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Young Israeli settlers go hippie? Far out, man!

Last week's annual 'End of Days' music festival highlights how a new – and militant – hilltop generation embraces the counterculture symbols of the 1960s American Left.

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"Everyone says that we're all about war, but people just want redemption," says Benny Landau, a solo guitarist from the settlement of Kiryat Arba who described his family of four as drifters. Before toasting to the hilltop outposts, he described his musical influences as "anything that opens up my horizons."

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End of Days is also the name of keyboardist Mr. Leuchter's band, which fuses jam rock, reggae, and spiritual tunes from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. He and six other siblings run the festival as a memorial to their father, and say the purpose is to draw concert-goers from all over the country. The family said 1,600 attended the 10th annual festival last Thursday.

"The Jewish people are a very diverse and fractured society," says saxophonist Shaul Judelman. "Right now the crucial thing for both the Jewish and the Palestinian people is to make peace among themselves. It's a big enough challenge talking to our brothers before we go talking to our extended families."

A more earthy ethos

The embrace of a more spiritual, earthy ethic is part of a wider trend among tens of thousands of Israeli youth who spend months in India dabbling with Hinduism and drugs after finishing Israel's mandatory, three-year Army service.

"In the past 20 years we've been in a value crisis," says Assaf Meydani, a political science lecturer at the Academic College of Jaffa. The young generation looks at the pragmatism of their parents' generation, and sees it isn't going anywhere, and is puzzled. So they have to adopt another solution. In this case, the solution is spiritual solution."

Back at the festival, Rabbi Raz Hartman, with wild hair curls, led a study session in which he riffed on the meaning of faith: "[It's] like a farmer that plants in the ground and believes that afterward the bounty will come."

While waiting to go on stage, bassist Yaakov Lefcoe of the band Yood – a Jimi Hendrix-influenced trio whose name is the Hebrew initial for God – speculated on the lax security. "If anything happens at Bat Ayin, there's always a reprisal," he says.

Elsewhere, men hopped in rhythm to bass vamps that could have been culled from Sly and the Family Stone. But in an apparent respect for a traditional ban on mixed dancing, they were not joined by female concert-goers.

Arrayed around the main stage, salespeople in clothing stalls hawked organic diapers, "redemption clothes," parenting guides, and baggy skull caps knitted to look like the headgear associated with Rastafarians.

"It's funny when you walk into a settlement in [the West Bank] and you hear Bob Marley," says Judelman. "It's music that expresses a search for freedom, holiness, righteousness, and redemption. Isn't that what Israel is all about?"

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