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Israel 70th revelry at Huddle Park

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It was a festive atmosphere at Huddle Park on Wednesday evening, as the Johannesburg Jewish community gathered to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary of its independence. ​
by SAM ANCER | Apr 19, 2018

The SA Zionist Federation (SAZF), which organised the event, presented an exceptional evening of entertainment and delicious food.

There were bungee trampolines, jumping castles, a Ferris wheel and even a miniature fire truck for the kids to enjoy. A host of Yom Ha’atzmaut trinkets, toys and memorabilia were on display for purchase at pop-up stalls.

Jacket-clad people meandered and chatted, sampled the food on offer or kept a watchful eye on their kids, who were running around and having fun.

Pre-recorded speeches from the SAZF chairman Ben Swartz, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and the Israeli ambassador Lior Keinan were shown on a big screen on the stage.

Swartz told the festival goers: “In just a short 70 years, Israel has grown, a tiny state, no bigger than the Kruger National Park, but a superpower in the eyes of the world. We have so much to be proud of, and tonight is the night we sit back, enjoy and celebrate it.”

Keinan said: “When a person gets to 70 years old, he takes a moment to reflect on his past, to look for his achievements, but this is not really the Israeli thing to do... The Israeli thing to do is always look to the future, always struggle to find the next invention, the next discovery that will change the world.”

Keinan touched on the achievements of Israel since 1948, specifically its inventions and the 12 Nobel prizes won by Israelis. He also thanked Jewish communities across the globe for their love, friendship and co-operation with Israel.

Children from the King David Schools, along with members of the SA Union of Jewish Students, Bnei Akiva, Netzer and Habonim, participated in an Olympic-style parade across the stage.

Swartz marvelled at how fortunate the Jewish world is today: “We live in the most privileged of times… For 2 000 years we dreamed, we hoped and we prayed that one day we’d be able to return to the land of Israel, and today we have returned.”

A group of dancers moved through the crowd and encouraged the audience to dance, eventually getting on stage and leading a surprise flash mob. Revellers were videoed singing a revised version of Hallelujah that was aired directly on Israeli television.

Goldstein said in his message: “Our beloved State of Israel, on this 70th birthday, can really be satisfied with its incredible achievements.”

The Solomon Brothers Band, which was brought out from Israel, delighted the audience with their upbeat and youthful folk-rock songs.

The evening was meant to end with a fireworks display. However, after event co-ordinators were informed about an animal shelter in the area, they cancelled this and instead, fired confetti canons into the sky. A cacophony of colours rained down on the happy crowds. It was a fitting finale, and testament to our community’s consideration of G-d’s creations.

As Goldstein said: “On this 70th birthday we are satisfied; we are happy with the remarkable achievements of our beloved state of Israel, but at the same time we give thanks to G-d.”

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