The Israel Festival Adds ‘Talking Heads’ to Venue

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JERUSALEM, Israel – What do groups of 30 or more people walking as one, all wearing white headsets, look like on the streets of Jerusalem?  The group moved, turned, walked and even ran on instructions from an artificial voice transmitting through their head sets. The commands included dancing in Safra Square outside Jerusalem’s City Hall, running in a 100-meter sprint near an apartment complex and riding the city’s light rail system.  

Here’s a sample of their journey:

The ‘tour’ lasted about 90 minutes and raised questions about the brave new world of artificial intelligence and technology we’re entering and its impact on society and group think … all while traversing the streets and alleys of one of the best known cities in the world: Jerusalem. 

“Remote Jerusalem,” as it is called, offers this technology in other cities around the world.  

It was just one feature of the Israel Festival, more than a two-week celebration that’s been woven into Israel’s culture over the past 57 years. This year it was one more way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.  

As described on its website, The Israel Festival is “… an internationally renowned interdisciplinary festival that takes place each year in Jerusalem — presents high-quality productions in dance, music, drama and performance theater from all over the world, as well as original Israeli productions and free outdoor performances for the general public.”

Over the past two weeks, a visitor could see local dancers “use their bodies to form temporary colorful structures on the back drop of the Jerusalem stones,” which created “a physical architecture that underscores the lens through which we look at our surroundings.”  

You can see that means some people can get their bodies into very tight spaces.   

Organizers founded the festival, which this year took place from May 23 to June 9, in 1961.  Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Foundation sponsored this year’s festival.  After six decades, it’s become a hub for conferences, seminars and master classes for guest artists.  

For the first time this year, Israel’s Foreign Ministry presented several original Israeli artistic works to dozens of international festival directors.  They included “Hiphopland” in which Israel’s premier hip-hop artists interpret “the values set down in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

It’s likely David Ben Gurion would enjoy that. 

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