By LINDA M. LINONIS
For the Jewish community, Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrates Israel Independence Day.
For the community at large, Israel’s 65th provides an educational and entertaining event with Israeli music, food, dancing and games.
The family-oriented activity Sunday at the Jewish Community Center is coordinated by Talia Shlomi and Tomer Elooz, who are from Israel. They oversee the shlichim, Hebrew for emissary, programs at the JCC that provide a cultural and educational link between the Mahoning Valley and Israel. Participants will have an Israeli passport for the day.
The official celebration began Monday night through Tuesday, since Jewish observances begin at sundown. The two emissaries said it was “difficult” being away from their homeland on Independence Day, but they’re eager to share their love of Israel at the event. They noted Memorial Day is observed the day before Independence Day to honor soldiers who died in military service and victims of terrorism.
“Memorial Day is the day to remember the soldiers who gave us independence and help keep it,” Shlomi said. “We have independence through their sacrifice.”
She added that “every year Israel keeps going is a victory.” Elooz added, “America took time to build, and Israel is the same.”
The opening ceremony at Israel’s 65th, a parade by children carrying Israeli and American flags, underscores the supportive relationship between the countries.
They plan to turn the JCC into a little Israel, where visitors can experience the flavor of the country. “We want people to learn about the food, ethnic culture, music and technology,” Elooz said.
One of the most meaningful activities involves a model of the Western Wall; the real one in Jerusalem is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish temple’s courtyard. Regarded as a sacred site, Jews and people of other faiths pray there and place slips of paper containing written prayers to God into the cracks. Participants in Israel’s 65th are invited to do this at the model, and when Shlomi and Elooz return to Israel, they will place those notes in the wall.
Students in Hebrew classes at the JCC and Akiva Academy have made displays touting Israeli inventions and technology. “Since the 1960s, solar power for water and heating has been used in homes,” Shlomi said. She added the flash drive was an Israeli idea as was the cherry tomato.
At the recreated Israeli street market called a shuk, there will be items from the local synagogues, arts and crafts and making of Israeli T-shirts. “We’ll also sell artwork, and the money will go to Chaim, an Israeli association that helps children with cancer,” Shlomi said.
As in many cultures, the food is the key to the celebration. Shlomi said there will be falafel, a vegetable blend with chick peas that goes inside pita bread; Israeli salad of chopped parsley, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and onions; tahini, a combination of sesame seeds and olive oil; rogalach, small, rolled chocolate croissants; and date cookies.
Israeli games also will engage participants. A popular activity is paddle ball, often played on the beaches, Elooz said.