Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected in Jerusalem’s Old City from June 15-22 for an ambitious event bathing the ancient area in lighted artworks.

Festival to light up Jerusalem


Unusual lighting sculptures will be installed in every corner of Jerusalem’s Old City

By Avigayil Kadesh

As night falls during the week of June 15-22, the Old City of Jerusalem will be transformed into a mammoth canvas for the sights and sounds of Light Festival 2011. Last year, 250,000 people streamed to the ancient part of the modern capital to see the many light exhibits, sculptures and installations, as well as street and staged performances. At least as many are expected this year, according to Zion Turgeman, head of the event production company Ariel, which has managed the event since its inception in 2009.

Turgeman says the goal is to forge a connection in people’s minds between spectacular art and the Old City. With a budget of about $2 million footed by government and corporate sponsors, this is one of the more significant of several international festivals launched under the administration of Mayor Nir Barkat.

“We want to bring people from the whole world to show them the beautiful city, dramatically and artistically lit up,” says Turgeman.

A family affair

Geared to please all ages and interests, from 8pm to midnight the festival will showcase unique works by dozens of artists from Israel and countries including France, Portugal, the United States, Denmark, Belgium and Italy.

“The committee chooses from among 60 or 70 project idea submissions,” says Turgeman.

One of the most spectacular installations is the OVO, Belgian artist Lucia Carretero’s giant egg-shaped dome of sustainable pine, lit up with an energy-efficient LED lighting system. Visitors will enter the egg through a watery milieu, to be greeted by a fine cloud of mist crossing the contours of OVO with colorful displays of light as music provides an acoustic background for the experience.
Most of the events are free of charge, including a sophisticated light show playing off the stone walls surrounding the Old City. Four separate lighted trails will lead visitors from one site to the next throughout the different quarters of the area. Local vendors will be presenting a festively lit, lively marketplace beginning at the Damascus Gate and ending at the entrance to the Western Wall.

The festival is staged by the Jerusalem Development Authority, together with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Tourism  and the Jerusalem Municipality. Corporate sponsors include Bezeq, Mercedes, Isras-Rassco and Orian.


Among the pieces featured in the festival:

• A futuristic garden of light at the Jaffa Gate, presented by the French TILT group.
• “Bwindi Light Masks” by Italian artist Richi Ferrero at Zedekiah’s Cave. The African masks come to life amid light and an eclectic soundtrack of Mongolian guttural music and Bulgarian peasant songs.
• A reconstruction of the celebratory lighting installed on the former Jerusalem municipality building in 1937 in honor of the coronation of King George VI.
• A video mapping work at the Rothschild House, which takes the audience on a virtual train trip from city to countryside and on to the sky.
• A Miri Chase piece animating Jerusalem stone using lit objects that create illusions and new points of view.
• A sculpted light fixture designer fair at the Davidson Center, near the Western Wall plaza.
• An archeological light garden made by a collaboration of 25 designers.
• The Pyromania Group, an Israeli ensemble that combines theater, acrobatics and dance with modern lighting effects and illusions of light and darkness.
• “The Butterfly Effect,” a modern light circus fairytale at Gan Habonim, featuring 10 acrobats from the Great Y Circus who will use video projection and innovative flight systems to tell the story of two ancient cultures (tickets cost NIS 55).

Original works from artists galleries across Israel will be on sale. Shuttle buses will run on a continuous loop around the Old City ramparts to transport visitors to the various sites.