Aviv, the annual cultural spring festival in Rishon Lezion, takes place this year between May 2 – 11. Now in its 14th year, this popular festival has been drawing more and more crowds from all over the country due to its excellent programming, which combines freshness and originality with quality performances that appeal to the masses.This year, the festival hosts about 300 local and international artists.For the complete Aviv Festival program, visit www.springfestival.co.il. For reservations, call (03) 948-8688.“Most of the productions are new and have never been seen in Israel,” says producer and peace and coexistence activist Eli Grunfeld who, together with dancer and choreographer Ido Tadmor, serves as the artistic adviser for the festival.“More often than not, the participating artists and ensembles make their Israeli debut in Rishon Lezion. They are considered the top performers in their countries and on the international stage; they represent the major trends in their respective artistic fields – mostly world folklore – while in Israel, they will appear only in the framework of the festival.”A brief look at the festival program reveals a lot of world music, as well as dance shows.A gala evening at the Amphi-Park is the festival opener. The free concert is dedicated to the city’s 130th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the Rishon Lezion Symphony Orchestra, which also serves as the orchestra of the Israeli Opera. The program features popular arias performed by international soloists, orchestral excerpts, a chorus from Verdi’s Nabucco , classical ballet numbers by the Israeli Ballet and more – all under the baton of internationally acclaimed Israeli maestro Asher Fisch.As an example of a group that is characteristic of the festival and the artistic approach behind its programming, Grunfeld presents the flamenco ensemble Los Vivancos from Spain. “They combine their traditional dances and culture with contemporary rhythms, acrobatics and virtuoso theater dances,” he says.Another spectacular dance show comes from the Balkan country of Macedonia. “This is the first time that the ensemble will appear in Israel,” says Grunfeld. “An authentic show of this kind, which is so rich musically and theatrically, could be only rarely be seen beyond the limits of Macedonia, and I am happy that of all places it will happen in Israel.”Something totally different is a new Israeli production created for the festival by the Yehudim ensemble, together with the Israeli Ballet. “This is a challenging combination of rock music and classical and neoclassical ballet,” says Grunfeld.In another mode, Jenia Faierman, the first lady of Yiddish, will offer aficionados of traditional Jewish culture a special evening.Another program slated to be a winner comes from Portugal.“Carminho [Carmo Rebelo de Andrade] is a new star of fado – the traditional Portuguese songs – full of passion and longing, which people from all over the world understand and identify with,” says Grunfeld.And that is just a small part of what the festival will be offering.