The Simon Family Jewish Community Center will host a free*, family-centered celebration of Israel’s Independence Day— Yom Ha’Atzmaut—for the entire Tidewater community, reaching out to everyone who supports Israel and enjoys its culture.
Last year, more than 1,200 people from every walk of life and religion came together for an afternoon of Israeli cuisine, sports, arts and crafts, music and shopping. With activities to attract all ages, the Festival will again offer an opportunity to see, taste and experience Israeli culture.
Immediately upon entering the JCC, festival goers will feel like they have been transported to Israel as the lobby becomes the most notable outdoor marketplace in Jerusalem, Ben Yehuda Street, with vendors selling hand-crafted goods.
An Israel Festival at the JCC wouldn’t be complete without camel rides, motion rides and inflatables. Games of GaGa, Israeli dodge ball, are expected as folks gather at picnic tables to eat authentic Israeli and Mediterranean foods. There will be an opportunity to help build a replica of the Western Wall and leave a handwritten note that will be placed in Jerusalem’s Western Wall this summer by young people visiting Israel for the first time.
“Israel Festival is a great opportunity to welcome the entire Jewish community and anyone else from the Tidewater community for a day of celebrating what Israel is all about,” says Scott Katz, Simon Family JCC center director. “It is especially exciting when we welcome the community to the Sandler Family Campus so that families can see all that goes on here and all that we have to offer.”
In celebration of Israel’s upcoming 65th anniversary, the community, along with 107 other communities worldwide from Honolulu to Helsinki will participate in Walk the Land: Celebrate LIFE!, a global Walk coordinated by The Afikim Foundation in cooperation with the World Zionist Organization and the Israel Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Each of the 108 communities will showcase the same large murals, displaying many of the numerous contributions that Israel has made to the world, stemming from the supreme value that it places upon ‘Life.’
Locally, the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater is the sponsor of this program. All walkers will receive packets of seeds from Israel that will yield hundreds of thousands of Israeli flowers grown around the world, symbolic of the preciousness of ‘Life,’ as well as educational pamphlets about Israel facts and innovations.
The walktheland.org website unites all of the geographic locations into one virtual community, with each location having its own webpage to highlight its local celebration. Visit the site to see how Israel at 60 was celebrated through the photo gallery and check out the great resources to be showcased at the event.
“Walk the Land is designed to celebrate the countless gifts that Israel has contributed to the world, in its short 65-year history as a State. The Walk the Land 65 event here in Tidewater allows our community members to join hundreds of thousands of supporters of Israel of all ages, affiliations and geographic locations into one United Community,” says Robin Mancoll, CRC director. “The walk not only gives people the opportunity to feel like they are in Israel, but also promotes solidarity and understanding of Israel’s gifts to the world.”
A special performance by The Shuk will be another highlight of the festival. The Shuk is an Israel-based ensemble of musicians and educators who use music to excite and educate people about Jewish society, identity and culture. Also on the main stage will be an Israeli dancing performance, and a chance to learn some steps. Educational opportunities will also be offered on the main stage, courtesy of the CRC.
Israel Festival is a tremendous endeavor, requiring the participation of lay leaders, staff, and support from sponsors. This year, the Festival has generous commitments from the following sponsors: Charles Barker Automotive, Old Point National Bank, CBN, and Terri and Lonny Sarfan.
Mediterranean and traditional Israeli food will be available, including tabouleh, hummus, falafel, potato knishes, stuffed grape leaves, couscous, desserts and much more. Also, especially for the children, pizza, hot dogs and french fries will be available. Be sure to stop by The Skinny Dip serving frozen yogurt or Carolina Cupcakery for a tasty treat. The Festival wouldn’t be complete without Jody’s Popcorn returning to provide delicious assorted popcorn flavors.
The hit documentary, Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference will be shown. This 38-minute film explores the positive characteristics of Israeli society from a humanistic, psychological, and emotional perspective. It sidesteps the usual conversation of politics, conflict and violence, and tells the story of the Israeli people—whose resilience has propelled Israel to the forefront of world innovation and progress. This is the community’s third opportunity to see this film. Make it a point to catch it at Israel Festival. Watch the trailer at www.israelinsidethemovie.com/
“From preschool to BBYO, we spent a lot of time at the JCC in Norfolk growing up,” says Shari Gutterman Berman. “This event reminds me of how the JCC used to be. Every year, my husband Bruce and I take our sons, Ben, Josh and Avi to the festival, and it gives them a sense of the beautiful and diverse Jewish community we have here in Tidewater.”
*There is a charge for food, camel rides and several other rides. Be sure to bring cash for these activities as well as for shopping in the Israeli Marketplace.
by Leslie Shroyer