Seeing is enjoying

The Sea in Jerusalem Festival aims to get people into the streets for some outdoor entertainment.

Sea in Jerusalem Festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sea in Jerusalem Festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As incongruous as it may sound, the free Sea in Jerusalem Festival, which will take place on August 8 and 9, is one of our more balanced cultural events – in more senses than one.
The street performance festival, which will take place at Jerusalem’s Even Yisrael Compound, off Agrippas Street, feeds off a range of complementary areas and energies.
For a start, there is the titular mention of the sea, which has been a standing Tel Aviv jibe at landlocked Jerusalem for many years. But, as festival artistic director Yulia Ginis explains, the marine reference has nothing to do with the shoreline at the other end of Route 1.
“We have a different take on the image of the sea in Jerusalem. That subject has been addressed here several times before, and it has generally been a matter of putting down sand and having beach games and girls in bikinis. That’s not the line we take.”
In fact, the sea aspect of the twoday event is a more ethereal body of water, and Ginis delves into rabbinical realms.
“The image of water and the sea we relate to comes from Jewish culture, whereby the sea corresponds to the text and the letters of the Torah,” she explains, citing the Midrash Raba commentary of the Song of Songs.
“You’ll see in the festival flyer a quote that makes a direct connection between the theme of text and the theme of the sea. It talks about how the whole world is, in fact, a sort of text, and the sea is the ink.”
The equilibrium ethos is evident throughout the festival program.
There will be three site-specific shows on each of the two evenings, courtesy of the Jerusalem-based Mystorin Theater Group, starting at 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., with various artistic spectacles slotted betwixt and during the performances. The latter include an assortment of visual and audio elements from the realms of fantasy, such as large doll figures and background mutterings piped through some of the alleyways adjacent to the Even Israel Compound, and documentary photographs from Julia Komissaroff’s “Sea without Fish” and David Dector’s “Portraits in Jerusalem and Not” works will be screened onto the side of a nearby building.
One of the shows was seen abroad last year. “We performed Baalei Shem (Masters of the Name) last summer in Cracow, Poland,” says Ginis, adding that all three shows in the Sea in Jerusalem Festival lineup have universal appeal, and traverse divides between different cultural and language barriers.
Baalei Shem features Hebrew letters which, of course, the people in Poland could not understand or appreciate their importance in the Torah,” says Ginis, “but I think everyone in the audience – and there were thousands of people there – understood the performance on some level or other.”
The three festival shows are also wordless and thereby nullify any potential language minefields.
Ginis says the festival has been very much a go-with-the-flow project.
“Everything seemed to fall into place at the right time. We were thinking of having the festival at one location in Jerusalem, and then Lior Ben-David [Deputy CEO of Eden Jerusalem Development Authority, which is supporting the festival] suggested Even Israel. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the perfect place for us.”
Besides aiming to get people from Jerusalem and elsewhere around the country out into the streets for some outdoor entertainment, Ginis says she and the rest of the artistic and production team have totally eschewed the dumbing down mindset.
“I don’t believe in dropping the level of art to try to appeal to as many people as possible,” she declares. “You know, people have come up to me after a show and said they enjoyed it but didn’t understand anything. Then when I asked them what they didn’t understand, it turned out that they got a lot more than they thought.
People grasp things on their own level, and that’s fine.”
Ginis says there is more to the festival than will initially meet the eye, and that it suits the locale to a T.
“I think this festival – because it is taking place in Nahlaot, close to the shuk, and there is Even Israel which is a very interesting place in its own right – in general talks about the hidden holiness that you can sometimes find in Jerusalem, particularly in the places that look the most unholy. The shuk is an example, with its streets that aren’t always too clean. Sometimes you have to look beyond what first meets your eye.”
Other Sea in Jerusalem items that will meet the public’s eyes over the two days include the Wrapped in Memories show, directed by Ginis and featuring artwork by Geula Chernobilsky, and actors Tamara Kowalsky, Kazoyo Shionori and Maor Freedman, with some added snap wrap energies. Olga Golster will present a fascinating sand animation spot, and there will be an exhibition of works called “Secret Vessels” by internationally acclaimed painter Yaakov Feldman.
All the festival events are free.