A 12-day celebration of Israeli children’s theatre will stage 67 plays in 25 Jewish schools, and community organisations, across England. Initially only 20 performances were scheduled, but due to growing demand from the Jewish community, this has increased and expanded beyond London to Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Brighton.
The British-Jewish organisation JNF UK is bringing the Festival of Spoken Ivrit to the UK. This year’s festival will present a series of Israeli plays for children across secondary, primary, special education, and nurseries, with the aim of strengthening the connection to Israel through the Hebrew language. The festival, first held in 2018, will run this year from February 25th to the 8th March.
The plays will include: “The Lion and the Mouse,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Me and the Lane” and “Until Further Notice,” all presented by the Israeli Hour Theatre repertory company of Tel Aviv.
To prepare the children for plays in Hebrew, JNF UK sent the schools education materials and activities to be used in their Ivrit lessons, allowing the students to study the vocabulary of the plays. In this way, the youngsters will be familiar with complete Hebrew sentences and the storyline before they attend the carefully selected presentations.
Dr Shai Bezalely, CEO of JNF UK: “Our organisation, which plays an important role in the development of Israel, sees great importance in connecting British Jews with Israelis, including through the Hebrew language. JNF UK’s Festival of Spoken Ivrit, which will take place this year will enable thousands of students in Jewish schools to enrich their Hebrew language studies and improve their ability to use it as a tool to connect us as one people.”
Festival Producer Tali Tzemach said: “Despite the difficulties, we have reached Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Brighton. The festival is growing in size, expanding in reach and becoming widely known. Congratulations and well done to JNF UK on this important undertaking. For me personally, bringing plays in Hebrew to Jewish children in the Diaspora and strengthening their connection with Israel through teaching the language gives me a sense that I am taking part in an important mission”.
As part of the festival, Her Excellency Tzipi Hotovely, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, attended a performance of The Emperor’s New Clothes at Etz Chaim School in Mill Hill on Tuesday. Engaging with the young audience of 10-11 year-olds, the Ambassador said “Thank you to JNF UK and Tzemach Productions for hosting me. It is wonderful that Hebrew, a bible language, has become a daily language in Israel. It is so important to have Hebrew books and plays from this festival as part of your education”.
Having moved to the North this year (due to growing demand), JNF UK’s Festival of Ivrit was a big success at King David Manchester. The performance of “Me and the Lane” presented by Itai Chammah and based on his real-life story of representing Israel in the Olympics, truly inspired the audience. “The play was amazing. The acting was really good and I could see how he struggled to achieve his dream of being an Olympic swimmer” Ethan Nieurzyla year 7. “He was such a good actor. It was like he was talking directly to me.” Aaron Kloos year 7.
Rabbi Avi Schwartz, RS teacher and Head of Informal Jewish Education said “The kids were engaged throughout and could be heard discussing the performance afterwards. Especially for kids so young it’s imperative they hear positive messages about being able to achieve anything they put their mind to, and this performance did just that.”.
During the Festival we also held a display competition for Schools taking part. Congratulations to Sacks Morasha Primary School who won 1st prize who have won a £500 for Mookie Toys. Second place winners went to Hasmonean Primary School who won a £350 voucher for Mookie Toys.