"It's not about me or my music, it's about Hashem." That's what popular redemption rocker Sinai Tor said at last year's Aharit HaYamim Music and Arts Festival.
The festival's organizer, musician Yehuda Leuchter, gave a similar answer to the question of whether he was the person in charge of the festival. "Oh no, I'm not in charge, G-d is in charge", he replied, running off to take care of logistical issues surrounding the two day event.
This year's festival will begin on Wednesday July 20th and continue on Thursday July 21st and on into the night. Big-name Israeli acts such as Aaron Razel and Reva L'Sheva will be headlining the event. In addition to many of the musical sensations from throughout Judea and Samaria, a dub reggae band from San Francisco, trance DJs and the Twelve Tribes Sound, from Redemption Island off the coast of Africa, will all perform. "This year will be really Israeli -- everyone all together, not just religious folks," Leuchter said in a recent interview with Israel National Radio.
Aside from music, there will also be vendors selling kosher natural and carnival foods, clothing and art, as well as tents for meditation classes, alternative medicine, Torah study sessions and more. Space is also provided among the trees of the pastoral Judean hilltop for camping overnight.
Although the festival is held in the Gush Etzion, which is is Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza), and many of the acts are people the Israeli media would refer to as "hilltop youth," overt political messages are not what the festival is about. "We want to give people some other choices besides fighting," explains Leuchter. "There's been too many years of black, black, black. It's time to rise up and give people a chance to be bright." Bright is a good word to describe the multi-colored advertisements for the festival as well as the large knitted skullcaps and fringed clothing Leuchter and many of the other musicians wear.
The festival began as a small memorial gathering for Leuchter's father Emil, a musician who played with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and the Diaspora Yeshiva Band before dying from cancer in 1994 at the age of 43. Now in its sixth year as an all-out festival, many of the older musicians, like those of Reva L'Sheva, remember the elder Leuchter and pay tribute.
Held in a field/campground in the old Masuot Yitzchak Kibbutz near Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion region, the area holds special meaning for the Leuchter family. "My grandparents lived on one of the kibbutzim here before 1948," states Leuchter. "When the state was established, they were captured by the Jordanians. A lot of their friends died fighting here. The festival is really in memory of all of them."
In terms of music, many of the musicians will be post-Carlebach style bands that combine folk with rock and religious lyrics. Leuchter's own band, Aharit HaYamim, mixes rock with reggae and Middle Eastern sounds and includes the son of radical folk musician Dov Shurin.
Musically, there are sure to be surprises, such as heavy metal act Yishai Yisraeli and Siata, four men in black hats and long black coats who play hard-edged heavy metal. Other notables will be Udi Davidi, a shepherd living in a home he build outside Hevron who sings and plays drums at the same time, Shivi Keller and Ein Od Milvado, Danny Maimon, Moshe Levi, and David "Harpo" Abramson with an Efrat-based band called Remedy.
For festival info visit the band's web site at http://www.aharit.net
Click here for more information on the 2005 Aharit HaYamim Festival or call Moshe at 052-340-7427.
Ben Bresky is host of The Beat on Israel National Radio.