My connection to the Khutsot Hayotser Arts and Crafts Fair goes back many years. The annual summer fair, held in the valley below Jerusalem’s Old City walls, is being staged this month for the 36th time. It was approximately that many years ago that my sister displayed her macramé creations at a small booth during her high school summer vacation, first bringing my attention to the arts and crafts on display.
The fair has come far since then, with professional artisans and international crafts exhibitions now attracting thousands each night during a two week period each August. The fair has become a tradition in Jerusalem and it is advertised as the main tourist attraction of the summer season.
Jodie and I went to the fair on its opening night, arriving shortly after the gates opened. We were surprised that by coming early, we had managed to avoid the crowds that we knew would be attending. The evening was cool and refreshing, making it a pleasure to walk around and see the works of many of Israel’s artists and artisans.
You can attend the fair each year and see the same types of jewelry, woodwork, children’s crafts and ceramics every time. Or, you can look closely and see something new. The oddly shaped metallic salt and pepper shakers; the unique wind chimes; the paintings with fresh takes on Old City scenes; the colorful hand puppets; the necklaces that are secured like a man’s tie; and other creative creations made visiting the booths very pleasurable.
The international area of the pavilion attracted exhibits of crafts from all over the world, although there was no balance between what was on display for each country. Some booths had extensive collections of traditional objects, but the effect was more of a souvenir stand than an arts exhibit. Bulgaria’s booth had a small display of embroidery. Croatia’s booth seemed intended to attract tourists to visit the country. There was no artist manning the Jordanian booth, at least not on opening night.
We watched an enjoyable flamenco performance but the highlight of the evening was still ahead of us. We took our seats on the bleachers in Sultan’s Pool for the central musical concert. After a few words of welcome from Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, Gidi Gov and his band took the stage. By now, the August night in Jerusalem had turned quite chilly, but the show we were about to see kept us warm.
We’ve enjoyed the music of Gidi Gov ever since his Kaveret days in the 1970s, and we’ve followed his career through the popular Zehu Zeh and Laila Gov television shows. His music was as mellow as his maturing voice. The songs Gidi sang are some of Israel’s most popular ballads and even if we didn’t know all the words, we tried our best to sing along with the crowd. We thoroughly enjoyed the opening night of Jerusalem’s summer fair.