Klezmer musicians in Safed.
Klezmer musicians in Safed. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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For centuries, the northern Israeli city of Safed has served as a spiritual hub for Jewish mystics and artists who want to steep their souls in its sacred surroundings. Visitors have made their way here to study kabbala, meander through the quaint cobblestone alleyways that house galleries and medieval synagogues, and generally soak up its ancient character.

This week, though, locals and tourists alike can soothe their souls with another of the city’s annual offerings: the 26th International Klezmer Festival, which organizers call the “biggest festival of Jewish soul music in the world.” Nearly 70 local and international klezmer artists will be on hand with their clarinets, fiddles, tsimbls (or cimbaloms, concert hammered dulcimers), schrammels (small accordions) trombones and other “kley zemer” – the Hebrew words for musical instruments that combined to create the genre’s name.

There will be performances on nine stages set up in the city’s alleyways as well as jam sessions – all of which are free and open to the public. But the festival brings with it more than just free tunes: There are children’s activities, including a stage where kids can try playing the instruments, demonstrations of the more unusual instruments and musical tours accompanied by klezmer musicians in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund, among other goings-on.

If you’re inspired to fiddle with the fiddle, festival organizers have also scheduled master classes on August 8-14, which require registration but are open to the public as well.

The festival runs from August 6-8; for information go to http://www.klezmerf.com or to register for a master class see http://www.intlmasterclasses.com.