Arad Festival Returns to Its Rock Roots

Free concert in the desert town will include performances by hip-hop/funk combo Hadag Nachash and vocalist Hannah Berger.

The desert city of Arad, home of the eponymous summer music festival has a plan to lure back the teens: putting rock and pop acts back on the program when it runs later this month.

Sixteen years after a disaster that changed the nature of the festival, the city is trying to take a small step in the direction of replicating its success of the 1990s, when adults and teenagers from all around the country came to the town for a summer rockathon.

Daniel Tchetchik

But in 1995, three teens were crushed to death at the entrance to the closing performance by the band Mashina; since then, the festival management has avoided mass rock performances and has chosen to employ a more limited format appealing to an older audience.

But this year, the popular hip-hop ensemble Hadag Nahash will headline on the main stage for the festival's last night. Meanwhile, Eyal Even Tzur, whose rock album "Lev 1" dropped recently, will be inaugurating the new youth stage, at the municipal swimming pool.

On the following day Elisha Banai and the 40 Thieves will appear on that stage and on the last night of the festival vocalist Hannah Berger will perform. The festival will also feature up-and-coming rock and pop bands.

The organizers also hope to keep the audience of the last few years. Opening night will see Miki Gabrielov hosting Shlomi Saranga on the main stage; the following evening at the same venue Danny Sanderson will host Mazi Cohen.

In addition, on the municipal community center plaza a stage will be erected for performances for children every morning during the festival.

The festival will close with the production "From So Much Love," an evening of homage to Yossi Banai, with Yisrael Gurion, Uri Banai, the Arad Choir and others.

As in years past, vocal ensembles, municipal choirs and world music groups will grace halls and streets around town. Entry to all of the performances around town will be free.

The organizers' move is in fact a second attempt to revive the Arad Festival's glory days. Two years ago, during the Sukkot holiday, the Volume Festival was held in the town during which thousands of youngsters visited seven stages of rock bands, pop singers and Middle Eastern stars for three days.

The meticulously planned event went on without a hitch, but has yet to see an encore. According to the municipality, there will be special emphasis on safety and security issues.

The festival's artistic director Marina Glezer thinks the format switch may be a one-off.

"In the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s we were the only festival on the map," she said. "Today there isn't a single town that doesn't organize a festival of its own. We are in a different place and we are trying to be good and worthy and we are hoping that everyone who comes to Arad will have a good time."

Arad Festival: August 23-25.
Entrance: Free