There are some amazing music festivals in Israel, which despite Israel’s relatively small size traverse a diverse spectrum of cultural appeals. Israel’s music festival calendar includes almost every genre imaginable, in almost every setting imaginable – from folk festivals on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, to indie music festivals in the depths of the Negev Desert. The festivals run throughout the year, and you are bound to find a festival in Israel that is taking place during your visit!
Folk Music Festivals in Israel
Jacob’s Ladder Music Festival is held twice (spring and fall) a year at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Devoted to folk music, the festival has been running for over thirty years, and attracts a large crowd of Israelis and anglos who have together given this festival its reputation for safety and community. Lasting a total of three days, and containing folk and a little blues from around fifty performers, its a diverse and relaxing music festival for all those folk-lovers.
The Guitar Festival in the Desert celebrates the guitar in the peace and tranquillity of the Negev Desert between the city of Beer Sheva and the Mitzpe Ramon crater. Attracting a family-friendly crowd (kids under five are free and under 12 pay half price), this once a year festival (held in fall) includes a mix of new and old with some big Israeli names included in the line-up.
Classical Music in Israel
Abu Gosh Music Festival is a twice annual music festival in Israel (at sukkot in fall and shavuot in spring) held in the Israeli-Arab town of Abu Gosh near Jerusalem. A town famed for its hummus shifts focus for the concert series centred in a historic church, but including vocal performances wherever you turn your head.
The Safed Klezmer Festival is dedicated to, you guessed it klezmer or instrumental music originating from Eastern Europe. Held every August, this also takes over the whole of the Galilee city of Safed famed for being the center of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. And it makes sense too, with over 100 performers and up to 15,000 fans coming to enjoy.
Ein Gev Festival is almost seventy years old and is focused on Hebrew Music – singing in groups and choirs. On the banks of the Sea of Galilee at Ein Gev during Passover in the Spring, over 70 performers this is a nostalgic event where not only can you hear but you can also participate with classes teaching and enabling participation.
The Piano Festival, Tel Aviv, takes place every November and includes exclusive performances by some of the largest names in Israeli music.
Every September, the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival brings world class talent to the city over the two week program.
Opera in Israel
Every summer, the Israel Opera Festival features opera at Masada, a series of magnificent operatic performances set beautifully in the Negev desert in this beautiful location. The festival has in the past attracted some of the most famous performers in opera and in 2012, will feature Carmen at Masada.
Jazz in Israel
It would be impossible to ignore the Red Sea Jazz Festival which takes place every August for four-days. Nine jazz concerts each night, six master-classes, and nightly jam sessions contain jazz from around the world at the tranquil Red Sea Resort of Eilat. Over its thirty year history, the festival has attracted the likes of Chick Corea, the Mingus Big Band, Tower of Power, The Manhattan Transfer, Ricki Lee Jones and Spyro Gyra to its stages. In recent years, a winter Red Sea Jazz Festival has also begun running.
Rock in Israel
In-D-Negev is, you guessed, it set in the breathtaking Negev Desert and held each fall. Focusing on Israeli Indie Music, this three day extravaganza attracts almost 5,000 to pitch up their tents in the desert near the Kibbutz of Gvulot, far away from the usual stages of these performers in the basement clubs of Tel Aviv.
Tamar Festival adds to the competition of location of these festivals. Just when you thought it couldn’t get more impressive, you realise that sunrise at Masada, is perhaps up there! Held each fall during the festival of Succot, and with stages situated all around the amazing Dead Sea region, even if the music doesn’t entertain, the surroundings are sure to. Running for five days, the festival attracts some big Israeli names including Asaf Avidan and Idan Raichel as well as international stars such as Matisyahu.
The Jerusalem Woodstock Revival doesn’t as you might expect attract just the older generation! Israeli bands perform some of the biggest songs of the sixties every August in the cool calm of the Jerusalem nighttime.
Alternative Music Festivals in Israel
The Jerusalem International Oud Festival would definitely be the one festival you’d go to if you just wanted to go to the quirky one. Dedicated to the Turkish instrument, the oud, which is played throughout the Middle East this festival is held annually in November in Jerusalem and Nazareth. Israel 21C call this “an acquired taste” and it sure is but its also an “only-in-Israel” experience.