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(photo credit: Roni Schitzer / Haifa Municipality)
Even unexpected rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the 30,000 fans who turned out at Haifa's Hadayag Harbor for an all-night marathon of rock concerts on Thursday.
Dubbed "The Rock Concert of the Year" and held on the final night of the Jewish calendar year 5766, the show featured a line-up of the country's hottest musical acts, including Synergia, Eyal Golan, Ninet Tayeb, Ivri Lider and Beit Habubot.
Fans, many of them teenagers, started streaming in hours ahead of showtime Thursday decked out in their finest. The main stage was flanked by promenades lined with food stands, and concert-goers rented nargilas and munched on freshly made Druse pitot while the lights of Haifa sparkled in the background. More faces sported braces than beards, and fans sang along as the artists performed, happy to demonstrate they knew all the lyrics by heart.
After HaDurbanim plowed through the group's hits, band members made a move to leave the stage. The crowd urged them to stay, and they broke into a medley of classic Israeli folk songs including Ehud Manor's "Chai, Chai, Chai," popularized by Ofra Haza, and "Prachim BaKaneh," made famous by Ruti Navon. The teens went wild, belting out the lyrics and forming spontaneous circles and dancing the Hora. The band finished its set with Europe's "The Final Countdown," and amazingly, even 14-year-olds in the crowd seemed to know the lyrics. As they sang, the first rain of the season drizzled down.
Taking the stage later in the night was Shai Gabso. As the pop star neared the end of "Arim Roshi" - a song whose lyrics are inspired by the Psalms - the light drizzle that had already started again became a heavy downpour. Fans shouted, and Gabso declared, "I guess our prayers worked!"
Audience members stampeded away from the stage before they realized they had nowhere to go for cover. The lights and music turned off, and everyone waited. Police assured the crowd the concert would continue, and some audience members decided to celebrate the first rain of the season, laughing and splashing in the puddles that were forming.
It took about 90 minutes before the stage was back in order and Idan Raichel could begin his set. The ground had almost totally dried by then, though the fans themselves were still sopping. Still, they were in good spirits and happy to have so many great musicians play for them for free (tickets had to be reserved ahead of time, but no fee was charged for admission). At the end of Raichel's set, slightly after midnight, the singer led the crowd in a countdown, and fireworks then streaked across the cloudy skyline. It was a celebratory highpoint in the overnight concert, which had been postponed and then temporarily cancelled earlier in the summer due to the war with Hizbullah.
Another cloudburst attacked the crowd toward the end of Mashina's set at around 3 a.m. This time, the fans weren't fazed, continuing to dance and sing despite being wet and tired. Aviv Geffen flaunted his gold record for "Im Hazman," then dedicated it to the crowd. He also dedicated a song to the three kidnapped IDF soldiers and expressed his hope for their safe return.
Mook-E began singing just as the first lights crept across the sky. Even though it was nearly 6 a.m., the hip hop performer was wide awake and managed to get the fans jumping.
The musical sets were cut short to compensate for the rain delays, but the show dragged on until about 7:15 a.m., when Beit Habubot were cut off after three songs due to another downpour. Only a few thousand people were left by that time, and a rainbow arched across the sky, stretching from the boats moored at the wharf over to the houses perched on Haifa's hills. Fans trudged to waiting transportation, tired and wet but thoroughly satisfied.