Simon Family JCC’s Israel Fest 2018

May 4, 2018

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Promoted as a major celebration of the Jewish state on the eve of its 70th anniversary, Israel Fest lived up to its billing on Sunday, April 22.

Some 2,500 persons from across the community, double what attended in 2017, filled the backlot of the Simon Family JCC to ride a camel, eat authentic Israeli street dishes, slurp smoothies, pet farm animals while learning about the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, enjoy Israeli music, don tefillin, shop for Judaica, take pictures with Golda Meir and David Ben Gurion (in full costume), and make history.

At around 2:30 pm, about 300 people went to the soccer field to hold up blue and white cards, creating a flag of Israel —perhaps for the first time in America— that immediately became an iconic reflection of the community’s love for its religious homeland. Will Sessoms, mayor of Virginia Beach, local Congressman Scott Taylor and State Delegate Cheryl Turpin fronted the crowd, all standing side by side on strategically placed rows of string, awaiting a command to show the colors. The image was picture perfect and was featured in the next morning’s Virginian-Pilot.

Organizers did a splendid job orchestrating games, events, and stalls in an outdoor “shuk,” ringed by tables and volunteers from local synagogues and other organizations, selling everything from kosher donuts to children’s books. There was even a large chalkboard where guests wrote why they love Israel.

At Israel Fest 2018, they had plenty of company.

“There was no better place to be than spending Israel fest with the Tidewater community, Sababa Beach Camp’s new home. We met so many new friends and can’t wait to be back in June with campers from 12 states and our very own cadre of Israeli counselors, Bar, Ella, Itamar, and Yuval,” says Lynn Lancaster of Sababa Beachaway.

- Joel Rubin

Letter to the Editor