Dancing into oblivion

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

different destinations.


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

the youth.


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?

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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