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If you're going to have a green-themed festival, it makes sense to hold it at a suitably maintained location. The first Ecosphere festival will take place near and at the Ein Hod artists' village from April 12 to 14, which, considering the area's internationally recognized environmental standing, is probably the ideal place to have it.
"The Ein Hod village sits in Israel's only biospheric nature reserve," explains festival producer Aya Zindel Shoham. "It's one of 500 recognized as such by UNESCO. That means there is a balance there between man and his natural surroundings. Also, this area has been continuously inhabited since caveman times."
As the name suggests, the festival is first and foremost designed to promote green issues and to encourage people to become more environmentally friendly. Over the three days of the event, the public will be able to enjoy theater shows based on environmental subject matter, such as the one-woman Saving Planet Earth show produced by Avishai Paz, which targets cleanliness, saving water and preserving the planet. Another show features Don Quixote waking up in the 21st century and doing battle with polluting factories rather than windmills. An exhibition of paintings, audio-visual creations and presentations curated by Danna Taggar-Heller will be on display throughout the festival, including Yoko Ono's Wish Tree and works by the likes of Polish video artist Miroslav Balka and Israeli artists Benny Efrat and Avraham Eilat.
There will also be various workshops on wholesome subjects like herbal remedies, ecological art, making compost and weaving using recycled materials. Add hands-on activities for the whole family and walking trips through the area - which is currently in bloom with all its spring floral finery - and you get a varied, entertaining and definitively healthy festival agenda.
THIS IS the first of what Shoham hopes will become an annual event, and she says she and her cohorts have been working long and hard on putting the event together. "We've planning this for around 18 months," she says. "It takes time to get all the ideas together and, of course, to get the budget you need - especially in the current economic climate."
Most of the financial backing was provided by the cultural council of Mifal Hapayis. "Actually, I didn't have to work too hard to convince them," Shoham adds. "They are currently undergoing a process of become more environmentally oriented themselves."
Shoham, presumably, is in ideal position to judge just how green we are as a nation. Considering the fact that last year, most of us had to be officially instructed by the government to stop watering our gardens and washing our cars - daily updates on the dwindling state of the Kinneret notwithstanding - the festival producer is surprisingly upbeat about our progress in this area. "We are getting greener," she states. "We do have an attitude of 'it will be all right,' and we are great escapists. But I think people are gradually becoming more responsible in this area."
Shoham also believes that ecological salvation will come from the junior ranks. "Kids are bringing this change. They are being taught about the importance of the environment and they are taking this message home with them to their families. We are like a spaceship. When you're out in outer space you only have limited resources of air and food at your disposal. That's the situation back here on Earth too. Kids get that, and more and more adults are getting it too."
Shoham and her co-organizers appear to have thought the environmental theme through on all fronts. Despite holding the festival away from the main cities, she is hoping patrons will take advantage of the less polluting mode of transport laid on for the occasion. "Israel Railways have agreed to add cars to the trains coming to Atlit, which is the nearest station to Ein Hod. The shuttle from the station to the festival costs only NIS 5, and people coming by train will have free entrance to the festival site."
And even people coming by car or bus will not exactly have to break the bank, as normal admission costs just NIS 20 a person. Kids under three get in free.
For more information about the Ecosphere festival: www.ecosfera.co.il.