No other event – not the 1967 Six Day War or the 1973 Yom Kippur War or the 1991 Gulf War – has in 59 years done what COVID-19 did this year: scupper the Israel Festival.Festival general manager Eyal Sher announced Sunday that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 59th Israel Festival Jerusalem, slated to take place from June 4-20, would be indefinitely postponed. “We are very disappointed that we have been obliged to halt activities,” Sher said. This is especially so, he added, as this year’s festival aimed to address multiple contemporary issues, such as community, empathy, ageism, democracy, acceptance of “the other,” and more.“We hope that we can find an alternative date,” he continued, “in the knowledge that changing the dates of the festival and the new realities will certainly dictate changes and adjustments.”Festival artistic director Itzik Juli observed, “It seems that the major forces – religion, nationalism, money, politics – that shape our lives, have caused us to lose the ability to maintain a functional society that has the proper equilibrium.” What’s essential, he said, is to create something that “is based on compassion, the undermining of hierarchies and sensitive attention” to dialogue and values.The Israel Festival was conceived by Aaron Zvi Propes as a summer musical even in 1961. Since then it has grown to embrace all the performing arts and has become a recognized cultural institution.The June festival was meant to include such noted world productions as Democracy in America by Romeo Castellucci, and The Scarlet Letter by Angelica Liddell, two major American cultural works adapted to the stage. Castellucci presented a mesmerizing Julius Caesar at the 2015 Israel Festival, based on the Shakespeare play.The festival was also planning to include the iconic Israeli singers Gidi Gob and Yehuda Poliker, marking three decades of their mutual work. Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.