Safed Klezmer Festival 370.
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Israel is full of cities that combine new and old – Jerusalem, Jaffa and many
others – but somehow, Safed always seems authentically timeworn.
spend days wandering through narrow, crumbling stone passageways and peering
into centuries-old synagogues where men with long, white beards crouch over
ancient texts. Walls are painted turquoise to ward off the evil eye and art
galleries display depictions of rabbis and Biblical scenes.
For a few
days every summer, Safed lights up and rockets forward to the 21st century,
ironically thanks to a style of music that is hundreds of years old –
This week, Safed is celebrating its 25th annual Klezmer
Festival. Nearly every open space had a stage with lighting effects in every
shade imaginable where Jewish music is played and can be heard from far away. If
a square in Safed is too small for an official performance, a street musician
playing the clarinet with a turned-over hat on the cobblestones was likely to
have filled it up.
One popular festival venue is the Saraya, a white
stone palace built by a Beduin sheikh 300 years ago. The Saraya is adjacent to
Safed’s Independence Square, where vendors of food and art displayed their
Throngs of festival-goers gathered outside the Saraya on Monday
night to hear popular Jewish music band Hamadregot sing Hassidic and Kabbalistic
tunes, while purple lights flashed and twinkled behind them, but inside the
massive white edifice, there was a more intimate performance.
clarinetist Zvi Gluzman played in the Saraya’s inner courtyard to no more than a
few hundred listeners who squeezed into the venue on plastic chairs, while
others grabbed spots on the stairs or stood in the stone archways marking its
Gluzman’s song choices were well known to those familiar with
Klezmer music. He jumped from happy tunes you could imagine being played at an
Orthodox wedding, to slow, mournful and soulful. The audience ranged from small
children to the elderly, secular to Hassidic, all bobbing their heads in unison to
Gluzman’s music with many able to sing the words. As the musician in the large
black hat and long, curly forelocks played his clarinet, the city of Safed came
alive around the audience, seeming younger and more vibrant than ever.
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