An artful escape

The Hutzot Hayotzer arts festival will provide a welcome distraction for 100,000 Jerusalemites and residents of the North.

tea packs 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tea packs 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With hostilities still in full swing in northern Israel, it's hardly surprising that all sorts of cultural events continue to be cancelled. Not so with Jerusalem's annual Hutzot Hayotzer arts and crafts fair, which celebrates its 30th year starting this evening at the Sultan's Pool. The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with a festive opener that includes a concert by veteran pop-rock artist Matti Caspi. The fair will run every evening except Fridays between from 6 and 11 p.m. over the next week and a half, with the cream of Israel's pop and rock talent performing opposite the Tower of David every night at 9:30. Caspi will be followed on other nights by the likes of Boaz Sharabi, Tea Packs, Habreira Hativit and Aviv Geffen, a distinguished line-up that provides some indication of the fair's standing on the local cultural scene. Hutzot Hayotzer producer Tzion Turjeman is naturally upbeat about the buzz generated by this year's festival. "My team is ready for the country's biggest cultural event of the summer," says Turjeman. "Over 100 artists and craftsmen from 24 countries will take part in the festival." Impressive statistics indeed. At a time when foreign musicians and others are steering themselves away from this part of the world, Turjeman and his staff are bringing in artists from countries around the globe. Hutzot HaYotzer's foreign contingent includes artists from Indonesia, Morocco, Jordan, Uzbekistan, China, South Africa and Serbia. "We haven't had any cancellations at all," Turjeman says. "It is very gratifying to see them come here, to display and sell their wares, while there's a war on." The arts and crafts fair will encompass items including jewelry from across the Middle East, Palestinian carpets and embroidery work, Syrian furniture, Armenian ceramics and wood etchings. Turjeman says the festival's budget is close $1 million and that he expects over 100,000 visitors over the event's 12 days. "We have laid on a very varied program," he says. "There's something for everyone. There are 15 workshops we are putting on with [Jerusalem's] Ein Yael Open Museum, and there are various stages located around Sultan's Pool with entertainment for children." The Ein Yael-run workshops include hands-on children's activities such as making sun dials and recycled paper, designing mobiles, weaving and sculpting pottery. The festival will also offer visitors a wide range of dining options as they take in the musical acts and enjoy the arts on display. Festival-goers will be able to choose among some 25 stands featuring foods from around the world, as well as an area devoted to wine and cheese tasting. In addition to celebrating its own 30th anniversary, this year's Hutzot Hayotzer will also mark the centenary of the Bezalel arts school and the 70th birthday of the Voice of Israel radio station. Bezalel's anniversary will be celebrated with a special arts fair featuring an exhibition of students' works, including paintings, sculptures, pottery, glassware, fashion and animated films. Meanwhile, the Voice of Israel stand will offer visitors a chance to hear an array of historic broadcasts that have gone out over the airwaves since 1936. Turjeman says he expects Jerusalem residents to be joined by large numbers of visitors from the North at the fair, and that he and his staff are currently considering a range of special offers for residents of frontline towns and cities. "We haven't decided on exactly what we're going to offer northerners yet," he says, "[but] we'll decide before the opening event takes place." A final attraction this year allows festival-goers to try their hands - and lungs - at the art of glassblowing, with expert guidance provided by visiting professionals from Hebron and Ramallah.