June 22, 2000
Worshipping at Haoman 17
Jewish tradition mandates that on Shavuot, men, women and children should celebrate the anniversary of the giving of the Torah by staying up into the morning praying and studying the holy books. At about 3 a.m. in Jerusalem, the most devout begin a pilgrimage to perform this sacred ritual at the Western Wall. A few hours later, hundreds, if not thousands, of Israeli youth rove past the Old City and the Temple Mount to indulge in a different kind of worship.
These services begin at 6 a.m. at the Haoman 17 after-party. Named for its address in the industrial area of Talpiot, Haoman 17 is one of the hottest, most cutting-edge nightclubs in Israel. In this synagogue, the DJ is rabbi; the prayer is intense dancing with music so loud that even the best soundproofing cannot keep the noise from spilling into the streets; the choir is an ensemble of scantily clad stage dancers in wild costumes. There is a feeling of liberation; a break from a humdrum existence through the sexual energy generated by the deep house and techno music and half-bared bodies. Sometimes it's the freedom from fear fostered by one too many drinks. For some it's deeply spiritual. For others it's very carnal. Whatever it is, it regularly brings the intelligent, hip, secular 20-somethings back together.
These after- parties take place only about once every two months, usually on the dawn of a major Jewish or international holiday. Thursday night is Haoman's Sabbath, the most popular night for hard partying for ages 23 and up. Thursday night is also the night when there are two quorums, one in the 1,200-capacity hall for the house and techno faithfuls and one in the 200-capacity hall for those who still cling to popular dance music.
When Haoman first opened its doors five years ago, says Jerusalem nightlife mogul Ruben Lublin, who is one of five owners of Haoman, the emphasis was on the music. It was very underground, very progressive, says Lublin, himself an accomplished DJ. Haoman attracts and recruits music created by the top DJs, usually from Europe, and provides an ever-changing décor and state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.In the club scene, the DJ is not merely a technician who plays prerecorded tracks. He or she feels the crowd, causing the BPM (beats per minute), the bass booms, the electronic pitches to undulate according the crowd's state and desires, taking them through a progression of highs and lows, teasing them, bringing them to a climax that has the whole hall blissfully bouncing in a world outside of this one. And the sound of the DJ's horn, like the wailing cry of the shofar, seals the feelings and calls them onto the next level.
Perhaps it's the tension stemming from the political and religious boiling pot of Jerusalem that has made the desire for this kind of experience so acute. It's a rebellion against the angst, wars and pressures that often accompany living in the developing Jewish state, an embrace of world trends in music and lifestyle, and an ironic creation of community for those who scorn organized communities built on social or religious conventions.
A confluence of such factors has made Haoman a sought-out venue for club goers from all over Israel and even Tel Aviv, traditionally considered the Mecca of Israeli nightlife. At Haoman there is less of the poza - the stance of those who try to look important and cool, hiding their humanity beneath trendy outfits and loosely held cigarettes - that is ubiquitous in nightclubs in Tel Aviv, Los Angeles and other metropolises. At Haoman, what you radiate is important - a desire to dance, to loosen barriers and enjoy.It's not a lounge. There are only a few couches for people to rest, but they don't want people to just sit by the bar and look around, explains co-owner Eyal Katz. For Katz and his partners, Haoman is more than just a business. It's a labor of love, a warped form of altruism and Zionism, too.
Haoman is like the embassy for the younger generation, Katz continues. If you ask young people what there is to do in Jerusalem, they'd say Haoman. In the religious capital of the world, even a nightclub has a touch of something incorporeal, with the power to attract a following. Explain that away by the legacy of the city or its inhabitants, but with the right attitude, an open mind, a few shots of tequila or some beers, Haoman 17 can break through walls, if only temporarily, and give people what they really seek behind them.If you don't plan to visit Jerusalem anytime soon or are wary of entering Haoman's doors, at least check out its Web site at www.haoman.com which takes full advantage of the medium to express what it's about.