Once the winter rains end, Israel's cities come alive with festivals showcasing everything from opera and puppets to beer and kites.
You can find some sort of festival every month of the year in Israel, but May to September, when the sun shines endlessly, and the temperature hots up, is prime festival season, with special events for all ages and interests.
Taste of Tel Aviv
Every May top Israeli restaurants and wineries offer their best dishes and drinks at discount prices in Hayarkon Park for a three-day event called Ta'am Ha'ir (taste of the city). This year's event will be the 16th annual culinary fair, which attracts about 400,000 visitors every year, making it one of the largest food festivals in the world, competing easily in numbers with similar fairs held in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival, May 12-21
Docaviv, now in its 13th year, showcases contemporary Israeli and international documentaries at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other Tel Aviv venues. There are student competitions for budding cinematographers; free outdoor screenings; and workshops with filmmakers.
International Spring Festival, May 14-21
Now in its 12th year, this annual festival offers live shows from Israel and countries such as France, Poland and Brazil. Based in the Rishon-LeZion Performing Arts Center, some of the performances take place in the neighboring cities of Ashdod, Herzliya, Kiryat Haim, Modi'in and Petach-Tikva.
Jerusalem Season of Culture, May 18-July 22
An initiative of the Schusterman Foundation-Israel, this ambitious cultural project is modeled on other prominent international cultural festivals, and highlights Jerusalem's flourishing arts scene. Among the scheduled events are performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Israel Museum; evening cultural performances and celebrations at the Machane Yehuda Market; the unveiling of a commissioned work by video artist Kutiman; the Jewish Theater of Sweden's production of Different Trains; and a performance by soprano Renee Fleming with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta.
Israel Festival, May 23-June 18
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Israel Festival, which was founded in the ancient Roman theater in Caesarea and moved to Jerusalem in 1982, 50 outstanding performances in music, dance and theatre will be offered. Some of the performers are the Batsheva Dance Company, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Ahinoam Nini and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Also featured will be premieres of Israeli works and tributes to leading Israeli artists; street theater; children's shows; and a nightly jazz club.
Houses from Within, May 20-21
Just some of the 51 sites on this much-anticipated Tel Aviv tour include Haggai Yuden's Music Studio with its 150-year-old white piano; Mosaic House, formerly a private home with mosaics depicting Israeli song stars, politicians and international public figures decorating the floor, walls and ceiling; the Root Research Laboratory at Tel Aviv University's Botanical Gardens; the roof of 20 Alfassi Street, made of recycled raw materials; designer Gal Florsheim's childhood home near the Habima Theater; the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Firehouse; and the private residence of David and Paula Ben Gurion.
White Wine Festival, June 1-2
Taking place at the Herzliya Marina, this festival promotes white wine culture in Israel with Israeli and international white wine for tasting and for sale, as well as wine accessories, books, cheese, olive oil and more.
The Israeli Opera Festival, June 1-9
The Israeli Opera will be accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for Verdi's Jerusalem at Sultan's Pool and by Italy's Arena di Verona Orchestra for Verdi's Messa da Requiem at Masada; and by the Rishon LeZion Symphony Orchestra for Aida featuring Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli at Masada. Other venues will include Jerusalem's Tower of David Museum and the churches of St. Andrew's, Augusta Victoria, Lutheran (Redeemer), Dormition Abbey, Vincent de Paul and the Austrian Hospice.
Abu Ghosh Music Festival, June 7-8
This leading Israeli vocal music festival has been staged twice a year since 1992 in two churches: the 12th century Crusader-Benedictine Church in the heart of the village, and the Kiryat Ye'arim Church on a hill overlooking this mostly Arab Jerusalem suburb. This year's 10 offerings range from the Avishai Cohen String Quartet and the Tel-Aviv Chamber Choir to the Ra'anana Symphonette and the Israel Stage Orchestra. There will be classical, gypsy, mandolin and gospel music.
Jerusalem Light Festival, June 15-22
The architecture of the capital's Old City will be dramatically lit up in addition to light statues, installations, performances and museum artwork. The Light Festival brings to Israel well-known light sculptors and light designers from around the world, who exhibit their creations throughout the streets and alleys of the Old City, in major tourist sites and public spaces.
Tel Aviv LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual) Film Festival, June 11-18
This annual event at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and the Tel Aviv LGBT Community Center offers public screenings of films with no Israeli distribution, meetings with local and foreign filmmakers, panel discussions and special events. Established in 2006, the festival also encourages original Israeli work with a domestic film competition.
White Night International Festival, June 30
For the fourth year in a row, Tel Aviv restaurants will stay open all night offering special deals. Late-night theatre shows, music, art and special nighttime tours of the city are available as well. The main event will be the International Marathon for Jazz and Avant-garde Music in the Einav Culture Center above Rabin Square.
Music Festival on the Water, July-August
Every Tuesday evening in July and August at the Herzliya Marina square on the Mediterranean, the public is welcome to attend live performances by local and international artists in genres from opera, pop and jazz to romantic, Greek and other ethnic styles.
Jerusalem Film Festival, July 7-16
Between 150 and 200 films are screened yearly during this event at the Cinemateque and Sultan's Pool amphitheater, showcasing the best of international feature films, documentary films, and movies and shorts dealing with issues of Jewish identity and history, freedom and human rights. This year, in addition to existing cinematic competitions, there will be an international competition for short animation and sci-fi films and other artworks depicting Jerusalem in 2111.
Karmiel Dance Festival, July 12-14
About 5,000 dancers from Israel and abroad will take part in 120 events and performances at this 10th annual festival, which takes place in Karmiel, a central Galilee town between Acco and Safed. Activities, a bazaar and more than 250,000 anticipated visitors and guests are expected. A folk-dancing course in English is planned from July 4-15.
International Puppet Theater and Film Festival, July 21-23, 28-30
The Israel Puppet Center in Holon, Israel's "Children's City," has been hosting this festival since 1995. In addition to about 30 performances by resident and international artists, there will be conferences, exhibitions, and an opening street procession, workshops for professionals and amateurs; a conference on the therapeutic use of puppets; and exhibitions at the museum and galleries including a special “Puppetry on the Screen” display.
Israeli Wine-Tasting Festival, August 14-19
Sample wines from Israel's leading wineries in the Israel Museum's Billy Rose Art Garden, with soft jazz playing in the background. A wine glass comes with each admission ticket.
International Festival of Puppet Theater, August 14-19
At The Train Theater and other Jerusalem theatres, local and international artists showcase the best in the field of puppetry at this annual event, now in its 20th year. The program is designed mainly for children and families, but includes performances for adults as well. There will be about 30 different productions with approximately 90 shows, including talent from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Peru, the United States and the Czech Republic.
International Klezmer Festival, August 15-17 Held in Safed, the kabbalistic heart of the Galilee, the Klezmer Festival showcases 45 artists performing "Jewish soul music" - among them are Sinai Tor, Simply Tsfat, Aaron Razel, the Persian Jerusalem Orchestra and Vilna Klezmer - and also features a huge outdoor arts-and-crafts sale, tours and children's events. The music is presented on eight stages and in the ancient cobbled alleyways of the city.
Jerusalem Beer Festival, August 18-19
Celebrating its sixth year at Jerusalem's historic Old Train Station, the Jerusalem Beer Festival is a magnet for young adults eager to sample more than 100 brands from all over the world -- mainstream, boutique and local. There will be live beer production process demonstrations, food stands and nightly shows by Israel's leading bands to round out the experience.
Kite-Flying Festival, August 23
Colorful shapes waft over the Israel Museum every year after being launched from the Billy Rose Art Garden. Children and their parents can take part in kite-building workshops and meetings with professional kite-flyers.
Red Sea Jazz Festival, August 22-25 This international jazz festival at Eilat Harbor was established in 1987. There are eight to nine concerts per evening, six clinics with guest artists and nightly jam sessions. Styles range from New Orleans to Latin jazz. Every evening at 7pm, there is an open concert featuring upcoming young Israeli jazz groups. Concerts are held in three venues: the Club, featuring 1,000 seats around tables serving food and beverage; the Hall, with 2,000 regular seats; and the Arena, with 4,000 seats, some overlooking the Red Sea.
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