Ha’aretz explores the world of one of Israel’s most colorful subcultures:
There is no escaping them. They have left their mark everywhere in Israel, in the form of a cryptic mantra painted in bold Hebrew lettering on security fences, sleek skyscrapers, graveyard walls, freeway billboards and sheer mountain cliffs.
Dressed in characteristic woven white skullcaps, adherents perform leaping dances on street corners in the secular bastion of Tel Aviv, to techno-Hassidic music blasting from vans bearing the slogan “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me’uman,” which has informally lent its name to the newest of Hasidic sects.
The Na Nachs, as some of the group call themselves, are an offshoot of the Bratslav Hassidim, followers of the late Rebbe Nachman (1772-1810), great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism. But what separates Na Nachs from other Bratslavers is their belief that a mysterious letter found in 1962 by Rabbi Israel Dov Odesser, a Bratslaver Hasid from Tiberias, was a miraculous message from Rebbe Nachman himself, and that the mantra it contained, which mentioned Nachman and his burial place, Uman, Ukraine, was a “Letter from Heaven.”
A bystander at an impromptu Na Nach dance happening tells Ha’aretz: “They are good people, but they are all crazy.”
Israeli Arabs from across Israel danced their way hand in hand into the Guiness Book of World Records on Sunday after they held the largest and longest group performance of the “Debke” dance inside the walls of the Old City of Acre.
A record 2,743 people danced for seven minutes straight holding hands in a human chain that stretched down Hagana Street in Acre’s famed Old City, smashing the previous record of 1,700 set in Toronto a few years ago.
The Debke is a six-step dance that is performed while holding hands in a line. For years it has been a mainstay of weddings and communal celebrations in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and even Turkey and Iraq.
According to Ha’aretz, the proceedings were broadcast live for two hours on Al-Jazeera — gripping television, no doubt, and a broadcast that can only enhance the image of Israel in the Arab world.