At fall festival, Jerusalem is keeping the faith

Capital’s Season of Culture kicks off on September 4 with a series of ‘sacred’ events — from joint prayer sessions to singing circles and concerts

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

There are no sacred cows when it comes to this year’s Jerusalem Season of Culture, or Mekudeshet, the three-week event starting September that will bring together artists, curators, thinkers and others who share a love for the sanctity and soulfulness of the holy city.

It’s a process that the city needs more than ever this year, said Karen Brunwasser, deputy director for the Jerusalem Season of Culture.

“The things Jerusalem has gone through affect us all,” she said. “We felt we couldn’t deal with any more difficult, poisonous headlines, and felt that we need to coexist more, and to find the good among us.”

“Sacred 2016 is our answer,” she added. “It’s a leap of faith. It’s one festival, carefully focused, created from the realities of Jerusalem from Jerusalemites, and what is made and created in this city.”

Mekudeshet is an amalgam of different events and experiences that aim to redefine and rejuvenate the city.

For example, there will be special journeys around Jerusalem throughout the festival, offering intimate views of the city. Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to meet different kinds of people, and visit new places by foot, minibus or light rail to discover hidden parts of the city.

A joint house of prayer from September 4 through 11 at the Louis & Tillie Alpert Youth Music Center of Jerusalem in the Wolfson Garden for followers of the three major monotheistic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — will be open for praying, discussing, listening and “opening their hearts,” said Brunwasser.

The Senegalese musician Baaba Maal, who will be performing at Sacred in Jerusalem (Courtesy Rob O'Connor)
Senegalese musician Baaba Maal (Courtesy Rob O’Connor)

From September 17 to 23, world musicians, including Senegalese musician Baaba Maal and jazz artist Mulatu Astatke, will perform at various venues in Jerusalem, including the Tower of David Museum, the YMCA and Mitchell Garden (across from Jaffa Gate near Teddy Park), with tickets available for NIS 100 to NIS 180.

There will also be a circle of communal singing on September 17 in the Mitchell Garden, open to anyone who wants to join in and sing Middle Eastern music together.

Following the tragic death last summer of Shira Banki, the 16-year-old Israeli girl killed at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, Zion Square — in the city’s downtown — will be transformed into an “urban nature on wheels” by art cooperative Muslala. From September 4 to 23, the square will be adorned with boxed trees, along with herb gardens and bushes.

Jazz musician Mulatu Astatke will be one of the visiting musicians at Sacred in Jerusalem (Courtesy Alexis Maryon)
Jazz musician Mulatu Astatke (Courtesy Alexis Maryon)

September 5 through 15 will bring radio shows with the Israel Story podcast to St. Andrew’s Church (NIS 100 per person). And on September 15 from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. (NIS 80 per person) there will be an evening of conversations with local thinkers at the Van Leer Institute about Jerusalem. And a series of pre-High Holiday confessions sessions will be held at the YMCA from September 11 through 18 (NIS 120 per person).

Another way to clear one’s conscience is to head to the Jerusalem Forest on September 8 for a nighttime of “sounds, voices and music” around a bonfire. The event is free but requires participants to sign up in advance.

For more information and tickets, go to the Mekudeshet website, which is in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

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