courtesy Sharban Lupo)

“In the face of a changing reality and the narrowing of boundaries that we are experiencing in so many areas of our lies, we are extremely proud that the Israel Festival continues to be a bastion of uncompromising artistic work that delegates imagination, creativity and artistic integrity,” said Sher, who has guided the festival for the last four years.

Giuili noted that this year’s festival motif is renewal, as they thought about moving from one place toward another, with the attendant aspects of uncertainty, vagueness and tension between familiar and new.

All told, they have created a three-week schedule of events that celebrate the Israel of 2018 and the many trends that characterize the land.

The celebration of Israel’s declaration of independence is being performed against the rough contours of the Talpiot Industrial Zone with rappers, spoken word artists and hip-hop performers, while the opening gala concert includes three female singers, including Nasreen Qadri, an Israeli Arab who often sings in Hebrew.

Renewal is the theme of the Inbal Dance Theater, which was founded in order to preserve the rich heritage of Yemenite Jews. Ditto for Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, a dance couple in life and work who are looking at the history of Israeli dance in their new work, “The Third Dance.”

Oren and Yaniv in their work that celebrates the roots of Israeli dance (Courtesy Efrat Mazor)

The area of theater brings “Monkeys,” a show for Hazira Performance Art by Amit Drori, who spent five years creating nine monkey robots for this piece.

Amit Drori’s robot monkeys for Hazira Performance Art at the 2018 Israel Festival (Courtesy Yair Meyuchas Art Studio)

The Czech Republic brings “uSputnik,” and “Der Dybbuk” comes from the Sala-Manca Group and Jerusalem Street Orchestra.

In the sphere of music, there’s Laurie Anderson performing “Language of the Future” among a long list of other concerts.

There’s also “Poem Balev,” a series of original Israeli songs alongside new arrangement of familiar works, and a series of classical concerts in Ein Karem’s Ein-Tamir Music Center.

Family events include a performance of “The Little Prince” with visual models created by sand artist Ilana Lahav.

Willi Dorner works with local dancers in urban spaces, this time at the 2018 Israel Festival (Courtesy Lisa Rastl)

The public space events are geared toward all ages, and include an audiovisual, two-kilometer journey with Swiss collective Rimini Protokoll, “Bodies in Urban Space” by Willi Dorner, a new hamsa exhibit at the Islamic Art Museum and the installation of 10 ping-pong tables in the Jerusalem Theatre plaza.

For more information about tickets and dates, go to the Israel Festival site, which is available in English and Hebrew.

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