Photo Credit: Ben Bresky
Leuchter brothers at the Aharit hayamim festival 2019.

The Aharit Hayamim festival is returning this Wednesday (august 10, 2022) for a day of music in Gush Etzion. Familiar faces in the religious Jewish music world will perform as well as nationally known musicians such as Lea Shabbat who had a string of hits in the 1990s and was part of the mainstream Israeli music scene.

Also singing on stage will be Shuli Rand, who is equally know for his acting career as the star of the film Ushpizin.

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Yehuda Leuchter, organizer of the festival spoke to JewishPress.com about the event. “The musicians come because they want to be a part of it,” he said.

The event began as a memorial for Leuchter’s father Emil, a musician who performed with Shlomo Carlebach, the Diaspora Yeshiva Band and others in the 1970s. When he succumbed to cancer in 1994, the family held a memorial jam session in their back yard. Every year more and more friends came until it eventually morphed into a full fledged festival.

After about ten years of festivals, the Leuchter children were getting married and having kids of their own and decided to take a break. In 2019, the festival returned. But the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to all events for several years.

Aharit Hayamim festival in Gush Etzion.

Israel seems to have returned to normalcy, and large concerts are once again happening, yet Leuchter said COVID-19 was not really a determining factor. “Every year the family got together and made a decision as to whether or not to hold a festival,” he explained. “This is not a business venture but a family gathering that we are so lucky to have people be a part of,” he added.

Yet as a veteran performer, he revels in the vibe the concert creates. A singer and pianist, Leuchter performed for years with Aharit Hayamim, which mixed rock, reggae and Middle Eastern rhythms and could often be seen performing on the streets of Jerusalem in the mid 2000s. The band will have a reunion performance at the festival which bears its name. Leuchter went on to release a solo album and now teaches music and special education.

A third-generation native of the Gush Etzion region, Leuchter’s grandparents were survivors of the battle for Gush Etzion in 1948. His grandmother’s job was to transmit Morse code from the Gush to Jerusalem.

During the War of Independence, the four kibbutzim in the Gush Etzion region were invaded by the Jordanian Legion. Leuchter’s grandparents, who lives in the kibbutz of Masu’ot Yitzhak were among those taken captive and sent to camps in Jordan. After months, the captives were allowed to return to the newly independent State of Israel.

The family then lived in the new Masu’ot Yitzhak community which was established in Israel’s south. When the Gush Etzion region was regained by Israel in the Six Day War of 1967, many returned to rebuild.

This is where the concert will be held, giving the event added meaning. The exact location will be Havat Eretz Ayalim (Deer Farm). It promises to be a kosher, family-friendly event with a women’s kol isha performance space and children’s activities include music classes, arts and craft-making and food ranging from hot dogs and popcorn to Ethiopian injera. Local artists and designers will have booths. The festival starts at 4pm and promises to go into the wee hours of the night with an area set aside for camping.

The festival is sponsored by the Gush Etzion Visitor Center, the Gush Etzion Heritage Center, the Gush Etzion Regional Council, the Division for Jewish Culture at the Ministry of Education and the Leuchter family.

The line-up will include: Quarter to Africa, Bini Landau, Lea Shabat, Shakoof, Aharit Hayamim, Nachat Ruach, David Lifshitz, Shuli Rand, Lazer Lloyd, Yagel Haroush, Ehud Ariel, Chai Afik, Israel Klezmer Orchestra, Sinai Tor, Shira Zaydman, Maayan Linik, DJ Lim Lim, Muna Camuna, Shlepping Nachas, John Hock, Noam Levi, Yifat Israel, Shivi Keller, and more.

Wednesday August 10, 2022 starting at 4:00pm.

For more information visit https://tickchak.co.il/31397

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Ben Bresky is a journalist and audio/video editor based in Jerusalem.