Shantipi Festival

Dinu Mendrea

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Surrounded by war, young Israelis give peace a chance
by Barry Davis

Something is happening in Israel to redress the accumulating damage and destruction being wreaked by both sides of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

While, as news reports every day remind the world, life here remains no picnic, the hostilities and inter-ethnic strife have spawned a movement for peaceful coexistence that is gathering momentum in leaps and bounds.

The principle players in the drive for change are a group of Israelis in their twenties and thirties. Since the mid-1990s, these young travelers have been flocking to Asia and joining in Rainbow gatherings around the Globe and returning home to a burgeoning scene of New Age oriented festivals offering "alternative" methods of treatment and healing, and ethnic music and culture.

The leading New Age festival in Israel - there are five a year - is Shantipi (tranquil tent), which started life in 1997 and takes place over the
Pentecost Holiday period.

Shantipi has grown from a relatively modest affaire with only about 3000 people turning up at a rural site near Pardes Hanna in the north of the country to this three day festival attended by ten thousand - fifteen thousand people with a similar amount reluctantly turned away.

Yair Izulin, who helped to devise the first Shantipi gathering, believes the events increasing popularity is an across-the-board expression of
frustration and disappointment with mainstream culture offerings and with the political and religious establishment.

"People are looking for an alternative", he says. "We offer the public something else. It's like a new culture."

These days, in addition to a wide range of meditation or other healing sessions and workshops, Shantipi tries to offer top class entertainment with big foreign acts. Sadly, the current regional security situation deters many foreign artists from visiting Israel, but the festival continues to preserve and nurture its upbeat "summer of love" ambience.

Mr Izulin firmly believes Shantipi and the country's other similar events are making a difference. "Israelis who spend time traveling abroad and got a taste of life in the outside world realized there is another way to live - that you don't have to constantly live with wars and with a fight for survival. That's what it's all about."

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