King Davids Fair promises to recreate spirit of Israel

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DJ Zahav couldn't wait to check out the Israeli music scene when he visited the Middle East four years ago.

"I love all types of music," said the 16-year-old Berkeley resident, who is Jewish and African American.

Though the disc jockey was somewhat surprised to find his Israeli relatives preferred listening to American rap artists such as M.C. Hammer, at his request they turned him on to popular Israeli rap.

Zahav will spin those tunes, along with Israeli rock and pop, at the Sunday, May 5 King David's Fair at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek.

The fair, hosted by the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and co-sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations and synagogues, is a joint celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and Jerusalem 3000.

Riva Gambert, associate director of the East Bay Jewish Community Relations Council, likened King David's Fair to Renaissance fairs, which feature jousts, wenches, turkey legs and ale.

"They recreate a time. We're recreating a spirit of Israel through the centuries," Gambert said.

Zahav brings aspects of modern Israeli culture, playing songs by artists such as Noa and Ofra Haza, whose popularity crosses the ocean.

Meanwhile, Pasha's Tent — a joint venture of the National Council of Jewish Women and Brandeis Women featuring belly dancing, baklava, Turkish coffee and a fortune teller — hearkens back to the Ottoman rule of Jerusalem.

Other highlights include a sound-and-light show, teenage jugglers, storytelling, Israeli folk dancing, carnival games and the group Zimria, a singing troupe of children from nine area congregations and day schools.

Vendors will create a bazaar-like atmosphere selling falafel, olive oils, kosher hot dogs, Israeli chocolate, lithographs, jewelry and Judaica. Completing the mood are decorative carpets donated by Caravan Crossing in Berkeley and greeters from the federation's Young Jewish Alliance dressed in costumes reminiscent of ancient Jerusalem. People are encouraged to dress in costume. Those who do will receive $1 off admission.

"Part of our mission is to bring Israeli people and the American Jewish community together. On this day people can experience different aspects of Israel while our community comes together," Gambert said.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 are expected to attend King David's Fair.

"This sends a powerful message of Am Yisrael Chai [`the people of Israel live'] that you don't get in a text," said Gambert. "It's important for our young people to see our community at large. You can read about Israel and the Jewish people, but seeing so many Jews come together for a milestone celebration [like Jerusalem 3000 and Yom Ha'Atzmaut] sends a message you can't get in a textbook."

Zahav agrees.

Until he was 12, he was called by his birthname, Robert Reffkin. A trip to Israel prior to his bar mitzvah at Temple Israel in Alameda changed that.

"Seeing what the Israelis did with the land gave me a real sense of pride. It made me want to be Jewish," he said. One way of actively "being Jewish" was taking on his Hebrew name in daily life.

Besides, "Robert is kind of boring," he added. "Zahav means `golden'. My mom said when I was young I'd get out of the swimming pool and the sun would shine on me and I looked golden.

"I like that story," he said. His Hebrew name and Jewish identity makes Zahav "feel special."