Festival BeShekel 2009 is kicking off its festival season on June 30th in Gilboa. Two additional festivals will take place in the Katarmonin neighborhood of Jerusalem on July 6th and Lod on July 8th. The festival, the creation of Sha’anan Streett (founder of the Israeli hip hop band, Hadag Nahash), Haim Ooliel, Carmi Wurtman (the festival’s producer) and others, is open to all for a symbolic entrance fee of one shekel. This symbolic entrance fee allows all sectors of society access, making culture equally available to one and all. For the first time this year, Festival BeShekel is working in mixed Jewish-Arab communities, which is also represented in the final musical festival.
In the present situation of increasing economic crisis, as the social and economic divide widens between center and periphery regions, Festival BeShekel is working to decrease this divide through cultural production and strengthening community in the geographic, cultural and economic periphery. The Festival is not just a musical event; it is an entire social process that extends over the year leading up to the summer Festival. Throughout the year, the NGO works to strengthen trh local youth, which is involved with planning and producing all the events during the year, leading up to the finale—the national summer festivals. The local production group, Cultural Leaders, made up of 30 youth in each location, representing the wide range of communities and towns they come from—religious and secular, immigrants and old-timers, Jews and Arabs.
In 2008, Festival BeShekel came to Kiryat Malachi, where its impact was very real. One of the local peer mentors there said, after a successful event: “The kids [who participate in the planning process] said to me, “Who will even want to donate to our cause? Who will even attend the event? You don’t know Kiryat Malachi. People won’t even pay one shekel!” The event turned out amazing–something changed in the group and in me. We were very excited. I felt that the shared experience changed something in them, in the way they looked at their lives. What seemed impossible to them became reality. Suddenly, there was motivation that wasn’t there previously, that they could produce the whole festival on their own.” The local Cultural group continues planning cultural events in Kiryat Malachi throughout 2009, in partnership with the local municipality, and with continued guidance from Festival BeShekel staff.
Gilboa’s festival will feature: Zehava Ben, Sharif, Muki, Beit ha’Bubot, Eifoh ha’Yeled, and Peshutei ha’Am.
Jerusalem’s festival will host: Mercedez Band, Alma Zahar, Asaf Avidan, Ashkara Metim, Harel Moyal, and Idan Yaniv. And in Lod, the following groups will perform: Hadag Nahash, D.A.M, Achinoam Nini, Mira Awad, Michael Graylsamer, and Haim Ooliel.