Monday mingling in Jerusalem – at Shaon Horef

“The cultural scene in Jerusalem is so varied - it is unparalleled.”

The Cut Out Club (photo credit: MEL BERGMAN)
The Cut Out Club
(photo credit: MEL BERGMAN)
Half a century ago, The Mamas and the Papas posited an ambivalent approach to the first day of the Western world’s working week, in the suitably titled hit “Monday Monday.” Some 13 years later Irish new wave band the Boomtown Rats put a far darker slant on the day, with “I Don’t Like Mondays.”
Next week the Young Authority of the Jerusalem Municipality will unfurl the fifth edition of the annual Shaon Horef Cultural Festival, which traditionally takes place on Mondays throughout February.
As 2016 is a leap year, and February 29 is a Monday, this year’s fun begins next week.
If you were wondering why Mondays you’d be forgiven the furrowed brow. On the face of it, it appears to be a strange choice of day. It’s certainly not the weekend, or even midweek. So why, indeed, Mondays? Young Authority Events Department manager Einat Gomel admits that it was tough to build up momentum to start with, but that things have gone increasingly well over time.
“I think, at the beginning, the business owners couldn’t quite grasp the value this offered,” says Gomel. “But we told them that there’s nothing going on in Jerusalem in the winter, and certainly not on a Monday, so it made sense to do something specifically on Mondays. Today, everyone appreciates the benefits of the festival.”
The thinking behind the inception of Shaon Horef – a play on the Hebrew expression for winter time (non-daylight saving time) but translates literally as winter tumult – follows manifold avenues.
Shows, workshops, lectures and all kinds of intriguing and entertaining slots take place in restaurants, cafés, stores and cultural facilities, in and around parts of downtown Jerusalem, each week. The idea is to principally draw young people, age 25 to 35, to the center of the city, and to provide them with a good night out.
There is also an ulterior – positive – motive. Many of the festival’s younger patrons are students at the Hebrew University and the city’s institutions of higher education who hail from other parts of the country. Often they come to Jerusalem, for example, to study at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and, on completing their studies in, say, visual communications or industrial design, they return whence they came, particularly if they originate from the environs of Tel Aviv where employment is generally more readily available. The festival organizers are hopeful the event can do something to prevent non-Jerusalemite students, and others born here, from leaving town.
“If we can help to provide young people with entertainment opportunities, and to interest them in what is going on in the city, that could help to keep them here,” notes Gomel, adding that the proprietors who open their doors to festivalgoers have something to gain for their efforts. “Shaon Horef offers a great opportunity for bringing their business to the attention of the people from all over Jerusalem, and the rest of the country.”
She and fellow Shaon Horef honcho Yonatan Strier have certainly spread the festival’s wings. The action takes place each week in a different location, namely Aza Street, Hillel Street, Nahalat Shiva and Shushan Street, with the respective lineups devised and overseen by artistic directors with their fingers on the pulse of the relevant creative fields. Noa Melamed Vazana, who shares responsibility for the fun at Nahalat Shiva (February 15) and Hillel Street (February 22) with Inbal Dekel Goldberg, has accrued a wealth of organizational experience as part of the production team of the late lamented Avram Bar watering hole and music venue near the Mahaneh Yehuda outdoor market. She currently works with Avram Bar Productions, and is an accomplished keyboardist in her own right. Dekel Goldberg is no novice either, and has an impressive résumé in visual theater and artistic direction.
The two have lined up a compelling program of items that run the gamut of mainstream quality entertainment to shows of a left field nature, a storytelling competition, a photography exhibition and a cookery workshop. The Nahalat Shiva slot takes in many of the picturesque neighborhood’s nooks and crannies.
“The idea is to get people to visit all sorts of places, through the evening, including those that are off the beaten tourist track,” explains Melamed Vazana.
The Tmol Shilshom literary eatery is probably one of the better known spots in the area, but the Music Square at 12 Salomon Street is less of a bone fide crowd puller. Regardless of public profile, the latter venue will host some quality musical fare on February 15 with the Orient Groove show featuring the silky seasoned skills of Iranian-born singer-percussionist-flutist Amir Shahasar, along with Turkish qanun player Mumin Sesler, who will perform in an unlikely confluence with guitarist-oud player Alon Amano, and drummer and computerized music manipulation specialist Haim Laroz.
The audience at the above 9:30 p.m. slot may feel a bit peckish when they gather as their olfactory system may be aroused by the lingering scents of the Bar Naim cookery workshop which is scheduled to take place in the Blue Hall, at the same address, at 7 p.m. Anyone looking to provide some relief from the daily tension in these here parts may want to attend the Jerusalem Village massage workshop, which will take in Chinese medicine and the art of medical massage, and that will be followed by a master class by world-renowned bass player- producer Yossi Fine and his percussion- playing sidekick Ben Ayalone. Over at Hagola in Feingold Courtyard, members of the Cut Out Club indie rock outfit will chat with the audience and perform live.
A week later, on February 22 at 8 p.m., the lineup for Hillel Street includes a master class by legendary 87-year-old Algerian- French pianist Maurice El Mediouni.
Melamed Vazana was also keen to note that Shaon Horef offers an opportunity for some artistic tinkering, and conjuring up seemingly incongruous combos.
“We’ve got [indie rock outfit] Ouzo Bazooka – a.k.a. UBK – with [iconic oud player] Nino Biton together,” she says. “That’s something you don’t get every day.”
Indeed you don’t. The 10 p.m. gig takes place at the Even Juke venue, at 33 Jaffa Road, as part of the Musical Mix program, and UBK frontman Uri Brauner Kinrot will also be around to give a live interview to the Columbus Music Magazine.
Given that one of the motives behind setting Shaon Horef up in the first place was to provide downtown businesses with a financial and publicity pick-me-up, needless to say this year’s festival comes at an opportune time.
“This year has been difficult and, when we went to visit the businesses, not all the owners welcomed us with open arms,” says Dekel Goldberg. “There was a sense of hardship, and a lack of faith in the municipality.”
She and Melamed Vazana clearly had their work cut out for them.
“When we went out to the field we felt we needed to listen, and that there was something here that was deeper than just another [cultural] event. That made us more determined to plan the event carefully and to bring the street and the businesses alive.”
Hopefully, that will ensue after this year’s eclectic range of festivities.
“We did our utmost to accommodate the businesses, and to bring them what they asked for,” continues Dekel Goldberg.
“For example, the WIZO used-clothes store was delighted with the beauty stylist they hosted a couple of years ago, so they asked to have that again. And the Shampoo hair stylist [on Hillel Street] wanted to have a hafla [Eastern music jam and social gathering], so we invited the Ostezim [band] to play there.”
Wherever you look, across the four-Monday schedule, there is fun, entertaining, edifying and surprising fare to be had.
“The cultural scene in Jerusalem is so varied,” declares Gomel. “I think it is unparalleled. We get people of all ages coming to Jerusalem for Shaon Horef from all over the country. I think people are starting to realize we have something special here.” 
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