Jacob’s Ladder Festival is back and better than ever

The festival, dubbed “Israel’s Friendliest Music Festival,” will take place March 24-25 at Kfar Blum’s Pastoral Hotel in the Upper Galilee.

(photo credit: YOEL SITRUK)

Jacob’s Ladder Festival, Israel’s veteran Anglo-style music festival, is still alive and kicking.

The festival, dubbed “Israel’s Friendliest Music Festival,” will take place March 24-25 at Kfar Blum’s Pastoral Hotel in the Upper Galilee, a stunning new venue amid lush green lawns and groves.

Jacob’s Ladder has indeed come a long way since the days of the hippies rolling around on the dirt amphitheater of Kibbutz Mahanayim. The setting is now the grand stage and seats of Kfar Blum’s Opera House. But some things don’t change. As always, the music mix ranges from folk to country, bluegrass and blues. Headliner Lazer Lloyd will make his Jacob’s Ladder debut with his fervent rocking rhythm and blues and heartland rock.

An immigrant’s story will be told in a workshop by the lead singer of the Dr. Jazz Dixieland Band, Elazar Brandt, a US Air Force helicopter pilot who brought his New Orleans Jazz to Israel. His band will be performing on the main stage of the Opera House, Pastoral’s impressive theater and convention hall.

New on the scene will be Griffin, a young group with sounds from the ’70s; Nashville Outlaws country music, with Guy Dagan; and the Red Okra String Band, which will be representing the new generation of bluegrass.

 DR. JAZZ DIXIELAND BAND (credit: Neta Greenblat) DR. JAZZ DIXIELAND BAND (credit: Neta Greenblat)

Jacob’s Ladder staples, such as the ever-popular Shay Tochner and Friends, with Maya Johanna and Gabriella Lewis, will be back by popular demand, as will Larry & Mindy, with their evergreen ’60s and ’70s sing-along, bringing old favorites and new surprises.

Irish music

Jacob’s Ladder has long been associated with Irish music, and this time will be no exception, with the Bloomers on the main stage and with the Jacob’s Ladder Traditional Irish Band in the lobby of the hotel.

This year, not only “Anglo” music will be represented, but also Greek, Ladino and Balkan. These genres will be provided by Shiran Shahar Borek, who takes the audience on a musical journey from the Sephardi tradition to the folklore of Greece, presenting her family’s musical heritage by singing beautiful songs in Spanish, Ladino and Greek.

 World Music offerings will also include a musical odyssey by Trio Scandalli that brings the female voice of the folk music of the Gypsies of Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey and Greece.

The main acts will perform on the Opera Hall stage, but if the weather is fine on Saturday, as it often is at the end of March, some of those acts will relocate to the large Opera Hall outdoor stage.

Alongside of the performances there will also be a crafts fair on Shabbat and a variety of events and activities for children, including a magic show, a creative arts and games workshop and musical fun for kiddies.

The festival’s founders and organizers have been at it for 46 years. They were among a group of Anglo olim, kibbutz members and volunteers living at Kibbutz Mahanayim in the North, who missed the folk and protest music of their birthplaces and decided that the only thing to do was just to do it themselves. 

“What differentiates between Jacob’s Ladder and other festivals is the family atmosphere,” according to the Vinegrads. “The program offers a unique milieu where seniors, young adults, children and grandchildren can all enjoy themselves both together and separately.”

Since just before the COVID pandemic hit, the Vinegrads decided to downsize the festival. There is no more camping on the lawns of the hotel, yet a few tickets are still available for those with alternative accommodation in the area who wish to enjoy the event. 

The program and all the details are available on the festival’s website: www.jlfestival.com.