Photo Essay: Klezmer Festival Fills Kabbalistic City With Song

The line between spectator and performer is a thin one at the Klezmer Festival.

Contact Editor
Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 00:06

The line between spectator and performer is a thin one at the Klezmer Festival - where Ashkenazi soul music with Hassidic roots is right at home in the city of the kabbalah.

The narrow alleys and ancient courtyards of the holy city of Tzfat were transformed into stages and venues as klezmer musicians and residents filled the streets with song during this week's three-day annual Klezmer Festival.

The city of Tzfat is decked out for the festivities.
One of Tzfat's maze-like streets in the Old City.
The parks and nooks performers played in were filled with people and the crowd overflowed into the narrow streets and alleyways.

Performers included Israeli clarinet virtuoso Moussa Berlin, the Mula Vilna Klezmer group, Simply Tzfat and mandolin master Avi Avital.

Avi Avital (mandolin), Yonatan Keren (violin) and Oren Ezer (keyboard) play a second set in Tzfat's Gan HaKasum (Magic Garden).
A crowd listens to a Harmonica Trio perform in a lot between the Old City and Artists Quarter.

Music not quite fitting the klezmer genre was also present. Shlomo Gronich, Aaron Razel, Sinai Tor and redemption rocker Adi Ran performed and the Beirav Carlebach Synagogue held all-night jam sessions of some of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's thousands of compositions.

Vendors sell freshly cooked delicacies and carnival food as tour groups and visitors from all over Israel and the world mill about, stepping into Tzfat's many art galleries, judaica shops and traditional candle and cheese-making producers.

Tzfat residents perform in a city square.
A Tzfat resident making homemade flatbreads for visitors.
Stands are set up on every corner and side street selling a wide variety of carnival foods.
Young music enthusiasts enjoy the festival.
Tour groups roam around Tzfat, listening to stories of its mystics and rich history.

Ita and Dov Zilberman have the reputation of being "the true Klezmer musicians representing the Galilee." Ita is Dov's mother and plays the accordian while Dov works magic with the clarinet.

The Zilbermans come from a rabbinic family that has called Tzfat home for over 200 years.

Danny Hadad performing in Tzfat's Magic Garden.
Musicians and Breslev hassidim jam at the Azamra Mysticism Center in the heart of Tzfat's Old City.
Tzfat residents and visitors bring their instruments as well, grapping a corner and partaking in the festival as impromptu performers.
Volunteers who came to Tzfat with the Livnot U'Lehibanot program make some music.

Across the Old City, in the central square plays Makseem Klezmer, a Klezmer band consisting of two spiky-haired Israeli youths - residents of towns in the Galilee. Solnikar Makseem plays the clarinet - wowing the audience by bending notes to almost inaudible pitches and holding them there indefinitely. Daniel Krayzer plays the guitar and looks like he is having the time of his life, performing for his third year straight at the festival.

Children watch one of the festival's youngest bands, Makseem Klezmer, perform in the Old City's central square.

"Twice a year, Tzfat is filled with joy and song," a dancing resident yells into the microphone he grabbed from the performer, "once on Lag B'Omer and then during the Klezmer festival! Thank you!"

A Tzfat resident thanks everybody for "bringing joy to the city of Tzfat" and then does a dance as onlookers clap faster and faster.
Israel National Radio's Ben Bresky and Walter Bingham broadcast live from the streets of Tzfat. The three-hour show is archived at
Local children stay up way past their bedtime as music fills the streets all through the night.

Israel National Radio's live three-hour broadcast from the festival is archived and can be heard by clicking here: HOUR 1 HOUR 2 HOUR 3
(Photos: Josh Shamsi, Arutz-7 Photojournalist)