A normal day in Israel can suddenly be interrupted by the appearance of a brightly painted van bumping techno music from huge speakers affixed to the vehicle's roof.
- Tourist tip #65 / Bezalel craft fair in Jerusalem
- Tourist tip #64 / Apollonia National Park
- Tourist tip #63 / Talking on the phone while driving
- Feeding stray cats, an Israeli custom
As the van rolls down the street, happy Hasidim hang from the windows, encouraging passersby to join the celebration. Even impatient Israelis drivers find it hard not to smile at the sight of their side curls flying in the wind. There may be some honking, though, when the revelers clamber onto the street to dance behind the van, slowing traffic in the process.
These are the "Na Nachs," as they're sometimes known, members of an ultra-Orthodox sect that combines Israel’s electronic music culture with their religious beliefs – creating an intriguing fusion of the secular and spiritual. They believe that ecstatic dance and celebration can help free their minds and lead to spiritual enlightenment, and they are on a mission to spread their unique expression of religious joy across the country.
Even if you don’t get to witness one of their rapturous public parties on your next visit to Israel, you’re almost certain to come across traces of their handiwork. The so-called Na Nachs are an offshoot of the Bratslav Hasidim, founded by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, and their slogan “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman” can be seen boldly scrawled on signs, etched on fences and spray painted on walls across Israel.