I’ve written in the past about my experience at a former Jerusalem Light Festival. The short recap of my past post: I loved it.
So this year, I went expecting to have just as great a time at the 2017 Light Festival. Boy, was I wrong…
My rating of the Jerusalem Light Festival 2017: 2 stars!
About the Jerusalem Light Festival
The festival is a stunning showcase of light installations and art pieces. There are also performers and shows spread throughout. It offers an opportunity to artists who use light as a medium to create beautiful art pieces and share their passion.
Here’s a pretty gallery… I wasn’t able to get many photos because the festival was a mess, so these pictures are from their Facebook page. Scroll through to see the beautiful art installations.
What makes it all the more beautiful is that the festival is set upon one of the most stunning backdrops: the old city of Jerusalem. The clash between the electric light installations and the old architectural features of the old city create a unique experience.
The installations are set-up on all the regions of the old city: Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim – a concept perhaps of unity through art.
As you can see, the idea is beautiful and the art even more so… However, aside from the art it all went bad this year:
Where the Jerusalem Light Festival Went Wrong
I was so excited about this year’s festival – it’s one of my favorite events of the year. However, it was a huge flop and disappointment, enough so that I’m considering not returning again.
Apparently, I’m not alone in that thought:
Here are all the reasons it was awful:
Too many people
There was an overwhelmingly large number of people at the festival. My guess is anything between 50,000-100,000; there’s no way it followed safety standards.
Perhaps it’s because there are only 6 nights to enjoy the festival and people from across the country want to experience it.
Most likely it was the organization of the path – this time it was a full circle passing through the old city. To my recollection, last time I went it was 3-4 separate paths and you had to pick one, which meant visitors spread out.
So we were all herded like sheep to start at the same point and follow the circular path. Movement was slow among a sea of tens of thousands of people, it was claustrophobic and it was difficult to enjoy the art installations because there were too many people in the way or on the installations.
The old city paths are also so narrow… they’re not made to handle so many people walking through at one time.
Traffic was a nightmare
Traffic from the center of Israel to Jerusalem is a nightmare every day, so I can’t blame the light festival for all of it. However, the security blocks set-up for the festival made things even worse within the city.
It took us over 2 hours to reach the parking lot a 20 min walk away from the old city. That’s an excessive amount of time to get to the city with a car, even by Jerusalem standards.
No coordination with parking lots
The festival’s website recommended a few parking lots, so I did some googling and found one close enough to the old city. However, the organizers had zero coordination with their recommended lots, because as soon as we parked we were told we would have to get out by 22:45 or get locked in.
The festival runs from 20:00 – 24:00. Those four hours are the minimum amount necessary to go through the path and enjoy all the installations.. basically, our time was cut short to 22:15 because we also had to walk back to our car. We went from having 4 hours to enjoy the festival to slightly over 2 hours.
So we had to rush through the path and we didn’t have the time to really enjoy the different art pieces.
No water available
It’s summer here… some days are reaching 40 °C (104 °F). Nights are cooler but they’re still humid and hot.
Yet, it took us about 40 minutes going down the path until we managed to find someone selling water. When you’re stuck in a sea of tens of thousands of people and under heat, you get dehydrated.
There should be water booths by every few installations – for safety at least.
The Good Part About the Festival: The Art
I can’t finish this review without emphasizing the art, the core reason why I go to this festival.
The art pieces were stunning – each more so than the next. Every year, the artists come up with more creative and unique showcases for light, and this year was no different.
It’s unfortunate that there was so much disorder by part of the event organizers. However, this doesn’t reflect on the selected artists – they did an amazing job.
Here are 2 videos that really showcase how amazing the installations are live:
All in all, aside from the stunning art, the festival was a big disappointment. I hope they take the community’s feedback and improve it next year.
**Disclosure: I was not invited to take part in the festival nor was I paid any compensation. I went out of my own volition and had no connection to any organizers. The event is free.