Discovering arts on the streets of Israel is easy if you know where to look.
Leaving the Western Wall Tunnel, we heard a parade of people, tambourines, guitars and singing voices chiming in together. “Is this a parade for Hanukkah?” We asked our guide. We moved closer to the joyous music to find out it was one family, carrying a little boy on their shoulders, celebrating his bar mitzvah in the street.
I’ll be the first to admit, when I thought of travelling to Israel, music and art were NOT the first ideas that popped into my head. Religion, conflict, ancient history, desert – these words came easily to my mind. But I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised that in fact, Israel is a land of constant singing and artistic expression, if you only go to see it.
Welcoming the Shabbat
Every Friday by the sea in Tel Aviv, hundreds of people crowd the port to join in this festival and welcome the weekend joyously with songs. While a Jewish tradition, this celebration is open to all faiths (because honestly, try and find someone who does not rejoice at the coming of the weekend). It’s a time to celebrate with friends, sing, dance and welcome the Sabbath. After a full day of wandering the ancient streets of Jaffa and sampling spices in the market place along the port, we had the privilege of joining this group.
The performers sang songs in a mix of both Hebrew and English. Pamphlets with the lyrics and translations encouraging everyone to sing along. We finished with a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” in both Hebrew and English.
Spice Market by Day… Pop-up Concert by Night
Our first afternoon in Jerusalem, we spent wandering the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market (or ‘The Shuk’). Everything from fruits, meats, vegetables, tahini, halva, and baklava was for sale. Even in the cooler December air, the smell of cardamom, aniseed and cayenne pepper was intoxicating! But after hours, this market, which is humming with bartering shoppers by day, is transformed into a local live jazz hub. Many stands transform their halva and tahini kiosks with local live music. The crates are rolled away to give room for chairs, espresso bars, and of course, space for dancing! There’s no better way to see the multifaceted culture of Jerusalem than to experience the live music scene once the sun goes down!
Art on the Streets
One of my favorite ways to discover the artist’s community in a city I visit is to pay attention to the street art and Israel made it clear to me that it is a culture of artistic expression. Everywhere we turned there was a clear showing of this country’s vibrant artistic culture!
Israel is a country with a vast array of artistic gifts. Once you land, you soon see past the mainstream media news stories, you will see just how much music, art, creativity and freedom of expression are core values in this fascinating area of the world. A few weeks later and I’m still humming along in my head.