Festival sees city of gold become a mesmerizing city of light
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Time to reflect

Festival sees city of gold become a mesmerizing city of light

Jerusalem’s 11th annual event has thousands of visitors following three dazzling routes of art through and around the Old City

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

Fairytale, lit-up characters who greet visitors at Jaffa Gate, during Jerusalem's Festival of Light, which opened June 26, 2019 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
Fairytale, lit-up characters who greet visitors at Jaffa Gate, during Jerusalem's Festival of Light, which opened June 26, 2019 (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

A massive disco ball hanging from the sky, dozens of fluorescent solar lamps strung above a quiet alley, and a patch of giant, multicolored electric dandelions were among the brilliant light sculptures created for Jerusalem’s 11th Festival of Light, which opened Wednesday night.

There are more than 30 light works installed throughout the Old City, greeting visitors at the gates and through the passages and courtyards of the ancient quarters, along three routes marked out by colored light bulbs — red, blue and green.

At each of the 32 stations, a guide wearing a huge backpack-borne balloon in order to shows the location of the installation and helps funnel visitors toward the next stop.

Sight wasn’t the only sense that was engaged at the festival. As visitors wandered between installations, young jazz trios and duos from local schools filled the night air with music.

The geometric patterns dancing across the facade of Dormition Abbey at the 11th Festival of Light in Jerusalem’s Old City (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

The light works, including historic scenes flitting across the massive stone walls as DJ Skazi spun tunes, 450 meters of squiggling neon colors set in a field, and a colorful geometric pattern projected upon the facade of Dormition Abbey, were created by an assortment of Israeli and visiting artists, each bringing their own vision to the ancient spaces.

The crowds made progress slow at times, but the installations are impressive and hypnotizing, particularly for the younger set. Better yet, the nighttime breezes are cool — place a hand against one of the massive walls to feel the day’s heat still emanating from the stones — making for a enjoyable night out on the (old) town.

The Festival of Light is free; maps are available at the front desk, situated on the plaza outside Jaffa Gate. The festival is open 8-11 p.m. nightly through July 4, except closed Friday night and open Saturday night 9 p.m.-12 a.m.

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