Philly Celebrates Israel’s Birthday with Flag Raising

Perelman Jewish Day School students sing at the flag-raising. | Photos by Selah Maya Zighelboim

Despite the sun beating down, and the sounds of sirens and the chopping of a helicopter overhead, more than 100 people showed up to the celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday at Philadelphia City Hall on May 14.

The city celebrated the 70th anniversary of Israel’s War of Independence by raising the Israeli flag at City Hall at JFK Boulevard and Broad Street.

“It is a celebration, not only of [Israel’s] independence, but also all that we hold dear, the sanctity of human life, the spirit of tolerance and understanding between the different factions that make Israel society, be it religious, ethnic or cultural,” Congregation Mikveh Israel Rabbi Albert Gabbai said. “We celebrate the vibrant liberal democracy on which the Jewish state is founded. We celebrate all the accomplishments that this young nation has done despite the enmity and war brought upon her.”

Besides Gabbai, other speakers included Naomi Adler, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Susanna Lachs Adler, Jewish Federation board chair; Mayor Jim Kenney; and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). They spoke about the relationship between Israel and the United States, particularly Philadelphia, including the sister city relationship between the City of Brotherly Love and Tel Aviv. 

Jewish Voice for Peace-led protesters

The day also coincided with the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, as well as with another clash at the Gaza border.

While a group of about a dozen Jewish Voice for Peace-led protesters — though more showed up as the event progressed — sang and stood outside of a barrier made around the area by sheriff and police officers, Lachs Adler acknowledged the violence in Gaza.

“It is our hope that today’s activities in Israel will not prevent leaders from being able to solve their differences and bring peace to the region,” she said. “We may have a wide array of views on the state of Israel and what needs to be done, but on this we can all agree: After more than a century of commitment to our 70-year-old homeland, we remain dedicated to helping Israel to continue to evolve as an inclusive, resilient and peaceful society.”

After the speeches, a group of Perelman Jewish Day School (PJDS) students sang “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” “Oseh Shalom” and the American National Anthem.

The Israeli flag, next to the American flag, raised above City Hall.

Harriet and Mark Levin then raised the flag in tribute to their son, Michael, who made aliyah and died fighting in the 2006 Lebanon War. The event ended with the PJDS students leading the attendees in “Hatikvah.”

“We continue to work hard and to strive, for not just another 70 years, but another 70 years in which Israel will finally be able to enjoy peace and acceptance from all of its neighbors,” Boyle said. “That has been a leading goal of U.S. foreign policy and must continue to be.”


  1. Michael Levin of blessed memory — a real local hero — was killed in action defending his people. To write that he “died fighting” does not do justice to his commitment to safeguard our people.


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