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Leave your Sukkot booths to view films, exhibits and shows

The week of Sukkot offers a cornucopia of events, with museums, festivals, sites and troupes prepared to entertain

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

  • From Photomenta exhibit opening September 21, 2021, at Eretz Israel Museum (Courtesy Nadir Bucan)
    From Photomenta exhibit opening September 21, 2021, at Eretz Israel Museum (Courtesy Nadir Bucan)
  • Sheep are fed outdoors twice a day in the winter. Uzuntekne, Van, February 2017, part of Photomenta exhibit opening September 21, 2021 at Eretz Israel Museum (Courtesy Nadir Bucan)
    Sheep are fed outdoors twice a day in the winter. Uzuntekne, Van, February 2017, part of Photomenta exhibit opening September 21, 2021 at Eretz Israel Museum (Courtesy Nadir Bucan)
  • One of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's works, If You Meet the Buddha, Kill the Buddha, premiering in 'Insiders,' during Sukkot 2021 (Courtesy Eyal Hirsh)
    One of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's works, If You Meet the Buddha, Kill the Buddha, premiering in 'Insiders,' during Sukkot 2021 (Courtesy Eyal Hirsh)
  • 'Boiling Point,' one of the culinary films being screened at the 37th Haifa Film Festival (Courtesy PR)
    'Boiling Point,' one of the culinary films being screened at the 37th Haifa Film Festival (Courtesy PR)
  • The French Chef, at the 37th Haifa Film Festival, opening September 19, 2021 (Courtesy PR)
    The French Chef, at the 37th Haifa Film Festival, opening September 19, 2021 (Courtesy PR)

The booth-dwelling holiday of Sukkot and its week of celebration are back in full force this year, after last year’s usual schedule of festivals, concerts and exhibits was postponed or put online due to the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

This year, however, exhibits, shows and festivals can be attended in person, albeit masked, outdoors and distanced, with Green Pass restrictions in place.

1. Start the week with the 37th Haifa Film Festival, September 19-28, in the northern coastal city. The opening film is “Stillwater,” from Oscar-winning director Tom McCarthy, starring Matt Damon, about an American oil-rig roughneck who travels to Marseille, France, to visit his estranged daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she didn’t commit.

Other screening selections include Avi Nesher’s anti-war film, “Portrait of Victory,” the screening of Hagai Levi’s new HBO show, “Scenes from a Marriage,” based on Ingmar Bergman’s classic and with Levi on hand to discuss the five-episode series, and “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.”

There’s also the culinary film event within the festival, four movies about the culinary world, flavors and the chefs who make the magic happen.

The food flicks include “Delicious,” about France just prior to the Revolution and the story of a chef who created the first restaurant; “Roadrunner, A Film about Anthony Bourdain,” the chef and food writer who changed the way we think and read about food.

“The Truffle Hunters” is a documentary about a group of elderly Italian men who hunt for the elusive Alba truffle and “Boiling Point,” about a relentless, high-on-adrenaline restaurant chef.

Each screening will include food tastings and conversations with local chefs and culinary experts, all presided over by food writer Hila Alpert.

2) While up north, head to Acre for the 42nd Acre Fringe Theater Festival, September 21-24 at the Jewish-Arab Theater, with eight premieres, four short performances and a series of outdoor shows and concerts and a dance performance by Batsheva Dance Company.

It’s a moment of celebration for the theater, which saw its historic building ransacked and burned in May during days of Arab-Jewish violence that swept through the Old City. Tickets are available through the festival website.

Artist Sigalit Landau’s augmented reality sculpture at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens ‘Seeing the Invisible’ exhibit, opening Sukkot 2021 (Courtesy Jerusalem Botanical Gardens)

3) In Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens is launching “Seeing the Invisible,” an exhibition of artworks created with augmented reality technology, including works by Ai Weiwei, Ori Gersht, Sigalit Landau, Refik Anadol, Pamela Rosenkranz and Timur Si-Qin.

The exhibit is a collaboration among 12 botanical gardens worldwide, initiated by the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens as a way of working with other gardens and artists, and rising above the coronavirus, said curator Hadas Maor.

“There’s this amazing network of 200,000 gardens worldwide,” said Maor. “They send seeds and plants back and forth to one another, and we realized we could rely on this network.”

An augmented reality piece by artist Mel O’Callaghan for the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens ‘Seeing the Invisible’ exhibit, opening during Sukkot (Courtesy Jerusalem Botanical Gardens)

With a list of artists who deal with issues of nature and sustainability and the relations between humans and nature and technology, Maor and her co-curator Tal Michael Haring used both existing works and new artworks working with a Copenhagen studio that turned the artists’ works into augmented reality, creating an app for the gardens.

“It’s groundbreaking in scope because it’s augmented reality and 12 gardens collaborating and opening at one time,” said Maor.

Visitors arrive in person at the participating gardens, download the app onto their smartphones and then follow the app’s map. When approaching a certain point on the map where an artwork is meant to appear, they scan the ground with the app in order to establish the three-dimensional artwork, which are viewed and are also interactive.

Viewers are invited to walk into and through the augmented reality artworks, said Maor. Landau’s work, for example, is a stalactite rock, while another artist’s work is a massive rock that can be physically entered by viewers, as it becomes a kind of celestial shrine with wall drawings and portals.

4) If you prefer to remain distanced and at home, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is unveiling “Insiders” from September 21-26, a digital set of 12 short performances created during the last year and a half at its home base and dance lab of Kibbutz Gaaton.

Each ten-minute creation is based on the hours, days and months spent working together in their kibbutz space, said director Rami Beeri, where new perspectives of time and community allowed the troupe of dancers to perceive dance — and themselves — in different ways.

Viewers can see the 12 works over the course of a 48-hour period, at a cost of NIS 50 per ticket.

One of the exhibits at Hadera’s new Medical Museum (Courtesy Rami Zranger)

5) Sukkot can be a good, if busy, time to visit Israel’s museums, whether viewing the fantasy world of Holon’s Design Museum exhibit “The Ball,” featuring 120 ball gowns created by Israeli fashion designers, or Hadera’s new Medicine and Science Museum, with 120 exhibits made in Germany, about the human body. 

There’s also “Photomenta,” which opens September 21 at Tel Aviv’s Eretz Israel Museum, a large-scale photography exhibition presenting hundreds of works by dozens of participants from numerous Mediterranean countries. The concept is for the photos to serve as a bridge and encounter with the other people and nations in our vicinity.

From ‘Photomenta’ at the Eretz Israel Museum, an exhibit of 300 photographs by Mediterranean photographers; ‘Acrobatics (2017) is by Hicham Benohoud (Morocco) who stages his subjects in unconventional and humorous compositions, in which the living room appears as a theatrical stage, and life is presented as a play (Courtesy Photomenta)

The exhibit features some 300 photographs and video works by 33 photographers from 16 Mediterranean countries: Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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