Last year’s exuberant celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary at Woodley Park had it all — major sponsors, an Israeli hip-hop superstar and a party that ran late into the night.
Organizing the 61st celebration this year has proven more daunting.
Following a landmark year is not an enviable position — it’s like taking the stage after U2 or The Rolling Stones. Also, mounting job loses and mortgage woes aren’t conducive to generating a festive mood.
“It’s a very, very difficult year,” said Yoram Gutman, executive director of the 61st Israel Independence Day Festival.
It doesn’t help that festival sponsorships are down from 2008, due in no small part to the recession. But Gutman says the volunteers who organize the festival believe the existence of a Jewish state is a cause worth celebrating regardless of the year or the economics.
“We’re doing it for ... the glory of the state of Israel,” he said.
At the center of this year’s celebration is Tel Aviv’s centennial, which will include the exhibition “Revealing the Hidden City,” 80 photographs chronicling the 100-year history of Tel Aviv-Yaffo; the Tel Aviv Scouts, a group of 15 Israeli teenagers performing a showcase of songs saluting the White City; and the festival’s main stage and Tel Aviv Café stage, which usually features local talent, will be merged.
Featured performances on the expanded Tel Aviv Café stage will include Alisa Shparaga, a runner-up on the Israeli version of “American Idol,” Los Angeles-based rock-reggae band Moshav as well as local favorites Jimmy Gamliel and Yosi Levy. And John Fishel, who is stepping down as president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles at the end of the year, will be honored with the Yakir HaKehila Award during the official ceremony at 1:30 p.m.
The festival will also include rides, a petting zoo, a fashion show, skydivers, entertainment on the children’s and teen stages as well as 150 vendor and food booths, including a variety of kosher food.
The Jewish Journal will be launching a new Web-based multimedia project at the festival, called “My Jewish Moments,” in which the community can share their Jewish-related stories.
The festival staff recommends festival goers leave their car at home or park at one of the nearby MTA lots and ride an Orange Line bus, which will run every 10 minutes and stop near the festival entrance. A voucher worth 10 percent off the ticket price will be available to those who park at the MTA’s Sepulveda Station at 15430 Erwin St. in Van Nuys.
Additional parking will be available adjacent to the festival and on Woodley Avenue. Buses will also shuttle back and forth between the festival and a satellite parking lot on the west side of Balboa Boulevard, just south of Victory Boulevard.
Main/Café Tel Aviv Stage
10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: DJ Big Time
12:30 p.m.: Liz Shahar, L.A.-based Israeli pop singer
1 p.m.: Tel Aviv Scouts, teenage singing troop from Israel
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Skydivers kick off the official ceremony with L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and The Jewish Federation President John Fishel.
2:30 p.m.: L.A. Hebrew High Dancers
2:40 p.m.: Tel Aviv Scouts
3 p.m.: Alisa Shparaga and Eli Buzaglo
3:30 p.m.: Ram2, L.A.-based Israeli rock band
4 p.m.: Moshav
5-7p.m.: Hafla dance party event with Middle Eastern and Mizrahi singers Egal Kochavi, Jimmy Gamliel, Margali Yosef, Pini Cohen and Zioni
10-11 a.m.: DJ Tal Adir
11 a.m.-noon: Karaoke with Aviel Altit
noon: DJ Shay Silver
12:30 p.m.: Sunflower Dancers
1 p.m.: Karaoke Finals
1:30-2:30 p.m.: Official Ceremony (go to the Main Stage)
2:30 p.m.: Shay Guy and Ms. Saron, Israeli hip-hop group
3 p.m.: jDOoKRoO (pronounced Jew Crew) and VoKCaL (Voice of Knowledge), Israeli hip-hop groups
3:45 p.m.: DJ Shay Silver
4:15 p.m.: Fashion show by Maya Ohana
5 p.m.: DJ Aviel Altit from Israel
5:30-7 p.m.: DJ Aviel Altit/DJ Tal Adir
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: Arts and crafts
noon-5:30 p.m.: DJ
11 a.m.-noon: TBA
noon: Little Stars Dance Group
12:30 p.m.: TBA
1 p.m.: Nathan Stein, juggler
1:30-2:30 p.m.: DK Dance Factory, Valley Village dance studio
2:30 p.m.: Gymnastics by Juliana
3 p.m.: Grand Master Roger, African American Shadow Boxing
3:30 p.m.: Nathan Stein
4-5:30 p.m.: TBA
61st Israel Independence Day Festival, Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys. Sun., May 3, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. $5 per person; children under 2 free. For more information, call (818) 757-0123.