Jerusalem Festivals

June in Jerusalem is a fun time. Schools are starting to finish up, and more and more tourists are starting to arrive. There are a number of festivals that go on this month to help mark the beginning of summertime. Annually there is the Hebrew Book Festival and the Light Festival. This year there was the additional Formula One Race Cars in Jerusalem. We didn’t make it to the Formula One festivities, but we did take advantage of the other festivals.

The Hebrew Book Festival runs for a little over a week all over the country. The one in Jerusalem was set up in Bell Park, a park not too far from us that gets its name from the replica of the Liberty Bell. Adam and I planned to go to the festival together, but he had too much work to do so I ended up going with a friend. There were tables set up in a gigantic rectangle filled with books from all the different publishers. The books were on sale, and I went with the intention of buying a few that were at my level. Given that my Hebrew is still a work in progress (I start ulpan in the middle of July!), my main focus was the tables with children’s books. My friend Sarah and I walked around first to get a sense of what was there and then we returned back to the tables that had caught our eye. I bought four books in total. Two are Eric Carle books that were translated into Hebrew: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Do You Want To Be My Friend”. One of the other books translates as “Coloring A Cloud.” It is very simple and goes through the colors, which I already know. I thought it would be nice to buy a book that I can already understand. The last book I bought was a bit more challenging. I thought it would be good for Adam since his Hebrew is much better than mine. The title translates as “A Ride for Two,” and it’s about a grandfather who is trying to take his two grandchildren on a bike ride on a bike that isn’t big enough for everyone. It is very cute, and I know that because Adam read and translated it for me when I brought it home. It turns out that it was already at his level as opposed to something he could use for growth, but that is okay. It is something I can grow into. ๐Ÿ™‚

My friend also purchased a few books, and we stayed at the fair for almost two hours. Adam surprised me by meeting me at the park as we were headed home. It was nice to be able to walk with him as well as our friend Sarah. It was a beautiful night. As we walked, we told him about the fair. The greatest part about it, besides the books, is the excitement in the air. Everyone there was excited to buy books! It was such a refreshing atmosphere. I don’t remember feeling this way very often in the United States. The only recollection I have of this overwhelming excitement for reading was when my mom used to take us to the Scholastic Book warehouse sales. We would walk around the gigantic warehouse filled with books and get a bunch since they were greatly discounted. I remember there being a lot of people, but not as many as where at the book fair here. It was kind of claustrophobic here actually; people were pushing to get the books they wanted. It was nice to see so many people into reading!

It turns out that the book fair is part of a larger book celebration known as Hebrew Book Month. While the fair only lasted for a little over a week, all book stores and any other stores that sell books have them marked down in honor of the month. While I enjoyed going to the fair itself, next year I may stick to the stores instead. I’m not so good with being surrounded by so many people. It was nice to have experienced the fair, but once is enough for me.

Two days after I went to the book festival, Adam and I, along with two of our friends, went to the Jerusalem Festival of Light. The festival takes place in the Old City, where there are three different illuminated routes along which there is art, light shows, and other displays that utilize the buildings throughout the Old City to project works of art that are light based. There are also illuminated objects throughout the city. We met our friends at the Jaffa Gate and then began our tour of the festival. At the gate there were gigantic fish up in the sky. They were exquisite! It was a really cool way to begin the festival.

After getting maps, we decided to follow the white path. To tell you which way to go, there is a string of light (either blue, white, or green) to represent the path you are on. We walked by large flowers and under stars. The first “artsy” exhibit we came to was projected on the wall of one of the buildings. It utilized conical shapes that we learned from the map are Vietnamese conical hats to images that changed with music. It was very interesting to see. Even though it was a bit crowded, we were able to stop and watch for a bit. When it was over we continued onward to the gigantic Ballerina that was designed just like the one in the music boxes we used to have as kids.

While we walked, we talked. It was a really relaxing atmosphere and a beautiful night. Our friend who had lived in the Old City years ago took us a bit off the path to a central courtyard. Here, there was a light show projected onto the building of a school. According to our friend, the artist who works on this show has to utilize the building’s structure as part of their design. This year’s show was titled “Garden of Dreams,” and it highlighted the artistic talents of young students. It was really well done! After we watched this show, we continued onward. In front of the synagogue in the Jewish quarter near the Kotel, there was a pyramid of plastic bottles brightly lit up. There also were a number of vendors set up selling their artistic light fixtures. Some of them were absolutely amazing!

After we left this area, we found ourselves on the blue path. We watched a laser type show that was on a cylindrical screen which showed the evolution of a snail, and then we found a sand artist who was telling stories in sand that was projected onto a wall of a building overhead. We watched her use the sand to tell the story of King David and Batsheva. It was amazing how the images appeared in the sand, and then how she transitioned into the next scene using what was originally drawn. As we prepared to go, the artist began a new session, and we stopped to watch to see if it would be the same story or a different one. The image that she began to form was of the Old City. In the lower corner, she added a bride and groom. Then she made a scroll across the image. She slowly added words, which we stared at trying to translate. The whole area broke out into applause as we realized that it was a marriage proposal! We turned and saw a guy present a ring to his girlfriend. Everyone was laughing and cheering. It was such a beautiful moment!

We walked a tiny bit further, but it was getting late so we decided it was time to head back. We said goodbye to one of our friends who lives in Nachlaot, and then walked back home along the railway path. It was a peaceful night, and it was really great to chat with our friend as we walked. When we got home, we were both exhilarated from the experience of the festival. There is nothing more enjoyable than experiencing something new with good friends!

Until next time…

We only have pictures from the light festival…hope you enjoy them!

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