Autumn in Israel isn’t so much about fall foliage as it is about perfect weather and a countrywide air of celebration thanks to the long holiday season stretching from Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot.
Moderately warm days and comfortably cool nights – and, we all hope, the first gentle rains of the season – are typical of autumn in Israel. Here are 12 fun and fascinating activities to check out in late September through November.
1. New Year’s nature hike, September 19
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund is offering a free guided pre-Rosh Hashanah nature hike in Aminadav Forest south of Jerusalem. Amid natural woodlands, planted forests and breathtaking panoramas, hikers may choose to take part in discussions about forgiveness and about people and their environment. Register in advance by calling the KKL-JNF Forest Hotline at 1-800-350-550.
Though it’s open all year, the Sukkah Trail at Neot Kedumim biblical nature reserve is a fitting autumn activity. The harvest festival of Sukkot, October 8-15 this year, is characterized by temporary outdoor huts. The Sukkah Trail features more than 20 life-size models of the wackiest sukkot discussed and described by the sages of the Mishna and Talmud, including a sukkah on a camel and treehouse sukkah. Three of the 650-acre preserve’s four trails are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Along Trail C, you’ll see the trees and shrubs from which Sukkot’s traditional bundle of four species is made.
3. Journey among Dreams, September 28 through October 20, Jaffa Museum of Antiquities, 10 Mifratz Shlomo Street, Old Jaffa
This new family event is an international exhibition of dream-themed paintings created by artists from Israel and 14 other countries, along with animated films, workshops and hands-on activities inspired by dreams. The animated 3D film “Journey among Dreams,” exploring dreams, fantasy and science, will debut here. Many of the original artworks will be for sale. Part of the admission fee of 20 shekels goes to Variety Israel, a non-profit providing medical and therapeutic care to Israeli children with special needs. Information: 972-3-682-5375.
4. Jerusalem Formula One Peace Road Show 2014, October 6-7
The capital city will host its second annual Formula One Race around the city. Professional drivers roar by the Cinematheque, Sultan’s Pool, the Tower of David, the Old City walls, Mamilla, the King David Hotel, Liberty Bell Park and the First Station in Ferraris, Mercedes and Audis. Stunt driving, demo drives and other activities and exhibitions are planned. Watch for free from the sidewalk or buy grandstand tickets. Information: email@example.com, 972-2-623-7000.
5. Haifa’s 30th International Film Festival, October 9-18
Held on Mount Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this annual festival offers 280 screenings of new films from around the world, including about 70 Israeli productions. Every evening during the film festival, free outdoor events are held including live music, open-air screenings, arts-and-crafts sales and a street party.
6. The 21st International Israeli Storytelling Festival, Oct. 9-18
Held at the Givatayim Theater, this event will feature more than 100 storytelling shows with 800 performers from around the world. Most of the shows will be presented in English; others will have English subtitles. Among those on the bill: Rakugo storyteller Sayohime from Japan, the Romanian comedy “Outdoor Crooks,” Persian-Dutch storyteller Sahand Sahebdivani, Polish storyteller Witold Dabrowski and Portuguese actress and director Sandra Barata Belo. Information: +972-3-561-6124.
7. Kite-Flying Festival at the Israel Museum, October 13
Ordinarily, this festival takes place in August, but it was bumped to the autumn this year due to Operation Protective Edge. Kids can enjoy kite-making workshops, kite flying and a musical parade of giant puppets, 10am to 7pm. The fee is included in museum admission.
8. International Balloon Festival, October 13-15
The colorful hot-air fun starts at the Gilboa International Balloon Festival in Ma’ayan Harod National Park in the Lower Galilee, and then moves to Park Eshkol in the northern Negev on the evening of October 14. For ticket info (in Hebrew), visit this site.
9. Jerusalem Knights in the Old City, Thursdays through November, 6-11pm
As autumn blows in to Jerusalem, the ancient knights come to life in the Old City. The annual Old City Knights Festival brings a taste of times gone by to Jerusalem, full of magic, legends, and mythical creatures. Festival goers are invited to stroll along a circular path among the alleyways of the Old City’s Christian Quarter where they’ll encounter actors portraying various scenes from the kingdom of knights, from dragon flights to enchanted love stories.
10. International Shakespeare Festival, October 28 through November 15
Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre is celebrating William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday with original productions of his plays by leading directors from Israel as well as Britain, Romania, Lithuania, Georgia, China and Slovenia. The festival also includes discussions and workshops led by the creators from abroad and from Israel, and a special presentation on Shakespeare in digital theater from The Royal Shakespeare Company.
11. The 20th annual Galilee Olive Festival, late October throughout November
During this annual celebration of the olive harvest, many farms and presses throughout the Galilee offer concerts, olive-picking events, farmers’ markets, workshops, olive-related art and photography exhibitions, hikes, guided tours and bicycle trips. One of the participants is Lavido, which has visitor centers in Zichron Yaakov and other Galilee cities.
12. Fresh Paint contemporary art fair, November 4-8
Now celebrating its seventh year, the Fresh Paint contemporary art fair – held every fall in a different Tel Aviv venue — brings together all the significant players (and up-and-coming artists) in the Israeli art scene and attracts local and international art crowds. This year’s fair will be held at the brand-new City Sports Center, home to the Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball club. Here is ISRAEL21c’s report on last year’s fair.