The Smilansky Street Festival

Now that I live in Beer Sheva, I am beginning to participate in local activities.  Every year at this time  they have a Smilansky Street Festival.  I went this evening with my daughter.  It was great!

First a word about Moshe Smilansky, he was a pioneer Zionist leader who moved to  Ottoman occupied Israel in 1890, he advocated peaceful coexistence with the Arabs in British occupied Mandatory Palestine, and he was a farmer and a prolific author.  In almost every city in Israel there is a street named after him.

The one in Beer Sheva is in the Old City.  Most people are not aware that Beer Sheva has an Old City.  It is not nearly as old as the famous one in Jerusalem, it dates mainly from the 19th century, when the Turks decided to develop Beer Sheva as  local capital of the Negev desert region.  It was their intention, as happened during WWI, to use it as a military base from which to attack the British in Egypt.  So they built a railroad to Beer Sheva at the beginning of the 20th century.  The Old City is a mixture of trendy art studios and old family-owned businesses.

We went to see an exhibit of paintings of two friends of mine Roy Rubinstein and Lena Zilberberg that was on for the festival.  Very exciting paintings.  Then we toured the festival, covering several blocks.  The weirdest thing (see Facebook) was a performer who blew up a huge balloon and then actually went inside it!  There were many stalls selling jewelry and crafts and lots of food stalls.  Finally we saw a band playing oriental (Mizrachi) Jewish music, with an instrument that looked like a zither, and the music sounds like Arabic music.  I looked up and saw that they were playing on the corner of Mordechai Anielewicz Street.  Only in Israel!