After wandering outside of Jerusalem, wandering through downtown Jerusalem and wandering through a Jerusalem art fair, my friend, Maytal, and I finally made it to the much dreamed about Jerusalem Ice Festival.
For the first time, Jerusalem hosted the International Ice Festival. 35 artists and construction workers were flown in from China. A 1500 square meter complex was flown in from Belgium. The artists spent a month working inside this complex, alongside Israeli artists.
Other ice festivals in the world take place outdoors. The ice festival in El Calafate, Argentina, for example, takes place in Redonda Bay, which Patagonia.com.ar named “the largest natural skating space in South America”. Taking place outside in July and August, it is a venue not only for sculptures as is the Jerusalem Ice Festival, but for sports and performances as well. Another example is the ice festival of Fairbanks, Alaska, which offers both renowned artists and amateurs to showcase their creations on several blocks. In addition, newbies can take ice sculpture classes and bring their creation back home once they’re done – though don’t ask me how it doesn’t end up melting.
In comparison’s to El Calafate and Fairbanks’ cold, Jerusalem is a warm place. After all, while it does snow in Jerusalem most winters, it snows very briefly. Placing the ice outside could lead only to a melting festival, followed by a swimming festival. In a city that has no beach, it might be alluring, yet if dozens of artists are hard at work for a month, it might be better to hold the exhibitions indoors.
And so the Jerusalem city hall indeed decide to hold the ice festival indoors, and it made sure to freeze that indoor at a temperature unheard of in Israel before: minus ten degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
If you thought taking the bus in the wrong direction or getting sidetracked by art when you want to get to ice was tough, you ain’t heard nothing yet.
The most challenging part of the day – besides leaving the ice, of course – was putting on layers of clothes in a day so hot, we sweat our way through Jerusalem. Maybe it was just all the walking in the sun that got us sweating. Either way, we were not looking forward to changing to winter clothes.
I put on thermal pants and a thermal shirt. On top of the thermal pants, I wore warm socks. On top of these, really warm socks. On top of all that – the pants I wore up and still then. They weren’t warming at all. Therefore, I added my two-layered warm pants that I bought in San Martin de Los Andes, Argentina, after freezing my way through Bariloche.
As far as shirts, I forgot a layer at home, so on top of the thermal shirt, I wore a shirt so warm, I didn’t even dare wearing it in the Israeli winter of central Israel as it would get to hot with it. Maybe had I visited Jerusalem then it would have come handy. But this was late May. On top of my warm shirt I wore a warm sweatshirt. And just in case it would still be cold, I borrowed one of the free, very warm coats the festival was giving away to visitors for the time of their visit. It’s great extra protection from the cold, and when you go back outside, you are more than happy to return it…. or you’ll melt.
I wrapped a scarf around my neck and put on gloves that enable me to photograph. With me, I had an additional pair of gloves that Maytal brought for me, deciding to wear it only if I can’t stand the cold, since these gloves do not enable photography.
I was sweating.
I sat down to tie my shoes and could barely get up.
How did I do it for weeks in Argentina with five – not three or four – layers?
It must have been the excitement that moved through me as I saw the banners of leaking ice around me. Or the banners of glaciers, that took me back to El Calafate and reminded me of the glaciers and icebergs I saw there, and of the ice bar where I danced and stayed longer than anyone else. Maybe it was the sheer joy that embraced every centimeter of me as I moved the heavy curtains and we walked in. Ice sculptures, lit by colorful, changing lights revealed themselves to me.
I wanted to look slowly, to explore every bit of winter wonder. I wanted to move slowly, so that the experience would last. I could have stood right in that corner for hours.
Yet the heaviness disappeared.
Lighthearted, joy-filled, I turned to my friend and gave her a hug, wanting to jump up and down. “We’re here”, I said, “we’re really here!”
What’s the most exciting thing you did recently?