CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment


Courtesy of the Jerusalem Khan Theatre



The Beit Leissin Theater in Tel Aviv is a repertory theater featuring Israeli works, as well as translated contemporary foreign plays.

The Arab Theater is a professional Arab-language theater for adults, featuring original works from Arab countries, as well as translated contemporary works.

The Beit Hagefen Theater is a professional Arab-language theater for children and youth, featuring original, contemporary plays, also from other countries.

The Khan Theater, Jerusalem’s only repertory theater, offers a mixture of contemporary and classical works in a unique hall situated in a restored, centuries-old Turkish inn.

 CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment
Photo courtesy of the Jerusalem Khan Theatre

The Gesher Theater, founded in 1991 to provide an artistic outlet for new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, first offered high-level productions in Russian. Following its success and critical acclaim, it has now entered the mainstream of Israeli theater with Hebrew plays. It has represented Israel in prestigious festivals all over the world.

The Clipa Theater was founded in 1995 by Idit Herman, dancer and director, and Dmitry Tyulpanov (Russia), actor and musician. Their company weaves the arts of theater, dance, design, and music. The group, whose works are mostly wordless, debuts two to four new works a year. Most are performed for a limited period, and some are performed only once, at a unique location.



The Children’s and Youth Theater stages plays for three different age groups at schools and cultural centers throughout the country, conducts drama and theater classes, and provides instructors for special school workshops.

The Akko Festival is a fringe theater festival, where new and experimental Israeli work is premiered. It consists of a competition of indoor performances; outdoor and street performances; and international guest performances.

The Children’s Theater Festival takes place in Haifa. It features new works for children, includes a competition and hosts international guest performances.

 CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment
Performance at the Train Theater (Photo: F. Sklar)

The Train Theater was established in Jerusalem in 1981 as a puppet theater. It offers a variety of plays from full-length performances to colorful story-telling for very small children, as well as street festivals for the whole family. The theater also produces the annual International Festival of Puppet Theater.

Training in acting, directing, and allied stage professions is available at Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Beit-Zvi School of the Performing Arts (Ramat Gan), the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem), and the Kibbutz Seminar’s School of Drama.  

 CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment
Poster, The International Festival of Puppet Theater in Jerusalem (Courtesy of Navon Art)


The concept of ‘popular’ entertainment began in pre-state Israel during the 1940s with such groups as Chizbatron, Matateh, and Batzal Yarok. However, the major impetus occurred during the 1960s with the formation of entertainment troupes attached to different military units. Among the country’s leading entertainers who began their careers during their army service are Haim Topol, Si Hyman, Miri Aloni, Dorit Reuveni, and Yardena Arazi. During this era, the Israeli comedy group Hagashash Hahiver rose to fame, going on to perform decades of what became classic Israeli sketches and eventually winning the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement in the arts.

While television and radio are the main outlets for popular entertainment, live performances by comedians, singers, musicians, bands, and groups take place regularly throughout the country.

 CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment
Israeli singer Rita (Government Press Office / A. Ben-Gershom)

Some vocalists have achieved star status, among them Arik Einstein, Shlomo Artzi, Matti Caspi, Rita, Dana International, Corinne Alall,  Hava Alberstein, Shalom Hanoch, and Yehudit Ravitz; as have some groups including Teapacks, Mashina, Atraf, Etnix, Friends of Natasha, and Beit Habubot. Certain artists  have also made a name for themselves abroad, including Dudu Fisher, the late Ofra Haza, Rami Kleinstein, Aviv Gefen, David Broza, and Noa (Ahinoam Nini). In 1998, Israeli transsexual Dana International won the Eurovision song contest and become a global star. Her song, "Diva", was since chosen the 14th greatest ever Eurovision song. She recently released her 11th album, "Hakol Zeh Letova" (All for the Good).

Grand-scale musicals in Hebrew translation, including "Les Miserables" and "The Sound of Music," have been revived to enthusiastic acclaim.

Increasingly popular among all Israelis is a Mediterranean musical genre deriving primarily from Arabic and Greek influences, as performed by singers Boaz Sha’arabi, Yehuda Poliker, Sarit Hadad, Avihu Medina, Margalit Tsa’anani, Zehava Ben, and Ofer Levy. Newer names include Eyal Golan, Amir Benayoun, and Miri Mesika.

A new generation of stand-up comics, such as Eli Yatzpan and Adi Ashkenazi, is beginning to command substantial followings.

 CULTURE: Theater and Entertainment
Bukharan ensemble (Photo: Y. Loeff)