Two Pesachs ago I went to a Festival in Israel called Boombamela and had a truly transformative experience. Boombamela is kind of a cross between Burning Man and Woodstock, except proudly proudly Jewish. My first Pesach in Israel, still honeymooning with the country, friends and I went early and had the best Seder ever right there on the beach. When the people started filing in and the music didn’t stop playing for days I spent the whole time in a dazed state of utopian bliss marveling from behind my camera at just how sexy the Jewish people can be.

Like Burning Man or Rainbow, everything is divided into villages. I spent most of my time with the religious camp (Kfar Tefilla) in part because I found the tension of religious people in a sea of hedonism more complex and interesting than the hedonism itself. But also because that was the only kosher kitchen running.

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took that year when it was still good. The next year they started advertising for it in Israeli high schools and the average age dropped to 15 and it became so much less fun. But ahh, those were the days.

I love mud people, and this dude had this classic Life Magazine 1940’s airforce look to him.

Our sand floor shul

Rabbi Trugman, looking very much in love.

One of my favorite shots ever. Sinai Tor, Israeli musician and baby.

I don’t usually shoot color, but the rainbow talis guy here just screamed it.

I also wrote a little article in Jewsweek with these photos, I would write it differently today, but you can read it here.

About the author

Laya Millman


  • Laya, lovely photos that really captured an experience…thanks for sharing. I love your stories of experiencing Israel…have a wonderful and sweet Pesach. You’re the best same-birthday roommate I’ve ever had!!


  • I loved these photos when you showed them on Jewsweek. I”d love to show them here in chicago. get in touch.

  • 🙁 I want to be in Israel!!! Boombamella sounds cool!

    Beauuuutiiful pictures!

    Religious hippies rule!

  • that looks fun…

    insh’allah, some day there will be Palestinians camping and partying and praying alongside the Jews. one can dream, yes?

  • Always loved those pics Laya. You have a great eye – please feel free to share your pics with us anytime! Chag Sameach!

  • wow, everybody, thank you SO much! I’m blown away.
    Shmavis, I’ll email you, lets talk. Mobius, small world, huh? tell him I say Hi! I think we didnt get it together to switch contact info, and then I heard he left the country or something? Anyway, when I get back to Haaretz, we’ll make it happen. remind me if i forget.

    Hag Sameach everyone!

  • I am curious about the sandfloor shul, aren’t u not allowed to pray barefoot?

  • DiGiTaL: I am intrigued by your notion of Kosher for Passover X.

    That is awesome. DiGiTaL, I wish to know you!

  • Jordan, the Palestinians are welcome to join in, as soon as they stop trying to blow us up or push us into the sea.

    Laya, those pics are fantastic. I love the guy with the baby.

    Chag Sameach to everyone!

  • Digital: In the Middle East, Jews used to pray barefoot. In fact many members of my family still pray barefoot on a carpet.

  • Yeah, wow, you totally captureds the romance of the place. I had a really powerful drug-free experience of transcending boundaries and clarifying what i really believe at this year’s boombamaela, in that tension between religious devotional “simcha” excstacy and the fear of the hedonism and the responsibility it entails, the challenge of really believing that it’s ok to be beautiful and even sexy in public, and the acceptance of everybody…

    There were alot of christian missionaries there this year! I think it’s good for them to be exposed to this kinda place, the diversity of really pretty deep jewish thought that, like, every single kid there was bringing… the christ-pimpers can’t help but benefit from that kind of exposure.

    The organizers of the festival have really interesting organizational instincts. they put the religious jewish seciton and the holistic section pretty much next to each other, as co-refuges from the loud music and beach consumption. it was really easy to navigate and the music was better than ever. fun fun fun!

  • and for that matter, what’s wrong witrh 15 year olds? the kids are brilliant, from all the different little towns and kibbutzim across Israel, and it was nice to hear what everyone’s all about nowadays.

  • Hi there. Wondering if I can use the shofar shot of yours on a book cover. I need to submit it in the next day or two so if you could email me back asap with pricing for a high res shot.

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