Massive Israeli-American festival comes to the West Coast

A past year's Celebrate Israel Festival. Credit: Celebrate Israel Festival.

Most East Coast Jews are well familiar with the annual Celebrate Israel Parade (formerly called the Salute to Israel Parade or otherwise known as the "Israel Day Parade"), which bills itself as the American Jewish community’s largest show of pride and support for the Jewish state. And if you attended Jewish day school in the New York area, like I did, you probably marched in that parade.

The New York parade has been around for 50 years. But a much younger West Coast event, with a strikingly similar name, seems well on its way to becoming an equally massive showing of solidarity for Israel. This Sunday, May 18, the Celebrate Israel Festival of the Israel-American Council (IAC) comes to Los Angeles. The event calls itself the "biggest and most significant Israeli-American gathering and largest Jewish festival in North America" and says more than 15,000 people are expected to attend. To put that number in perspective, AIPAC said it had "over 14,000 attendees" at its annual policy conference in March, and the Celebrate Israel Parade claims to draw 30,000 marchers annually.

Established in 2007, the IAC's stated mission is "to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community." Though it was initially founded to "serve the estimated 250,000 Israeli-Americans who reside throughout Greater LA," according to its website, the IAC this year has opened regional offices in Miami and New York.

On Sunday, the IAC's festival will feature a Salute to Israel Walk (not to be confused with the New York parade), a musical performance by The Idan Raichel Project, a 32-foot tall Western Wall replica in which visitors can place notes that will later be delivered to Israel, and other replicas of Israeli sites such as a Tel Aviv beach, the Dead Sea, and the Negev Desert. Beyond the Jewish community, more than 900 churches are promoting the festival. More information is available at the festival's website here.

Posted on May 14, 2014 .