Hanukkah, the festival of lights — along with latkes, jelly doughnuts and gifts (for some) — is fast approaching, the first since pandemic restrictions ended. Israel is celebrating with festive candle-lighting ceremonies, performances and some parties, too, to get you moving and burn off those fried-food calories.
Baby, it’s queer outside
Kick off the holiday season with the LGBTQ Center of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, which is putting on EclectiQueer, a week of art and culture beginning Friday, December 16, with events held throughout Hanukkah.
They’re also calling this Winter Pride, the sister of the annual Gay Pride events that take place each June in Tel Aviv.
“We’re doing a queer take on what everyone knows and inviting everyone to see who we are,” said Adam Amit Cohen-Avni, who directs cultural activities at the LGBTQ Center. “I think most Israelis don’t know about any of this, they only know what they see on Netflix. They’re not interested in knowing the queer story because it doesn’t affect them.”
Winter Pride will include a number of performances and events, such as Eid Al Banat, a women-only show at Zappa Tel Aviv, hosted by actress Chen Amsalem Zaguri with singers Miri Mesika and Echo, comic Orna Banai and poet Mika Ben Shaul.
Another night of Winter Pride will feature a Hanukkah candle-lighting and toast to the Tel Aviv trans community, while Friday night, December 16, will focus on partying at club Kuli Alma.
Winter Pride festivities will culminate with a December 24 grand finale on the Habima stage dubbed FestiQueer, a takeoff of the famed FestiGal holiday kids show, only with characters and figures familiar to the LGBTQ world.
Winter Pride isn’t just for the LGBTQ community, but rather intended to show examples of queer culture on well-known Tel Aviv stages to reach a wider audience, said Cohen-Avni.
The summer gay pride events are a wonder, said Ruby Magen, director of the LGBTQ Center. “We’re on floats, and it’s huge and amazing, and it’s what people see, but in Winter Pride, people can see a lot more.”
Chip off the old block
For a far quieter celebration, check out Urban Block Gardens, an exhibit opening at the end of December at urban, architecture and conservation center Liebling Haus, which looks at research about the planning of Tel Aviv and its gardens, created 100 years ago by British biologist and city planner Sir Patrick Geddes.
Before the exhibit opens, the Documentary Embroidery project will host events around Ruth Garden during Hanukkah. A corner of urban nature near Dizengoff Center designed by Geddes, Ruth Garden is well-shaded with a playground, plenty of benches and a small kiosk for grabbing a cup of coffee.
Two local artists will lead conversations and embroidery groups each day of Hanukkah, December 18-22, with hours listed on the Liebling Haus website.
The finished piece of embroidery will be hung in the Urban Block Gardens exhibit that opens on December 29.
Want some other options?
Stop in at a site
The Yaacov Agam Museum in Rishon Lezion has six days of kids’ activities around its colorful environs, including flashlight tours and musical performances.
It’s also a good time to check out one of 200 historical sites around the country telling aspects of Israel’s story.
There will be Hanukkah bonfires at several sites, nighttime tours in Nahalal, workshops in Beit She’an, rides on tractors at Ein Shemer, a Hanukkah sing down at Moshava Kinneret and at least a dozen other options around the country. See the Shimur website (Hebrew) for more information.
Break a brick record
Gaze in awe at the Dizengoff Center LEGO store’s official attempt to break the Guinness world record for the largest Hanukkah menorah made from LEGO blocks. The four-meter-high, four-meter-wide candelabra, known in Israel as a hanukkiya, was planned over the course of several weeks and built in a two-day marathon of Lego experts with 130,000 pieces and not a single drop of glue, according to the LEGO store staff.
The LEGO menorah will be used for candle-lighting on every night of Hanukkah, and the public is invited to build their own Lego menorahs and dreidels at home and bring them to the Dizengoff store on December 20 at 4 p.m. for a competition with prizes.
There are plenty of films to see during the eight-day holiday, whatever one’s age or interest. The Jerusalem Cinematheque is hosting its 2022 edition of the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, December 17-22, with plenty of international and Israeli films, along with documentaries, Jewish portraits and special screenings.
There are special events as well during the festival, created from the Cinematheque’s audiovisual digital archives, featuring 120 years and thousands of hours of Israeli and local filmmaking, divided into historical and artistic views.
“Not Just Food” is an exhibit featuring works from the archives that tell the stories of Israel’s culinary obsession, along with guided tours during two of the festival evenings, with participation from food researchers, chefs and culinary experts. Sign up for one of the guided tours and tastings on December 19-20, at 7 p.m.
The archives will host a December 18 screening of “Ultra-Orthodox Life in the Holy Land,” based on a selection of unique films documenting life in 1930s pre-state Israel and Poland.
On December 22, “Wedding in Jerusalem and its Evolution” will include a screening of the refurbished digital edition of filmmaker Renen Schorr’s ten-minute film of the 1985 religious marriage ceremony between the son of Uri and Elisa Zohar and daughter of Arik and Alon Einstein, with a conversation between Schorr, cinematographer Shmuel Calderon and filmmaker Rama Burshtein.
For more information and tickets, go to the Jerusalem Cinematheque website.
Need a flick for the kids? Head to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the 18th Tel Aviv Film Festival for Kids’ Films, with dozens of subtitled or dubbed films, both classics and contemporary works, short films, and movies for tiny tots too.
Taking place December 20-24, budding film buffs can see everything from Georges Méliès’ 1902 “A Trip to the Moon” the 2011 adventure fantasy film “Hugo,” family film “Bigman” from Holland, “The Tiger’s Nest” from Italy, sci-fi adventure “Captain Nova” and Finnish family fantasy “Super Furball,” among many others.
Tickets are NIS 30 to NIS 40 and include performances and activities in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque lobby.
Bet on Black
Don’t feel like leaving the house? Party at home with Orthodox Jewish gangsta rapper Nissim Black and his latest video, “Victory.” The music video features Black training for a boxing match, meant to embody the fighting spirit of the Maccabees.
“With ‘Victory,’ I tried to pull the miracle of Chanukah closer to the individual,” said Black, whose video was sponsored by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, with plans to eventually perform the song live with the Philharmonic and record it.
“A lot of times Jewish holidays seem to be remembering something that happened in the past and to our ancestors. Calling the Chanukah miracle ‘Victory’ brings it closer to home, which it should be.”
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