I never did get to go to the famous Woodstock Festival of Peace and Music in upstate New York in 1969, but earlier this month I did attend the closest thing you can get to it in Israel—two days and two nights of nearly non-stop live music enjoyed by some 3,000 people in a bucolic setting on the grounds of Kibbutz Ginosar in the eastern Galilee.
Amazingly, the Jacob’s Ladder Music Festival is only seven years younger than its iconic American counterpart, making it the longest running annual music festival in Israel. And many of the attendees look like they could have been at the original, nearly half-a-century ago.
Jacob’s Ladder is the brainchild of Menachem and Yehudit Vinegrad, olim from England who moved to Israel in 1967. The humble beginnings of what has grown into a festival that now draws participants from all corners of the country—and guests artists from as far away as overseas—were occasional modest get-togethers of a folk music club organized by the British couple from Kibbutz Mahanayim.
The Vinegrads refer to Jacob’s Ladder as “Israel’s friendliest music festival”—a long weekend of Country, Rock, Swing, Jazz, Bluegrass, Blues, Folk, Celtic, Irish and Viking Music, Honky-Tonk and Global Beats.
This spring’s lineup of performers featured no fewer than 37 acts, with two headline groups from Europe: Spiritual Seasons from the Ukraine, and Ukus in Fabula from Italy. The ukulele trio may have been Italian, but there music was rollicking American, and had the audience dancing in the aisles.
There is plenty to do at Jacob’s Ladder besides listening to music: multiple dance workshops, master classes, yoga, tai chi/chi gong, activities for children, and swimming (in the kibbutz pool or the Sea of Galilee). There is also a crafts fair, and food stalls selling a variety of meals, drinks and snacks, including vegan options.
Festival tickets are all-inclusive and may be purchased for one or two days. The price includes permission to pitch your own tent and camp on the grounds, and parking, with vans to shuttle drivers to the concert venue if your space is far away.
Rooms are available in the hotel, of course—but only for those who book a year or more in advance. In fact, accommodations are already sold out for the festival in May 2019.
Another option, for families or groups, is to rent one of the many homes offered for rent by members of the kibbutz.
Can’t wait a whole year to join in the fun? The popularity of the festival has caused it to expand and put on a (slightly shorter) winter edition as well. The next one is coming up the weekend of 30.11-1.12.18.
Jacob’s Ladder Festival, Nof Ginosar Hotel. Tel. (04) 685-0403