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Jerusalem art: it's eeeeeeeeevil

by michael May 09 2014
ArtBridge of StringsCity planning

Hey, remember that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" Lemallah (population: one dedicated hombre) that, well, according to itself, stopped the construction of a philanthropist-funded aesthetics-defying eyesore of a public sculpture over Zion Square downtown?

Of course you do.

Well, it turns out that in the wake of that stunning victory against the forces that may or may not be, that "concerned Jerusalem citizens' group" has kept up the fight for a purer, better Jerusalem the only way it (he) knows how: by continuing to hit the pipe really, really hard.

You see, Lemallah-guy, intoxicated with power and powder, has determined that many of the public art installations across the city are the sinister works of Jew-hating Freemasons with a secret and evil agenda.

No, really, everyone in the city government is a Freemason (possibly also an Illuminatus, with a smattering of Knights Templar):

The best is the abstract sculpture deemed "an anal cavity for your child to play in." Clearly he has it confused with the Rav Chen "movie theater." Other amusing conclusions call out Zion Square's hidden Satanic design and the uncircumcised phallus-head of the horse in Horse Park (actually, he sort of has a glans point about that).

Click here to read more and see our photo illustrations of Lemallah's arguments.

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The top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem

by michael February 12 2013
Best of JerusalemArtMusicThings to do
Uganda in Jerusalem
You'd never recognize Weird Al since the haircut

Much is made of the youth exodus plaguing Jerusalem, a cascade of bright young people squeezed out every year by skyrocketing rents, poor municipal management and sometime intolerance by more conservative sectors of the population, but were a Jerusalem visitor to situate themselves in the slice of downtown between the HaNeviim Street and Hillel Street, they would find a youth culture more culturally vibrant, artistically engaged and politically aware than any in a city three times the size of Jerusalem. What Jerusalem's underground community lacks in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm and the sort of civic pride peculiar to groups who buck the dominant culture. The pierced, tattooed Anarchist Against the Wall radical, the heretically-inclined but still devoutly faithful ultra-Orthodox Jew, the Russian-born lady electro DJ and the Palestinian drag queen may not fit the stereotype of a Jerusalem resident, but the city is theirs too - and they would be the first to tell you so.

So where can you meet the ambassadors of the Other Jerusalem? Let Jerusalemite show you the way with our list of the top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem.

ugandathumb.jpgUganda
The British government once floated the idea of establishing the Jewish state in Uganda rather than politically volatile Ottoman Palestine. It came to naught, but a century or so later Uganda established itself in the Jewish state...or at least a hip cafe/bar/record store/comics shop called Uganda did. Located on a downtown side street near the fortress-like headquarters of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the shuttered Russian Compound, Uganda is ground zero for Jerusalem's young, secular and radical crowd, a cozy space where disaffected local youth and earnest foreign activists alike can gather to discuss art and politics, flip through local zines and comics, sample and purchase the latest in European underground electronica and hear Jerusalem's best indie DJs, all while nursing a bottle of Taybeh (the Palestinian beer). Performances by both DJs and bands take place almost nightly, although you'll have to make your entertainment choices carefully, because come nightfall the urban secular demographic is split by...

siradj.jpgSira
...Jerusalem's other underground watering hole and incubator for local avant-garde and independent talent. Sira is the successor to D1, AKA Diwan, a bar in the same extremely dark, somewhat grotty and most decidedly seedy nook off of Ben Sira Street. D1 in its heyday served as the de facto headquarters of young Jerusalemites dissatisfied with the status quo, whether Jewish, Arab or otherwise, and huge crowds gathered nightly to share pints, shots of whiskey and not-so-well-concealed hashish joints while dancing to (or aloofly appreciating) local bands and DJs - some of whom (like Hadag Nachash's Shaanan Street, former D1 bartender) went on to big things. Sira continues that noble tradition to the letter. From punk to reggae to electronica to hip-hop, local talent lights up the tiny floor every night, and you never know if the guy rapping might turn out to be the next Rebel Sun (another Sira success). Hunting down the performance schedule might take some work, though: Sira is so thoroughly underground that their schedule is distributed solely in postcard form. But the club will have to scramble a little harder for fresh DJ talent due to...

bassscene.jpgBass
...the newest arrival on the underground local music scene, a nightclub devoted to the cult of the DJ. Affiliated with heavy-hitting local turntablists like Pacotek, DJ Dina, Markey Funk and Walter Einstein Frog, Bass, as its name might imply, throbs nightly with the sub-tonal thumps of electro, house, breakbeats, electronica, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae and other things that go bump in the night. A weekly dancehall and roots reggae show is a godsend (Jahsend?) for lovers of reggae in Zion, and Bass is your best bet for catching big-name local and foreign DJs spinning their booty-shaking (or hyper-minimalist) best.

 

hataklit.jpgHaTaklit
Things are a little less aggressively trendy over at HaTaklit ("The Record"), a tribute to the beloved vinyl record in bar/performance space form. While nostalgia for the record may not be entirely justified, seeing as the performers and clientele of places like HaTaklit have kept the medium alive and spinning, any excuse to open a bar with plenty of beer on tap, English footie on the TV screens, record sleeves on the walls and independent performers from at home and abroad on the stage is good enough. And best of all, HaTaklit is a labor of love, founded by three local boys working in various sectors of the music industry who wanted a place where they could show off their collections and hire all their friends and favorite bands. Awwwww.

beitavichai.jpgChet-7
The Beit Avi Chai organization, a private foundation dedicated to fostering Jewish culture in Israel, may have a bit too much money for true indie cred, but they don't screw around when it comes to their underground music venue, Chet-7: the only underground space in Jerusalem that is literally underground (in Beit Avi Chai's parking garage, to be precise). Chet-7 scored big by getting Yerushalmi golden boy Shaanan Street of Hadag Nachash to serve as consulting curator, helping to choose promising artists (both up-and-coming and well-established) and organize shows. Chet-7 is most notable for its Saturday night concerts, affordable and intimate performances by some of Israeli music's biggest non-pop names aimed solely at the hometown crowd.

Lots of underground artists also appear at the Yellow Submarine, but as a Municipality-funded affair, its cred is suspect - even if its music, which encompasses otherwise overlooked underground musical forms like jazz, is excellent. And of course, no mention of underground venues would be complete without the late, lamented Daila, a one-time Shlomtzion landmark that served as salon, gallery and cafe for Jerusalem's proud radicals, artists, poets and weirdoes. Jerusalemite pours out this Taybeh in its memory. 

Photo of accordion antics and thumbnail photo of musicians at Uganda courtesy of ak-duck; photo of a DJ rocking Sira courtesy of dovi under a Creative Commons license; Bass photo courtesy of Bass; photo of Beit Avi Chai by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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A conversation with Bracha Din, jeweler

by simone January 01 2010
InterviewArtHolidaysReligionShopping

Bracha and her bling

Bracha Din first visited Israel in 1968, and she came by ship. A true child of the '60s, Bracha traveled the country, spending the requisite time on an authentic kibbutz, before ferrying off to Athens, the first stop on an extended European tour which took her to 22 countries in three years.

Back in the United States, Din tried out college but left after a semester to hitch-hike across Canada and the western United States. This journey eventually brought her to San Francisco, where she met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and joined up with his House of Love and Prayer. It was in San Francisco that Bracha first began taking the steps toward observant Judaism - "I danced my way into Judaism," she likes to say – a path that eventually took her to Brooklyn, where she married and raised a family.

Bracha and her husband attempted to make aliyah as a couple, but they returned to America after a year. It was not until 1995, her children grown and her husband passed on, that Bracha returned for good to the city that had "always been like a magnet, pulling me in." She settled in Jerusalem's Old City and soon began her unique work with stones and prayer. Jerusalemite caught up with her in the calm before the Chanukah rush when Brachaleh (as the business is called) will be displaying her wares in her Jewish Quarter home.

If you walk the right streets, Jerusalem seems to be a city full of jewelers. How would you describe the scene here, and how would you describe your niche within it? There are a lot of jewelers here. I think that what draws people to my work is the subliminal message contained within it. People who have that sort of sensitivity are drawn to my work. All my jewelry is created with prayer. My world is also a pastel world, though I have recently introduced [bolder] colors. My focus is pastel stones and ethereal-looking jewelry.

A necklace and a prayerI've always been interested in stones and how a person can access their power, and when I came to Israel, I was happy to learn that there are Torah sources which relate to the power of certain stones – stones that have the power or qualities to bestow inner peace, love, etc. My middle name is Tzirel, which I'm told means jewelry in Yiddish, and the Talmud says that a person's name hints at what they should be doing with their life.

I've been blessed with good taste in choosing the right stones for my jewelry and the right designs, many of which are inspired by my meditations and prayers. I never actually studied art or jewelry making.

Your jewelry is specially designed to match the energies of the person it was made for. How do you translate the spiritual into the material? How does this creative process work? I sometimes design my jewelry with a specific person in mind – I concentrate on specific issues that person is facing and pray for them while I design the piece - and sometimes I just put certain energies into my jewelry and people find the piece that matches them. The rabbis say that an hour of prayer....(For more questions and answers with jeweler Bracha Din, click here).

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People from the fringes on display

by ben May 03 2009
PhotographyArtThings to doThis week in Jerusalem

all-of-israel-jlmite-0405.jpg

Also known as the Musrara school, The Naggar School of Photography is beloved among Jerusalemites for its edgy cultural endeavors. The school's social issues-themed exhibition room is currently hosting All of Israel Are Friends, an appropriately provocative collection of photographs from 13 different artists, as curated by Daphna Ichilov, showing through June 26.

The exhibit opened back in February to much fanafare, which included experimental interactive elements for its first visitors. Check it out here:

The exhibit's moniker is a reference to the Hebrew name of France's Alliance Israélite Universelle, a Zionist organization founded in 1860, at a time when the Jews of Europe felst ike they were on the fringes of society and needed to band together. In contemporary Israel, we take it for granted that most Jews are not outsiders, although the images from this exhibit - which depict residents of development towns in the Negev, prostotutes, the handicapped and the elderly - make the argument that as a nation, we could use a bit more unity.

With Nir Barkat serving as Jerusalem's mayor, the city's many alternative arts institutions have been scheming for ways that they can band together and gain strength in the times of a culturally friendly administration - but, of course, such efforts should never be at the expense of the alternative arts cridibility that these organizations cling to so dearly. In this context, a walk through All of Israel Are Friends is all the more poignant: We're reminded that we ought to treat "the other" with kindness because we are all outsiders, and the reminder itself is being issued by an insitution that remains relevant by positioning itself as "the other."

Still more fringe art is showing this week with the Yellow Sumarine's show by New Yorker Ben Simon. Not interested in edgy visual statements? Prefer live jazz? Perhaps a community sing-along? Or a multimedia extravaganza? You won't be bored this week - check out our team's full cultural event calendar for Jerusalem, which is constantly being updated, over at our sister website, Jerusalem.com.

Detail from Micha Kirshner's portrait of a foreign agricultural worker courtesy of The Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music.

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A conversation with Arik Kilemnik, print-master

by simone November 23 2008
InterviewArtThings to do

Arik Killemnik in his office

Founder and director of the Jerusalem Print Workshop-Djanogly Graphic Arts Center, Arik Kilemnik was first introduced to the world of ink and paper as a student at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in the early 1950s. Kilemnik's passion brought him to New York City in the heady 1960s, where he studied at the Pratt Institute's Graphic Design Center and the Art Students League. Upon his return to Jerusalem, Kilemnik helped found the Jerusalem Print Workshop, which was officially established in 1974. The Workshop, which Kilemnik modeled after programs he had seen in New York, was designed as place for artists to gather to work in mediums such as etching, lithography and the like. On a recent rainy afternoon, Kilemnik took time to speak with Jerusalemite in the Workshop's main office, where magazines, prints and art books spill off the shelf-lined walls and numerous computers, copy machines and (gasp!) modern desktop printers compete for space.

Thanks to institutions like yours, the Naggar School, the Museum of the Seam, and activities like the Black Panther Tours, Musrara (and the area between Road One and the Russian Compound in general), has emerged as a kind of alternative arts hotbed, despite - or perhaps because of - its rocky history, its eclectic mix of populaces and the strange pocket it inhabits on the map. What are your feelings on the neighborhood, the place it holds in Jerusalem culture as a whole, and the direction it's going?

First off, I want to say that we're not interested in politics, we're an art institution. We believe in art for everyone; we invite artists to work here in the The Galleryworkshop regardless of their race, religion, etc. We didn't come to this neighborhood for political reasons. In fact, I don't think any of the institutions you mentioned specifically wanted to be in Musrara, it's just where we found the space.

Today, it's hard to find space in this neighborhood, but when we first moved here in the 1970s, this neighborhood was the end of the world – on one side you had the ultra-Orthodox, and on the other you had the Arabs. There were also pockets of Christians and secular Jews competing for space, and we really felt that we were holding the city together - that if we pulled out, there would be a war [between these various factions].

Musrara is a difficult neighborhood, especially where we are, right next to the ultra-Orthodox. It's hard to promote culture here. Right now the neighborhood is home to the Naggar School and gallery, a community center [that hosts artistic events] and the Museum on the Seam, but it's hard to say what the neighborhood will be like in the future.

We often meet with the other arts institutions here to try to come up with solutions for the future, for maintaining the neighborhood's cultural standing, but in this neighborhood we're working against the tide. It would be much easier for us to be in a neighborhood like the German Colony, a neighborhood where the arts are more appreciated, but what can you do? We're trying to make things happen here.

I do want to make it clear, though, that it's not because of the people who live in and around Musrara that things are difficult. I believe in pluralism, and that includes religion and religous people. The problem is not the people but the municipality. If the city wanted, they could make Musrara a cultural center, but they don't care.

I understand the Workshop is currently in the midst of renovations. What type of activities do you hope to host once your renovations are complete - activities that you don't have the space to host now? How did you know we were in the midst of renovating? We actually just acquired the bottom floor of the building....(for more questions with Arik Kilemnik of the Jerusalem Print Workshop please click here).

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This week in Jerusalem

by michael November 20 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsThings to do

Saxarama

Maybe they add up to one Coltrane

November is a good time to be a Jerusalemite. While much of the rest of the world twists futilely in the grip of inexorable winter, we're enjoying sunny, room-temperature days and nights just the perfect temperature for a having a warm drink at the café while wearing your favorite sweater. In another month, of course, it's going to be a different, much wetter story, so get out there now to enjoy the best of this week in Jerusalem:

  • Are you old enough to fondly remember blue-and-white tin JNF pushkes and first hearing the strange sounds of non-Ashkenazi Hebrew? Man, has the Jerusalem Theatre got a nostalgic sing-along for you.
  • Friday is, as it always should be, all about the ladies. First, check out the opening of an exhibition devoted to up-and-coming distaff Israel painters at Barbur.
  • Eat your hearts out, Cannonball and Coltrane: a whole jazz saxophone quartet (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone) is playing on Saturday outside the city at Latrun.
  • Jerusalemites are essentially split into two camps: people who enjoy the oeuvre of Shlomo Carlebach, and people who hate those people with a white-hot passion. If you fall into the former group, there are multiple performances on Saturday night in honor of the controversial singer/rabbi's recent yahrtzeit.
  • Federico Lorca may be dead and gone, but you can still enjoy his provocatively titled play Blood Wedding Sunday evening at the Nissan Nativ Studio in Talpiot.
  • Jerusalem rock outfit Malachei is covering Jimi Hendrix Monday night at Stardust, always a dicey proposition. If things go well, though, this is a rare chance to see some guitar heroics in the Holy City.
  • Black theater meets a timely rip-off of Finding Nemo Wednesday at the Jerusalem Theatre with Caspion, a kid's play about a little fish that could.
  • As if handicrafts weren't folksy enough, Reshimu is combining them with granola Judaism and girl power with their weekly Wedneday workshops.

And there's more. There's always more. Check out the listings for the whole week, and please have some fun out there.

Image courtesy of Otzar Tarbut.

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Cooperation? In Jerusalem? It must be...

by josh November 18 2008
ArtFilmMusicNewsPhotographyPop culture
Agripas 12
I once drew a picture this big

Yes, it's the artists. In fact, Jerusalem does not want for lack of institutions that cater toward artists. Ever since Boris Schatz started sculpting old ladies and founded the Bezalel School of Art and Design, the city has been rife with galleries, academies, musicians, poets and starving artistes all dedicated to "the scene." Now, a new project is being formulated to turn that scene into more of a community of artistic minded Jerusalemites. Ruach Chadasha, a student rights organization founded by next mayor Nir Barkat, recently gathered together movers and shakers of the Jerusalem arts movement to lay the groundwork for the communities.

The meeting took place at Agripas 12, a gallery well known for fostering cooperation between the various artistic institutions in the city. Among the cognoscenti there were Avi Sabag of the Musrara school and members of the Zik, Koresh and Hagagit groups. Maya Felixbrodt, director of young artists for Ruach Chadasha said she had been approached by many others about working with them to create the community, which is meant to made up of those already out of school who want to remain in Jerusalem. "We mean to give them some framework to go and create together and to give to Jerusalem as artists," she said. The community is meant to be something completely open to the participants' choosing, meaning they or may not live together and create together and eat together and work together. Basically, it may be about as communal as a privatized "kibbutz."

Though Thursday night brought cold and rain over 20 interested artists crwoded into the gallery to hear what would be going on and get in on the ground floor. Felixbrodt said she wasn't sure what Barkat's victory would mean for the project, but hoped it would translate into more support from city hall, though she said the project would go ahead no matter what happens.

Of course, this effort is far from being the first to try and bring artists together to create in Jerusalem. Chutzot Hayotzer (the artists colony right outside the old city, not the related festival) touts itself as being one such place, though its fine arts showcases have more of a commercial tilt. The Jerusalem Artists House also brings artists together under one roof, though it is more a gallery than a community effort. Plus nobody even lives in the house. In September, Jerusalem was the home to Lift-Off, the first, possibly annual, installment of an event that sought to bring together over 100 artists to display their work in a number of venues throughout the city. And there's always artsy tchochkes and expensive Judaica available at Ben Yehuda and the Cardo. In short, art did not leave Jerusalem with the original Bezalel.

If you're interested in joining the movement, you can contact Ruach Chadasha. Or if war-torn, biblical tinged, or scary Tim Burtonesque art isn’t your cup of tea, you can always book it for one of the thousands of artists communities already up and running all over this big ol' artsy world.

Photo of the artsy summit courtesy of Ruach Chadasha.
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This week in Jerusalem

by michael November 13 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsMusicThings to do
Machane Yehuda produce
Unlock the culinary secrets of Machane Yehuda this week in Jerusalem

It's the first week of a new Jerusalem. Or at least a different Jerusalem. Well, provided outgoing mayor Lupolianski doesn't cap off his useless term by seizing total control of the city and devoting 100% of the municipal budget to his twin initiatives of delaying the light rail and making his beard wispier. Hey, you can't rule anything out. But assuming the transfer of power goes well, this is a good week to make a toast to the fading reign of Mr. Lupolianski, and as always, Jerusalemite has plenty ideas of how to go about it:

  • Jerusalem has some of the world's greatest food. Learn about (and sample) the many foods Jerusalemites love, including the offalicious meorav yerushalmi, as you follow Beit Shmuel through Machane Yehuda today.
  • And tonight is your chanceto catch some rare English-language Jerusalem theater with After Eden at the Merkaz.
  • Is there any better place to see a 18-piece choral ensemble specializing in Jewish and Israeli music than at the the Tower of David? Dunno. Ask the Jerusalem Cameri Choir tomorrow.
  • Jerusalem is an orthodox city no matter what religion you follow, but if you happen to be a Conservative Jew, don't feel alone and uneducated: English-language Conservative Torah study starts up tomorrow.
  • This Saturday tour is not optional, even if you observe Shabbat, keep kosher or don't speak Hebrew. Beit Shmuel is taking a group of gourmands to the hummus restaurants of east Jerusalem and the Old City, and all that wonderful, historic hummus is worth the eternal punishment for any transgression.
  • Everybody in Israel loves rock ensemble Beit Habubot (except those guys who think music is a sin). Hop on the bandwagon Saturday night at the Yellow Submarine.
  • As if Jews and Arabs don't got enough beef, in The Return to Haifa, a Jewish family and an Arab family tussle over an adopted child in the post-War of Independence era. Catch it Sunday at the Jerusalem Theatre.
  • Sunday is also your last chance to catch Shakespeare's Henry V in English at the Ma'abada.
  • Don't you wish your children cared at all about music that didn't sound like the pitiful dying screech of the last of an endangered species? Try to introduce them to some classical music with Speak to Me in Sound at the Jerusalem Theatre on Tuesday.
  • How can Jerusalem sustain multiple Dixieland bands? Gain some insight, maybe, by seeing the New Orleans Function Tuesday at the Yellow Sub.
  • How's your Jewish identity lately? If you don't know the answer, consider attending the first in a series of English lectures on the subject at the Shalom Hartman Institute on Wednesday.
And remember, you can always check the whole week's listings in our Events section. Have a good week in this new Jerusalem.

Image courtesy of Beit Shmuel.
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In fair Jerusalem, where we lay our scene

by michael November 05 2008
Things to doArt
William Shakespeare
This man did not speak a lick of Hebrew

O Jerusalem, fair city of gold,
That by th' east-borne sun is granted luster,
Thy streets a dusty wonder to behold,
Where men and zephyrs both alike do bluster,
A surfeit of chickpeas thou mayst call thine,
And red kubbeh soup that brims with Swiss chard,
Yet thou givest cause to thy glory malign
In failing to grant due props to the Bard.
Like vanquished foes thou constrainest his verse
Within rough-hewn shackles (thy desert tongue);
To render Hamlet in Hebrew, zounds, perverse!
'Tis better to leave tuneless songs unsung.
  But if desire thy heart true English rhyme,
  Don't worry, we've got Shakespeare Yerushalayim.

Er...no, really, as English speakers, we're all lucky to be able to appreciate Shakespeare in his original tongue, and fortunately, Jerusalem is now home to a Shakespeare-themed English-language theater group, Shakespeare Jerusalem. Founded and organized by Anglo immigrants with extensive theatrical experience both in Israel and abroad, the group aims to strengthen Jerusalem culture by exposing Israelis to the beauty of Shakespeare's plays in their original language, employing both native- and foreign-born actors. 

Shakespeare Jerusalem's debut production, the swashbuckling Hundred Years' War drama Henry V, will be running at the Ma'abada throughout November (there will be six performances on four separate days). Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear, "Once more unto the breach!" shouted in an Israeli accent.

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Dancing in the Emek

by michael October 24 2008
Things to doArtFoodFor the kidsMusicShopping
Emek Refaim
Ain't no party like an Emek party, cuz an Emek party don't charge admission.

One day in the not-too-distant future, the anti-gravitational effects of a thousand constantly puffing cappuccino steamers and ten thousand constantly lightening wallets will lift Emek Refaim completely above the more pedestrian streets of Jerusalem, whereupon those lucky enough to be carried heavenward with the street of the gods will shower the less fortunate with great torrents of upscale kosher dairy bistro fare. But hopefully that won't happen before you can hit the annual Emek Refaim Street Fair on Tuesday.

What's the Emek Refaim Street Fair about? Well, uh, imagine Chutzot HaYotzer...good...and then imagine it smaller in scale and taking place on Emek Refaim. The Emek, as nobody should ever call it, will be lined with dozens of local artists displaying and selling their pieces, including paintings, pottery and glass works, with avant-garde assists by the Hagigit collective, who will be taking photographs of the merriment around them, futzing with them on computers and then displaying them on a giant screen. Meta.

Then there are, of course, the bands: homegrown Balkan-booty-stomping brass band Marsh Dondurma and that band they get for every festival in the city, Ethnika, as well as some lesser names. Oh yeah, and fire dancers.

And if all that art and photo-twiddling and Balkan brass and fire-twirling makes you want to get a burn on, stop at one of several wine stalls for a glass or four of the red (or white, or...pink) stuff. Sop that up by stopping in any one of the many, many, many restaurants lining the street, all of which are running festival-only discounts. It's the cheapest mountainous Mediterranean salad money can buy!

Festivities last from 17:00 until the decadent hour of 23:00, and entrance is blissfully free.

Photo courtesy of the Merkaz Tarbut HaAmim.

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