Jewish Journal

The 411 on the 818’s Israel Fest

by David Finnigan

May 12, 2005 | 8:00 pm



•What, Where and When: The 17th annual Israel Independence Day Festival celebrating Israel's 57th anniversary on May 15, from 10 a.m.- 7 p.m., Woodley Park, Van Nuys (between Burbank and Victory boulevards).


•Price: Admission is $5. Kids under 6 get in free.


•Parking: Free on the streets near the fenced-in, gated festival area. Satellite parking will be farther away at Lake Balboa, with shuttle buses running from there to the park.


•Numbers: More than 22,000 people attended the 2004 festival, which was held on Mother's Day, and up to 45,000 are expected this year. More than 40,000 attended the 2003 festival, which started out in 1988 with about 500 people marking Independence Day at a Wilshire Boulevard hall, said festival executive director Yoram Goodman.


•Weather Forecast: In the great tradition of the Israel Independence Day festival -- expect it to be hot (it is May in the Valley after all). Goodman said areas such as the Tel Aviv Cafe will put up extra shade nets to make things cool. Check www.weather.com for the latest temperatures.


•Security: Tight. The festival area's central entrance will have metal detectors. Along with fire marshals, the LAPD's Van Nuys Division will have at least 80 uniformed officers there.


•For Eyes & Ears: There will be five stages this time -- including a Teen Stage and a Fashion Show Stage -- "last year we had four," Goodman said. Folk dancing will be going on in one area, there will be a large childrens' play area in what Goodman called a "humongous amusement park" and many musicians will be performing throughout the day, including the Alter Rocker and the corned Beef Rangers, who will be at Tel Aviv Stage at 11 a.m.


•The Red Carpet: Israeli singer Sarit Haddad will be performing at 5 p.m. Orthodox talk show host Michael Medved will host the main stage's one-hour Israel tribute at 1:30 p.m., with many local politicians, including both mayoral candidates. Talk show host Larry Elder has hosted the main stage event for the past three festivals, but Goodman said Elder wasn't available this year.


•New This Year: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles will be a festival co-host and is supporting this event instead of holding its own Jewish festival.

"They are pooling together with us, getting out the temples," Goodman said. "The Jewish community at large knows that this is the place to come now."


•Gone This Year: The Miss L.A. Israel Pageant. Last year, one of the pageants bikini-clad contestants became ill and dehydrated backstage. It was the festival's first and last year for the pageant.

"We are not doing it; it brings too much controversy," Goodman said. "This is a family event; we want the families to come. We decided to stay away from contests, stay away from beauty pageants."


•Vendors: Count on getting brochures, free candy or what-have-you at booths from such organizations as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Camp Ramah of California, Democrats for Israel, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Downtown L.A. Motors Mercedes Benz, Morgan Stanley, El Al, the Israeli consulate and government tourism offices, Jews for Judaism, the peace initiative 10,000 Kites, the Mount Sinai and Hillside memorial parks, The Jewish Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Shalom LA and other Israeli newspapers, pro-Israel Christian radio station KRLA, the Jewish Free Loan Association, Jewish World Watch, StandWithUs, at least a dozen synagogues, including three Chabads plus the Jewish Defense League (with two booths), the Kaballah Centre, Belly Dancing for Fitness and Psychic to the Stars.


•Water: Chabad of California will have a booth promoting its popular Jewish-questions Web site, www.askmoses.com and Chabad staffers will distribute an estimated 30,000 free bottles of water.

"We just have a whole truckload," said Rabbi Simcha Beckman. "The idea is to fulfill people's spiritual thirst and their actual thirst, with a bracha of course."


•Food: For the first time, the Tel Aviv Cafe area will offer coffee and other coffeehouse beverages. Other vendors will be hawking lemonade, Red Bull, knishes, Tunisian cuisine and, of course, falafel for all.

"We can't have more than four falafel servers," said Goodman. "You don't want everybody selling the same kind of food."

Don't forget to stop by The Jewish Journal's booth No. 18 on "Ben Yehuda Street." Meet your favorite Jewish Journal celebrities, pick up some free goodies and enter to win raffle prizes from Gelson's. For more information on the festival, visit www.israelfestival.com.


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