Twelve national and international television crews, plus another dozen photographers and print reporters jostled for positions Tuesday evening May 10 to cover the Israel Independence Day celebration hosted by the country’s Consul General Jacob Dayan in Los Angeles.
Dayan and his staff put on a variety show worthy of a Broadway production, and it would be nice to report that the top entertainment channels turned out to report on this new show-biz phenomenon.
But strict journalistic ethics call for disclosure that muscular former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also on hand, one day after announcing that he and his wife Maria Shriver had separated after 25 years of marriage.
The split between the Republican body builder/ movie star/politician and the Democratic niece of President John F. Kennedy made world headlines and transformed the annual community event into a media frenzy.
The former governor, looking buff, tanned and relaxed at 63, had been invited long ago to receive an award recognizing his longtime support of Israel and the nation’s economy.
However, Schwarzenegger gave the media what it wanted, prefacing his remarks by thanking the audience and the public for “the tremendous amount of support and love that you have given us in the last 24 hours.
“I just spoke to Maria an hour before I came here … we both love each other very much and are fortunate to have four extraordinary children … and we’re taking it one day at a time.”
With that, the audience of 800 at the Skirball Cultural Center could turn its full attention to Israel’s 63rd anniversary, the other honorees and the 90-minute multimedia show, produced with brio by Lior Sasson, the consulate’s cultural attaché.
An inkling that this night would be different from all other nights came with the renditions of the two national anthems by Statik Express, a group of five talented African-American youngsters.
They gave out with a “Hatikvah” suffused with a sense of longing, and followed up with a hip-hop version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Israeli mentalist Lion Suchard, in a double role, performed fabulous feats of mind-reading, though labored somewhat as emcee.
In one act, Suchard had Schwarzenegger, Dayan and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center on stage, reading three minds simultaneously.
Other evening highlights included:
Presentation of Jeremy Langford-created glass sculptures by Hier to Schwarzenegger; by Jacob Dayan to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; by Galit Dayan to Carla Sanger, president of LA’s Best; and by actor Jason Bateman to Hollywood producer Benjamin Silverman.
A medley of Israeli oldies by veteran star Hedva Amrani Danoff, flanked by Noa Dori and Shira Bouskila, which had grizzled Israelis wipe away nostalgic tears.
“My Trip to Jerusalem,” an impressionistic video of Israel’s diversity.
Music by the Ellis Island Klezmer Band and the Ars Subtilior Trio, and dancing by students from the Milken Community High School.
At the end, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky presented a commendation to Dayan and cited his many accomplishments during a three-year tenure, now nearing its end.
“ ‘Yaki’ Dayan has made a difference for the State of Israel,” Yaroslavsky said, “and he has made a difference for the City of Los Angeles.”