Not anymore. With plans finally underway for a new high-speed inter-city train line (optimistic estimates have it the train won't be operational until 2016), Jerusalem has decided the time has come to reclaim the old tracks and station. The tracks running from Emek Refaim to Malcha are being turned into a park, while the Old Train Station itself has in recent years been repurposed as one of the hottest cultural venues of the summer under the auspices of the Ariel Company, a private event production firm that is owned by the municipal government.
As the Ariel Company's Dana Malka tells GoJerusalem.com, "The Old Train Station has morphed from an unused station to a place of entertainment and culture. It actually functions as two venues - one with [bleacher seating and] a stage, which can seat up to 2,000 people, and as a venue for festivals and fairs."
Alongside Sultan's Pool and Independence Park, the Old Train Station fairgrounds are getting Jerusalemites out of their homes and into the party this summer for plenty of large-scale events, which are split between the three venues based on anticipated crowd size and performance type. The Laila Lavan student party each spring and the Front Stage's Balkan Beat Box show later this summer may be better suited for Independence Park, but the Chutzot Hayotzer arts and crafts fair (featuring nightly headliners Knesiat Hasechel, Gidi Gov and Aviv Gefen, among others) is traditionally held at Sultan's Pool.
The Jerusalem Film Festival's opening night outdoor screening always takes place at Sultan's Pool too, but the film fest's free Moonlight Cinema series, which went on hiatus this year, is an Old Train Station bastion. The annual Beer Festival (pictured, with draught tap), meanwhile, took place at Independence Park last year, yet it returns to the Old Train Station for its sixth annual incarnation next week.
The Train Station season opened its doors for 2010 on June 29th with a performance by Goran Bregovic (pictured, with champagne glass), a Balkan composer with a mean brass band.
This summer, promises Zion Turgeman, 66, who currently serves as director of the Ariel Company, "Jerusalem will become the cultural and musical capital of Israel," with the Old Train Station serving as a cornerstone to his schemes. Although it's unlikely that the venue's summer 2010 offerings will eclipse those taking place in metro Tel Aviv (Elton John, Metallica, LCD Soundsystem, the Ozzfest), there are some exciting events headed down the tracks towards Jerusalem.
The Old Train Station welcomes classic British prog rock act Jethro Tull (pictured, with flute) on August 9th, reprising a sold-out performance by the band at the venue in 2007. The following week, the Beer Festival brings over 100 varieties of brew for showcasing one cup at a time (acts like the Giraffes and Dr. Casper will appear onstage too) on August 18th and 19th. The Israeli rock train returns to the station on August 24th when singer-songwriter Shlomi Shaban (pictured, mugshot) hosts guitar god Berry Sakharof (pictured, with guitar) and classic songstress Yehudit Ravitz.
The season closes out on September 16th when the spiritual becomes cultural with the Adon Haslichot event, where Israel's ethnic orchestral ensembles and master liturgical and para-liturgical singers gather to sing the piyut/slichot prayers chanted in synagogues throughout Jerusalem in the month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah.
The Jerusalem City Council has reportedly approved plans recently to begin construction on what may eventually be the world's largest ferris wheel at the Old Train Station, so the venue's re-purposing and entertainment boom may be far from over.
More details on all of these events are available via GoJerusalem.com's events section.