Cultural variety Etzion style

The 10th Gush Etzion Festival presents an inter-genre mix from different disciplines.

Lior Elmaliach (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lior Elmaliach
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Gush Etzion Theater and Jewish Music Festival has set out an across-the-board stall in more senses than one. The event focuses on generating a colorful mosaic of unique productions and artists from different worlds.”
The theatrical side of the proceedings includes two one-man English-language performances (October 16 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) of the Isaac Bashevis Singer story “Gimpel the Fool.” The production features director-actor Howard Rypp from Nephesh Theater, and the onstage action is complemented by a soundtrack by Ron Weissman. The show won kudos and prizes at some of the world’s leading theatrical events, including the Edinburgh Festival, the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival and the Orlando Fringe Festival.
The Gush Etzion festival attracts large numbers of religious culture consumers, and the Tata cabaret-style show (October 16 at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) should tickle a few sensitive funny bones. The story is based on the searching deliberations of three Orthodox Jewish men as they await an audience with a revered rabbi. Dark humor is an ever-present ingredient in Tata, which was performed to great acclaim at the 2009 Acre Fringe Theater Festival.
Also on the comedic side is Tzippor Lo Teda (No Bird Should Know) show, based on a Shalom Aleichem story about three Jewish women whose paths cross at a spa town somewhere in the twilight zone between Czechoslovakia and Poland in the early 20th century. Each seeks some respite from their daily domestic chores as things start to get complicated. (October 16 at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.).
The Rock at the Synagogue rock opera, courtesy of the Jerusalem-based Incubator Theater group, takes a left-field look at the social and political intrigues and other “taboo” goings on in a hitherto settled and orderly Jewish community. Rock at the Synagogue tells the story of a community that has been presided over, in a singularly authoritarian manner, by the same gabai (warden) for more than 35 years. Things start to go awry when his son-in-law lays claim to the mantle. It also takes a humorous look at life behind the curtain, in the women’s section of the synagogue, and at the complex social interaction that takes place at community events (October 15 and 16 at 9:30 p.m.).
As always, there will be a plethora of musical entertainment across several genres. Stellar jazz saxophonist Daniel Zamir will host cross-cultural music icon Shlomo Bar and veteran musician-composer Shlomo Gronich in an artistic tour de force that will explore numerous avenues of Jewish music and more improvisational territory (October 17 at 9 p.m.).
The intent of festival organizers to bring “contrasting worlds” together is certainly evident in the gala opening concert on October 13 (10 p.m.), which features acclaimed percussion twosome Percadu, as well as liturgical singer and cantor Lior Elmaliach and stellar pop-opera counter tenor David De’or. Over the last 15 years Percadu members Tomer Yariv and Adi Morag have performed a wide range of works in Israel and abroad, mostly based on percussive interpretations of classical compositions. Yariv and Morag use more than 50 different instruments for their repertoire, including drum sets, hand drums and marimbas. Elmaliach, meanwhile, has primarily performed Eastern music, working with the Andalusian Orchestra and delving into cantorial and some Mediterranean pop-oriented numbers. Their paths first crossed three years ago, when they auditioned for support from the Israel Cultural Excellence Foundation, and they subsequently joined forces at the Bible Festival at Beit Govrin. Elmaliach admits that, on the surface, the synergy might not appear to be a natural fit but that they work well together.
“We come from very different musical worlds, but that’s the beauty of it, that we do find comfortable artistic interfaces between us,” says the singer. “I come from the Eastern side but over the years I have taken in more Western material. And they manage to find a common language with me through all the rhythms they explore. Anyway, rhythm is a meeting point between almost every type of music in the world.”
Elmaliach has teamed up with De’or in the past and says they also work well together. “David and I also come from different places in music, but he comes from a traditional home and that helped bring us closer together. He is also very flexible in his approach, and he likes to learn new things.”
The gala performance will include a varied program of Shabbat songs, liturgical music and world music.
Other big names lined up for the Gush Etzion festival include Barry Saharoff, Kobi Oz and Alma Zohar, with probably the biggest draw for the rock crowd being the New Yorkbased Jewish-Middle Eastern rock, bluegrass and ethnic Soulfarm band, who will team up with local Americanborn blues guitarist and vocalist Lazer Lloyd on October 15 at 9 p.m.
There will also be children- and family-oriented activities and shows, including theater and music workshops, storytelling sessions, food stalls, donkey rides, sports and challenge facilities, and arts and crafts workshops.
The Gush Etzion Theater and Jewish Music Festival, October 13 - 18, For more information: and (02) 993-7999/2