I couldn’t imagine how I would piece together the events of this week in Israel. On Sunday we celebrated the reunification of Jerusalem and there was a fabulous flag-waving parade on my street. Sunday evening was also the eve of Ramadan and, in spite of some friction caused by the parade marchers, it seemed that we might have that elusive “quiet” that everyone is always talking about. Then on Wednesday, 4 people were brutally gunned down and 16 people injured in a terrorist attack in a café in Tel Aviv. This act was applauded by Hamas and celebrated with joy in the streets of Hebron. How does a week like that even make sense?
I walked to the shuk today and in the middle of the Friday afternoon chaos, I heard the thumping bass and upbeat tunes of the NaNaNachmans. (Ok. They aren’t really called NaNaNachmans, but that’s what a few of my friends called them and for me the name stuck.) And then I knew what to write about.
Who are the NaNaNachmans?
I would define them as modern-day mystics. They are followers of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772–1810). They pray for the redemption of the world and the coming of the messiah. What marks them in the streets of Israel are the slow-moving vans playing techno religious music while the NaNaNachmans dance in the street. They often wear white beanies with the phrase Na Nach Nachma Nachman M’Uman on them.
Na Nach Nachma Nachman M’Uman to my ear sounds a little like a mantra. The full words at the end can be translated as Nachman from Uman (his burial site) or Nachman the Believed. All over Israel this phrase is very common graffiti; I suppose because it’s meant to be a song of redemption and will hasten the arrival of the messiah.
What do the NaNaNachmans have to do with anything?!?
Several vans were part of the parade. I don’t know what it is but the NaNaNachmans tend to have the strongest, clearest, highest quality speakers. Their music is heard near and far, possibly reaching the heavens.
Here’s my video of two NaNaNachman scenes that I happened to catch on video.
It’s the second song that caught my attention. Not just because it’s got a great techno beat and a repetitive chorus. It was the words of the chorus. Here’s my translation.
If we sing together
There is faith stronger than all the fear
We won’t fall, we won’t tremble
Because we are not alone
We have Hashem the One.
Here’s a link to Benny Friedman’s official video. The guy singing is not the guy you might imagine putting together a techno song, but he is a guy who looks like he’s praying for the coming of the messiah.
And that’s it. Benny nailed it. We’re all in this together. We stand up and sing with faith and without fear. Whether you are religious or not, you, me, and all of us are not alone.
So we’re going to celebrate life and march proudly as Israelis. And when our citizens are cut down in violence and hate, we’re going to pick ourselves up and go on – with justice, not vengeance.
I know. It’s not so simple … but maybe it should be.
This is a holiday weekend; we’re going to go the Western Wall and watch the sunrise on Shavuot (Saturday to Sunday) to commemorate receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai. So here’s a good opportunity to remember the message of the Torah as passed down from Rabbi Hillel – short enough for a tweet, even before Twitter:
Do not do to your neighbor what is hateful to you. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.