King Davids Fair turns Las Lomas High into Jerusalem

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It may have been Las Lomas High School when classes ended Friday afternoon.

But by 11:30 Sunday morning the campus looked more like King David's Jerusalem than suburban Walnut Creek.

Greeters stood at the gates dressed in the flowing robes and sandals of biblical times. Israeli music filled the air, an 8-foot-tall menorah made out of flowerpots graced the courtyard and a balloon archway shimmered overhead. Israeli-flag banners, jugglers, booths and scores of activities transformed the campus into King David's Fair, a celebration of Jerusalem 3000 and Israeli Independence Day.

The fair was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and made possible by a grant from the federation's Endowment Foundation. The federation's Jerusalem 3000 Task Force, chaired by Donna Mendelsohn, is part of the year-long celebration of Jerusalem 3000.

People found games to play, arts and crafts to create, Judaica to buy, oil and honey to sample, ethnic dishes to eat, art to view and lectures to attend.

Storytellers and Israeli folk dancers showed off their skills, and synagogues, community centers and other Jewish organizations offered informational tables.

There was a "Wailing Wall" on which fairgoers could post their prayers. Pasha's Palace offered hot coffee and fortune tellers.

"We had no idea how many people would show up," said fair chair Sandy Curtis.

Not only was this a first-time event, but officials also feared that anti-Jewish threats made during the previous week would keep potential fairgoers away.

The threats apparently neither deterred visitors nor dampened the spirit of the celebration. Planners expected a crowd of about 1,000, but at day's end Curtis estimated the number of attendees at 2,000.

Fairgoer Pam Meltz-Morris came to see what was happening and to be part of the Jewish community. Ronn Berrol, an Israel summer trip organizer, came to scope out the competition.

Alec Swyer was there "because it's Jewish."

Even King David — at least his stand-in — could be seen milling about the crowd.

"It was wonderful to see the expanse of the Jewish community that came," Curtis said. "There was a wide range of age groups and a lot of new faces."

Fairgoers could get a dollar knocked off the admission price by arriving in costume. Adults and children alike took advantage of this discount, which added to the playful mood of the day.

The Jerusalem Sound and Light Show, a multimedia event entailing slides, movies and the music of Jerusalem, was presented several times throughout the day.

Nonstop live entertainment included many local favorites. Achi Ben Shalom's five-member band, Mama, played Jewish and Israeli music. The audience joined Lori and Joel Abramson in singing numbers ranging from "David Melech Yisrael" to "If I Were a Rich Man."

Sharifa and Troupe Tangiers, clothed in Middle Eastern attire and distinctive headdresses, used tambourines and water pitchers as they danced for the crowd in King Solomon's Palace. Guests at Pasha's Palace were treated to a performance by Maedav's belly-dancing troupe, who managed to entice audience members into joining them. In the King's Quarter, performer Allen King offered Israeli folk-dancing lessons.

The day ended with "East Bay Children Sing Jerusalem: The Zimria!" — a concert featuring youth choirs from Tehiyah Day and Middle School, Temple Isaiah, Temple Sinai, Congregation Beth El, Congregation B'nai Tikvah, Congregation Ohr Emet and Congregation B'nai Shalom.

At 4:30, the crowd dispersed and Las Lomas again became an ordinary high school. Fairgoers went home with full hearts and full stomachs. To them, Las Lomas will always look a little like Jerusalem.