Thursday, 16 July 2015

Festival of Light in Jerusalem 2015

The Jerusalem Festival of Light is a magical event. Currently in its seventh year, last month saw my third visit and each year it seems to get better and better. The festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from Israel and abroad (according to the event’s website, it drew about 250,000 visitors in previous years). The visitors wander the Old City's cobblestone streets to take in an amazing variety of modern light art installations and videos projected on ancient buildings, all created by local and international artists. The juxtaposition of the historic Old City with such breathtaking works of art is truly a sight to behold.
Every year four routes are offered, taking visitors from one art instillation to another, each clearly marked by a different coloured light. This year it seemed like practically the whole city had turned out to see the festival. Israelis young and old, of every race and religion, were there, and the routes were busy but manageable. The youngest son (my art partner in crime!) and I chose three routes and, three hours of solid walking later, we had just about seen what we wanted to see.
My absolute favourite thing was watching the sand animation at Gan Hatekumah, or the 'Garden of Redemption' near Zion Gate, above. This fascinating and exciting art was created using only sand, light, hands and imagination. The artist, Sheli Ben Nun, wove a sweet story onto the Old City walls with rare skill and beauty, and I truly could have stood and watched her all night.
The youngest son wanted to move on...
He was fascinated by the giant jellyfish, changing their colours and moving with the wind, in Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Square, and by the large pendulum set into motion in the Hurva Square. We walked along the red route, past cemeteries and numerous architectural treasures all lit up, until we reached the outside of the city walls. The bright red "Bibligoo" - a polythene igloo to replace the igloo traditionally made of ice and created as an innovative solution for the Inuit people following the thawing of the ice - was a popular photo opportunity, below.
Zadok Ben David's "Dialogue in Colour" was another favourite of mine. The shadow of two metal sculptures, huge in size and quite unique, was projected onto the Old City walls at Gan Habonim. We watched a spellbinding stage performance, "Light Trickeries" by the Pyromania Group, where dancers in programmable LED costumes performed acrobatics, all to the sound of a hypnotic musical soundtrack. Standing outside Jerusalem's Old City late at night watching such a performance was truly a feast for the eyes!
We walked on to the green route, bypassing the blue route which had proved poorer in previous years. It might have been wonderful but we were running out of time. There was just too much to see! "Your Guardian Angel", light sculptures with giant wings at Zahal Square, allowed my son to become an angel of light when he stood in front of them, whilst the green "Blooming Meadow", below, and luminous "Fish Forest" delighted us with their bursts of colour.
We passed the "Field of Light Flowers", an enchanted field that came to life by changing colour to the sound of music, towards the Damascus Gate. This gate is one of the main entrances to the Old City of Jerusalem. It is located in the wall on the city's northwest side, where the road leads out to Nablus, and from there, in times past, to the capital of Syria, Damascus. Now this is an area of Jerusalem I would not normally comfortably walk alone, let alone with a 12 year old at 11pm, but there was plenty of security and, most importantly, lots of people around. Sadly there has been an incident since then, reminding me what life in Israel is really like. However, the night of the Festival of Light saw the gate lit up in its full glory with pictures created by Israeli children expressing their personal interpretation of the concept of "gate". A gate to the future, a gate to their house, a gate to peace...
Our last stop of the night was at Zedkiah's Cave. This mysterious cave located east of the Damascus Gate goes back about 1,000 feet under the houses of the Old City, and about 2,000 years in history. Make that 2,600 years, if you include the legend that gave it its name. It is said that Zedekiah, Jerusalem’s last biblical king, attempted to flee Jerusalem to Jericho through this cave before he was captured and brought before the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. His sons were murdered in front of him and his eyes were put out (2 Kings 25:1-6).
In keeping with this tragic story, at the back of the cave is a tiny spring known as "Zedekiah’s tears." That is were you discover the cave has no exit; archaeologists tell us that in fact it was a quarry from which Herod the Great hewed stone to rebuild the Second Temple.
In 1868, the first meeting of the Freemasons in Ottoman Palestine was held by candlelight in Zedekiah’s Cave. The Freemasons regard King Solomon as the first biblical Freemason, and since the cave was also viewed as the quarry used by King Solomon in the building of the First Temple, the Freemasons have held their traditional ceremonies during the past century in the main chamber of the cave and given the cave the name "King Solomon’s Quarries."
Zedkiah's Cave was lit with a dramatic and colourful installation the night we visited. Flashing red, green and blue lights made the static pictures and objects in the cave move, above. The light effects were mesmerising and it was an exhilarating way to end the evening. It was late - very late - and we were tired, but we'd had a wonderful night. The Festival of Light had been the perfect way for me to spend an evening with my creative son, and this installation - his favourite - was the very best way to end it.


Quinn said...

What an interesting art experience! Thanks for sharing it :)

TexWisGirl said...

it looks really neat!! lovely designs and colors and variety, too!

Miss Val's Creations said...

This looks amazing. The sand animation sounds so unique. I have never seen anything like that before. The cave is wild. It looks like it would cause a headache but I bet it feels a lot different when you are in it!