Tucson to celebrate Israel’s 66th year with abundance of events

Israeli singer-songwriter Lior Balavi will perform at Tucson’s Israel 66 celebration at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on the evening of May 14, which will cap almost two weeks of events.
Israeli singer-songwriter Lior Balavi will perform at Tucson’s Israel 66 celebration at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on the evening of May 14, which will cap almost two weeks of events.

Tucson Celebrates Israel 66, almost two weeks of community-wide celebrations and commemorations coordinated by the Weintraub Israel Center, will take place May 2-14.

“This year, the community decided to put Israel in the center, to dedicate more than one day to celebrating and honoring Israel,” says Oshrat Barel, community shlicha (Israeli emissary) and WIC director.

“I think it is an encouraging statement — it’s not my idea,” says Barel, explaining that it came from Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel. “I like it very much, and all the community likes it, because everyone is cooperating.”

Highlights will include the Yom Hazikaron ceremony in observance of Israel’s Memorial Day on Sunday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m., and the Israel 66 celebration on Wednesday, May 14, 5-9 p.m., both at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. The May 14 event will include live music with Israeli singer-songwriter Lior Balavi; Israeli food; a variety of activities, performances and presentations; and a shuk (marketplace) featuring artists, local organizations and congregations.

Many of the other events will be held at various synagogues and will feature special guest Shlomo Gadamo, an Ethiopian Israel Defense Forces officer.

Barel says she’s thrilled to put it all together, so both Jews and non-Jews can see that we are coming together to celebrate Israel as a community.

The citywide events will culminate on the evening of May 14 with a torch-lighting ceremony as part of the festivities at the JCC, says Jim Liebeskind, who is co-chairing this year’s celebrations with Rony Ben-Dov.

Each year in Israel, explains Liebeskind, at the end of Yom Hazikaron, 12 torches symbolizing the 12 tribes of ancient Israel are lit on Mount Herzl to usher in Israel Independence Day. A different segment of Israeli society is highlighted each year. This year Israel will honor women, and Tucson will mirror that theme, with 12 local women recognized for their contributions to Israel.

Ben-Dov says he appreciates that the Tucson community can be counted on each year to remember Israel’s sacrifices and honor its achievements. He salutes “the really good feeling that we get from the volunteers,” the community organizations that contribute time and effort, and the event sponsors, many of which have provided support year after year. Sponsors include Raytheon Missile Systems, Brake Masters, Tucson Iron & Metal, Madeline Friedman, Schaefer Present Investment Group at RBC Wealth Management, L’Chaim Kosher Catering/5th Street Deli & Market and Wild West Promotions.

Other events

Tucson Celebrates Israel 66 will begin with “Serving Israel with Shlomo Gadamo” on Friday, May 2 at Congregation Or Chadash’s 6:30 p.m. Shabbat service. On Saturday, May 3, Congregation Bet Shalom will hold a “Shabbat Honoring Israel” with Gadamo at 9:30 a.m. Gadamo will speak at Congregation Young Israel’s “Celebrating Israel” event at noon on May 3, at a lunch and learn at Or Chadash on Monday, May 5 at noon, and at an “Honoring Israel” event at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Northwest Division on May 5 at 3 p.m. On Tuesday, May 6, Tucson Hebrew Academy will hold its Maccabia Games and Gadamo will speak at Hebrew High.

On Wednesday, May 7, at 12:15 p.m., Chabad Tucson will hold a lunch and learn, “Discussing Israel,” at the 5th Street Deli, and at 7 p.m., the WIC will present “Let’s Talk About Going to Israel” at the JCC.

Gadamo will speak at Temple Emanu-El’s “Shabbat Israel Rocks!” on Friday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. Congregation Anshei Israel will hold an “Israel Solidarity Shabbat” on Saturday, May 10 at 9 a.m.

On Sunday, May 11, Congregation Chofetz Chayim will share a video message from Israel at www.tucsontorah.org. And at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 14, Anshei Israel will present “The Religious Foundation of Modern Zionism.”

The Weintraub Israel Center is a joint program of the JFSA and JCC. For more information, see the WIC insert in this issue or call 577-9393.