The City of Lights is, without a doubt, Jerusalem -- at least for eight nights in June, that is.
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From June 5 to 13 the dark alleyways of the Old City become illuminated in ways that only some of the world's leading light artists could have dreamed up. Seven of them have been hired, together with their local counterparts, to transform the Old City into a magical backdrop for lighting installations that manage steer clear of kitsch. Instead, expect to find visions that are breathtaking, original and sometimes even witty. It is the fifth year that the city is staging this festival, which runs every night except Friday, from 8 P.M. to 11 P.M. (and until midnight on Saturday). The part that makes us light up the most? It's free.
As in previous years, the organizers have set up several color-coded trails that wind their way through the various quarters of the Old City, taking visitors from installation to installation. (Wear comfortable walking shoes!)
You can pick up a map of the trails at the Jaffa Gate plaza or find one online at http://en.lightinjerusalem.org.il/2013/node/139.
There is also a lighting fair, consisting of the works of a dozen lighting-fixture artists, at Hurva Square.
Walking along the trails – filled with light sculptures, light projected onto buildings and fire shows – is a full evening in itself, enabling visitors to see the familiar landmarks of the Old City in, well, a whole new light.
But if you want even more of an extravaganza you can also buy tickets (in advance) to a circus performance, incorporating mirrors, light sources, flying acrobats and illuminated geometric elements, all set to the music of the rock band Queen. Order tickets at 75 NIS each through www.bimot.co.il
A word of warning: With some 250,000 people visiting the light festival each year, you don't want to cast a shadow over your evening by trying to arrive by car (although there is parking in the Safra Parking Lot near Jaffa Gate.)
Your best options are either the Light Rail, which will run until midnight and has stops right near Damascus Gate and Jaffa Gate, or the special festival shuttle bus. During festival nights you can park your car (for free) at the HaLe'om and Old Railway Station parking lots -- and on certain nights at the Teddy parking lot as well -- and shuttle to and from the Old City by bus, for free.
For more info see http://en.lightinjerusalem.org.il/2013/.