If you thought you’d have to miss the 2020 Israel Festival, you’ll be happy to know that for the first time in its 38-year history, all performances will be filmed for live and later viewing on the festival website.

The Israel Festival, scheduled for June and postponed due to Covid-19, will take place through September 12 in Jerusalem and online. It encompasses the International Jazz Festival created in collaboration with the Yellow Submarine and the Israel Museum, with the artistic direction of trumpeter Avishai Cohen.

“It’s not that there is no life without culture; culture is life!” says festival director Eyal Sher. “In the face of the health tragedy, social distancing, the economic crisis, and political rift that overwhelm our lives, it is critical to maintain culture for the audience, the artists, the professional teams and the entire cultural sector.”

This year’s festival focuses on original Israeli works. Curated before the pandemic, the program touches on social issues such as community, encounter, touching, empathy, individualism and technology, ageism, democracy and acceptance of the other.

“The materials you will encounter at the Israel Festival contain a search for art that wishes to step out of its familiar surroundings, meet the public, and establish – together with it as its co-creator – a space that explores how to ‘infect’ one another with new ideas, empathy, and creativity,” said the festival’s artistic director, Itzik Giuli.

One unusual offering is “Blue Zone” by choreographer Galit Liss, featuring an ensemble of 14 women between ages 65 and 80. This show explores the experience of aging through the body and movement. Premiering on September 9, “Blue Zone” will inaugurate the new 2,000-square-meter Performing Arts Center in the Jerusalem industrial district of Talpiot.

Another unique show will be “The Eichmann Project” by the Pathos Mathos Company. This multidisciplinary stage event is a ritual of reenactment for camera and audience, invoking the voices that resonated in the 1961 trial of captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Also on the festival’s bill is the renowned Vertigo Dance Company performing “Shape on Us” choreographed by Sharon Fridman for dancers with mixed abilities.

Vertigo Dance Company’s “Shape on Us” was choreographed by Sharon Fridman for dancers with mixed abilities. Photo by Yoel Levi

“Practicing Empathy” by the Yasmeen Godder Company is a new two-part work. In a format created in response to the limitations imposed by Covid-19, two performers and two audience members will share an interactive 25-minute journey, exploring how to transform the 2-meter distance into a potential space for intimacy, familiarity, humor and playfulness. In the second part, performers create an environment where empathy serves as a supportive and encouraging group reaction.

Yasmeen Godder Company dancers. Photo by Tamar Lam

“Bergman House: A Gallery Walk,” will take participants – real and virtual – through the 1970s home of Charlotte Bergman on the grounds of the Israel Museum. Bergman gifted her rare “cabinet of curiosities” to the museum on the condition that she would not have to part with it until her death. Upon her passing in 2002, 30 years later, most of the collection was moved to the museum galleries. The walk will be led by Israel Prize laureate Hadas Ophrat and will weave together archival fragments from the museum’s collections and Bergman’s journals and letters.

Hadas Ophrat in the Bergman House at the Israel Museum. Photo by Hila Flashkes

Classical and contemporary music – including The Celli Ensemble performing in tribute to the late Israeli composer and conductor Noam Sheriff — and a range of other artistic offerings are planned throughout the festival.

See the festival website for information on all 18 events.