Tucson plans big festival to celebrate Israel@70

Children march in the parade opening the Israel Festival in 2013. (Guy Gelbart)

On Sunday, April 22, Tucson will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmut, Israel’s 70th Independence Day, with the Israel@70: A Living Bridge festival, featuring live music, food, and activities for all ages.

Admission is free for the festival, which will take place on a field between the Tucson Jewish Community Center and the Tucson Hebrew Academy, at Dodge and River Roads.

“From the moment the festival begins at 1 o’clock to the time it ends at 6, there will be a myriad of activities, music playing the whole time, very special entertainers, a DJ, and a dance troupe that comes from our Partnership region that was here in 2010,” says Jeff Artzi, festival co-chair with Yoram Levy.

“We are aiming to present the wonders of the State of Israel, in terms of culture, entertainment, food, education, technology, and it is a non-religious, non-political celebration that will be enjoyed by the entire family,” says Artzi. Organizers expect crowds of 5,000 to 8,000 people from the entire Southern Arizona community.

The entertainment will kick off with a parade led by the University of Arizona Marching Band, with children, parents and teachers from THA, the JCC preschool, synagogue religious schools and preschools taking part, says Stephanie Roberts, chair of the festival’s engagement committee. The parade will
culminate at the main stage with everyone singing the U.S. and Israeli national anthems.

A performance by a band called Soulfarm, which “features a great acoustic guitarist named C Lanzbom” is one set to look forward to, says Craig Sumberg, executive director of the Fox Tucson Theatre and a member of the entertainment committee.

A shuk, or marketplace, will evoke the bazaars found in Israeli cities, says Steve Caine, co-chair of the shuk committee with his wife, Heather. It will include vendor booths selling art and other products, plus booths for Jewish community organizations. The shuk will be close to the stage and other activities, so that people can speak with organizational representatives and vendors and still feel a part of the festival, he says.

A large area will be devoted to children’s activities, simulating the Israeli city of Holon, known as the “Children’s City,” home to the Israeli Children’s Museum, the Israeli Cartoon Museum, story gardens, a water park and many other child-friendly attractions.

There will be an Israel Science and Technology Pavilion, sponsored by Raytheon, which Amir Eden, the new director of the Weintraub Israel Center, guarantees will be even more captivating than the festival’s tech pavilion 10 years ago, “just because of the advances that Israel’s made.”

With videos from Taglit-Birthright Israel’s Innovation Center in Tel Aviv, the pavilion will spotlight tech start-ups such as Biobee, which harvests beneficial insects for all-natural pest control and bumblebees for natural pollination; and OrCam, which makes a wearable device that allows the blind and visually impaired to read printed words, such as street signs, and recognize objects and faces. A pair of Or Cam’s artificial intelligence glasses will be available for festival attendees to try. Raytheon will have a team on hand to lead children’s workshops, says Eden, including rocket launches and games using virtual reality goggles.

A 12 Torches ceremony, similar to the annual Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony in Jerusalem, will honor Tucsonans who have “made their mark on this community with their love of Israel and have done something of significance to advance Tucson’s connection with Israel,” says Artzi, who has co-chaired several past Israel festivals and is one of this year’s honorees. The others are Ron and Diane Weintraub, Stuart Mellan, Todd Rockoff, Marlyne Freedman, Pastor Glen Elliott, Marty Johnston, Yoram Levy, Anne Lowe, Thomas Warne, Jon Ben-Asher, and Rebecca Crow.

Free shuttle bus service to and from the Northwest area will be available. Contact Carol Fabrizio at 647-8446 or israelcenter@jfsa.org.

A raffle will be held with a prize of roundtrip airfare to Israel.

Volunteers are still needed to help on the day of the festival. Contact Eden at aeden@jfsa.org or 647-8449 for more information.

For more on the Tzuza Dance Troupe and the Israel Science and Technology Pavilion, see azjewishpost.com/2018/tzuza-to-perform-at-israel-70-festival and azjewishpost.com/2018/israel-70-festival-to-highlight-israels-cutting-edge-tech.