Winter Lights Festival

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens offers an illuminated winter wonderland route complete with symphonic music and warm comfort foods.

By Elana Shap, Israel21c

Snow or icy weather is rare in Israel, yet the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens has its own spectacular Winter Lights Festival patterned after those at botanical gardens in colder climes such as Vancouver, New York and Berlin.

The illuminated winter wonderland, designed by lighting artist Gil Teichman and the Botanical Gardens’ art unit director, Gabi Fima, will start every evening after sundown from December 12 until the end of January.

Visitors will walk a 1-kilometer (a little more than half a mile) pathway lit up by 2.5 million small LED lights and other lighting in various shapes and sizes — including deer, flowers and butterflies — draped over the foliage.

Along the route, music from the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will be piped in, and 30 shimmering floating balls are floating over the lake.

Roasted chestnuts, Belgian waffles, sangria, hot chocolate and soup in a bread bowl are some of the winter warmers available for purchase during the festival.

“Our Winter Lights festival is created in the spirit of a European market and welcomes all the religions of Jerusalem,” says Tom Amit, CEO of the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.

The idea to hold a Winter Lights Festival began during the Corona pandemic.

“Traditionally, Israelis don’t like to do outdoor activities in winter and think it’s odd to be outside when it’s cold. But many Israelis travel abroad and enjoy these kinds of events and crowded indoor activities were impossible then, so this seemed like an excellent idea,” Amit tells ISRAEL21c.

The first festival was held between two lockdowns in December 2020 and the second at the end of 2021, just before Israelis went back to a period of lockdown.

In the first year, 27,000 people enjoyed the festival and last year it grew to 50,000.

“People really appreciated it. Many said it was like going abroad for a night,” says Amit, adding that the budget of this year’s festival has doubled, and it will be “bigger and more impressive than ever.”

And just so that there is no missing out on capturing the perfect Instagrammable image, photo booths will be set up throughout the route and actors in character costumes will mingle with the crowds.

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