The fesival organizers- Yehudit and Menachem Vinegrad
In March, 1967, Menachem and Yehudit Vinegrad made aliya from England, to Kibbutz Machanayim. They were joined in the late 60s and early 70s by other young people from England and America. Influenced by the Folk Music Revival in Britain and the Civil Rights movement in America, the group of young immigrants sorely missed the folk and protest songs they had heard and sung back home.
Three of the Machanayim group, Menachem, Morris Cohen and Yigal Sela decided to create a monthly Folk Club in an old stone building in the olive grove opposite the kibbutz. They chose the name "Jacob's Ladder" basing it on a combination of Machanayim's connection to the biblical story of Jacob, the nearby Daughters of Jacob Bridge, and the fact that the word "ladder" in Hebrew, sulam, also refers to a musical scale.
The club, the first of its kind north of Tel Aviv, attracted young people and wandering folk singers from all over the Galilee. The long-haired, would-be flower children sat cheerfully squashed together on wooden benches and beer crates. The lack of electricityposed no problem as kerosene lanterns illuminated the stone hall and amplification was frowned upon by the hard core folkies.
Menachem and Morris would travel south to search for new musicians in pubs and clubs. Among those who came to perform at Jacob's Ladder in the early days were Shay Tochner (The Taverners / Emerald) and Ehud Natan, who later formed an Irish Band which Menachem aptly named The Black Velvet Band.
The First Festival
In 1978, Menachem, Morris and Yigal decided to produce the first Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival. They built a stage next to the stone building, planted grass on the slope opposite, and dug holes for toilets. Posters were sent out to all the kibbutzim in Israel. About 700 enthusiastic young people bought tickets and made themselves comfy on blankets and sleeping bags on the grassy slope to enjoy a marathon of folk music. At the end of the evening, those who were too tired to go home camped out in the dusty olive grove.
In 1979, an even bigger festival was held. Highlights included the young, still unknown, David Broza, Shay Tochner, Elisha Avshalom and Julian Chagrin who entertained the audience between acts with English jokes and hysterical miming. Also on the bill were Marc Miller, The Unknown Country Band and David Spellman.
Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival became an annual event. As it grew in popularity, guest stars included the bawdy, but loveable(and much missed)
Yonatan Miller & The Taverners who entertained the audience for many happy years. A generation of Jacob's Ladder children grew up singing "We're off to see the Wild West Show".
The Festival moves to Horshat Tal
From 1987- 1992, the festival was held at Horshal Tal National Park.
Paul Moore, the "washboard wonder" joined The Taverners. One of Paul's irreverent quips was later quoted by reporter Danny Ben-Tal in the Jerusalem Post, (Anglo-Saxon Mimouna 6/10/88) "We are here under the 'orsepisses of 'orse-shit Tal"
Performers now included folk musicians from all over the country and guests from abroad, including White and Blue Grass, Black Velvet,
Jug O' Punch, Judy'n'Lynn Lewis, Jill Rogoff, Ray Scudero, Cyrelle Forman Soffer, The Country Fools, Shelley Ellen (Yamini), Eli Marcus, The Brill Brood, The UN Irish Battalion Pipe Band and Hjerter Tre from Denmark.
The Friday night music marathon would end with the legendary Libby and Ted Cooper singing "Goodnight Irene". In the morning, the campers, especially the women, could be found standing in never ending lines for the few, not very clean, bathrooms. Saturday's entertainment included spontaneous jam sessions under the trees, spoon playing workshops with Anne Limor or bathing in the park's icy waters.
Gan Hashlosha 1993-1994 and 1996-1997
When the festival moved to Gan Hashlosha, (Sachne), Yehudit joined Menachem in the organization. More stages were opened and Saturday activities included a variety of workshops.
Among the highlights of this period were the overseas guests, Tom Paxton, Saul Broudy & Bob Green, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer from the US and Hot Licks Cookies, The Ti-Fer Cajun Band and Real Time from Britain.
A local band, Smokin'Gun, became one of the most popular JL Bands. Uri Myles, on his way to forming Kahol, played bagpipes and gave workshops on the art of playing bones. Mark Clarfield and Ora Paltiel enriched the festival with Canadian and Irish folk music, accompanied by Debbie Shwartz and Marc Gittleson.
One of the festivals at Gan Hashlosha coincided with the 4th of July. To celebrate, the organizers planned a firework show. Unfortunately, this set a nearby field on fire, and while the JL patrons were relaxing on their blankets, blissfully unaware, cars in the car park were in danger of being incinerated. Menachem, who was the MC and well known for his sense of humor, wanted to prevent panic. He announced from the stage that the car park was on fire but the audience laughed and didn't believe him. Always ready for an emergency, Menachem jumped off the stage and ran into the car park where he, the firemen and other able bodied individuals lifted locked cars with their bare hands and moved them to safety while the PA continued to blast out "Born in the USA".
The Festival Moves Again
In 1995 the festival took place for one year at Haon Holiday Village on the Eastern side of Lake Kinneret, returning in 1998 for two more years.The first year, high waves from the lake splashed on to the promenade and the crowd enjoyed an exhilarating swim before the music began.
One of the highlights from the Haon period was the guest appearance of Oige, a young vital traditional group from Ireland whose singer, Cara Dillon, is now one of the leading Irish folk singers in Britain. Other specials included the guest appearances of The New Scorpion Band and The Lorraine Jordan Band from Britain, Kahol, and Essev Bar from Israel. Jill Rogoff and Marc Gittleson appeared on the Friday night stage.
Haon showcased the young, second-generation singer, Yael Deckelbaum, daughter of David Deckelbaum of the legendary Taverners.
Wild Mountain Thyme, with Ada, Bracha and Rami performed for the first time on the promenade.
In the last year at Haon, a drought caused the waters to recede, leaving an unpleasantly muddy beach. The July heat became unbearable for many aging hippies and the number of patrons started to dwindle. It was time to make a major change.
The move to Karei Deshe Youth Hostel
Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival moved to Karei Deshe on the western side of the Lake and became a Spring Festival. The neighboring Hukok beaches provided camping space for the hundreds of tents. For the next three years the festival blossomed in talent and popularity. Colorful New Age features such as the Holistic treatment tent, the Tchai tent, Tai Chi and Rio Abierto Spiritual Dance workshops became part of the regular schedule.
Performers included Irish Cream, The Bean Blossom Boys, Julio's Friends,The Midnight Mojos Blues Band, Evergreen, the incredible Sandy Cash (before Shabbat) and the magnificent Duo Renaissance. The festival also hosted Bob Brozman and Woody Mann,(USA) Steve Haggard and the Rangers,(USA), Banjer Dan (USA) and Yonatan Miller & The Grinders.
Despite the inevitable blocked drains in the Hukok campsite on Saturday morning, it was a glorious period, and Jacob's Ladder only moved again because of administration problems faced by Hukok.
2003 Nof Ginosar
For several months, the festival was without a home. Yehudit and Menachem searched around the Kinneret for a place with a big enough stage area, a beach, suitable camping areas, onsite rooms and
air-conditioned halls for the increasing indoor stages.
Nof Ginosar was chosen and since the year 2003, this has been the home of the Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival and the Jacob's Ladder Winter Weekend.
Since 2000, Jacob's Ladder has had the honor of hosting overseas guests: Rory McCleod (UK), Ben Sands (Ireland), Pete, Joan & Will Wernick (US), Orrin Star (US), The Brittania Bluegrass Band (UK), Noah Zacharin (Canada), Hogie & Brown (US), Sliotar (Ireland), Tommy Sands (Ireland), Work O' The Weavers (USA), James Durst & Madhumita Chakrabati (India/USA), Bruno Sabalat (France), and Aoife Clancy (Ireland).
Tommy Sands Spring Festival 2006
Israeli performers during this period include Essev Bar with Aki Ueda (Japan), HaCana'anim (The Tsanchani brothers), CG & The Hammer Blues Band, Ada & Diane & The Many Colors of White, Irish Cream, Emerald with Jill Rogoff, Jug O'Punch, Black Velvet, Kahol, Evergreen, Harold Jacobs and Susan Hadash, Arava Riders, Ray and Joanna Scudero, Becca Kristovsky, 5 Shamrocks, Aaron Leitner, Hachmoni, Laurie Ornstein, Marianne & Shaun, SheRock, Hagit Rozmarin & Gil Bohadana, Hal Wrobel, Sunita Stanislow, Larry Gamliel, Shay Tochner, Dana Halevi, Barry Gilbert, Larry Fogel, Moni Arnon, Country Roads, Celtic Connection, Pachamama, Celtan, Charles Crosson, Galileo, Marcie Schreier, Eitan Hoffner, Tnuat HaMeri, The Goldoolins, Daniella Hadassi & Strawberry, The Unstrung Heroes, Bradley Fish, Cyrelle Forman Soffer, Menny Emmanueli, Elazar Brandt & the Dixieland Jazzband, Mili Eli and Shira Berger, Ofer Golani and Musicians for Peace , Tsemed Paz, Triad, Slipjig, Bodhran, Mollycoddles, Rahel Limor, The Magic Turquoise Storytellers, and Supercharlie The Clown
Many more performers, workshop organizers, volunteer stage managers, and helpers have contributed greatly to the Jacob's Ladder community over the years, most especially Gilad Limor, Josh Goodman, Larry Rosenfeld, Hal Wrobel, Ariela Orion, Judi and Lynn Lewis, Hachmoni and Aaron Leitner. We thank them all for their continuing support.
The Jacob's Ladder Folk Community remembers with great fondness musicians who are sadly no longer with us: Sidney Katznell, Dave Gould, Larry Gamliel, Ray Scudero and David Deckelbaum. May they rest in Peace.
Guest Artists from abroad have included the following: