The Jerusalem Light Festival has returned once again. For the next week and a half, the Old City will play host to spectacular light and sound exhibits. This is the fourth time that the city of Jerusalem has hosted this event, which last year saw almost 250,000 visitors. Even more are expected this year.
Last night a large crowd gathered by the Festival’s entrance, Jaffa Gate, more than half an hour before it opened. Many visitors clamored to take pictures of the big, colorful arbor that had been erected at the entrance to the Old City. Though it was still light out, by the time eight o’clock rolled around, the arbor created a beautiful effect on Jaffa Gate, awing the crowd.
At the entrance, visitors can choose to follow one of the three exhibit trails—blue, orange or green—that would take them to different areas of the Old City. Each of the trails has a display of light art exhibitions, which have been created by over 30 artists from ten different countries.
Each exhibit showcases different expressions of light, some incorporating sound and other effects. One exhibit, “Faces of Jerusalem” projects different faces onto a wall near the entrance to the Armenian Quarter. The project, described as “a multicultural-video-art-project” is the brainchild of Jan Ising of Germany, and the second of its kind. The different faces represent the multicultural personality of the city.
Another exhibit, “Sounds, the Visual,” is a joint project by artists from Germany, Turkey and Israel. Lines of different sizes are projected onto a wall, with different sounds playing in the background. The exhibit represents “spaces [that] can be filled with objects, color and lines instead of sound.”
Perhaps the most anticipated showcase was the sound and light show sponsored by the Orange Telecom Company. The show pairs music played by a man using harp-like strings that stretch between buildings with different moving images displayed on the walls of the Batei Machse Complex.
The Festival is a big draw for early summer tourists and is part of Mayor Nir Barkat’s plan to bring culture to the city of Jerusalem. Merle Berkovich, from Malawi, explained that she loves the light displays because “light always adds color and color always adds light.” Marilyn Hearn, a visitor from London, added that the atmosphere was “colorful and free spirited.” Another London native, Sean Carroll, who is on his first trip to Israel, described the exhibit as spectacular. “They’re doing something absolutely amazing, taking something really modern and displaying it on ancient city walls.”
Of course local Jerusalemites and Israelis were also in attendance. School groups, families, couples and teens all gushed over the different exhibits as the lights transformed the ancient city walls. Abby Liechman, from Maaleh Adumim, explained that the fact that the Festival is free and inviting for families makes it a big draw to downtown Jerusalem. She added, “the Old City at night is always considered a bit forbidden. This makes it more inviting. There is also nothing political or controversial about it.”
However, not everyone is a fan of the festival. At the “Sounds as a Visual” exhibit near the entrance to the Jewish Quarter, ultra-orthodox children stood by loudly shushing the sounds that were incorporated into the exhibit. But for the rest of the visitors, there is much to “oo” and “ah” about.
Kicking off this year’s season of culture in Jerusalem, the festival will run through June 14. It is open to visitors every night from 8 p.m. until midnight, with the exception of Friday night.