The Horticulture Center in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park provided the backdrop for a festive community celebration in honor of Israel Independence Day. Fifty-nine shofar blasts, one for each year of Israel's statehood, opened the May 6 community party, hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and its Center for Israel and Overseas. With an estimated 8,000 men, women and children in attendance, the festival lived up to its reputation as Federation's largest community event of the year.
Party-goers enjoyed a live music concert featuring the popular Israeli jazz ensemble Seeds of Sun; an Israeli marketplace showcasing jewelry, paintings, photography, glass, weavings, three-dimensional computer art and Judaica from Israel's famed Tzfat artists' colony; an "adults-only" Israel wine cellar, showcasing some of the nation's most celebrated wines and wineries; and cooking demonstrations and samples of gourmet kosher foods from ShopRite's "Taste of Israel" pavilion.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell headed the list of dignitaries who attended the festivities. Actors from Theatre Ariel dressed up as Israeli notables David Ben-Gurion, Theodor Herzl and the late astronaut Ilan Ramon.
Teenagers enjoyed a space of their own: "Sababa City" featured karaoke, human foosball, a drum circle, carnival games, sumo wrestling and jousting.
The Kids' Fun Zone offered camel rides, moon bounces, jugglers, balloon artists, and a host of arts-and-crafts activities.
Corporate sponsors for "Israel 59: Israel in our Hearts" included ShopRite, Blank Rome LLP, the Jewish Exponent, Boscov's, JDate, the Fairmount Park Commission and Keystone Motors Volvo-Suzuki.
"The Greater Philadelphia Jewish community stood up and showed the world its strong support for Israel," stated Cindy Smukler-Dorani, co-chair of Federation's Center for Israel and Overseas Board.
She also reminded everyone to jot down the date -- May 18, 2008 -- for a gala event to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday.