"Israel in Our Hearts" was a celebration that reached for the sky, beginning with 58 shofar-blowers, ages 5 to 75, who came together from throughout the Greater Philadelphia area to open the local celebration of the Jewish homeland's 58 years of independence. Approximately 7,000 people attended.
"It was a great Jewish shout-out," said Rabbi David Gutterman, director of the Vaad: Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia, who led the assemblage.
And at its closing, participants looked upward to see bursts of colorful fireworks, just as Israelis do to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut.
Held at Eakins Oval last Sunday, the Israel Independence Day celebration was funded and directed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Israel and Overseas. Jeff Perlman, Cindy Smukler Dorani and Ian Michel co-chaired the event.
Fun-filled activities were everywhere, including a Bedouin tent and a teen tent for young people. Gourmets (or those who were just plain hungry) visited ShopRite's tent for Israeli food demonstrations and samplings. There were food kiosks selling falafel and kabobs, as well as hamburgers and pizza.
Youngsters went on an archaeological dig at the Israel History Tent and found artifacts – which they put together – and then received junior archaeologist's certificates for their efforts. There were also soccer and basketball games for them to play.
As 20-month old Nathan Vardi-Goren dug, his parents Eilat and Harmar, said the celebration had "great kids' stuff."
"It's good to do this as a family," said his mother. "It also gives us the opportunity to be with fellow Israelis."
And there were famous Israelis walking through the crowd who paused to talk with participants in the form of Theater Ariel actors dressed as former Israeli prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, and astronaut Ilan Ramon.
"Israel in Our Hearts" sponsors included ShopRite; Blank Rome LLP; Boscov's; the Fairmount Park Commission; Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia; the Jewish Publishing Group, publishers of the Jewish Exponent and Inside magazine; and Fox Rothschild.