Bet Shean Half Marathon (Beit Shean)

Yesterday was the 30th annual Bet Shean Half Marathon (21.1KM) which I ran and completed in 1:49.  It was my first time running in Bet Shean.  What a great event!

This race is considered a favorite among Israeli running clubs since the terrain is mostly flat and the organization is top-notch.  It is also considered a great warm-up to the Tiberias Marathon to be held in a few weeks from now (Jan 8).

Your's Truly at the Beit Shean Half Marathon
The Author at the Beit Shean Half Marathon

Yesterday, Dec 11, 2008, over 1,200 runners participated on a windy day.  The course is generally fast, the organizers make every effort to get runners off on a good foot.  There were many registration tables, free coffee, crackers and fruit to make things go smoothly.

The only downside came after the race.  Runners were required to return their timing chips and then receive a free race shirt along with a bag of ‘goodies’.  The lines were incredibly long, and I waited over 20 minutes just to return the chip.  Failing to return the chip would cost I think a 200 NIS fine (~$50 USD).

Official photos from the event can be seen here.

Our club, The Beit Shemesh Running Club, sent a record 29 runners to the finish line.  Our fastest runner completed the race in 1:25.

The Author on the run
The Author on the run

Happy running, and onwards to Tiberias and other great runs in Israel.

Rockiah – A New Jewish Rock Group in Ramat Bet Shemesh

Those who attended the Shemeshfest Sukkot festival last week at the Bet Shemesh ampitheater were treated to a talented local rock group named “Rockiah” – the English name of the band is a play on their Hebrew name ???? (The Earth’s Firmament), and their American rock music roots.

Rockiah are Yehudah David (vocals, guitars), Zvi Newman (bass), and David Epstein (drums). Eli Krantman joined them on backing vocals.

Yehudah, Zvi, and David all live in Ramat Bet Shemesh and are olim from the USA.

I spoke with Zvi about the origins of Rockiah and what they hope to accomplish. Zvi told me they are all married with kids and come from different backgrounds, but their music speaks one language.

“Rockiah is about fusing the raw power of rock music with the spiritual inspiration of the Jewish mekorot (written sources). Yehudah is influenced by Van Halen and other power-pop artists, so his guitar playing is among the wildest on the scene. Dave’s drumming is influenced by punk, so we have a harder-driving sound in our shows – and his aggressive fills make you take notice. I’m influenced by John Entwistle of The Who, so the bass surprises the crowd with “stolen” solos that bubble up from underneath. And Yehudah’s singing overflows with pure heart and soul.”

“Rockiah’s music is written entirely by Yehudah, while the lyrics are straight out of the Psalms and various prayers. It’s meant to be lively and catchy for the audience, and it’s challenging for the musicians – the chords change every few seconds, so we have to be on our toes. Also, we love to improvise solos off the top of our heads – but all of this is meant to augment the uplifting, danceable essence of the songs. You can drive, work, jog, or clean the house to Rockiah, and come out of it very inspired.”

“At the end of the day, we try to give a fresh and energetic musical foundation to the experience of the holy as espoused by the lyrics. The Jewish content takes rock to a higher plane.”

Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim
Rockiah - Bonei Yerushalayim

Rockiah is now promoting its new CD and plan to join the performance circuit.   Their debut album, Bonei Yerushalayim, was released just a couple weeks ago and is available online at and at GalPaz stores. You can hear sample tracks at before purchase. You can also learn more about Rockiah on their Facebook and Myspace homepages.

We wish them much success!

Bet Shemesh Sukkot Jewish Rock Festival

As a citizen of Bet Shemesh for the past 14 years, I can tell you that nothing swells our civic pride more than the awesome Jewish Rock Festival that Jonty Zwebner has brought, along with the Bet Shemesh municipality, to our fine city.

Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003
Moshav Band Performing at Bet Shemesh Festival in 2003

It began about a decade ago as a one night event with five or so groups playing in front of a couple thousand locals. It has blossomed more recently into a big two night festival with many thousands (perhaps 15,000, maybe more?) jamming into the outdoor amphitheater with most of the top names in Jewish Rock, such as Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Adi Ran, Reva L’sheva, Lenny Solomon, and many, many more. As a result, the national media have taken notice.

Here is the Festival’s homepage for links to all the performers and more information.
ShemeshFest Website