Shaon Horef - Jerusalem's outdoor winter festival

The festival traditionally hosts shows, across a broad spectrum of artistic disciplines, with the February 10 batch located within the Koresh-Shushan-Shlomzion Hamalka quarter.

THE CITY comes alive, and alight. (photo credit: DANIEL ELIOR)
THE CITY comes alive, and alight.
(photo credit: DANIEL ELIOR)
Over the years, I have heard the odd Tel Aviv-based artist complain about the difficulty of getting Jerusalemites out of their cozy homes and over to see them do their entertaining thing at various venues around town. Factor in the nippy seasonal Jerusalem air and the weekday slot, and the consumer-pulling challenge grows incrementally.
That was central to the thinking of the municipal powers that be when they instigated the “Shaon Horef” program, which has taken place annually, on Mondays through the month of February, for the past eight years.
The ninth edition kicks off this coming Monday with an imaginative wide-ranging sweep of acts scheduled at spots on and around Hahavatzelet Street. The festival traditionally hosts shows, across a broad spectrum of artistic disciplines, in different areas of the city. The February 10 batch will be located within the Koresh-Shushan-Shlomzion Hamalka quarter, with the following Monday programs designated to Hillel Street, and Hauman Street over in Talpiot.
The organizers have foraged through all sorts of artistic domains to provide Jerusalemites and, possibly, out-of-towners with some quality reasons for swapping their heated living rooms for the wintry elements. The shows and acts take in rock, pop, electronic, ethnic and other musical fare, performance, dance stand-up comic turns, culinary offerings and the plastic arts, with such A-listers as Rona Keinan, Riff Cohen, Yehezkel Raz and Gilad Kahana lined up.
Ariella Rajun, head of the municipality’s Culture, Society and Sports Department, says the folks over at City Hall were well aware of the Monday evening conundrum before the advent of Shaon Horef. There were also some cold calculated financial considerations in the logistical equation.
“The basis for this was to help businesses in the toughest month of the year, when the weather is normally cold,” Rajuan explains. “And, generally, there are no religious holidays in February. It’s before Purim, Passover and the rest. The idea was to arrange a series of events, every Monday evening, which is also the toughest evening of the week [for businesses], and to have things going on in a different part of the city each time.”
Rajuan says the venture has delivered the sought-after bottom line.
“The fact is that it has been very successful for businesses and restaurants, and it has drawn interest to display windows and small stores in town. It is a sort of culture that has infiltrated the streets.”
The extramural element is central to the project. Many of the activities and entertainment slots take place in unconventional locations. Shaon Horef is very much about galvanizing the otherwise seasonally sleepy downtown domain and offering the public a different refreshing angle on getting out and about in the city. And it’s not just about the center. For most of us, Talpiot means shopping malls, garages, supermarkets and industrial zones. That mind-set will be challenged on the last Monday of the month when front-grid musical artists such as Riff Cohen and Neta Elkayam strut their stuff there, with some spoken word and other intriguing formats available down there on the day.
“There are places that serve as garages during the day that suddenly become great spaces for shows in the evening,” Rajuan continues. “You can put out a few chairs for a poetry reading or something similar, and you suddenly find you have a brilliant show venue,” she laughs.
Rajuan also notes that the original local economy-fueling premise for the Monday evening series has come good.
“It has really proven itself, and it works in full collaboration with the businesses. The content is specifically tailored to each business, in order to help the business itself and the young artists. And we also provide people with an alternative form of entertainment.”
It is, she says, not about just offering people a good evening out, and providing downtown Jerusalem commercial enterprises with a helping hand.
“I would even say this is sort of left-field culture. It is challenging – it’s winter, it’s a different type of culture. There’s a place called The Bloc where there’s a climbing wall, and there’s Quest, which is an original quiz game, with an escape room.”
Rajuan says it is a win-win venture for all concerned.
“It amazing to see how many people there are here, and how much culture, and that everything we put out there is consumed. That’s great to see. It revives the city.”
Gilad Kahana will certainly be doing his part to get the joint jumping when he performs at the Dublin bar along with rapper, hip-hop singer and producer Atar Mayner, on February 17. The 49-year-old Kahana has been at the forefront of the Israeli pop and rock music for nearly three decades, and is largely known as a member of the Girafot folk-rock and alternative rock band, which he helped to found in 1992.
Kahana and Mayner have accrued plenty of joint venture time over the past five years. Kahana, who spreads his gifts across various disciplines – as a singer, songwriter, poet, author and actor – says it has been an interesting ride to date.
“Our first show was one of the most challenging I have ever had,” he says. “I improvise a lot on stage, in all sorts of contexts.”
Kahana was blessed with a freewheeling spirit.
“For me, improvisation is a major value in my life,” he states adding that it is an approach he embraces wholeheartedly. “When you improvise, you are committed to the present. People have all sorts of ways of talking about being in the present. They go to far-Eastern philosophies and religions, New Age stuff and such like. That’s one thing.  But I think that when you are committed, in front of an audience, to give them something that is genuine and powerful and narrative – not narrative in its regular sense, rather something that captivates the audience and evokes emotion in the audience, you move them and shake them up, and transport them to a different place – that obliges you to be there. You can’t do storytelling in the present if you are not totally and completely there yourself.”
That, he says, is a precarious professional and creative business.
“It’s like walking a tightrope. As soon as you are not there completely, you fall off.”
He says there is some important added value to be gained, and not just within the confines of the entertainment venue.
“This discipline, I have learned, makes me a better person. I am able to identify beauty at any given moment. As time passes, I discover that the things that happen around me are simply miraculous,” he laughs. “It is as if innocence comes to life and takes everything over.”
That, he notes, is not just a matter of waking up one fine morning to find the world is an altogether better place.
“That comes with work. It doesn’t come through some kind of nirvana or when you’re having a nice vacation, lying around on the beach. I really enjoy lying around on the beach, but that’s not how you get that understanding.”
The same goes for drop-of-the-hat performing.
“You have to exercise the improvisation muscle, your ability to connect to some sort of abundance that I feel belongs to everyone.”
That hard-earned skill eventually spawned his current spot with Rayner, which goes by an eminently suitable title.
“That led to the show we call Hahatirah Lahovveh (Working toward the Present),” he says, adding some light to the project zeitgeist.
“When Atar and I met for the first time it was at a bar. When Atar asked me why we were meeting at a bar and not in a rehearsal room I told him we were just going to get to know each a little, and I was going to tell him what I wanted to do.”
The fruits of that watering hole encounter will be unfurled, suitably at a Jerusalem bar, on February 17 (10:15 p.m.). The Dublin Pub audience can expect to get some energized and compelling musical and textual input from the duo.
“Atar will do the beats and I will improvise, freestyle, over that,” Kahan explains. “I can’t tell you what will happen on the night.”
Sounds like a real fun time is in the offing.