Light entertainment

Jerusalem will be in the spotlight for the third year in succession when the Jerusalem Festival of Light takes place.

'Butterfly Effect' by Y Circus 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
'Butterfly Effect' by Y Circus 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Old City and several other locations in Jerusalem are pretty impressive in their regular everyday state, but with the enhancement of powerful illumination and strategically positioned light sculptures, artistic installations and several other forms of electrical illumination, they become even more striking. The public has clearly got the message, with more than a quarter of a million visitors enjoying the city’s brighter-than-usual state last year and a similar number expected this month.
The occasion was the Festival of Light, which this year takes place between June 15 and June 22. The event is the brainchild of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) and is supported by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality, with municipal company Ariel taking care of the management and production duties.
Most of the festival items are located in the Old City, with a handful nearby. The former are dotted around the Christian, Armenian and Jewish quarters and there will be six works just to the north of the Old City, including atmospheric highlighting of the old municipality building near the northwest corner of the walls, created by Kobi Rosenthal which is touted as a re-enactment of the lighting that marked the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
Not far from there, on Rehov Hatzanhanim, visitors will be able to marvel at the Tree of Light by Blachere of France, while just down the road Zohar Gev’s Rainbow of Lights will enhance the festival display with some welcome polychromy.
Gev’s work also incorporates wind chimes designed to conjure a rainfall sound effect and, as the official festival description suggests, to “contribute to the calmness and peacefulness of the rainbow.” The latter is one of the main themes of this year’s festival, which is based on a combination of light and sound and offers the cumulative effect of striking aesthetics with sonar embellishment.
“Sight and hearing are two intangible senses that you experience by means of waves,” explains the festival’s artistic director Eduardo Hubsther. “There are quite a few works in the festival that incorporate both sight and sound.”
Hubsther is keen to point out the difference between using sound, as opposed to music, to enhance the visual aesthetics. “The idea was not to add background music, which can sometimes be bland. The idea is to heighten the experience of the light.”
One noteworthy example of this can be found underground in Zedekiah’s Cave beneath the Muslim Quarter, which will host the Bwindi Lights Masks work by Richi Ferrero from Italy.
“Ferrero put together a kind of synthesis,” says Hubsther. “He took masks from Africa and the most advanced technology around, and he added Mongolian overtones. I saw the work in Italy, and I really felt there was something spiritual about it. I also thought it would be amazing in Zedekiah’s Cave, with the atmosphere and the acoustics there.”
Elad Kandel, festival chairman at the JDA, says the festival aims to achieve several objectives.
“Millions of people visit the Old City of Jerusalem every year, but they don’t go there after dark. The festival addresses that issue and brings the Old City to life at night, too. It’s wonderful to see. Lighting up the area gives residents a sense of security and makes the city more attractive.”
There are significant fringe benefits as well. “There will be lights and artistic creations along Rehov Hagai, which goes right through the Muslim Quarter. All the shopkeepers and traders are cooperating on this, and they will be able to do business at night, too. It’s a win-win situation for local residents and visitors.”
There is more Gallic aesthetic enlightenment near Jaffa Gate, with the TILT company creation Echinodermus and Pissenlit. The former is inspired by the echinocactus plant family, and the Echinodermus part of the work comprises a towering 11-meter high structure that looks like a hybrid of an exotic desert plant and a giant firework frozen in space. The Echinodermus forms the centerpiece of the installation, and there will be four giant Pissenlit flower-like light sculptures around it rising 10 m. up, with starshaped flower heads spanning a full five meters.
While the illumination installations display impressive creative attributes, Kandel says that not everyone is looking to get a creative buzz. “Many people don’t get too much into the artistic side of the works; they just find them attractive.”
Naturally, there are also those who take a more studious look at the works. “The festival has already gained an international reputation for the standard of the works on display, and we get a lot of people who come to see what’s on offer in Jerusalem and to take ideas away with them.”
When you want to light things up, it can certainly help to have good ready-made raw material in situ.
“The real attraction is the Old City itself. They invented it 4,000 years ago, and it seems they did a pretty good job. The original idea was to take the evenings and nights of Jerusalem and make them more appealing to the public,” says Kandel.
He says that word of the festival has spread far and wide. “To begin with, we had to scratch around to get artists to offer works for the event. Now we have professionals coming here from all over Europe to see what we have on show here.”
But the artists won’t be taking complete responsibility for all the works on display during the festival. The public will have something to say about how the lighting creation at the Church of the Redeemer pans out. “It is an interactive work that looks like wall tiles,” says Hubsther. “In fact, there are images of the people, and parts of them, who are in the church will be projected on to the wall. So the ‘tiles’ will change the whole time.”
All the festival elements will be free of charge except for the Butterfly Effect show by Y Circus, which is described as “a remarkable acrobatics show combined with spectacular video art on the walls of Jerusalem.”
Butterfly Effect will be performed at the Habonim Gardens near Jaffa Gate. Tickets cost NIS 55.
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