The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023: Cinema, Attractions and Magic

By Sarah Mann | Published on 7/4/2023

The International Jerusalem Film Festival is back for its 40th year, promising locals and tourists alike the chance to see some truly astonishing films in one of the world’s most marvelous cities - Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

Running from 13th to 23rd July, the festival will be showcasing more than 200 films from 50 countries around the world, and awards will be handed out by an international panel of film critics. Filmmakers will be there to discuss their work, and it is going to be an incredible ten days.

The Jerusalem Film Festival’s Premiere

Even more exciting, the opening night will be particularly special.  Why?  Because it’s being held at the Sultan’s Pool, just west of Mount Zion (home to King David’s tomb, the room of the Last Supper, and Dormition Abbey).  

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023Sunrise at Mount Zion

This ancient pool was once part of Jerusalem’s water supply from Roman times up until the Ottoman era - and today is a popular venue for live music festivals.  On July 13th, however, it’s going to be hosting an audience of 5,000 attendees at the glittering premiere of a much-anticipated film that’s hitting the big screen - ‘Golda’.

‘Golda’ - The Life of Golda Meir

Golda, of course, refers to ‘Golda Meir’ - one of modern Israel’s most famous Prime Ministers and often regarded as the ‘mother’ of the nation at that time. 

If this isn’t intriguing enough, the actress playing her - Helen Mirren - will be attending the premiere.  Mirren, of course, is world-famous, perhaps one of the greatest actresses of her time.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- 'Golda' (Israel, 2023)'Golda' (Israel, 2023)

Known particularly for her stellar performances as Detective Jane Tennison in the smash-hit British drama “Prime Suspect’ and the late Queen Elizabeth in ‘The Queen’, we can’t imagine what she’s going to bring to the role of Israel’s only female head of state, whose long and controversial political career was brought down by the events of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Jerusalem’s Cinematheque - A Venue with a View

After the opening night at the Sultan’s Pool, the festival will move back to its usual location, which is at the Cinematheque on Hebron Road, a venue that offers breathtaking views over the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- An official ad for the 2023 Jerusalem Film FestivalAn official ad for the 2023 Jerusalem Film Festival

Established in 1973, by the philanthropist George Ostrovsky, who wanted to make it a cultural landmark and a meeting place for film lovers, it holds a huge film archive and hosts events all year round.  It’s also just a five-minute walk from the beautiful Jerusalem neighborhood of Yemin Moshe and also the vibrant First Station complex (the location of the first station that ran trains between Jerusalem, and Jaffa).

The Movie of the Jerusalem Film Festival 2023

An awful lot is being shown at this year’s festival, and for a complete rundown of the films being screened, take a look at the Cinematheque website.  In the meantime, here are a few films we’d highly recommend:

The Siren (Iran).  In 1980, Abadan, a city in Iran, is hit by a missile, and teenager Omid - a food delivery worker - begins the search for his missing brother and then looks for a way to escape the city.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- 'The Siren' (Iran, 2023)'The Siren' (Iran, 2023)

The Taste of Apples is Red (Israel).  In a Druze village in the Golan Heights, Kamel, a respected Sheik, must make an impossible decision between family and duty when his estranged brother returns home after 47 years in exile.

Delegation (Israel).  Three childhood friends set off on a school trip to Poland, to visit places associated with the Holocaust Between death camps and memorial sites, all three make personal journeys, celebrating their youth and facing their respective fears. 

Only the River Flows (China).  In a rural part of China, in the 1990s, a woman’s body is discovered floating in the river.  In the murder investigation that follows, the Chief of Police finds several troubling clues in the search for a suspect.

Past Lives (USA).  Two childhood friends in Korea lose each other when one’s family emigrates.  Twenty years later, they meet in NYC for a week to talk about the choices they’ve made in this modern romance.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- 'Past Lives' (USA, 2023)'Past Lives' (USA, 2023)

Safe Place (Croatia).  After a suicide attempt, a family is torn apart and the bonds of brothers are highlighted in this debut feature by a director who plays himself!  

Free Screenings Around the City

Finally, don’t despair if you can’t pick up a ticket to the films in which you’re most interested because this year, some of the films are going to be screened free (yes; free of charge). 

Large trucks will show up, bearing movie projectors and screens, in neighborhoods all around the city, giving you the perfect opportunity to enjoy a bit of culture whilst enjoying the atmosphere of Jerusalem by Night (here are some great night-time spots for you).

Enjoying Jerusalem in the summer

Jerusalem’s a fantastic city to visit any time of the year but in the summer it comes to life.  With hot days but cool, breezy evenings, it’s the perfect place to take a vacation.  

Jerusalem has a world-class culture - you shouldn’t miss a trip to the Israel Museum (home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a miniature model of the Second Temple, lots of fine art, and a beautiful Sculpture Garden) and the moving and emotional Yad Vashem, Israel’s National Monument to the Holocaust.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- The Tower of David in JerusalemThe Tower of David in Jerusalem

Jerusalem also has plenty for kids, including the Biblical Zoo (which is perfect for a day outing) and the aquarium next door, and the Bloomfield Science Center (ideal on a scorching hot day, since it’s air-conditioned).

Unmissable - a Walk through the Old City

And for anyone interested in history, theology, or architecture, there’s no better place to spend time than inside the Old City Walls.

Wandering through the ancient quarters, walking narrow cobblestone paths that are 2,000 years old, you can visit Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock (sacred to Muslims, as the spot that Mohammed flew over on his night journey to Mecca), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Christ was both crucified and resurrected) and the Western Wall, the last remaining part of the Herodian Second Temple, and a focal point for Jews.

Day Trips from Jerusalem

Jerusalem is also an excellent base for day trips if you feel the need to get out of the city and see a little more of Israel. Christian pilgrims shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see holy sites in the area - it’s possible to explore them, independently but because they are located in the West Bank, it’s more advisable to travel with a guide.

This isn’t difficult however - an organized day trip to Bethlehem, Jericho and the Jordan River means you’ll save yourself time, and hassle and give yourself some peace of mind - all of our guides are knowledgeable and friendly and will make sure you have a wonderful day.

The Jerusalem Film Festival 2023- Sunset in BethlehemSunset in Bethlehem

Likewise, the Dead Sea and Masada - which are two of Israel’s top attractions - are both quite close to Jerusalem but can be a bit tricky to reach by public transport.  Taking an organized day trip means you’ll be driven around in an air-conditioned minivan or coach, you won’t have to deal with entrance fees or cable car tickets, and as you walk around Masada, an ancient Herodian fortress built in the heart of the Judean desert, you’ll learn about its history from your guide.

We offer a wide range of organized package tours, privately-guided excursions, and day trips all over Israel, and with almost 40 years of experience, promise you an unforgettable experience.  If you’d like further information, feel free to contact us by email or phone, and also check us out on Facebook and Instagram.