May 11, 2006
Mellow Israel Fest Draws 42,000
Maybe it was the relatively cool weather on Sunday. Or maybe it was the stepped-up participation of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. But more people than ever attended this year's Israel Independence Day Festival at Woodley Park in Van Nuys. Organizers put the crowd estimate at about 42,000, a couple of thousand more than last year.
It also helped that organizers did outreach to the Russian community. And that they inked Mashina, a band of aging but still rockin' Israeli heartthrobs, which headlined a full day of music. As usual, there were activities for children, a long line of kosher food concessions and booths representing dozens of Jewish and Israeli organizations.
Last year's event was notable for its orange-tinted crowd -- the color symbolized solidarity with Gaza's Jewish settlers, who faced a pending eviction by the Israeli government (see story on page 11). This year, post-eviction, the political posturing was more diffuse and not especially apparent.
"The outstanding thing was that everything went very smooth -- no problems," said Yoram Gutman, the festival's executive director.