Many say that there is not enough entertainment in Israel. Is that so? Israel has its theaters, concert halls and cinematheque in Jerusalem (high culture), but in Tel Aviv are the bigger entertainment centers (popular culture). In Jerusalem they pray, in Haifa they work, in Tel Aviv they play. In this article I describe entertainment in Israel and where to find it.
High culture is catered for by a fine modern opera house, several theaters, and a busy dance and performing arts center. Popular culture is supported by myriad bars, clubs and live music venues. Elsewhere, there is far less going on. Down on the Red Sea coast and in Sinai, entertainment is largely limited to bars and nightclubs.
The Jerusalem Post and the English-language edition of the newspaper Ha-Aretz, both of which are available throughout Israel, carry daily entertainment listings. Both also have extensive cultural supplements on Fridays with detailed listings of events for the week to come. There is also an English-language listings magazine Time Out Tel Aviv published every two months and available free at certain bars and hotels. Tourist offices also have abundant events magazines.
The Israel Philharmonic, one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, is based in Tel Aviv at the Performing Arts Center.
The neighboring Tel Aviv Museum of Art also hosts regular chamber music concerts and other classical events in its Recanati Hall. Smaller venues include the Felicia Blumenthal Center and Einav Cultural Center, both of which host local and international classical musicians.
Tel Aviv’s Performing Arts Center is home to the New Israeli Opera, a world-class company, which puts on four or five new productions a year. The center also frequently hosts visiting productions from Europe and America.
Rock, Jazz and Blues
Local rock bands of variable quality perform most nights at Camelot and Ha-Bima Club, and also at Mike’s Place, which is a foreigner-friendly bar down on the seafront. Benchmark is a relative newcomer featuring live music in the bar-saturated area of Nakhalat Binyamin. This might be good or bad, depending on your point of view. At one side, it’s good, because everything is in a few places, but on the other side it’s very disappointing compared with the rest of the world.
For hardcore fans who are prepared to travel, Barbie mixes Israeli rock with Russian hard rock. Cafe Henrietta, Coffee House and Green Racoon, all of which are in central Tel Aviv, all feature jazz at least one night a week.
Bars and Clubs
In Tel Aviv, the main cluster of bars is in the Nakhalat Binyamin district, particularly around the southern end of Rothschild Avenue and AAL illenblum. The venue that has young hipsters queuing outside every night is Nanuchka, a rowdy but classy bar-restaurant with surreal decor and a permanent party vibe. Around the corner, the splendidly named Betty Ford is a New York-style bar with a SoHo-style buzz. There are also plenty of good late-night spots around the Cinematheque on Ha-Arbaa Street and up in the Old Port area, which is where you’ll find Hannah’le, a bar with a wooden deck jutting out over the water.
Also up at the Old Port are a couple of super clubs, including long-time favorite the Fifth Dimension. However, perhaps the most fascinating and singular club is Ha-
Hamman, a strikingly beautiful, converted Turkish bathhouse in Jaffa. For something more casual and laidback, there’s Mike’s Place down near the seafront in central Tel Aviv or the Gordon Inn, a local pub with a pool table and a reliably
In Sinai, bars and clubs are generally found in the many resort hotels.
The internationally-known Bat Sheva company is the mainstay of modern Israeli dance. There are no classical ballet companies in Israel, but contemporary dance is very much alive here. The focal point of dance activity is the Suzanne Dellal Center, a superb, old Ottoman building at the heart of the historic, southern Tel Aviv district of Neve Tzedek, which has benefited from extensive architectural renewal.
In Jerusalem, dance can be seen at the Center for Performing Arts in the Jerusalem Sherover Theater complex, while Jewish and Arabic folk dancing performances take place on Monday, Thursday and Saturday evenings in the YMCA auditorium.
Plays in Israel are almost always performed in Hebrew (or, less commonly, Arabic), although some of the bigger theaters such as Tel Aviv’s Ha-Bima Theater and New Cameri Theater (and Jerusalem’s Sherover Theater) have headphones providing English-language translation for some performances, though there are a lot of performances in English as well. Productions, in all cases, range from revivals of the classics of world drama (both old and modern) to first-run stagings of new Israeli plays.
There are several theater festivals throughout the year in Israel, the most exciting of which is the Acre Fringe Theater Festival, which stages some performances in the city’s subterranean Crusader halls.
Foreign films shown in Israel are not dubbed, but carry Hebrew subtitles. Cinemas
are plentiful, especially in Tel Aviv, where complexes such as the Rav-Chen 1–5 are
modern, comfortable and air-conditioned. They tend to screen first-run Hollywood
fare. The Cinematheques, of which there is one in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv, specialize in art-house and independent films, as well as holding themed seasons
Israel’s biggest movie theater complex is Cinema City, which has 21 auditoriums and three 3D screens.
- Cinema City Jerusalem (8/20/2016) - Cinema City Jerusalem, which opened the end of February 2014, is the largest entertainment and cultural center in Jerusalem measuring in at 20,000 square meters and including eight floors, 19 movie theaters, including themed theaters, an indoor mall with dozens of restaurants, cafes and stores, a theater for plays, a hall for conferences, a cinema museum and many other attractions.
- Davidson Center (8/19/2016) - The center was built into the basement of an eighth-century building, scrupulously preserving and enhancing it. As you follow the winding ramp downward, artwork and archaeological finds take you back through the ages, and you’ll meet colorful figures of Jerusalem’s exploration in days gone by. A ten-minute, high-definition digital video ingeniously interchanges the experience of Second Temple pilgrims with that of present-day visitors.
- Ein Yael (8/20/2016) - Spring in Nakhal Refa'im, with adjoining Ein Yael Museum, an active museum that holds instructional-experiential workshops for schoolchildren and youth on material culture in ancient times.
- Entertainment for Children in Israel (9/28/2016) - In northern Tel Aviv, the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo makes a good outing for children. You can drive through and observe the wildlife in its natural habitat. The Children’s Museum in Holon, a short drive from Tel Aviv, has lots of fun, interactive exhibits. Mini Israel, which is just off the main highway that runs between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has over 350 miniature models of the Holy Land’s most important landmarks. On the shores of the Dead Sea, just south of Jericho.
- Entertainment in Israel (9/28/2016) - Many say that there is not enough entertainment in Israel. Is that so? Israel has its theaters, concert halls and cinematheque in Jerusalem (high culture), but in Tel Aviv are the bigger entertainment centers (popular culture). In Jerusalem they pray, in Haifa they work, in Tel Aviv they play. In this article I describe entertainment in Israel and where to find it.
- Festival BeShekel 2016 – Two days for Free – October 2016 (9/6/2016) - Thousands of people descend on Monfort Lake Park in North Israel for a free 2-day festival. Founded in 2001, famous bands like Nechi Nech, Yemen Blues, and Yuval Dayan, perform alongside smaller local bands. There are also loads of events for the family, including shows, face painting, stalls, and lots of other activities.
- Haifa Film Festival 2016 – October 2016 (9/6/2016) - The Haifa International Film Festival is an annual film festival that takes place every autumn (between late September and late October), during the week-long holiday of Sukkot, in Haifa, Israel. The festival was inaugurated in 1983 and was the first of its kind in Israel.
- International Center Mary of Nazareth (8/18/2016) - Modern multimedia technology portrays the Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history at the Mary of Nazareth International Center, just across the street from the towering basilica that commemorates her agreement to become the mother of the Son of God.
- Jewish Film Festival 2016 – December 2016 (9/15/2016) - The annual Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque explores a range of topics connected to the issue of Jewish identity are examined including: faith, art, culture, philosophy, music, food, lifestyle in Israel and in the Diaspora and the relationship between Judaism and other religions.
- Katzrin, Capital of the Golan (10/9/2016) - Katzrin (Qazrin), ‘capital of the Golan’, with 6,725 people living there, makes an excellent base for exploring the central Golan and stocking up on picnic supplies. Founded in 1977, it is the region’s only real town. The lively little commercial center, Merkaz Eitan, is a classic 1970s complex that was spruced up considerably in 2013 – adding a tile-covered sculpture that is as whimsical as it is colorful. In addition to a bank and some eateries, it has a first-rate museum. Everything closes on Shabbat.
- Kings City Eilat (8/15/2016) - Biblical amusement park. Caves depicting stages in King Solomon's life, an elevator to underground biblical scenes, 3-D movies, Hippopotamuses that spray water, water slides, mazes, an arcade and more. The park is closed on Saturdays and holidays.
- May 2019 – Jerusalem Day 2019 (2/7/2019) - Jerusalem Day is the day we celebrate the independence of the holy city, celebrations include huge parties, concerts, street parties and more! To get an idea of what Jerusalem Day looks like, check out last year’s list of events
- Sahek Ota, Emek Hefer (8/20/2016) - This huge fun park is the only water park in Israel that operates all year round, with water parks in the summer, and heated pools and play areas in the winter. Plenty of great activities for the kids, with an extreme water park, fair rides, video games, mini golf, the Himalaya Bridge, a gymboree, and other great things to enjoy! There’s also a small museum.
- Shaon Horef – Cultural Festival 2017 – February 2017 (9/8/2016) - Every year, for 4 weeks in February, the Shaon Horef Cultural Festival transforms the streets of Jerusalem into a lively cultural venue full of surprises as thousands of young people come together for this exciting series of cultural happenings with more then 100 free events.
- Sounds of the Old City 2017 – March 2017 (9/8/2016) - Sounds of the Old City is a festival of international music inspired by the Old City quarters which are a focal point of Jerusalem’s culture and tourism. It allows visitors the exposure to the musical traditions found in the Old City of Jerusalem where special melodies both ancient and modern, played on a range of instruments and ensembles, create a collage of beautiful music.
- The French Film Festival – March 2017 – April 2017 (9/8/2016) - French film is the most popular foreign film in Israel after English-language film, consistently drawing the largest number of viewers, with a larger number of films being brought to Israel from France than from any other country.
- The Opera at Zappa – Pretty Woman – September 2016 (1/7/2016) - Opera and movies is a winning combination. From Pretty Woman to The Fifth Element, from James Bond to Mission Impossible opera has served as a great soundtrack for the great movies of all time. An evening of operatic soundtracks from La boheme to La traviata with an addition of great film songs from Goldfinger, Breakfast at Tiffnay’s and more.
- The Tour from Hell (10/1/2016) - This tour was the tour from hell ... for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.
- Tower of David (8/19/2016) - Fortress within the walls of the Old City which is a complex of towers surrounded by a wall and a moat. The archaeological park in the courtyard of the fortress contains ancient remains. The Tower of David museum on the history of Jerusalem operates in the halls of the fortress. A special night show on the story of Jerusalem throughout the generations takes place in the evenings in the courtyard of the museum.
- Tower of David Nightly Light Show Spectacle Gallery (10/5/2016) - The walls of the Citadel serve as a stage for a nighttime show which is a celebration of sight and sound. Amidst the archaeological remains in the Citadel’s courtyard and to the sound of original music, the story of Jerusalem unfolds through giant breathtaking, virtual reality images. The Night Spectacular uses trompe l’oeil technology – the stones of the walls and structures fade into the scenes and the screened images envelop the viewers and whisk them off to a one-of-a-kind multi-sensory experience.
Football is by far the most popular sport throughout the Holy Land. Two teams from Jerusalem play in Israel’s premier league, Beitar and Ha-Poel, and matches take place in the new Teddy Stadium at Malkha in West Jerusalem.
Basketball is the next most popular sport. The Jerusalem team, Ha-Poel, plays in the Sports Arena near the Teddy Stadium, while the Maccabee Tel Aviv plays at the Yad Eliahu Arena just off the Ayalon highway.
Almost all the large hotels have outdoor swimming pools; the YMCA in Jerusalem
also has an indoor pool. You can also swim all year round at the Jerusalem Swimming Pool, in the German Colony district, south of the center. The Red Sea is warm enough for year-round swimming, although most resort hotels also have swimming pools. Swimming in the Mediterranean is fine in summer but it’s too cold
from around October to April.
In northern Tel Aviv, the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo makes a good outing for children. You can drive through and observe the wildlife in its natural habitat. The Children’s Museum in Holon, a short drive from Tel Aviv, has lots of fun, interactive exhibits.
Mini Israel, which is just off the main highway that runs between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, has over 350 miniature models of the Holy Land’s most important landmarks.
On the shores of the Dead Sea, just south of Jericho.
- Einav Cultural Centre, 71 Ibn Gvirol St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 521 7763.
- Felicia Blumenthal Centre 26 Bialik St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 620 1185. http://www.fbmc.co.il
- King Hussein Cultural Centre Omar Matar St, El-Muhajareen, Amman. Tel (06) 473 9953.
- Performing Arts Centre 19 Ha-Melekh Shaul Ave, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 692 7777.
- Royal Cultural Centre Al-Malekah Alia St, Shmeisani, Amman. Tel (06) 566 1026.
- Targ Centre Ein Kerem, near Jerusalem. Tel (02) 641 4250. http://www.klassi.net/targ
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art 27 Ha-Melekh Shaul Ave, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 696 1297. http://www.tamuseum.com
- New Israeli Opera Performing Arts Centre, 19 Ha-Melekh Shaul Ave, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 692 7777. http://www.israel-opera.co.il
ROCK, JAZZ AND BLUES
- Barbie 52 Kibbutz Gayulot St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 518 8123.
- Benchmark37 Nakhalat Binyamin St,Tel Aviv.
- Cafe Henrietta 186 Arlozorov St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 691 1715.
- Camelot16 Shalom Aleichem St,Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 629 8666.
- Coffee House88 Dizengoff St, Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 528 0565.
- Green Racoon 186 Ben Yehuda St, Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 529 8513.
- Ha-Bima ClubBasement, 2 Tarsat St,Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 528 2174.
- Mike’s Place86 Herbert Samuel, TelAviv.Tel (052) 670 965.
BARS AND CLUBS
- Betty Ford 48 Nakhalat Binyamin St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 510 0650.
- Big Fellow Irish Pub Abdoun Circle, Amman. Tel (06) 593 4766.
- Cave Bar Behind the Visitors’ Centre, Petra. Tel (03) 215 6266.
- Champions Amman Marriott, Isam el-Ajlouni St, Shmeisani, Amman. Tel (06) 560 7607.
- Fifth Dimension Old Port, Tel Aviv. Tel (052) 242 5891.
- Gordon Inn 17 Gordon St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 523 8239.
- Ha-Hammam 10 Mifraz Shlomo St, Jaffa. Tel (03) 681 3261.
- Hannah’le Old Port, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 488 4884.
- Living RoomMohammed HusseinHeikal St, Amman.Tel (06) 465 5988.
- Nanuchka28 Lilenblum St, Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 516 2254.
- Jerash Festival Jerash Festival Office, Amman, Jordan. Tel (06) 567 5199. http://www.jerashfestival.com.jo
- Suzanne Dellal Centre 5 Yehieli St, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 510 5656.
- YMCA King David St, Jerusalem. Tel (02) 569 2692.
- Acre Fringe Theatre Festival Tel (04) 955 2541.
- Ha-Bima Theatre Habima Square, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 628 5555. http://www.habima.org.il
- New Cameri Theatre 30 Leonardo Da Vinci St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 606 0960. http://www.cameri.co.il
- Century Cinemas 3rd Circle, Jebel Amman, Amman, Jordan. Tel (06) 461 3200.
- Cinema CityGilot Junction, Tel Aviv.Tel (1-700) 702 25.
- GalleriaAbdoun Circle,Amman, Jordan. Tel (06) 593 4793. Rav-Chen 1-5
- Opera Towers, 1 AllenbySt, Tel Aviv.Tel (03) 510 2674.
- Tel AvivCinematheque 2 Sprinzhak St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 606 0800.
- Jordan International Stadium Shmeisani, Amman.
- Teddy Stadium Agudat Sport Beitar, Malkha, West Jerusalem. Tel (02) 678 8320.
- Yad Eliahu Arena 51 Yigal Allon St, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 537 6376.
- Jerusalem Swimming Pool 43 Emek Refaim St. Tel (02) 563 2092.
- Children’s Museum 1 Mifratz Shlomo St, Holon, Israel Tel (03) 650 3000.
- Mini Israel Kibbutz Nacsho, Latrun, Israel Tel (08) 922 2444.
- Ramat Gan Safari Zoo Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv. Tel (03) 631 3531.