A stately pleasure-dome shining with blue, green, red, and white lights has sprung up outside Jaffa Gate, at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. Created for the week-long Jerusalem Light Festival by the Italian Luminarie de Cagna, the installation’s 63,000 bulbs are mounted on a frame that is as high as it is wide, like the Pantheon of ancient Rome.
The three festival routes wind through the Old City, each studded with innovative light displays. The orange route, which I followed last night, goes from Jaffa Gate through the Armenian Quarter to the Jewish Quarter. In the Armenian Quarter, the narrow street was festooned with plastic pipes lit with white and yellow LED bulbs, resembling a cross between pollen and jellyfish, created by the French group Pitaya.
At the eastern edge of the Armenian Quarter, above the remains of a 6th century CE Byzantine church, constantly rapidly patterns of white light appeared on the Old City walls, accompanied by music. This interesting work was the outcome of a collaboration between an Israeli artist, a Turkish musician, and a German light expert.
These are but a few of the very attractive installations in the festival, which include works by artists from Israel and eight European countries. The festival continues through June 14 and is open to the public free of charge. Now in its fourth year, it appears to be immensely popular: I saw thousands upon thousands of visitors, both locals (including Israelis and Palestinians) and tourists, thronging the Old City streets. A friend pointed out this week that Israel is awash with festivals, including the Israel Festival (mainly in Jerusalem) and the Opera at Masada festival, both under way now, and film festivals scheduled later in the summer in several cities, to name but a few. Judging by the crowds, they meet a need.
The Jerusalem Light Festival also includes two performances for which tickets are sold. I saw a light-and-sound show titled Currents, by the Israeli Mayumana (pronounced Mah-YOO-mana) Group. The show combines percussion, dance, acrobatics, original music and video (screened on the Old City walls). The story line (the contest between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla) was lost on me, but I very much enjoyed the show, which is the perfect complement to the light installations. I couldn’t help wondering, however, how the very loud percussion sounds were affecting the Old City residents.
Text and photo copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.