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Dance History

Getting down in the shadow of Masada

Author Debra Kamin Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

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ISRAEL – Avi Yossef walks through the desert night toward a throng of 12,000 people, his sneakers kicking up thick clouds of dust with every step. Arrayed before him is a riot of waving limbs and bobbing heads, a bouncing, hollering mass of ecstatic kids, their arms reaching upward into the ink-black sky.

Such activity is not a common occurrence along the shores of the Dead Sea. The area is best known for its proximity to the cave complex where, in 1947, a young Bedouin stumbled across the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also close by is Masada, the mesa-top fortress that was once the vast, fortified holiday home of King Herod.

Tonight, music promoter Yossef has chosen the location to host what he describes as the biggest electronic dance party ever held in the Middle East. Dressed in rumpled jeans and a trucker hat, he watches with evident pride as the glowstick-waggling hordes swirl beside the ominous bulk of Masada, also the site of the Great Revolt against Roman oppression, circa 66 CE.

Yossef, for his part, insists that he’s far less interested in what’s happened here in the past than he is in what’s happening here tonight, an event that he believes to have a major significance of its own. “Nobody has ever danced at the lowest point on Earth before,” he says. “There’s a historic story here.”

For Ofir Aretz, a 26-year-old fromthe southern Israeli town of Beersheba, the location has a more mundane appeal. “There are no neighbors here!” he shouts, clutching an energy drink in one hand and waving the other in the air. “So there’s no one to tell us to turn the music down!”

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