The 45th annual Israel Festival, augmented by the celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary, is jam-packed with an impressive array of local and international entertainment and special events. Extending from May 25 to June 22 in venues throughout Jerusalem, as well as certain events in Holon and Herzliya, there is a wealth of performances to choose from. While the choices are rich, the festival organizers have ensured that the events are accessible, so the prices are relatively reasonable. Depending on the particular performance, prices range from NIS 50 to NIS 225, with a 10% discount on the purchase of three tickets or more. There are also many events that are free, such as outdoor and indoor concerts, lectures and master classes. The festival kicks off with a performance of "Hydra" by Israel's Inbal Pinto Dance Company. This hypnotic piece of modern dance includes guest performers from Japan. (Sherover Theater, May 24 at 9:30 p.m. and May 25 at 9 p.m.) On May 28 at the Sultan's Pool, a special 60th anniversary event pays tribute to Israeli music in "The Song of Cinema." For NIS 10, the audience will be treated to an evening of music from Israeli movies from 1955 to today. Film clips will be screened as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and such artists as Zehava Ben, Keren Hadar, Sharon Roter and Berry Sakharof perform. The special guest of the event is Haim Topol. And when it comes to songs, Enrico Macias is a popular favorite. Performing a special salute to Israel's 60th, the French crooner will sing his well-known hits, as well as some new material. (Binyenei Ha'uma, June 9 at 9 p.m.) The Polish group The Karbido Company turns the Shabbos tisch into a rousing musical instrument in a performance called "The Table" as they sing Shabbat songs and drum on the table, chime on the glassware and clink the cutlery. (Hama'abada, June 13 at 4 p.m. & June 14 at 9:30 p.m.) Ending the festival with a flourish is Les Arts Florissants from France. Regarded as one of the most important early music ensembles in the world, the group of 60 singers and musicians performs on authentic antique instruments. They will present works by 18th-century composers Handel and Mondonville. (Binyenei Ha'uma, June 22 at 8:30 p.m.) For more information, pick up a festival booklet or visit www.israel-festival.org.il For tickets, call 1-700-702015. Alarming yet exciting By Peggy Cidor One of the highlights of the dance section of this year's Israel Festival is the Preljocaj Ballet from France. Angelin Preljocaj, one of today's most revered choreographers, is not new to ballet aficionados in Israel. "Israel is considered a dance superpower," says Naomi Fortis, director of the Batsheva Dance Company, who has been associated with the renowned French choreographer more than once. "We host the best companies in the world because we have a highly motivated and concerned audience, who appreciate modern dance, and they [the international dance companies] all know it," she continues, adding that the guest company has performed other works on previous visits to Israel. The two works to be presented by the French ballet at this year's Israel Festival are not unknown to the local public, as both have been performed in Israel by Batsheva. "Although his [Preljocaj] choreography basis is totally connected to classical ballet, something you cannot ignore in each one of his works, it is a very modern approach," points out Israeli journalist Gabi Eldor. "His works are very physically demanding," says Eldor, "but he goes easy on his public, especially in these two works that will be performed at this [Israel] festival - Noces [Wedding] and Larmes Blanches [White Tears]. "We're not talking about some kind of inaccessible work, although in Noces, one cannot escape his tough message regarding the fate of women, especially in marriage." The two works were created respectively in 1985 and 1989. As Fortis points out, "They admirably reflect his link with the classical tradition of ballet, together with his modern and contemporary approach, both in the aggressive aspects of marriage and in the routine life depicted in White Tears," which tells the story of two couples caught up in the banal conventions of daily existence. In Noces, five life-size dummies wearing wedding dresses and veils fly high into the air as vivid symbols of female powerlessness. According to European critics, this dance cemented Preljocaj's reputation in his native France. Set to a score by Stravinsky, Noces is a battle of the sexes in an unsentimental world. The women are as aggressive and sexually driven as the men, and the dummies serve as repositories for the suffering that is the lot of much of human society, particularly, by implication, its female component. "As the five couples move through the rites of courtship and union, their take-no-prisoners physicality is both alarming and exciting. This is how the world is, Preljocaj seems to be saying; don't expect human nature to change," wrote one French critic. Noces will be performed on June 10 and 11 at 9 p.m., and White Tears on June 12 at 6 p.m., both at the Sherover Theater. The performances will be preceded by lectures on the themes of the works, in the Rebecca Crown foyer, one hour before the performance. For more information, call 560-5755.