Want to wear a costume, join a parade, meditate, play the harp, listen to live Renaissance music, read a book, camp out on the beach, swim in a pool of tomatoes, see a fire juggler, belly dance and listen to opera? Then Israel has the festival for you.
From the north to the south, and in every season—most take place during Sukkot, generally in October—Israel is brimming with fairs, street parties and happenings. Here are a few of the many events that keep the country hopping.
Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival
Liturgical and choir music from the
Baroque and Renaissance periods echo through the churches and courtyards of the Arab city, in October and May.
Acco Festival of Alternative
Held in October, this is the largest of the country’s street-theater fairs, all of which combine public art and performances.
In Holon, Tel Aviv, Beersheva and other cities every March, locals stroll around in costumes and colorful parades dance down boulevards, all in honor of Purim.
A New Age festival with a religious edge,
in October, Beresheet invites hippies, JuBus and other spiritual seekers to the Kinneret to camp out, sing and talk about the Divine.
This New Age favorite, according to its organizers, is dedicated to “transcending social limitations through music, creation and connection with nature.” The festival is held during Passover on Nitzanim Beach, between Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Eilat Belly Dancing Festival
Learn to undulate from professionals—both male and female—who teach and perform for three days in January.
Festival of Sand Art
Sculptors gather on the beach in June to create fanciful scenes next to the sea.
Hebrew Book Week
The weeklong, early-summer fair dedicated to Israeli literature features poetry and book readings and other events countrywide.
International Oud Festival
A two-week extravaganza of Middle Eastern music, held in November in Jerusalem.
This 46-year-old spring festival in Jerusalem showcases international and homegrown talent in venues from ballet and acrobatics to jazz, classical and contemporary music.
Jacob’s Ladder Festival
Held in October and May on Nof Ginosar near the Kinneret, this bluegrass, folk and world-music haven may be one of the few places to see a Jew play the bagpipe.
Jerusalem International Book Fair
One of the most respected literary fairs in the world, the biennial event is generally held in February.
Red Sea Jazz Festival
Over 30 open-air concerts and jam sessions that last ’til dawn. This event, held in Eilat in August and one of many jazz festivals throughout the country, brings in international performers and crowds of over 40,000.
Tel Aviv Love Parade
With daring floats, elaborately costumed revelers and a large gay presence, the Love Parade is the only street party of its kind in the Middle East. The October event dedicated to “peace, love and tolerance” attracts about 250,000 each year.
The Holiday of Holidays
Outdoor art and public theater set the scene for Haifa’s celebration of the Hanukka-Christmas-Ramadan season.
www.hevel-shalom.org.il (in Hebrew)
Israelis love the tomato, and in October the town of Yevul in the Negev celebrates its ongoing affection with two days of cook-offs, a tomato pool and other saucy events.