The essence of Sufism on an Israeli stage
By GABRIELLA TZVIA WEINIGER
What draws trance-loving Israelis to a festival devoted to a mystical strand of Islam?
Chants of “Laa illaha ill-Allah” (There is no god but Allah), and “Allah huwa huwa” (He is God) echoed at the Desert Ashram in southern Israel at the 2013 Sufi Festival last weekend. The prayer fit its settings perfectly, as hundreds of Israelis reproduced its rhythms in a desert oasis surrounded by a vast expanse of empty space.
“The festival was a real experience, with music, workshops, and a special energy we have never felt before, managing to hold a genuine and unique connection between the guests as one community, one tribe,” one of the festivals producers, Kohra Yuval Itach, told The Jerusalem Post.
Intimate stages played host to traditional performances of Sufi music with a modern twist. The music was given another dimension as the audience engaged in workshops, seminars, and dance sessions intended to enlighten and explain.
“The festival produced the idea that the audience [member] is really participating in what’s happening, whether he dances or not, and he is really able to have a direct experience,” Itach enthusiastically said.
With masterclasses in six different compounds continuing throughout the weekend, guests were encouraged to open their minds to a new kind of experience. The seminars focused on the mystical way, and included discussions about great Sufi masters such as Jelaluddin Rumi and Yunus Emre. Beyond the classes were dance and singing workshops, where festival-goers could learn to swirl like a whirling dervish, authentically demonstrated by Harel Shahal and the Turkish Music Ensemble. Guests could also practice mystical eastern dance traditions through sacred movement, dancing the trance of release.