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Boombamela, the annual Pessah festival at Nitzanim Beach, is aptly named. While the two other major Israeli new age festivals, Shantipi and Beresheet, have shrunk appreciably in recent years, Boombamela continues to boom, and bloom.
"I reckon we'll have twenty-five thousand or even thirty thousand people this year," says East Berlin-born Swiss national Mathaus Waldorf, who is responsible for most of the event's artistic content. "We just keep on growing and growing. It's wonderful."
That growth has taken the festival on a meandering path over its eight-year history. At its inception, the festival featured big names along with alternative music. Then the festival powers-that-be decided to go for less commercial acts and cut out the main stage entirely, preferring to have lesser-known musicians perform in more intimate surroundings.
This year the mainstream is back, with names including Hadag Nahash, Eran Tzur and Monica Sex on the festival schedule. There will also be a world music stage, a reggae stage and a hip-hop spot, with a special dome where people can dance and groove the night away.
"We ran a survey of the people who come to Boombamela," Waldorf explains, "and learned a lot from that. We learned that people want to be more involved in the whole festival atmosphere, and they want mainstream entertainment, too."
That discovery prompted Waldorf and his colleagues literally to redraw the boundaries of the festival site.
"This year, the camping area will be incorporated into the main festival site," says Waldorf. "People want to feel a part of the scene, and want to do things together."
Besides the stage entertainment and staple meditation workshops and other alternative activities, there will be plenty more informal activities to get into.
"We'll have things like tug-of-war and other games between families and different festival villages. There will be a guy with a megaphone encouraging people to get involved," Waldorf says.
Families are an important market sector for the festival, and Waldorf says efforts have been made to provide the requisite facilities and ambiance.
"We're keeping the shoreline free this year so parents and kids can enjoy the beach. In previous years, people set up tents right at the water's edge. We'll have lots of shade, open spaces and kids' entertainment. I think families will have a good time this year."
More than anything else, of course, Boombamela is about getting away from it all. There will be several chai shops dotted around the site, and festival-goers will have the option to spend their time in the nudist section of the site.
"We always do our best to provide variety," Waldorf continues. "We have the Chabad village at one end of the site and the nudists at the other."
The more traditional aspects of religious observance will actually take place before the festival kicks off.
"We're going to have an organic Seder the night before the festival program starts," says Waldorf. "Boombamela happens on Pessah, and in the spring. All those things are important to the spirit of the festival. Of course there'll be matzot and other kosher le Pessah food. We're also having a ceremony on the Friday night called From Prison to Freedom. It's all about people freeing themselves, and I think it also reflects the freedom people feel at Boombamela. It's about forgetting what the politicians do and say. Boombamela is like a state within a state. It's more of a personal freedom thing. That's where freedom starts."
Boombamela runs between April 13 and 15.
More information is available at www.boombamela.co.il.
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