India in Israel

The 1st Indian Celebration in Israel Festival kicks off on April 29 with wide range of entertainment, other cultural events around the country.

India in Israel_521 (photo credit: Sonia Manchanda)
India in Israel_521
(photo credit: Sonia Manchanda)
India has been a major attraction for young Israeli post-army backpackers for over two decades. And some of the morsels of the Indian experience they have brought back with them have fueled all sorts of artistic and entertainment vehicles, including, in the New Agey festival circuit, the likes of Shantipi and Boombamela, music, fashion and some cuisine.
Still, the human traffic has been largely lopsided, with tens of thousands of Israelis going to the Far East and only a trickle of Indians making the trip here.
All that could be about to change, as the first Indian Celebration in Israel Festival kicks off on April 29, with a wide range of entertainment and other cultural events happening around the country until May 25.
Shows, exhibitions and workshops will take place in Jerusalem, Herzliya, Haifa and Tel Aviv.
“We put on festivals all over the world,” says festival producer Sanjoy Roy, who, with Mohit Satyan, established Teamwork Productions in 1989, a production house with wide-ranging interests in the performing and visual arts, the social sector, and films and television.
Teamwork Productions runs 17 festivals and other cultural events across the world, including in Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the US.
“Many Indians plan their foreign holidays around cultural events abroad, so it would be nice if some of them came to Israel during the festival,” says Roy.
Then again, according to Roy, the avalanche of youngsters from here to the subcontinent does not always project an accurate picture of reality over there.
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“I think a lot of Israelis tend to see a part of India they all normally go to – you know, Goa and other places, where the grass is lovely,” laughs the producer.
We’re not talking, here, about the stuff cows chew.
“Here the idea is to show some of the other sides of India to Israelis; and also to show Indians some aspects of Israel they don’t normally see.”
The Indian festival incorporates an extensive spectrum of cultural and other items.
“We have some classical works in there, but, by and large, what we are bringing is contemporary,” explains Roy.The former category includes dance performances such as Uncharted Seas, presented by the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Jaffa on May 2 and 3 (both 9 p.m.), and Sriyah, courtesy of the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble at the same venue on May 5 (9 p.m.) and May 6 at (2 p.m.).
On the classical music side, there is veteran master bansuri (bamboo flute) player Hari Prasad Chaurasia, who has performed here several times over the last 30 years, including at the Israel Festival. Chaurasia will appear at the Jerusalem Theater on May 19 (9 p.m.) and at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on May 22 (8:30 p.m.).
Meanwhile, Sufi singer Zila Khan will offer some insight into the riches of classical Indian vocal music at her concerts at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv on May 20 (2 p.m.) and Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on May 22 (9 p.m.) As Roy says, there is an abundance of more streetwise and contemporary entertainment on offer at the festival, too.
If you’re looking for some down and dirty upbeat activity, you should enjoy the outdoor Bollywood-style dance workshop presented by Gilles Chuyen in the Suzanne Dellal Center plaza on May 29 (12 noon). The free workshop is open to children and adults of all ages.
Over the last two decades Chuyen has gained an international reputation for his high-energy choreography, overseeing productions that have toured Europe, Asia, South Africa and Australia, besides shows on his home turf. Chuyen also joined forces with Roy several years ago on a production called Bollywood – A Love Story, directed by Roy.
Roy says that he is looking not only to provide us with onstage entertainment, but has tailored the festival to spawn future cooperative synergies.
“I see this as an opportunity for dialogue between India and Israel. We will be speaking to each other during the festival – like yoga practitioners from both countries. There will be dance workshops, and music i a n s working together.”
One of the most intriguing items in the festival is the “Words on Water – India & Israel in Conversation” bilateral literary dialogue event at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem on May 12.
The day-long program features celebrated literary writers from both countries, including a stellar Indian contingent with the likes of Namita Gokhal, who caused quite a stir in India with her 1984 debut tome called Paro: Dreams of Passion, which satirized the upper classes on New Delhi and Mumbai; and Reba Som, who combines writing with singing and serving as director of the prestigious Rabindranath Tagore Center cultural establishment in Kolkata.
The Israeli literary world will be represented by Meron Isaacson, A.B. Yehoshua, Eli Amir, Meir Shalev and Zeruya Shalev.
“In the first year, when we bring an Indian festival to a country, we bring in lots of works; but, gradually over a three- to five-year period, we move toward primarily collaborative projects,” Roy continues.”
Sometimes that happens by design, and sometimes it happens organically – which I believe is the best way for this to happen.
That is really the legacy, when you get artists talking to each other, and not necessarily because of us, but in spite of us.”
There is more contemporary music from world music outfit Mrigya, which fuses jazz, classical music and the blues, on May 22 and 23 (Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Port respectively; and we will be treated to some of India’s finest movies, with screenings taking place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
The celluloid roster includes An Evening in Paris, made in 1967, Kashmir Ki Kali from 1964, Maqbool (2004) and Tanu Weds Manu, which was released earlier this year.
The “Where the Streets Have No Name” exhibition (Jaffa Museum, May 15-25) will offer us a glimpse of what contemporary Indian artists across a range of disciplines are up to; and the public can gain insight into some Indian alternative healing and practices at the Wellbeing Experience at Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv, all day on May 13 and 14.
Naturally, you can’t have an Indian cultural festival without some victuals, and there will be plenty of opportunities to whet our appetites and palates at the “Cuisine from Kerala” event at the Suzanne Dellal Center between May 2 and May 25.
Roy says he is delighted to bring the festival to Israel, and has high hopes for the event’s future.
“The best thing is just to let it evolve. That’s the legacy I talk about. I hope the festival brings Israelis and Indians closer together.
For more information about the festival events visit: