The end of July approaches, normally a time of summer concerts and music festivals, evening picnics and open-air performances.
Not this summer.
The coronavirus has halted many of those annual events, yet there are still some attempting to take place, in unique settings: A parking lot, the roof of an office building or online. It’s part of a new, alternate reality.
Several Jerusalem-based troupes and groups are sticking to the existing government regulations regarding masks and social distancing, and with careful navigation, they offer a creative way to leave the house or remain sane while at home during this trying summer season. Here are a few of them:
1) Art cooperative Muslala, which renovated the formerly dilapidated roof of downtown Jerusalem’s Clal building — a 15-story indoor mall and office structure that was completed in 1972 and was considered a commercial and aesthetic failure, and which is in itself a tour de force of eclectic architecture — will mark the summer season with its annual Basta Shel Maala event, to be held on August 2-14, with a rooftop stall serving watermelon and music, just like in days of yore.
There are family hours from 4 pm to 7 pm each evening, and adult hours from 7 pm to 11 pm. Masks and social distancing will be required, but the party will take place.
The Clal Building is located on 97 Jaffa Street, near the Mahane Yehuda market.
2) Heard about those socially distant, drive-in movies and performances in Europe and the US? Now they’re coming to Israel, specifically to Jerusalem, with Vertigo Dance Troupe, which will perform its iconic Birth of the Phoenix dance in two drive-in performances at the First Station parking lot.
Vertigo, which performed the same work several weeks ago at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, pulled this off with funding from the Jerusalem Foundation and Jerusalem Municipality. The two performances will take place on Tu B’av, Israel’s Valentine’s Day, August 4, at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and with only 40 cars in attendance, as that’s all that can fit around the circular stage.
The one-hour work, which is set up on a stage of sand and dismantled for each performance, is akin to the mythological bird that gains new life by arising from the ashes.
“We loved going back to the creation, to events and the excitement of the dancers and reactions of the crowd to live events, and now we’re trying it as a drive-in,” said Vertigo artistic director Adi Sha’al, who is also trying to raise money to offer the drive-in performances elsewhere in Israel.
Prices are NIS 195 for a car with two people, and NIS 59 per each additional person in the car.
3) Mekudeshet, the annual arts and music festival usually held at the end of the summer into September, has been holding weekly events every Wednesday (with the exception of next Wednesday, July 30, the ninth of Av fast day) at Jerusalem’s Sherover promenade.
The event is called Tzomet Lev, or Heart Intersection, for the area is one where Jews and Arabs often cross paths, but usually with tension and concern.
Mekudeshet has issued an open invitation to Tzomet Lev for Jerusalemites of all ages from nearby neighborhoods, including local Palestinian communities from Abu Tor and Jabel Mukaber, to meet for a weekly afternoon gathering of live music, meditation, conversation and cups of coffee.
It’s not the festival’s usual fare of live music at midnight in the Tower of David; mysterious, five-hour tours through Jerusalem; or a concert of broken instruments, but it’s a way of making sense of the madness surrounding us these days.
The next Tzomet Lev event is on August 5, at 4:30 p.m.
4) If you need another excuse to read during these long hot days of summer, try the Digital Hebrew Literature Festival, subtitled Adults Only, a contemporary fiction event put together by Mishkenot Sha’ananim and held on Tu B’Av, August 5-6. Participating writers include Meir Shalev, Lucy Ayoub, Dorit Rabinyan, Ariel Hirshfeld, Hila Alpert and others.
The online-only festival is free, in Hebrew, and will pair writers who will discuss issues of love and desire, romance and monogamy, infidelity and adultery.
There are several events during each evening of the two-day festival, and the Zoom links will be published several days before.
5) Sometimes it’s easiest to stay inside when it’s hot outside, and Jerusalem cultural center Beit Avi Chai is hosting a special summer podcast, “Real Stories.” Hosted by researcher, writer and lecturer Tom Baikin-O’hayon, the Hebrew language podcasts, as he says, are for kids and kids who are grown, and tell stories — as written by Baikin-O’hayon — about historical figures from the Jewish and Israeli world.
The first podcast was dropped on Friday, July 24, and offers some easy listening about the legendary Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (Moses Maimonides). Others will tell the stories of Leonard Cohen in Jerusalem, Shlomzion Hamalka, Sugihara and others.