Israel Festival paints multiculturalism with a broad brush and high notes

Israel Festival

Following the recent 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the city is going through a renewal of multiculturalism underscoring the richness of its diversity. The Israel Festival, which celebrates this transformation through music and art, runs through June 18 at the Jerusalem Theatre and other local venues.

Through its avant-garde fusion of music, theater and dance, the festival offers an innovative, contemporary and interdisciplinary platform to widen the conversation about global cultural landscapes.

The festival’s opening event, the “Groove Party,” encapsulated this message, bringing together musical legends such as Knesiyat Hasekhel and Teapacks, both founded in the southern Israeli city of Sderot and known as pioneering bands that have significantly influenced Israeli musical identity.

The members of Teapacks are of Tunisian, Moroccan, Bulgarian, Romanian, Polish, Russian and Yemenite heritage—a diverse mix likely to be found only in Israel. Joining the lineup is the Firqat Alnoor Orchestra, made up of religious Jewish and Arab musicians, who together with Israeli-Arab singer Nasreen Qadri bring a distinctive East-West sound.

Liora Itzhak, the epitome of Israeli-Indian harmony, brought Bollywood to the stage, while A-WA and Yemen Blues rocked the hottest Yemenite sounds in the Middle East.

YouTube musician and Jerusalem native Ophir Kutiel’s Kutiman Orchestra complemented the opening act with a fusion of funk, Afrobeats, and reggae.

This year’s Israel Festival “turns its attention to the individual, personal identity, definitions and barriers,” said Eyal Sher, the festival’s director.

“The program presents art that is in search of its own expression and independence in the face of the present zeitgeist in which we live: the ever-exacerbating social and economic divide, national extremism and terror, the erosion of fundamental democratic values and artist expression, technological advancement alongside utter helplessness in the face of the forces of nature, unprecedented access to information and the ethical questions that come with it,” Sher said.

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