Beersheba Street Festival: Smile, this Lansky's for you

You can't go wrong with a city that has 'beer' in its name.

Beersheba is a city that deserves much more attention than it gets. After all, it is the capital of the Negev - a huge desert land mass the size of which, in the US, was given a gambling permit, shiny hotels and a motto to the effect of what happens there stays there. The old city, with its antique, high-ceilinged buildings and adjoining gardens, used to be Beersheba's bustling Bohemian and arts district. Years passed and, now run down, the old city has more cheap stores than cultural life. (And, no, the parking lot of the BIG Shopping Center is not a reasonable alternative whatsoever.) However, a few years back the city's municipality renovated some parts of the old city, including Smilansky Street. Enter the Smilansky Festival. About to be held for the third time on that street of the same name, it is the concrete example of Beersheba's rejuvenated culture. A four-day street festival, it is a celebration of local music, art and theater. Shows at the festival are divided amongst three stages. At the tent stage, there are musical performances ranging from Bedouin debka show to local indie rock and from Jazz quartets to electronic music performances. At the Ha'halutz Theater, Beersheba acting students will perform clown shows and cabaret acts, in addition to shows by the Negev and Playback Theaters. On the Yemenite stage, young Beersheba groups will perform rock, reggae and electronic music every night. And, on the Thursday prior to Shavuot, there will be an evening of discussions and performances on the topic of Meir Ariel's music, as presented and played by his sons, followed by further discussions and performances of the poet Rachel's songs, to be presented in new arrangements. At the Bedouin tent the theme on hand is the old city and Bedouin-Jewish co-existence. And at the new Gecko cafe, a feminist discussion of the Book of Ruth is planned. To round out the general festive atmosphere are Capoeira dances, juggling, food stands run by local Beersheba eateries, an art fair displaying the wares of the Negev communities and various childrens' activities. It is fitting that Beersheba should be blessed with such a significant event given the city's growing number of restaurants and pubs, the increase in original plays performed by the Beer Sheva Theater Company and, of course, the surprisingly convenient train service (even if it only runs six days a week). The time has come for this desert city's long dormant spirit to rise and be restored. The Smilansky Festival runs from May 2 to 5, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Smilansky Street in Beersheba's old city. For more information visit