Shaon Horef.

You may have heard the name but you probably aren’t sure exactly what it is. OK, so it’s Jerusalem’s winter festival which takes place over the course of four Mondays in February. But what is it really, how should you navigate it and why should you go?

To get all the answers I went right to the top. Yonatan Strier is the manager of the media department in the Young Adult Authority of the Jerusalem Municipality and the head producer of Shaon Horef 2016. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Yonatan, tell me about yourself.

yonatan-streier-shaon-choref-4-315-300x232My name is Yonatan Strier. I’m 27 years old. I was born in Jerusalem and I studied in Philadelphia in high school. I have been producing cultural events since I was 19 and I have been working in the Young Adult Authority (Reshut Hatze’irim) of the Jerusalem Municipality since I was 20. Today I manage the media department of the Young Adult Authority and created the JLM nightlife app.

2. This is Shaon Horef’s 5th year. What’s the story behind its creation?

Shaon Horef was created in the mind of our boss and mentor Yoram Braverman, who is now the head of the culture department of the municipality and one of the most creative people working in the culture industry in Israel.

He managed to crack down on a seemingly impossible formula. Namely, promote culture, bring thousands of people out to the streets, put money into businesses, give work to hundreds of artists and all this in the middle of the winter.

When we proposed the plan people thought we were suicidal. To do a festival in February was nuts, and to do it on a Monday night? Many people did not understand that concept but for us it is clear. Obviously if we did it on a Thursday it would be easier to promote. But then we are not helping businesses, we are taking from them. On Monday night businesses are not as full and they are  thrilled to have the festival visit their establishments.

The first year was a great success, but it’s nothing compared to what it is now – the biggest open culture festival in Israel.

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3. What is it that makes Shaon Horef so characteristically “Yerushalmi”?

Shaon Horef is Jerusalem. It is in its veins. This festival resembles the city in so many ways. It is complex. It is diverse. It’s edgy. Ever-changing. It has a bit of it all. In Shaon Horef you can see a mixture of cultural items ranging from deep saloon talks with the heads of the social revolution to a crazy all-out wedding themed party with fake relatives and actors for the bride and groom. A lot like in the city itself, this festival features a place for everyone; no matter what your style, you will find something to suite your palate.

4. What is the percentage of Jerusalem versus national artists at Shaon Horef?

Around 60% of the artists at Shaon Horef are from Jerusalem. And out of over 500 artists taking place in this year’s festival, that’s a whole lot! (And don’t forget to multiply that by five years.)

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5. Is Shaon Horef repetitive or are there new things every year?

Shaon Horef is ever changing. Every year we break our heads trying to invent new concepts, come up with new locations; the standards keep getting higher and the crowd expects more every year.

I would say that we are pretty successful in not repeating ourselves which is a huge task after doing over 600 artistic items in the past five festivals. Of course if something is really excellent we upgrade it and repeat it, especially things like the art fair with Bezalel Art School students (this year in Yanai parking lot on February 8). Also the workshops with top musicians, the cooking lessons, the alcohol tasting etc. are back due to their popularity.

6. How long does it take to plan Shaon Horef?

We never stop planning Shaon Horef. Although we have 10 other festivals every year, Shaon Horef is always in the planning. Every cool idea we hear of or see during the year becomes a potential Shaon Horef item. The actual planning takes about four months, and that is when the machine is running on full gas. I think that if someone had to plan something like Shaon Horef for the first time it would take about a year.

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7. How do you suggest that people from “outside” the culture (olim, tourists) navigate the festival?

Most definitely go over the schedule (you can see it in English here) and look for the music and art parts. Music is the main art form presented in Shaon Horef and music can be enjoyed no matter the language. We have music in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Russian, different African tongues and more. Another really good idea is just to come early, look for some locals who are walking around with the festival map and ask for recommendations. Israelis, and Jerusalemites especially, are very open and love to take pride in knowing the place to be.

8. Why should a tourist go to Shaon?

Shaon Horef is unique. Nowhere in Israel, and maybe in the world, can you find such a diverse offering of cultural items spread in front of you, and for free. I think that the main aspect of this festival’s success is its accessibility. It’s so easy to jump from one thing to another, try and experiment. In other words it’s like the worlds biggest culture buffet; you can take something even if you’re not sure you will like it and then move on to the next thing.

9. And what in the world does Shaon Horef mean?

Shaon Horef (שעון חורף) means daylight savings time, but when spelled with one letter differently (שאון) it gets a whole new meaning. Spelled with an alef shaon means: noise, ruckus, buzz, fuss… It’s a word rarely used and it feels like it was invented especially for us.

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The details

Shaon Horef takes place over the course of four Mondays in FebruaryGet the Shaon Horef 2016 complete program in English here. Or see each week’s program individually:

February 8 2016: Shaon Horef #1 | Shushan
February 15 2016: Shaon Horef #2 | Nachalat Shiva
February 22 2016: Shaon Horef #3 | Hillel Stree
February 29 2016: Shaon Horef #4 | Azza Street

Entrance to all events is free, based on availability, besides certain events where it is stated otherwise. Some places might request a minimum order per guest.

Photos by Different View Photography