Celebration to mark raising of Israeli flag at consulate

The blue and white flag with the Star of David will be raised for the first time in front of the Israeli Consulate on Sunday, Sept. 28, in a community-wide celebration of the Jewish state, its 60th anniversary and the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.

The flag-raising ceremony and celebration has been almost one year in the making, starting with the arrival in Los Angeles of the new Israeli consul general, Yaakov Dayan.

He was puzzled why there was no flag flying in front of the consulate, nor, as he has learned, at any other Israeli diplomatic mission in the United States. The most common reason given for the low profile was security, but Dayan didn’t buy it.

“There are Israeli flags flying in front of our missions in much more dangerous places throughout the world, including our embassy in Cairo,” he told The Journal.

“I remember walking with my father when I was a child in Tel Aviv, and when we saw foreign flags, he would tell me about each of the countries they represented,” Dayan recalled.

“When I came to Los Angeles, I thought of how many kids pass along Wilshire each day and might ask what the blue and white flag with the six-pointed star meant,” he added.

Dayan quickly learned that putting up three flagpoles on Wilshire Boulevard for the Israeli, U.S. and California flags required numerous permits and some political help from City Councilman Jack Weiss and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The Israeli flag to be hoisted on Sept. 28 has a history of its own, having flown originally over the embattled town of Sderot, regularly exposed to hostile fire from the Gaza Strip.

When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Dayan visited Israel last June, the flag was formally presented to the mayor by Shimon Peres, president of Israel.

At the same time that two Israeli soldiers raise their country’s colors, the Stars and Stripes will be hoisted by U.S. Marines and the California Bear flag by the National Guard in festivities starting at 1 p.m. in front of the consulate building at 6380 Wilshire Blvd.

Dayan and his staff are going all-out to make the one-hour event a joyous and memorable occasion for the Jewish and general communities of Los Angeles.

Among the highlights planned are:

Music by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, which will play the Israeli and U.S. national anthems.

Performances by various school choirs.

Short speeches by Villaraigosa and Dayan.

Some 60 rabbis will join in blowing shofars to welcome the Jewish New Year.

Schoolchildren will prepare and send New Year cards to Israeli kids in development towns and communities exposed to rocket fire. Students from the Milken Community High School will wear special T-shirts for the occasion.

Vera Cruz and other Latino bands will entertain after the ceremony.

Israeli and American pop stars, among them Macy Gray, Noa Tishby and Hedva Amrani, will sing.

In addition, two youngsters will win free flights to Israel, courtesy of El Al, where they will visit schools in various parts of the country.

Diplomats from Mexico and other countries, political leaders and representatives from Mormon and Christian evangelist churches will join the festivities.

While the focus of the celebration will be on Israel, Los Angeles will also benefit. A blood donation center will be on site to benefit the bone marrow transplant unit at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Villaraigosa and Dayan will be the first donors to the blood drive initiated by Rabbi Hershy Ten, president of the Bikur Cholim Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

“This celebration will be an apt and enjoyable way for the community to show its solidarity with the people of Israel,” Dayan said.

Shahar Azani, Israeli consul for public affairs, added, “Too many times must we come together to protest attacks on Israel or mourn victims, so it’s time for a happy get-together.”

Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue will be closed during the celebration. Free or reduced-fee parking will be available within walking distance of the consulate. For more information, visit www.israeliconsulatela.org.