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Eilat’s Cultural Evolution
If you’re looking for the best jazz and classical music, or independent films playing in the Middle East, Eilat might not be the first place you look. But all that is about to change if the City of Eilat, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Eilat Hotel Association have their way.
Since the early days of modern Israel, the southern desert city of Eilat has been associated with swimming and sunbathing, water sports, desert tours and nightlife. However, ten years from now visionaries and urban planners expect Eilat to be the cultural mecca of Israel….perhaps the entire Middle East. The idea is that visitors can spend their days on the beach and their evenings enjoying the various traditions of the city.
Although there have been other settlements in the south, Eilat was established in 1949. At that time the area was uninhabited and inaccessible by road. During the War of Independence two Israeli forces passed through and opened the road. In doing so, he opened another window of opportunity.
The city grew slowly over the years. In 1975 the first international flights from Europe began and tourism really took off. Today, Eilat is a popular destination for tourists from France, England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and Russia, as well as Canada and the United States.
According to a spokesperson of the Ministry of Tourism, last year Eilat received about 50,000 visitors from other countries and with a focus on culture, these numbers are expected to grow significantly in the next few years.
Residents of this area also enjoy the changing personality of their city because the more new things happen, the more job opportunities there are.
Culture in Eilat
If you’re looking for culture, there are now several different events to choose from in Eilat, depending on the time of year.
Red Sea Jazz Festival. Eilat hosted its first annual international jazz festival in 1987 and since then, it has attracted renowned and award-winning artists from around the world. Randy Brecker… Michail Alperin Trio… Blood Sweat & Tears… The Fringe… Spyro Gyra…Chick Corea & Origin… Diana Krall…Manhattan Transfer… The Mingus Big Band. .. Dianne Reeves … Zap Mama… as well as nearly a hundred other of the biggest names in jazz have all come to Eilat to perform in front of a growing audience of jazz lovers.
This is a real joy of music, with a variety of programs from today to traditional jazz through salsa and world music, all performed by leading groups and international artists. Even the Israeli program and actors are rich and diverse. Ten local bands participated in last year’s festival, which took place at the end of August. For seven of these bands, who represent the recent success of Israeli jazz, it was their first performance at the festival.
One special benefit for festival participants are jazz classes led by world-renowned jazz musicians that give music students the best opportunity to meet artists, learn from them, and practice together.
The festival is now often referred to as the biggest jazz event in the Middle East. Last year, the four-day festival attracted nearly 50,000 people and featured more than 30 concerts.
International Film Festival. Now in its fourth year, the four-day festival, held at the end of May, will showcase nearly 50 feature films from around the world to industry professionals, film enthusiasts, local residents, students and the military. The organizers of the festival say that more than 5000 people who have come to participate in the festival will see films from Israel, Japan, China, Turkey, Greece, Italy, the US and others.
This year the festival shows the children’s film “Over the Hedge”, a new film made by the producers of “Shrek”, which is opening worldwide in Cannes at the beginning of May. Another new film, “Flight 93” tells the story of the third plane – which crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania – that was hijacked during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
Adam Greenberg, Director of Photography for such famous films as “Dave” and “The Terminator” will be present to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. There will also be 44 short films shown on the European football circuit as a lead-up to this year’s World Cup in Germany.
Awards will be given in three categories: Best Foreign Film, Best Israeli Film and Best Children’s Film, which will be judged by a panel of young judges from the city.
Chamber Music Festival. This new international festival, which took place in various halls around the city last February, is off to a strong start according to observers. Performances by the iPalpiti Orchestra, YAI – Young International Artists, Ida Haendel, Concerto Köln, Evgeni Koroliov, the Aviv Quartet, and the Jerusalem Trio were all well received and preparations are about to begin next year.
Red Sea Classical Festival. The three-day festival held in December has been described as a “musical extravaganza” with impressive bands, singers and guest musicians – some of the world’s brightest talent. This Easter, Valery Gergiev, artistic director and director of the Kirov Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. Petersberg, Russia, entertained 2,000 people every night with its 280-piece orchestra. The Mariinsky, one of the world’s most famous theater companies – is the only Russian cultural institution that survived and prospered after the fall of the Soviet Union. As a result, Gergiev is considered a national hero.
The traditional festival was held for the first time in 1993. It was organized by the City’s Office of Tourism and “Shira”, an international cultural organization. Plans are now being made for next year’s festival which will take place at the end of December and the beginning of January. Plans for 2006 include an overnight exercise in Aqaba, Jordan.
International Underwater Photo Competition. Imagine photographing the most beautiful marine life in the world. The Underwater Photo Contest attracts various world-renowned people and artists – not only because of the beauty of the Red Sea, but also because of the $25,000 purse for the first prize winner. The competition is open to both amateurs and professionals, shooting with film or digital cameras. There are two categories of competition: “Pictures from Around the World,” in which submissions are sent in advance from other regions and on the “Eilat Shoot-Out” website. All entries are judged by an international panel.
This year, world-renowned artist and researcher, Amos Nachoum will be the guest of honor and master of ceremonies at the April event.
Although most tourists would agree that this is a comprehensive list of each site, tourism officials say that several new events are planned in the near future. Eilat is clearly a city on the move and, say Tourism officials, these festivals represent several ways in which Eilat is becoming part of the world’s culture.
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