Written by Daniel Marruzzo.
Published in the Fall 2002 issue of Kaskade Magazine.
My experiences from the 9th Israeli juggling convention may be described using a long list of adjectives: from adventurous through exciting all the way to amazing.
I have always enjoyed travelling and the discovery of new places and cultures. Coupling this with my obsessive (yet humble) passion for juggling, attending a convention in Israel was an interesting choice for me. In the eyes of many around me this decision was disconcerting in view of the perceived danger due to dramatic events in that part of the world. In fact, only five jugglers from outside Israel (including me) attended the convention this year, and even the special guests (Gandini Juggling Project) cancelled their participation a few weeks before the event. Well, I am very glad I made it!
For me it was not only the ideal juggling convention but also a truly great experience of life and a pretty cool holiday. The extreme hospitality and friendship of local jugglers characterized my entire stay in Israel. I was hosted for a few days in Tel Aviv by the juggler Oded Zohar, a friend of Itsik Orr (the convention organizer), who was one of a few who simply volunteered after I asked Itsik if I can crash anywhere. After a week of good time, good food and several juggling sessions at the Drummers beach and at Oded's place, I arrived on Saturday evening at Gan Hashlosha National Park for the unofficial start of the convention. This unofficial start was just a way for the hardcore jugglers to meet up and set up their tents. Luckily for me, a few rooms of the gymnasium had been cleverly put at the disposal of people without any camping gear or whose rucksacks were too full of props, which allowed me to get straight in the gym for a first toss up which of course ended up lasting all night.
Soon I met Edgar Groll, an Argentinean juggler. Edgar does not speak a word of English nor Hebrew, the two languages spoken in Israel, but still managed to travel in Israel for about four months (there is no limit to Israeli hospitality!). Thanks to fairly good Spanish and our mutual juggling interests (such as palm spinning - see photo on right) we soon teamed up. Needless to say we both attracted great curiosity and our well being at the convention soon became a major priority for everyone.
On the next day I discovered the astonishing beauty of the site (see photo below), the perfect organization of the event and the various facilities on offer, such as free hot beverages in the gym, free soup at night for everyone, a restaurant by the amazing waterfalls and spring water rock pools, a peaceful campsite and even an amphitheater where a great fire show took place. Vendors of new and second hand equipment were also successfully involved because of a lack of any real juggling shop in the country. In fact, juggling is a rather recent art in Israel and only since the last four gatherings did the convention attract a considerable number of people and has reached the level of established international events. This year the official figure was around 400 attendants, which again made it a record for Itsik and co. - Our beloved passion is becoming an established discipline in Israel.
There was a substantial number of very skilful and ambitious jugglers, particularly the young generation, who are in one way or another totally involved in the art either by practicing it professionally or by attending a circus school. There are very few options for young people to study circus skills in Israel, thus most of the serious ones attend European schools or would like to by skipping the army devoting all their energy to their passion early in life.
One of the pleasurable aspects of the convention for me was seeing and experiencing a very genuine attitude to sharing skills and ideas, not only through the diverse workshop schedule coordinated by the crazy juggler Scott Seltzer, but also through very friendly informal sessions lasting late into every night. Once the kids were away, we could really appreciate the high technical level present at the convention shown for instance by Luke Burrage (from England) or by the many amazing locals such as Amir Levitov, the contact freaks Amir Levy and Nimi Ben Shalom, Uri Weiss, and the list is fortunately very long so all the best to all of you, my friends!
The public show featured parts from a brilliant juggling show by the trio Perpetuum Mobile (Eran Lavee, Shuka Bergman and Mikail Staroseletski, who could all be seen at the Grenoble EJC public show), as well as some very beautiful corde lisse and trapeze acts (by Michal Abulafia and Orit Nevo respectively) and a finale by renown American physical comedian Tom Murphy. The aerial numbers added a lot of interest, as did the professional trapeze workshop, which made a positive contribution to the whole event and created a true circus atmosphere.
The open stage featured some extraordinary acts as well, and special mention must be made of the outstanding double trapeze performance by Yoav and Yaniv of the team Y-not-2, excellently complementing the aerial acts of the gala (photo at right).
Basically all the ingredients of a successful convention were there. A great happy atmosphere characterized the whole festival, and It was obvious the convention as a whole focuses on combining skills and fun of all kinds. I just regret that I missed last years close-up magic workshops by champion magician (and master juggler) Luke Wilson! I would like to stress the great effort put in by the organizers to ensure that it ran smoothly, and all aspects were dealt with near-perfection. Although the finale was an unusual (for me at least) but apparently traditional public debate about what could be improved for the future, I could hardly find any complaints. The organization is based on a completely voluntary work force, which assures an extremely low cost of participation and therefore the good spirit of the event. I personally came back with a fair amount of Israeli currency since even the trip to the airport was provided by a friendly family who was going in that direction! Consequently I am strongly tempted to go back again and make it a classic of my juggling life. It's really worth the trip guys! And those of you afraid of what they see on the news must bear in mind that the National Park where the convention is held every year is as far from hostility and conflict as can be imagined.
The convention is held according to the Jewish calendar, implying that the dates move around a bit from year to year. Next year it will take place at the end of April, making sure the hot weather will be a more important feature than this years (which was in March)... It even bloody rained at times, but I was given to understand that it was an exception of the past 15 years!
I would like to thank again all the Israeli jugglers for the wonderful time I had with you. I certainly plan to be back again next year, hoping for greater international participation and for a non-cancelled main attraction.
Daniel Marruzzo, London, UK
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