A capital idea

It's music. It's art. It's food. And it's good, int'l fun for the whole family at Hutzot Hayotzer.

Bukharian music 88 248 (photo credit: )
Bukharian music 88 248
(photo credit: )
Anyone who has put off doing anything culturally stimulating this summer - whether they were too busy, had religious reasons or were just unceremoniously lazy - will have no excuse to miss the annual spectacle that is Hutzot Hayotzer, which opens August 3 in Jerusalem. For years now, the International Arts and Crafts Festival has taken the capital by storm every summer with its spectrum of cultural events and artistic displays. This summer will be no exception, when over 150 artists from 34 countries take over the Sultan's Pool opposite the Tower of David. A main summer staple for culture aficionados and cursory tourists alike, the family-friendly festival incorporates a bazaar-like arrangement that offers original craftsmanship in painting, ceramics, jewelry, different fabrics, sculpture and more, along with a venue for performance in music and dance. A large portion of the sprawling fair is dedicated to the authentic international displays, which are set up and manned by representatives from the different nations. The myriads of cultures that yearly converge on this festival hail from four different continents, and include countries such as Chile, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Jordan. This year, the veteran countries will be joined by first-timers Albania, Angola, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia. Director General Zion Torgeman of Ariel Municipal Company Ltd., the company that produces Hutzot Hayotzer, said in a press release, "The International Arts and Crafts Festival Jerusalem is the largest event of the summer season, attracting every year tens of thousands of visitors from Israel and from abroad, because of its combination of creativity and art, dance, music and food. This year's festival is larger and more colorful than ever, and we estimate more than 150,000 visitors." In addition to the impressive array of arts and crafts, there is an International Food Fair providing ethnic cuisine, as well as a cheese and wine bar. The main attractions of the 12-day festival are typically the nightly musical performances by the best Israel has to offer. Ivri Lider, Yehudit Ravitz, Sarit Hadad and Aviv Geffen are just a few of those slated to make an appearance on the main stage, with other Israeli and international musical acts and dance groups on other stages in the fairgrounds. ONE OF the performances in the concert lineup is the Eliav Family, a Bukharian group based in Israel. Established by Nissan Eliav, who comes from Uzbekistan, the band takes pride in having three generations perform together on one stage. Though Nissan is longer with the group, his progeny is. The oldest player, at 75 years old, is also the band's leader, Allo Eliav. Its youngest, Amanda, is a pint-sized violinist ringing in at four-and-a-half years old. "Our message is of the passage from generation to generation," says Ariel, a third-generation member of the band. "We want to bring truth and happiness to people." Every member of the band plays percussion instruments, and in a variety of styles, at that - instrumental, Bukharian, gypsy and familiar Israeli songs all come up in their shows. "For an hour and a half, our show takes a person on a world tour," says Ariel. But don't let their authenticity fool you - all the members of the band have been classically trained at a conservatory. None of them is a stranger to productions, having shared the stage with many famous names over the years. For their performance at Hutzot Hayotzer, Ariel promises many surprises, including a never-before-seen trick that involves three people and nine airborne dayereh drums. Up until now, the stunt has only been performed with two people. "We send a blessing to the festival and to music everywhere in the world," says Ariel. "We want to bring happiness to the audience as needed." The Eliav Family is a part of the festival geared toward a younger demographic. There is an abundance of family-oriented activities, including other performances and three interrelated compounds designed specifically for children - Treasure Island, The Enchanted Forest and the Gingerbread House, which are fantastical worlds that turn magic into reality. One of the more magical adult attractions is the inexplicable Cafe Tav, described as a "wandering courtyard." Based in a construction made of multi-leveled scaffolding, the Tav Group, a team of artists from different proficiencies, performs a multitude of genres and distributes to its audience a menu that caters to both body and soul. The lower floor of the structure operates as a bar, with seats surrounding the central stage. Without even entering the construction, passersby can observe the sharp shadow dancers on the upper levels. For over 30 years, Hutzot Hayotzer has brought culture and artistry to the center of Jerusalem. Now, with new participating countries joining each time, it assures more creative and innovative attractions than ever before. Hutzot Hayotzer will take place from August 3-15 from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., barring Friday night. It opens one hour after Shabbat on Saturday night and closes at midnight. It is held at the Hutzot Hayotzer Arts and Crafts Center, Mitchell Gardens and the Merrill Hassenfeld Amphitheater in the Sultan's Pool, opposite the Tower of David at the foot of the Old City Walls. More information can be found at www.jerusalem.muni.il/yotzer/eng/all.htm