Funky solstice

The shortest day of the year is the time for a weekend fest of music and ecology.

If you thought that Israeli winter is a time to stay indoors and sip Yemenite soup, think again. Musicians and DJs from across the country will be descending on the Negev for the Global Unity Festival next Friday (December 21), planning to make the most of the longest night of the year. The festival, a 32-hour musical event at the Mamshit National Park a few kilometres from Dimona, will feature live artists and DJs, world music, reggae, trance and chill-out. The not-for-profit festival is the brainchild of former Golani soldier Rea Pasternak, who sees music as a means of connecting people from all over the world. "We're calling for global unity - for different types of music and different types of people to come together," says Pasternak. "It's not about the money, its all about the music." The music begins with a special kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) performance from Acharit HaYamim, a religious reggae ensemble which will also round off the festival on Saturday night after the Sabbath ends. There will be plenty more on offer for reggae lovers, in the shape of live performances from Reggaestan and Tel Aviv's popular Zvuloon Dub System as well as DJs Skunkride, Dr. Reggae and Armagideon Sound spinning authentic-roots reggae alongside DJ Afficoman and Rudeboy International Sound playing the latest Jamaican dancehall. Of course, an Israeli festival would not be complete without some trance. DJs carrying the crowd into the early hours will include Digital Cup of Coffee as well as Quantum and Keren Porat, a duo fusing haunting Indian vocals with modern techno beats. Before the music gets underway, revellers can warm up with a hike into the wadi to learn about the history and ecology of ancient Mamshit, with its terraced agriculture, and explore the remains of the Old City which dates back to the Nabatean period. Set in the National Park at Mamshit, environmental as well as musical considerations take priority at the festival. "We are trying to make a totally green festival. Instead of using plastic, we're buying cups and rubbish bags made from corn and rice, as well as recycling our waste and using ecological soap that doesn't pollute the water," explains Pasternak. Also on offer will be a holistic village featuring yoga, meditation and alternative therapies, an art market, camping area, food and drink, and a huge heated tent. A unique event in itself, next week's festival is just a precursor for Walk About Love - a three-month nationwide hike scheduled for spring 2009 and running from the Golan to Eilat, featuring a series of festivals and events along its route. The event was conceived by Pasternak while in Australia during the Second Lebanon War last summer, and takes its inspiration from the Aboriginal concept of a walk about. "The idea is to bring people to Israel to walk together, and encourage a better understand between people from across the world. How are we going to do that? With music of course!," he says. The Global Unity Festival runs from noon next Friday (December 21) to 8 p.m. the following Saturday; hike at 1:30 p.m., music starts at 6 p.m. Mamshit National Park, Route 25 near Dimona, NIS 100 entrance. For further information visit www.myspace.com/globalunityfestival, www.walkaboutlove.com or contact [email protected]