‘Look at This Wonderful Place’

"Israel in Our Hearts," the 58th-anniversary celebration of the country's independence, "will be an outstanding day that will show Jews and non-Jews in the Philadelphia area and everywhere – as well as the media – how passionate the Jews of Philadelphia are about Israel and how much we care," said Jeff Perlman, co-chair of the event with Cindy Smukler Dorani and Ian Michel.

The festival, funded and coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Israel and Overseas, will take place Sunday, May 21, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Eakins Oval and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

"People will be coming to- gether from all parts of our community to celebrate Israel's amazing accomplishments and to make its lively culture their own," said Smukler Dorani. "Busloads of people will be coming from area synagogues, with the cost picked up by Federation.

"This year's celebration has something for every age group, from crafts to an archaeology dig to shopping and schmoozing," she continued. "And there are new events such as the science and technology tent and Junior Maccabee sports. ShopRite will sponsor a 'Taste of Israel.' "

The celebration will open with the sound of 58 shofars being blown, each one representing a year in Israel's history, according to Asaf Romirowsky, Federation's Israel affairs associate. "Blowing the shofar to announce an event dates back to the Torah. Volunteers from area synagogues will participate, making it a communitywide event from the start."

Yom Ha'atzmaut will be celebrated in a manner very similar to the way it's done in Israel, with Israeli folk rock band, Reva L'Sheva and popular singer Yoni Rechter in concert and vendors selling food right off the barbecue, he explained. "And, as it happens in Israel, the day will end with a giant fireworks display. We're bringing Israel to Philadelphia."

The event is also an opportunity for the local Israeli community to come out and see how valued they are as part of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community.

Said Perlman: "Together, we will show our love of Eretz Yisrael."

"Israel in Our Hearts" is not about war or security – what we see on TV," explained Michel. "It is a time for parents and grandparents to tell the kids: 'Look at this wonderful place of Israel, and what it has done and what it has accomplished.' For people who have never been to Israel, or haven't been there for a while, this day can give them an opportunity to make a spiritual connection – to find that spark that will encourage them to visit and help them feel comfortable about going."

Last year, Federation's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration drew 7,500 participants, according to Beth Razin, Federation's missions coordinator. "We're hoping to build on last year's success, and serve as a springboard for other Federation activities," she said. "We've expanded the program and hope to keep the momentum of support going and draw an even larger crowd."

Calling the celebration "a labor of love and a tremendous amount of hard work," Perlman is hoping that more volunteers will come out and help make the day a success.

"We're hoping for a fantastic turnout," he said, "a day that shows: 'If volunteers and staff will build it – the community will come.' "

Corporate sponsors for "Israel in Our Hearts" are ShopRite, Blank Rome LLP, Boscov's, Fairmount Park Commission, the Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia, the Jewish Exponent and Fox Rothschild.

The festival is free, but participants must register. To register, volunteer or sign up for bus transportation, call 215-832-0630, or log on to: www.JewishPhilly.org. The first 500 to register receive a gift.



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