From the Red Sea Jazz Festival in February to the Hula Valley International Bird Festival in November, there’s something for everyone.
Photo1 Caption: An installation at Jaffa Gate lights up the Jerusalem night, as part of the Jerusalem Light Festival.
No matter when you visit Israel, you can be sure there will be festivals and other special events on tap somewhere in the country.
ISRAEL21c has chosen 30 events from February through November (December warrants a separate listing), to feature in our ultimate guide to 2015 in Israel. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a glimpse into the festive future. If you’ve got other favorite events please add them to our comments below.
Dates are subject to change, so do confirm ahead of time. And because many happenings are announced only weeks or days beforehand, check tourism websites shortly beforehand for the most updated information.
1. Shokoland, Feb. 12-14, Old Railway Station, Tel Aviv
Representatives from boutique chocolate shops will be on hand to sell their unique tastes. Israeli ice-cream makers will whip up different chocolate flavors. Chocolate beer, chocolate sculptures, and chocolate fondue sets will also be plentiful. And there will be workshops on how to roll the perfect praline or truffle.
2. The Red Sea Jazz Festival, Feb. 19-21
The fifth annual winter edition of the annual international Red Sea Jazz Festival at the Eilat port will feature 19 musical performances, a jam session and four master classes. Among the artists participating are Israeli singer-songwriter-guitarist Tamar Eisenman, the Enrico Rava Quintet from Italy and Indonesian child prodigy pianist Joey Alexander.
3. Tel Aviv Samsung Marathon, Feb. 27
This multi-course event also is a yearly citywide celebration designed for professional long-distance runners as well as beginners. Watch along the seashore and main streets of Tel Aviv as runners compete in the full marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, and a Kids Mini Marathon as well as a 42K hand-cycle race for people with special needs. Some 40,000 people are expected to participate, making the Tel Aviv Marathon the most popular running event in Israel.
4. Sounds of the Old City, March 9-12
Musical bands and ensembles will perform authentic music on central stages and in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Armenian and Christian), each matched to the character of the quarter. Visitors will follow a circular route from the Jaffa Gate. Free entrance; 7-11pm.
5. Fifth annual Jerusalem Winner Marathon, March 13
Several different tracks are available to runners and hand-cyclers, from full marathon (42.2K) to 800 meters. Some 2,500 participants are expected from all over the world. The full route takes runners past the city’s most prominent historical sites.
6. Eilat Birds Festival, March 15-22
Organized by the Israel Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Eilat Birds Festival brings together birders from the world over during the peak of spring migration in southern Israel. Special packages are available at the Isrotel Agamim Hotel, which hosts the event now in its ninth year.
7. International Clown Festival, Netanya, March 18-20
Clowns from Israel and other countries will offer performances and workshops, some for free.
8. Festival of Wine & Plenty, Zichron Yaacov, March 25-26
In the picturesque Ramat Hanadiv gardens, local wineries and producers of cheese, olive oil, jams and baked confections will offer tastings, workshops and cooking demonstrations.
9. Ahava Dead Sea Festival, April 5-8
For the 19th year, the Dead Sea will be the setting for a rock music festival that many Israelis and tourists anticipate all year long. In addition to performances by Israel’s top artists, guests may take advantage of guided tours in the area. If you’re more into the indie alternative music scene, head to Ashdod during this same time period during Passover to catch the famous Boombamela Festival.
10. 18th annual Stone in the Galilee sculpting symposium, Maalot-Tarshiha, April 5-8
Fourteen of Israel’s most prominent sculptors are invited to create art for public spaces during this open-to-the-public event in the north, allowing spectators to watch the process from start to finish. There’ll be indoor exhibitions and dialogues as well.
11. Independence Day, April 22-23
From the night of April 22 through the night of April 23, Israelis will be celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) with cookouts, shows, fireworks displays and other celebrations. If you’re in Tel Aviv, check out the giant fireworks display over Rabin Square and the Israel Air Force flyover above the shore.
12. Jacob’s Ladder Festival, May 14-16 and Dec. 4-5
Known as “Israel’s friendliest musical and social event,” this twice-yearly bluegrass, folk, country, blues, Irish and world music extravaganza has been taking place since 1976 on the grounds of Nof Ginosar Hotel on Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
13. Open House Tel Aviv, May 14-16
One weekend a year, Tel Aviv opens up private spaces – designer lofts, urban villas, unique synagogues, architecturally significant public buildings, curious construction sites, plazas and gardens – to the public to explore. Check the website in April for the complete schedule.
14. Israel Festival, May 1-31
The Israel Festival offers professional performances by Israeli and international artists in Jerusalem’s distinctive venues. This 53rd year puts a spotlight on local talent appearing at the Sultan’s Pool, First Station, Israel Museum, Jerusalem Theater, International Convention Center, Hartman Institute, Gerard Behar Center, YMCA and the Ein Karem neighborhood.
15. Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, May
Held at the Cinemateque, Tel Aviv’s long-established annual festival draws international performers and audiences as well as Israeli musicians. The festival emphasizes a particular style or country in each year, but always covers the spectrum of jazz from traditional to modern, newcomers to veterans, and encompasses jazz-influenced world music and other genres.
16. Fifth annual Jerusalem Light Festival, June 3-11
Dozens of light installations, displays, shows and sales of one-of-a-kind lighting products will be featured throughout the Old City from 8-11pm each night of the festival (except Friday; and from 9 to midnight on Saturday). Free admission.
17. Israeli Opera Festival at Masada, June 4-13
This year’s festival will feature, for the first time, two fully staged opera productions: Puccini’s Tosca (June 4, 6, 11, 13) conducted by Maestro Daniel Oren and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (June 5 and12) conducted by James Judd.
18. White Night Festival, Tel Aviv, June 25
This annual all-night arts festival commemorates historic Tel Aviv’s awarding of World Heritage Site status from UNESCO in 2003. Concerts, fairs, workshops, parties, tours, games, sing-alongs, storytelling, dining specials – a full list of available events will be posted on the municipality’s website a few weeks ahead of time so you can plan out your night.
19. International Festival of Puppet Theater and Film, Holon, July 26-31
Featuring puppet makers and artists from Israel and around the world, this festival has been held annually since 1995 at the Puppet Theater Center in Holon. On the schedule are plays, shows and story-telling from Israel and abroad; evening screenings of feature films with puppets, documentaries about puppeteers, TV shows and commercials featuring puppets; exhibitions about theater puppets and puppet artists; In workshops and master classes for adults and children. In the plaza outside there will be free street performances.
20. Karmiel Dance Festival, July 28-30
About 5,000 dancers from Israel and abroad annually take part in more than 100 events and performances at this huge annual festival in Karmiel, a central Galilee town between Acre (Akko) and Safed (Tzfat). For folk-dance teachers and enthusiasts from abroad, there’ll be an Israeli folk dance course given in English from July 20-31, including sightseeing and admission to the festival. Information: email@example.com