Carnival goers celebrate Israel's 75th birthday

By Carl Zebrowski

A crowd was waiting outside the JCC gym late in the afternoon of Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The community’s Israel Independence Day celebration was about to begin. A call came from inside: Come on in!

Kids led the way, of course. It didn’t take long for a line to form at the cotton candy table. Of course.

Tables around the gym featured games and other attractions. The festivity would culminate in the ceremonial lighting of the 12 torches representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel — an Israeli tradition being followed here for the first time.

A dozen community members and couples were chosen to do the lighting. Jeri Zimmerman, executive director of the Jewish Federation, lit the first candle for Bonnie and Bobby Hammels, who were unable to attend. “I am lighting this torch to glorify the land of Israel,” she, and all the torch-lighters, said.

Following Zimmerman were Marc Berson, Vicki Wax, Rabbi Moshe Re’em, Roberta and Lewis Gaines, Rachel Levin, Dr. Harold and Sandy Goldfarb, Beth Kushnick, Miriam Zager, Devorah Halperin and Dr. Zach Goldsmith. The ceremony finished with flair as Yitzy Powers kindled the last candle — wearing an Israeli flag as a cape along with an over-the-top assortment of the blue-and-white and light-up party doodads being given out to the carnival goers.

Many of the kids were wearing those Israel-themed ornaments too. Lights blinked where they ran around the huge map of Israel spread out on the floor near the gym entrance. Kids could assemble a toy plane and throw it to try to land on Ben Gurion International Airport. Then they could retrieve the plane and do it again. Many did that over and over.

The basketball hoop also drew a young crowd of pretty good shooters. Kids and adults alike stopped at the face-painting and temporary-tattoo booth as well as at the photo booth. Some put on the Israel Defense Forces uniforms that were available for dress-up.

Finally came dessert, cupcakes to cap off the buffet dinner that featured falafel, vegetarian “chicken” nuggets, French fries, hummus and salad. Each cupcake was topped with either blue or white icing, and the multiple dozens were strategically arranged on the table to depict the Israeli flag — until the line of kids was turned loose on them as the event concluded.