Arad comes alive with music

Longest-standing Israeli music festival features a wide range of entertainment for all ages and varying tastes

Hadag Nahash (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hadag Nahash
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Arad Festival – which, this year, runs from August 23 to August 25 this year – has a lot to live up to. It is ourthe country’s longest-standing music festival, having been established back in 1983 – and just to put things in their right perspective, that was long before the feted Red Sea Jazz Festival got going at the Port of Eilat to the south.
The Arad event made its way steadily up the popularity stakes over the years until tragedy struck in 1995. That was the year that, too many tickets were sold for what was due to be the farewell concert by rock group Machina, and three teenagers were crushed to death at the venue.
In recent years, the festival has begun to claw its way back into the more favorable areas of the national consciousness and, year in and year out, offers a wide range of musical and other entertainment for all ages and varying tastes. This year’s lineup includes the likes of veteran poprockers Danny Sanderson and Mickey Gavrielov, while the younger crowd may be more likely to attend the late show at the stadium venue, which features hip hop outfit Hadag Nahash.
There really does appear to be something for almost everyone over the three days, with local ethnic musical inclinations catered forgiven voice at the “Singing with Shimon Parnass, – Mediterranean Love” quotes added slot in the Artists’ Quarter, withand the same venue also playing host tohosting singalongs with the Ziknei Hakfar (Village Oldies) troupe and a tribute to late Jerusalem-born troubadour-actor-comedian Yossi Banai, featuring. That last features the likes of Banai’s rock musician nephew Meir Banai, evergreen septuagenarian crooner Israel Gurion and the Arad Choir.
The World Stage will offer a wider cultural swathe, with the Los Drom Americanos show based on songs brought over here from Latin America, and the Beneath the Moscow Skies program of Russian numbers. Meanwhile, visitors of more tender ages – and/or young at heart – should enjoy the program at the Youngsters Stage by the municipal swimming pool, with shows by thirtysomething rocker Eyal Even Tzur, Dana Berger and high-energy rock act Elisha Banai and the 40 Thieves.
The festival’s artistic director, Marina Glazer, who also serves as the Arad Municipality’s Events and Tourism Department manager, says she and her colleagues keep a sharp lookout for any potential hazards – although, naturally, their main beat is to offer the public the best musical and activity products they can.
“We check, double-check and triple-check everything,” says Glazer.
“Sometimes I take a look in from the outside, and I think we can’t possibly be even more stringent. At the end of the day, we want people to come to Arad to enjoy themselves, without any concerns over safety or anything else.”
The latter consideration, certainly in the aftermath of the 1995 tragedy, led the festival organizers to cut down on the venue capacities.
“When I was a teenager, I remember being at a Shlomo Artzi concert here, and there were 15,000 people in the audience,” Glazer recalls. “Now we keep the capacity of the main stadium venue down to just 5,000. We don’t take any chances.”
The fact that all the shows in the four-day program are free doesn’t do the festival’s appeal any harm at all, and the location also offers visitors from out of town a welcome respite from the summer heat.
“Maybe Jerusalemites get this, but certainly people who come to us from the Gush Dan area enjoy the added value of the cool air, and having to put a sweater on in the evening or early in the morning, in the middle of summer,” notes Glazer. “When we tell people from Tel Aviv, for example, to bring warm clothing, they don’t always understand it until they get here.”
Beyond the confines of the music spots, the festival also offers outof- towners a chance to grab a few lungfuls of hilly desert air, and enjoy some of the pristine natural attractions and historic sites – such as Masada and Tel Arad – by jeep, mountain bike, ATV or on foot.
The town’s Artists’ Quarter also has some intriguing museums and galleries, and wine-tasting sessions will be laid on at nearby wineries.
All in all, there’s plenty to do and enjoy in Arad later this month.
August 23 to August 25. For more information: 08-9951696 (prior to the festival) and 08-9954160 (during the festival) and at the Arad Municipality website at