Festivals in Israel are a vibrant combination of religious holidays and secular events across the annual calendar. For many visitors from Europe and USA, the Christmas season or the major Jewish holidays are the best time to be here, although most of the secular festivals take place in high summer.
Eilat Bird Festival
March is the perfect time for birders to visit Eilat, in company with the many millions of feathered friends arriving during the spring migration season. Around 240 bird species use the surrounding countryside as their summer home, including the Pharaoh eagle owls, pied wheatears, McQueen’s bustards and Nubian nightjars.
Red Sea Jazz Festival
A four-day international festival featuring all styles of jazz, this ever-popular Israeli event kicks off in Eilat at the end of July. Nightly jam sessions at bars and clubs and eight or nine concerts every evening make sure no-one misses their favorite.
Jerusalem Beer Festival
This fun event has been running for eight years, getting larger and more popular at every turn. Held in August in downtown Jerusalem’s Hebron Road Old Train Station, its highlights include the 100 beer brands from across the globe, with micro-breweries well represented. Lots of food stalls, top bands and beer brewing demonstrations complete the picture.
Karmiel Dance Festival
The Galilee city of Karmiel bursts at the seams with 5,000 Israeli and international dancers arriving every August along with many thousands of fans. Over 80 events and performances take place, and a huge bazaar and other activities are part of the fun.
Safed Klezmer Festival
The soulful, exotic sounds of traditional Jewish Klezmer music are heard all over ancient Safed in August from the eight stages set up in the Old Quarter’s public squares and parks. For lovers of this iconic style, it’s a not to be missed event in Israel.
Jerusalem Summer Culture Festival
The months of July and August are a great time to be in Jerusalem for the summer culture festival, which involves music, dance and theater performances held everywhere from the alleyways of the Old City through parks and gardens to the major theaters.
One of the loveliest and most traditional of all the Jewish festivals is Sukkot, similar in origin to the Western Harvest Festival, but rooted in the ancient Israeli traditions of the 40 years spent wandering the desert as described in the Old Testament. During the festival, tents are erected and covered with greenery and produce, with families eating at least one meal in their sukkah each of the seven October evenings.
Jacob’s Ladder Festival
Mid-December sees the start of Israel’s friendliest social event featuring bluegrass, country, blues, Irish, Scottish and folk music. Taking place over a long weekend on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it’s a laid-back, cool event which draws regulars every year.