Published in The Jerusalem Post on October 31, 1999
If music is a metaphor for life and an indication of character, Israel
is in trouble. We are fragmenting into separate peoples, each drumming
to a very different beat, dancing with abandon towards radically
This past weekend, *The Jerusalem Post* dwelt at length on the “search
for spirituality” through “Carlebach-ism” taking root in Modern
Orthodox, National Religious and even Haredi circles. Ecstatic singing,
clapping and dancing as part of prayer, in spirit of the late
spiritualist and composer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, is sweeping into
mainstream synagogues and conquering youth groups.
Peeling away layers of inhibition and religiously-induced conservatism,
the non-conformist Carlebach rompers explain the musical revival in
neo-hassidic terms. It is music cum prayer cum love-in cum teshuva
All this, explain the experts, has brought on by ideological crisis
within the religious world, as Israel moves away from the mores of
self-sacrifice and nationalism that held sway for half a century. It is,
they say, part of an intensified, individualistic searching for meaning.
Nevertheless, God and the faith community are at the center of the great
Now, consider and contrast Carlebach’s legacy of love and musical
spirituality with the “trance music” phenomenon, which is casting its
spell over ever-greater swaths of secular Israeli society, especially
Here too, the devotees of this throbbing, lyric-free, psychedelic music
explain their preferences in spiritual terms. Trance is a “search for
individualistic expression”, a desire to “get in touch with one’s self”
following disillusionment with the ideological straightjacket of
classical Zionism. Like the Carlebach-ites, the purveyors of trance
music argue that they offer more than good times and feelings, but
rather a “counter-culture” for the next generation.
But what a culture. By all accounts, including those of the leading
trance musicians and promoters, trance is a drug-induced culture. It
promotes escapism, not service of God or commitment to community.
In a major feature story on the growing trance culture in Israel last
week, *The New York Times* quoted estimates indicating that two-thirds
of the mass trance party participants are whacked-up high on marijuana,
Ecstasy or LSD. The Times describes the scene: 50,000 young people, from
the best families, “brandishing rings from every visible body part –
ears, noses, lips, bellybuttons”, dancing wildly, each on their own, in
the remote parks and beaches of Israel to a mind-numbing 150-beats per
minute, “a cross between neo-hippie background music and rapid-fire
computer-generated bass lines”.
This is “getting in touch”? With what? Nihilism?
Nevertheless, trance music promoters like Asher Haviv (quoted in the
Times) insist that theirs is a culture for the future. “In the Bible it
says God led us from slavery to freedom. This is freedom”, intones
And here’s the frightening rub. Trance is not just a youthful, passing,
anti-establishment fad for which the stressed-out younger crowd can be
forgiven. It is an external expression of the complete deconstruction of
Zionist and Jewish values underway in this society.
It is no surprise that our youth are off in search of undifferentiated
search for self-destructive fun when the trendy elites in academia,
education, the arts and politics are busy proving that Israeli society
is fundamentally degenerate to the core. We were, you see, the
aggressors and wrong-doers in the Arab-Israel conflict; and Judaism is
an out-of-date tribal tradition with anti-humanitarian, racist
Haaretz devoted its recent weekend magazine to a learned tract which
“proves” that the Bible is nothing more than ancient fable. Modern
archaeology does not sustain the biblical account, according to the
highly-biased account in the paper. Most weeks, the paper features a
story or two about some fringe rabbi weirdo or crook – all the better to
prove Judaism’s boorishness.
Post-Zionist historians and political scientists seeking to debunk the
“myths” about the founding of this country are standard fare in Haaretz.
My favorite post-Zionist story was the paper’s glamorized portrait of
Israeli entertainers who manage to dodge the draft.
I’m now awaiting a cover story glamorizing *yerida*.
Earlier this year, the high-brow newspaper ran a splashy account
endorsing great gambling weekend get-aways in Yasser Arafat’s Jericho.
Then there was the charming, enthusiastic piece on organized sexual
adventure tours to Singapore and Thailand, on which respectable Israelis
— men and women, Haaretz readers too — reportedly are embarking by the
thousands. Moral bankruptcy run wild, the latter story was, complete
with graphic detail of the incredible number of condoms one can go
through in a day!
Weekend recommendations from Haaretz, supposedly the shofar of
enlightened Israel. Are you surprised that the kids are into trance?