The Festigal Must Go On!

This year, Israel celebrated their fortieth anniversary of the Hanukkah Festigal, commonly referred to as The Festigal. Today, The Festigal is a musical production featuring various Israeli celebrities who come together to perform for the children of Israel. Every year there is a different plot and a new soundtrack is created, sometimes featuring remixes of songs from previous years. Normally, The Festigal would have three to four productions every day throughout Hanukkah. Regardless of religion, there is not one child in Israel that does not know about The Festigal, which made the obstacle of this year all the more important to overcome. 

The History of The Festigal:

The Festigal was performed for the first time in 1981. Inspired by the Children’s Song Festivals singing competition that was created in 1970, Mickey Peled decided to bring a story and a theme into these incredible performances. In 1981, The Festigal was introduced to the children of Haifa and, thanks to its incredible success, it was brought to Tel-Aviv the following year for a national audience. During the first decade of The Festigal, the show was still mainly a singing competition where the most famous singers of the country would come together with new songs for a child audience. In 1984, The Festigal was filmed and broadcasted for the first time on Channel One (the only existing Israeli channel at the time). 1985 was the first year that a storyline was introduced to The Festigal and ever since then, every year, The Festigal has had a theme. In the year 2015 history was changed yet again when the producers of The Festigal decided to completely take away the singing competition part of the show and only leave the musical component of it. Even with all of these changes, The Festigal has become a fundamental part of the Israeli culture.

COVID-19 Changes:

This year created a serious obstacle for The Festigal production due to the inability to hold a physical show like the years before. This was yet another time that Israelis had to put their creativity and problem-solving skills to the test, and yes, they did a fabulous job by bringing The Festigal to every child’s home!

Luckily, the producers decided to use this obstacle to their advantage and create a choose your own destiny Festigal with some of the most famous actors and singers from previous years, along with throwback songs from over the years such as “Friends in All Kinds of Colours”, “Sigla Bigla Boom”, and “Pop Princess” (to listen to these songs on Youtube, put the titles into Google Translate). What makes this year’s Festigal all the more exciting is that it has become international! With a purchase of a key for sixty Shekels (the equivalent to around twenty-four Canadian Dollars), a family has full access to this year’s Festigal, called My Festigal. Beginning forty days before the premiere of the official show which is on the eighth day of Hanukkah this year, each day a new virtual door opens, and each door has its own challenge or sneak peek. 

Although this change of venue has disappointed many Israeli children who are used to seeing the show in person and enjoy the live performance, this change has had many positive impacts. There is no argument that the virtual world is big, and this is the first time that children all around the world were able to be a part of this incredible Israeli tradition! The price to enjoy this year’s Festigal has also been reduced from the regular price of approximately seventy dollars per seat (of course this varies depending on the type of seat chosen). There are the snack sales and memorabilia that were always a part of each child’s excitement, and this was not part of this year’s Festigal experience. However, with all of these changes, there is no doubt that Israelis have once again proven their talent in adapting and making the best out of any situation. 

My Festigal: 

As mentioned above, starting on November eighth when the first virtual door was unlocked, every day was filled with surprise and adventure. Each door had a different activity or sneak peek such as escape rooms, knowledge quizzes from past Festigals, guessing games with the actors of the show, and character quizzes. Of course, there were sneak peeks of sampled songs from previous Festigals in order to connect parents to their children and even older siblings to their younger ones.

 On the eighth day of Hanukkah the official hour and a half Festigal was released and just like every year before, it pleasantly surprised its audience. This year’s plot revolved around seeing the behind the scenes of The Festigal production as the meanest villains of the past forty years tried to destroy it, but eventually agreed to work along with the famous Festigal celebrities. After forty days of getting the children excited for the final show, it was a pleasant surprise that the final production was able to bring all the excitement and emotion that so many of us remember when we were children watching our own Festigals. It was truly a Festigal to remember.

 Although I am sure many Israeli children are already looking forward to next year’s Festigal that will hopefully take place in person, there is no doubt that this year has opened doors to many different opportunities that will likely be repeated in years to come.

 The link to My Festigal:

About the Author
Eli Yissar Josefson is a high school student in Toronto, Canada where she is the school's newspaper editor. She has had a passion for Israel ever since she can remember and has been involved with Hasbara Fellowships Canada for three years where she has published several political articles involving Israel and the United States.
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