Festival Fun in the Israeli Sun
It doesn’t seem possible that a country as small as Israel could fit so many different festivals in just the summer months! Everything from wine, to music, to films, to dance, to arts and crafts, Israel has a festival for you! And – most of the activities at every festival are free! Here’s a small taste of some of the festivals you can enjoy.
- Mateh Yehuda Wine Festival
(Weekends in June, this year June 2-25) https://www.carnifest.com/matte-yehuda-wine-festival-2022/ You may reecall that there is no need to whine about Israeli wine, as detailed in the December 2021 Israel Matters. Thirty of Israel’s most prestigious vineyards are in Mateh Yehuda, geographically the biblical land of Judah. Each weekend in June, one can take guided tours of the participating wineries, wine tasting included, and enjoy nature walks, concerts, and outdoor sports. It’s a grape time for all!
- Tel Aviv’s Layla Lavan (White Night)
(Late June or early July, this year June 30-July 1)
Layla Lavan (‘White Night’ in Hebrew), is a one-of-a-kind event, where Tel Aviv becomes the “city that never sleeps.” Tel Aviv’s museums, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, are open and free to the public all night. Bars and restaurants stay open late and offer special menus. The streets are packed with revelers and traffic is at a standstill, so don’t plan on getting out of the city during Layla Lavan – just strap on those sneakers and get ready to do plenty of walking. Layla Lavan promises to be a night you’ll never forget – or, depending on how you spend it, one you’ll never remember. J
- Karmiel Dance Festival (Early July, this year July 5-7) https://www.karmielfestival.co.il/
For three days and nights in July, the Karmiel Dance Festival is held in the small city of Karmiel, in the northern part of Israel, not far from the Kineret. Since there are no hotels in Karmiel, many of the 45,000 people who live there year-round actually leave town and rent out their apartments at a hefty rate during the festival, which draws over
200,000 people each year! Karmiel attendees can choose from over 80 performances of music and dance, including Israeli as well as modern and International dance troupes, and many shows involve celebrity hosts and singers. There is also a crafts/flea market and food vendors at the Karmiel Festival. But for many (like the writers of this column), the highlight of the Karmiel Dance Festival is the non-stop Israeli folk dancing. Workshops and parties of Israeli folk dancing start in the morning and last until sunrise each day.
- Ashdodance (Mid July, this year July 11-14) https://ashdodance.co.il/
Similar to The Karmiel Dance Festival, Ashdodance is filled with performance and participatory dance opportunities. Held in the port city of Ashdod, about a 40-minute drive from Tel Aviv, Ashdodance draws people from all over the world in a celebration of culture and dance. This year, the festival includes film screenings, performances by award winning hip-hop and modern dance troupes, celebrity singers, and many activities that focus on Moroccan Jewry and culture. You can also go to one of four “Tavernas,” which are a special experience! For example, in the “Taverna Yevanit” (Greek Tavern), you’ll be welcomed to your table, which has been already filled with food and drink specialties from Greece, and while you’re eating and drinking, you’ll enjoy the live music and can sing along to a Greek bouzouki folk band … of course you can get up and dance if the music (and the Ouzo) moves you! Opa!
- Jerusalem Beer Festival
(July or August, this year July 21-22) https://www.jerusalembeer.com/index/en
If you’re a person who loves a fresh, cold beer in the summer, this is the festival for you! Each year, Jerusalem hosts beer brands and breweries from all over the world for a big celebration of beer! The beer connoisseur (or just the person who loves a cold-one while sitting in front of a football game) can find over 100 brands of beer, both bottled and freshly brewed on tap. At the festival, you can also see demonstrations of the brewing process and grab a bite from one of dozens of food tents. The non-stop music in the background adds to the fun! The Jerusalem Beer Festival kind of feels like a college party, without an exam to prep for the next day.
- Jerusalem Film Festival (11 days in July, this year July 21-31) https://jff.org.il/en
Ever heard of the Cannes Film Festival in France? Well, the Jerusalem Film Festival is the same thing, but smaller, less well known, and in Israel!
🙂 The Jerusalem Film Festival offers a rich and varied program with more than 200 of the latest films from Israel and abroad. These are showcased through numerous competitive and non-competitive events. The Festival has a glamorous outdoor opening night at the Sultan’s Pool (a beautiful and special place to visit even without the films). According to their website, the program “emphasizes bold cinematic achievements, exciting works by new directors, the latest contributions by contemporary masters of cinema, films concerned with questions of freedom and human rights, the history and tradition of the seventh art, and of course, Israeli film.”
- The International Arts and Crafts Festival
(12 days in August, this year August 8-20) https://artfair-jer.com/
Jerusalem’s International Arts and Crafts Fair is located in the Sultan’s Pool area of Jerusalem, near the Old City. It features works of local and international artists. But it’s more than a crafts fair – you can also hear open-air concerts, enter a Bedouin tent and sip “café shachor”, have the kids do crafts workshops, and of course, eat ethnic and other foods from many local and international cultures. During the festival, artist studios in the area stay open late and the artists offer public demonstrations of their work, which include jewelry, sculpture, clothing, art pieces and more. Top vocal stars perform every year at the festival, like Shlomi Shabbat and Sarit Hadad.
This is just a sample of Israel’s summer festival scene!
Eating Like An Israeli – Sabich
Sabich is one of the more popular pita sandwiches you’ll find in Israel. Where does its name come from? Some say it comes from the Arabic word for breakfast. Others say the dish is named after the first man to sell it in Israel: Sabich Tzvi Halbi, an Iraqi immigrant who set up shop in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. And yet others say the name is an acronym in Hebrew for its main ingredients – salad (salat), egg (bitza) and eggplant (chatzil). The name’s origin may be a mystery, but some things about sabich are undisputed: the dish is as Israeli as it gets. Every sabich has the same basic ingredients: a pita filled with fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, salad, tahini and amba, a bright yellow sauce of pickled mango and fenugreek. El Al even serves sabich in the departure lounge at Ben Gurion airport! The recipe below appeared in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. Enjoy!
Eggplant, olive oil, salt, tomato, cucumber, parsley, tahini sauce (buy in store or make your own), amba sauce (buy online at https://shopgalil.com/pages/search-results-page?q=amba), 1 pita per sandwich, 1 hard-boiled egg per sandwich
- Cut the eggplants into long strips, from the base to the green stem. Slice the strips into 3-4 smaller rectangles. It is crucial that the long eggplant fibers are kept intact, as opposed to slicing the eggplant into rings. (You don’t need to peel the eggplant.)
- Arrange the eggplant slices on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for a while (optimally 30 minutes) so that the eggplant can “sweat.”
- After the eggplant has “sweated,” pat the extra liquid off the slices with some paper towel.
- In the meanwhile, slice cucumber and tomato, and chop parsley. Prepare tahini and hard boil the eggs. Allow eggs to cool, and then slice.
- Heat a pan and cover the bottom of the pan with oil. Arrange slices of eggplant in the pan, no more than one layer deep, and fry until the bottoms are golden. Flip and fry the other side. Repeat with all the eggplant slices, adding more oil as needed.
- Fill pitas with tomato, cucumber, parsley, eggplant, sliced egg, and tahini and amba. Adjust fillings to taste.