The Jerusalem cultural scene, which is based almost entirely indoors during the winter months, comes to full bloom in the summer and lasts through Sukkot. Though blisteringly hot during the day, Jerusalem’s summer nights are beautiful, so most of the action takes place outdoors.
For locals and tourists alike, the annual Israel Festival (israel-festival.org.il), now in its 52nd year, is one of the high points. Headquartered at the Jerusalem Theatre complex, it offers an eclectic mix of local and international performances in locations around the city. Featuring dance, drama and music — piano recitals in the picturesque village of Ein Kerem; jazz performances at Jerusalem’s once-neglected historic train station; even rock at Sultan’s Pool beneath the Old City walls — it began May 23 and concludes June 22.
The annual Jerusalem Film Festival (www.jff.org.il) offers both Israeli and foreign films, many with English subtitles. In between showings at the beautiful Jerusalem Cinematheque, which affords a stunning view of the Old City and Hinnom Valley, and other movie houses, make sure to take a stroll on nearby Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony, home to more than 30 restaurants and a dozen specialty shops. The film festival takes place July 4-13.
The Israeli Wine Tasting Festival takes place in the spacious sculpture garden of the Israel Museum (www.english.imjnet.org.il) Aug. 5-8. This is an opportunity to taste and buy excellent wine from the country’s many large and boutique wineries. The NIS 80 (about $22) admission fee includes a wine glass you can keep and unlimited tasting. Tasters will have free admission to the museum the evening of Aug. 6 until 9 p.m. Book early.
The Khutzot Hayotzer artisans’ fair (www.jerusalem.muni.il/yotzer/2013/home_eng.asp), one of the city’s most popular annual events, will take place Aug. 5-17, every evening except Shabbat, near the Old City at Sultan’s Pool and the Artist’s Colony.
This is the best place to buy handmade gifts directly from Israeli craftspeople: jewelry, toys, ceramics, clothing, leather goods and hundreds of other items. Although there is an admission fee, prices tend to be lower than what you’d pay for the same things in downtown stores. The fair also features a large international wing where artisans from around the world sell quality crafts like ceramics, tapestries and musical instruments.
There’s a wide range of kosher food for purchase, and the admission fee includes a concert, usually by a well-known Israeli performer. The fair is a great place to bring kids, who have lots of space to run around.
The Balabasta Festival (machne.co.il/en) capitalizes on the transformation of the Machane Yehuda shuk (market) from produce market to chic-but-still-utilitarian marketplace on Monday nights (Aug. 5, 12 and 19). Once completely dead after 8 p.m., it is now a wonderful venue for after-dark entertainment and dining. Expect crowds with a lot of dancing and singing, and top off the evening at one of the area’s top-notch restaurants.
The Jerusalem Sacred Music Festival (jerusalemseason.com/en), held Aug. 20-23, offers an opportunity to hear the sacred music produced and revered by several faiths at a variety of synagogues and churches. Dress modestly.