Sacred in the Holy City

This year’s lineup offers an eclectic program of shows and slots not only designed to entertain but also to tug at the heartstrings, raise the spirits a notch or two.

June 25, 2019 20:56
2 minute read.
Sacred in the Holy City

SHULY RAND will be one of the featured artists at the Mekudeshet Festival in September. (photo credit: DEAN AHARONI)


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The Mekudeshet Festival is a special event. Even in a country in which, seemingly, there is at least one festival going on, somewhere, every day of the week all year round this one stands out.

Since its inception, five years ago, Mekudeshet – or Sacred – has fed off the unique vibes of Jerusalem, and particularly those emanating from the Old City and the interfaces between the ethnic communities and religions that have peopled this part of the world across the millennia. This year’s bash takes place September 4-21, as part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, and under the aegis of executive director Naomi Bloch Fortis, and artistic director Michal Vaknin.

This year’s lineup offers an eclectic program of shows and slots not only designed to entertain but also to tug at the heartstrings, raise the spirits a notch or two, and, possibly, leave us with some food for thought. Some, like the Kulna Club, are ongoing ventures that run through the festival, allowing the public several bites at the proffered cherry. Kulna, which comprises Arab and Jewish vocalists, and has performed with the Jerusalem Orchestra East and West, will have a running tab at its Naomi Street homebase, with the “trilingual taverna for open people from east and west” a constant throughout the festival.

Mekudeshet features all kinds of intriguing left field fare many of which will take place at confluence points around the city. The Shalem concerts – two are scheduled for September 12 at Gan Mitchell opposite the Old City Walls – are subtitled “a symphony for broken instruments.” A grand ensemble of 100 professional and amateur musicians will perform an original score written for discarded instruments collected from homes, schools and conservatories in Jerusalem. The idea is to foster compassion, connection and harmony in a city that has had its fair share of friction and fracture over the years.

The artistic line is replete with surprising and exciting endeavor, and feeds off a singularly Jerusalem spirit, such as The Window Stories installation, which will be on show at the verdant downtown spot Gan Hasus, September 7-21. The work is dedicated to the memory of local activist Yoram Amir who died earlier this year at the age of 56. Amir was passionate about his hometown and, among his many projects, he collected hundreds of window frames from condemned or abandoned buildings all over the city. Window Stories comprises 550 of them, in a towering installation that seeks to reflect some of the narratives threaded through Jerusalem’s history.

Other festival items to look out for include Adam Yekutieli’s Taking Sides in which members of the public will be invited to opt for one route or another along sidewalks at various nodal points across the city. Meanwhile, Blindsight (September 16-18), which artistic director Noam Enbar dubs “a power restoring ceremony with closed eyes (and open ears),” offers new sensorial ways to experience music.

Mekudeshet traditionally features a round-the-clock musical event, with this year’s 23 Hours in the Tower (September 19-20) including the likes of Shlomi Shaban and Itamar Doari, with guest vocalist Shuli Rand, the Baobab Orchestra from Senegal, and the Johnny Clarke and Sista reggae act.

There will also be an English language multisensory trip with participants donning headphones and taking an accompanied two hour walk through around Sergei’s Courtyard in the Russian Compound, along the highways and byways of Jerusalem’s unparalleled unwinding tale.

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