Written by Bob Cates.
Published in the 5/2005 issue of Juggle Magazine.
For a number of years Iíve wanted to go to the Israeli juggling festival - Itís been a dream of mine to go to the holy land. Finally the time came. I had enough air miles to fly free, my parents wanted to go a few weeks early for vacation, and my schedule was open in April. So off I went!
People who hear of this festival may be concerned about personal safety. Well, they shouldn't be. I did not feel unsafe in Israel at any time - you donít know what "security" really is until youíve been through the airport at Tel Aviv! The convention itself is held in a beautiful National Park, far from any area of possible political conflict, and selected by Time Magazine as one of the top 20 tourist sites in the world. Convention attendees are entitled to full access to all park facilities, including the natural rock pools, waterfalls, warm springs, free camping etc. This was wonderful as the weather was great throughout the five days of the festival. It was a bit strange to have a big gym in a national park. It might not have been the cleanest or newest gym, but did the job just fine.
There were several hundred people at the convention, although possibly half were not jugglers, but rather families who came with the jugglers since the park is so nice and the shows so good. Over all skill level was very high, and the enthusiasm and friendliness of the local jugglers were terrific. In addition to the round-the-clock action in the gym, there were also three evening shows, all held in a proper theater just ten minutes walk from the site.
On the first night we were treated to an amazing 3 club open contest in the gym. I donít think Iíve ever been inspired by 3 club juggling more. Not only was the technical skill level high, but the creativity of what was done with one, two and three clubs was mind boggling. Hats off to European creativity!
The second evening of the convention saw the Israeli Gala show. Showcasing only performers from Israel, the show turned out to be very entertaining with various technical, comic, acrobatic, and circus style performances. One of the highlights was a tight rope act done by Irina Matiahs (See photo).
The following evening we were treated to a full length show by "Pas En Rond" (Sylvain Cousin and Thomas Le Doze) from France. Some of you may remember them as the amazing duo with clubs from the Grenoble EJC public show in '99, or from the "European Showcase" at the Primm, Nevada IJA convention. Their beautiful show was very well received and incorporated a lot of silent comedy and drama, with very unique club passing and manipulation.
The final evening was the international Gala show which involved all of us performers who had come from outside Israel. Jive from France is an extremely entertaining modern clown and juggler, who performed several times at EJC public shows. He gave several numbers, from a clubs solo to a double ended broom and many other innovative ideas such as jacket twisting and even handkerchief manipulation! Pas En Rond gave two numbers, showcasing their club juggling mastery. Markus Furtner from Germany, arguably the world's best devilsticker, gave an outstanding and dropless performance. I for one have never seen anyone, ever, do what he did with one and two devil sticks. Stefan Sing and Phillip Meyhöfer from Germany, considered to be the world's best 3 ball jugglers and definitely the best improvisers, gave two numbers involving incredibly difficult ball juggling, beatboxing, dance and shared patterns. Thomas Dietz and Mark "Schani" Probst from Germany and Austria were also there, after being guests at the convention last year and deciding they had so much fun they wanted to come back again this year. Thomas is one of the leading technical jugglers in the world today, having won the IJA gold medal in 2004 and several gold medals at the World Juggling Federation competitions. Thomas and Schani performed together and Thomas also gave a solo number. I also performed in the show, with my diabolo and cigar boxes. In summary I can say that all three shows complemented each other well: The audience was very warm and receptive and the technical and artistic levels were very high.
To those of you considering attending this
convention let me say the following:
If you are concerned about language being a barrier, donít be. Most people speak English, most of them fluently. If you are concerned about security or danger, donít be. The park, the campsite, and the entire convention grounds are fenced, guarded and kept safe and secure day and night throughout the festival.
If you are concerned about price, keep in mind that the convention and food prices are so low that the only real expense to consider is getting there. If you are concerned about not having any friends to go with, donít be. Everyone was so helpful and friendly, and I assure you that you'll be making friends in no time. I was even able to get a 2 hour ride to the airport with someone Iíd never met before. Itsik Orr and the rest of the team organized the festival wonderfully and was very helpful in getting me to the festival and helping out with any need I had.
If you have the travel bug and want to go to a very fun, well organized festival at a beautiful location, then think about Israel. In my opinion, everyone needs to get there at least once in their lifetime.
Bob Cates, Canada
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