Among the Na Nachs: Israel’s Dancing, Graffiti-Writing Hasidim
Ha’aretz explores the world of one of Israel’s most colorful subcultures:
There is no escaping them. They have left their mark everywhere in Israel, in the form of a cryptic mantra painted in bold Hebrew lettering on security fences, sleek skyscrapers, graveyard walls, freeway billboards and sheer mountain cliffs.
Dressed in characteristic woven white skullcaps, adherents perform leaping dances on street corners in the secular bastion of Tel Aviv, to techno-Hassidic music blasting from vans bearing the slogan “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me’uman,” which has informally lent its name to the newest of Hasidic sects.
The Na Nachs, as some of the group call themselves, are an offshoot of the Bratslav Hassidim, followers of the late Rebbe Nachman (1772-1810), great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism. But what separates Na Nachs from other Bratslavers is their belief that a mysterious letter found in 1962 by Rabbi Israel Dov Odesser, a Bratslaver Hasid from Tiberias, was a miraculous message from Rebbe Nachman himself, and that the mantra it contained, which mentioned Nachman and his burial place, Uman, Ukraine, was a “Letter from Heaven.”
A bystander at an impromptu Na Nach dance happening tells Ha’aretz: “They are good people, but they are all crazy.”