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Archive for June 24th, 2011

Jerusalem Festival of Light: Tips and Advice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 24, 2011

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem Festival of Light 2011

The Festival of Light has been running for three years and looks like it will be an annual event. It features the work of Israeli and international artists, both performance art and installations. There is also a market where you can buy unusual and artistic light fixtures. Most of the exhibits are free. There is one act that you have to pay for, but I think it’s worth it.

Links to my previous postings on the Festival of Light:

Festival of Light, 2011
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Flickr photos, 2011

Festival of Light, 2010
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Flickr photos, 2010

Festival of Light, 2009 (first year)
Flickr photos, 2009
No blog postings because I didn’t have a blog in those days.

The official site of the Festival, in both English and Hebrew, is updated with the schedule and exhibits every year.


  • If you are coming by car, the only place where you will be able to find a spot is probably the Carta parking lot by the Mamilla mall. No guarantees on how long it will take you to get your car out of there, though.
  • The municipality provides free shuttle bus service from various outlying parking areas (e.g., old railway station, Ammunition Hill). I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this arrangement.
  • The shuttle bus pickup point is at the entrance to the Carta parking garage.
  • If you are coming by bus, you can get back from the old city via the #1 at the Kotel (will be crowded) or the #20 by the Carta lot. Hopefully the situation will improve if they ever get the Light Rail running (but don’t hold your breath….)
Paid Performance
  • Every year there has been a performance that you have to pay for (55 NIS or $15), except for the first year, when it was free (you don’t want to know what that was like, trying to watch an act in the dark while hanging off fences). In my opinion the performance is well worth the money. If you are religious and have a problem with female singers or costumes that reveal legs and shoulders, this won’t be appropriate for you.
  • Performances are twice a night, usually around 8:15 and 10:00 p.m. They’re held in Gan haBonim, outside the Old City, between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate
  • Tickets on the first night were sold on-site but I was told that on later nights it wasn’t possible to buy them except on-line.
  • You can buy tickets on-line from Bimot. You show your credit card at the counter and pick up your tickets.
  • Seats are not reserved and they fill up fast, so plan to show up AT LEAST a half hour before the performance, if not earlier.
  • Best seats are near the back because the Old City wall is the backdrop and it’s quite high. Also, acrobatic acts are way above the stage.
  • Very important: the performance takes about an hour, plus waiting time. It may be difficult to see the other exhibits the same night, so it is advisable to plan for a second night to walk the Old City routes.
Routes in the Old City
  • Maps of the routes are available in Hebrew and English. Look for students lit up like walking information signs. Sometimes they run out of maps near the end of the festival, so keep your map if you plan to go several nights.
  • There is so much available that you could spend three evenings there and not see everything. The street performances are particularly difficult to plan because schedules are not always posted in advance and some of the performers move around. Sometimes you just have to get lucky.
  • Expect crowds. If you don’t like crowds, start the popular trails (the ones through the Jewish Quarter and Christian Quarter are the most crowded) as soon as it gets dark, around 8 p.m.
  • Routes change from year to year but they’re getting better at crowd control (using wider streets, making some exhibits one-way). So if you were put off by crowds in the past, give it another try.
  • Wear good walking shoes.
  • Bring a light sweater or jacket because it can get cool and windy in the evening.
  • Bring water.
  • Bring snacks if you have kids.
  • The route through the Jewish Quarter has lots of steps, but you can do the upper parts (Armenian Quarter Road, Hurva square, Batei Mahsei) if you have trouble with stairs. The route is fine for strollers except for getting down to the Davidson Center and the City of David (lots of stairs).
  • The route through the Christian Quarter doesn’t have stairs (except a few on David Street, back to Jaffa Gate) but it can get very crowded around the Muristan. Fine for strollers, if you go early.
  • The route down to Damascus gate is busy but almost never crowded. However, Zedekiah’s cave is a long walk down shallow steps in dim light, so it could be difficult if you need to walk with a cane. The cave itself is not recommended if you have a stroller but the rest of the route is fine.
  • The policy for photographing the paid performance varies. In 2010 (“History of Light,” by Pyromania), visitors were asked not to photograph the performance. This year, nothing was said. The policy is probably determined by the group performing.
  • In any case, if you do photograph the paid performance, for heaven’s sake, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. It just annoys other people and doesn’t illuminate the performers. If you happen to have a flash powerful enough to illuminate the performers, it will be bright enough to distract them and could be hazardous (but  if you have enough money for a pro-quality flash gun, you probably already know how to use your DSLR in the dark).
  • If you are photographing the paid performance with a DSLR, you will have difficulty using a tripod, because the seats are set up in rows, unless you get a spot in an open area. I usually shoot at a high ISO, shutter-priority, because there is a lot of movement in dim light.
  • A lot of people bring tripods for the Old City routes. These are useful for the low-light conditions, but just remember that many exhibits won’t have enough room for you to set up a tripod and you’ll be carrying it with you for several hours. (A cheap, 120 NIS tripod will be light enough to carry around but useless if you’re in a windy area or surrounded by jostling crowds.)
  • Bring extra cards if there’s a chance you might do a lot of shooting in RAW.
  • A lot of the installations are video or move, so if you have a video camera that can deal with low-light conditions, be sure to bring it

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