September 24, 2018

Annual IAC Festival Brings Israel to L.A. Park

It’s that time of year again when the Israeli-American Council (IAC) transforms a Los Angeles park into a miniature Israel.

The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 6 at the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center at Rancho Park in West Los Angeles will be a day of live music, culture, food and community, under the banner of “70 Years of Zionism, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”

IAC board member Naty Saidoff, who, with his wife, Debbie, is a major sponsor of the festival, said the event will provide an opportunity for the Israeli-American community to expose American Jews to the Israeli way of life.

“We were incredibly lucky to grow up in a place like Israel, surrounded by our history, our heritage, and a rich and diverse culture,” Saidoff said. “Now that we live here, we want our fellow Americans who have embraced us so warmly to share in the experience of all the beauty that is the modern day miracle called Israel.”

More than 15,000 people are expected to turn out to this year’s festival, which will feature a performance by Israeli pop duo Static and Ben El; a Taglit Innovation Center, which educates attendees about the advances Israeli startup companies are making in the fields of science, medicine, agriculture, security, space and more; amusement park rides; a bar for young professionals; and a Pomegranate Sculpture Park — a community-based project that allowed artists, art enthusiasts and day school students to decorate 4-foot-high pomegranates.

As is the case every year, pro-Israel organization StandWithUs will lead a 1-mile Israeli solidarity march, titled “Salute to Israel Walk in Blue & White.” At 10 a.m., participants will meet at the festival’s entrance, walk east on Pico Boulevard toward the Simon Wiesenthal Center at Pico and Roxbury Drive, then head back to the festival.

“More than ever before, Israeli Americans are a living bridge between Israel and America.” — Shoham Nicolet

Additional highlights include the Tiger Squadron formation flyover at 3:20 p.m. The demonstration will kick off a ceremony featuring local elected officials and community leaders.

Meanwhile, glatt-kosher food, a kids stage, pony and camel rides, hands-on crafts, a Judaica shop and more will help people of all ages find something to enjoy at the annual celebration.

Ahead of the festival, the IAC is holding a photography competition on Instagram in which it will select and display at the festival 70 photos that best showcase Israel.

The Celebrate Israel festival is the largest program of the IAC, an umbrella organization for Israeli Americans that, with help from philanthropists such as Sheldon Adelson, has expanded to cities nationwide since its launch in 2007.

The IAC is a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that has 16 regional chapters. It serves the more than 500,000 Israeli-Americans living in the United States. It hosts the festival every year around Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, which this year fell on April 18.

This year’s festival is taking place in 15 locations across the country, including Colorado, Florida, Houston, Las Vegas and New Jersey, and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding on May 14, 1948.

The Los Angeles festival is the biggest because it’s where the country’s largest Israeli-American contingent — approximately 250,000 people — lives.

The festival began as a community event at Woodley Park in the San Fernando Valley before growing into a mega-event on the Westside. A variety of Jewish organizations — including the Jewish Journal — participate. Many different segments of the local Jewish community turn out.

IAC co-founder and CEO Shoham Nicolet said the festivals bridge the gap between the Israeli-American and Jewish-American communities.

“We are thrilled to bring people together from across our coast-to-coast community to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, in the single largest celebration of this anniversary outside of Israel,” he said. “More than ever before, Israeli Americans are a living bridge between Israel and America, and within the Jewish and pro-Israel communities here in the United States, and these celebrations reflect that.”

The festival begins at noon and concludes at 7 p.m. Tickets at the door will cost $30. Children under 3 receive free admission. Parking is available at multiple sites. Visit israeliamerican.org/celebrate-israel-la for more information.