Israel 63 Festival on Sunday, May 15 promises dance, food, fun — and democracy

Re-Vital Dance Ensemble will perform its new show, “Hatikvah,” at the Israel 63 Festival on May 15, 2011.

A dance performance by Israel’s acclaimed Re-Vital Dance Ensemble, which played to a standing-room-only crowd here two years ago, will be the climax of Tucson’s Israel 63 Festival, to be held Sunday, May 15 from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

But the festival, celebrating Israel’s 63rd year with the theme “Demonstrating Democracy,” has much more to offer — from food and games to the chance to vote for your favorite Israeli political party, says Guy Gelbart, director of the Weintraub Israel Center, which is a joint project of the JCC and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

The festival will use indoor and outdoor spaces at the JCC.

New this year is a basketball tournament, which will give the festival “a Maccabi element,” says Gelbart, reminiscent of athletic competitions held in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. The tournament will feature mainly adult teams but there may be some teen groups, he says.

The festival will incorporate the second annual art fair, with more than 20 artists, many of them Tucsonans, and many of them new to the fair this year.

Kids and adults will be able to use fabric markers to decorate festival T-shirts featuring a jaunty map-of-Israel character. T-shirts are $6, or $8 with admission to the kids’ activity area. Kids’ area admission by iteself is $3.

Kids’ activities will include crafts, a hay ride with a pita-making station, jumping castles and a fire truck, which ties into a booth commemorating the Carmel fire that took place in Israel in December. At that booth, children can decorate and take home a pot of herbs, says kids’ activities chair Hava Shahar. Other crafts, she says, will include making pine cone animals, sand art, bookmarks and coasters.

The festival’s main exhibit, “63 Years of Demonstrating Democracy,” will shine a light on Israel’s history as a democracy, “with all its ups and downs,” says Gelbart. As part of the exhibit, participants will be able to “vote” for the political party they think should lead Israel.

“With all the turmoil that’s been going on in the Middle East, I think it’s important to point out Israel stands out — that everyone is trying to achieve democracy, which Israel has had for so many years and sometimes people take for granted,” says Rony Ben-Dov, festival co-chair with Steve Weintraub.

Weintraub adds that celebrating Israel Independence Day at the festival “is the best way for American Jews and our many Arizona friends of Israel to express solidarity with the state of Israel.” The story of the Jewish state, he says, “continues to evolve from a ‘Never Again’ mission” to one in which Israel has become a world leader in industry and technology, medicine, nanotechnology, dry land agriculture, water purification, solar energy and more.

Local choirs, including the Tucson Jewish Youth Choir, Temple Emanu-El’s youth choir, and the Gatekeepers, who are members of Christians United for Israel at the University of Arizona, will perform on the outdoor stage, followed by a Tucson Hebrew Academy parade, which will include a float built by students and parents.

Advance tickets to Re-Vital’s “Hatikvah” (“Hope”) multimedia dance performance, which begins at 5 p.m., are recommended, says Ben-Dov. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children under 18. Admission is free for children under 6. A limited number of VIP tickets with front row sofa seating are available for $25.The ticket prices are heavily subsidized, says Gelbart, who notes that less than a week later, when Re-Vital performs in Palo Alto, Calif., general admission tickets will be $45 to $55.

Dance tickets are available at jewishtucson.org, the JCC welcome desk, or by calling 577-9393, ext. 133 — which is also the number to call for further information.