Jerusalem's Shaon Horef Cultural Festival comes back for 2021

The festival is a fixture on the Jerusalem cultural calendar, offering artists and, in particular, downtown businesses, a much-needed shot in the arm.

TAMAR PHILOSOF: ‘It has been so long, about a year, since I performed live. (photo credit: PELEG NAOR)
TAMAR PHILOSOF: ‘It has been so long, about a year, since I performed live.
(photo credit: PELEG NAOR)
 Jerusalem’s Shaon Horef Cultural Festival is back, seasonal incongruity notwithstanding. As the air increasingly warms and our thoughts begin to turn to springtime and, dare we say it, the seemingly never-ending summer heat, the Jerusalem Municipality has managed to squeeze in one more shot of wintry fare.
The festival, whose name translates as “Winter Noise,” has become a fixture on the Jerusalem cultural calendar, offering artists and, in particular, downtown businesses, a much-needed shot in the arm. That goes double for this year, with eateries and other commercial enterprises experiencing severe revenue shortfalls as lockdown followed lockdown and the public became ever more wary of venturing out onto the city streets.
It goes without saying that all concerned are delighted the festival is happening, against all pandemic-constraint odds. In fact, until the nth hour the four-part event, which starts Wednesday, March 10, and runs through March 15, 17 and 22 at a bunch of locations around the city center, was not a nailed-on certainty.
“The rules kept on changing,” says Einat Gomel, head of the Events Department of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Arts and Culture Division. “Thankfully it is really happening.”
Gomel serves as artistic director of the festival and has put together the usual diverse spread of artists, acts and disciplines for the decade-marking program. Today’s agenda, for example, takes in a slew of indoor and al fresco venues around Hillel and Shammai streets with a whole range of hands-on activities, gastronomic delights, visual artistic works, instructional slots and musical entertainment laid on. If you are looking to treat yourself to something of a sartorial makeover and don’t have the wherewithal for a grand refit, or you are aware of the sorry state of Mother Earth just now, you could do worse than pop over to the Bigudit used clothes depository at 11 Hillel Street, which will open from 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
And if you like to bend the elbow from time to time, and are open to some seemingly wild and wacky permutations on the alcoholic front, you might enjoy the Art of Beer workshops – at 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. – taking place at Birateinu – The Jerusalem Beer Center at 6 Hillel Street. Leon Schwartz, one of the proprietors of Birateinu, will enlighten members of the public about the seemingly infinite stretch of ingredients and flavors that come under the loose “beer” tag. These include – would you believe? – doughnut and pickled cucumber-infused brews.
Meanwhile, over at the Dublin watering hole, Tamar Philosof will entertain visitors with her some of her highly individual repertoire. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter came to notice a few months ago with an intriguing cover version of the Parvarim nugget “Hacholmim Achar Hashemesh” (“Dreaming After the Sun”) which was a hit for the duo back in 1978. Philosof’s reading, together with former Star Is Born reality show contestant David Lavi, struck a chord with the younger generation who missed the Parvarim number and got plenty of radio airtime, including on Army Radio.
NATURALLY ENOUGH, Philosof was pretty happy with the response. 
“It is such a beautiful song,” she says. “There is a beautiful rich spirit to it. It was great that people liked it.”
Although still tender of years, Philosof has been busy crafting songs for quite a while. 
“I wrote my first song when I was nine,” she laughs. “I just felt I had to get the ideas I had out there.” By the time she was 16 she had an album, called Rishon (First) ready for release, but ultimately decided to keep the music to herself.
Her official debut offering, Lichvod Hatal Hachadash – In Honor of the First Dew – is almost done and dusted. 
“I hope it will come out during the coming year,” Philosof says, adding that it is very much a balancing act, in more senses than one. “It is basically about the ebb and flow of morning and night, light and darkness, life and death. The encounter with the coronavirus heightened that sense I felt, and I think that idea is now even more relevant for so many people. But it has always been relevant.”
The guitarist, pianist and vocalist quotes the likes of PJ Harvey; revered Dagestan-born Israeli instrumentalist, composer and educator Pyris Elyahu; the late US-born, Canadian- and French-bred singer songwriter Lhasa de Sela; and pop-rock icon Yehudit Ravitz among a diverse troupe of influences. At the end of the day, however, she says she is an Israeli artist. 
“I write and sing in Hebrew. The language is so important to me. It is a part of me and it has its own special musicality.”
Philosof is eager to strut her stuff at Dublin this evening. 
“It has been so long, about a year, since I performed live. I am so hungry for that, and I really appreciate the opportunity the municipality has given me.”
As far as Gomel is concerned, it is very much about offering us a ray of hope and a few reasons to be cheerful. 
“Food establishments have really suffered over the past year. That is part of what Shaon Horef is there for in a normal year, and it is even more important now.” Ever the optimist, Gomel points out the advantages of this year’s procrastinated timing. The festival normally takes place in February, to get us out of heated homes and out into the cold outdoors, and to boost business owners’ takings at a challenging time of year. “It is warmer now, so we can have more events outside,” she says. “And there will be plenty of surprises.”
All events will adhere to Green Passport and Purple Badge guidelines, with adherents to requirements of the former allowed an indoor eyeful and earful of the festival fare.
For more details: shaon-horef.co.il