Yom haatzmaut | Israel Independence Day in S.F. features free concert on the plaza

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Live music, freshly made falafel, fluttering blue and white flags and other festivities will mark Israel Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, in San Francisco on Tuesday, May 6.

This year’s community celebration of Israel marks a departure from years past, when thousands jammed Yerba Buena Gardens for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s annual salute to Israel — a daylong affair typically on the first Sunday in June.

Instead, the federation announced March 7 that it was taking a year off, “a shmita year — to rethink and re-imagine this significant community event.”

In its place is a smaller, shorter affair taking place on Israel Independence Day itself from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Justin Herman Plaza, on the Embarcadero across from the Ferry Building.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut in the heart of San Francisco and mark a happy occasion for Israel and our Bay Area Jewish community,” said Donny Inbar, associate director for arts and culture at the federation’s Israel Center.

“This event represents the coming together of local Jews, expatriate Israelis, and many others who feel passionate about Israel,” he added.

The event is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Israeli Consulate.

Israel in the Gardens was the largest affair of its kind in northern California and drew upwards of 15,000 attendees annually. This year’s 90-minute celebration will continue to bring live music by local bands, a salute to outstanding Bay Area community leaders dedicated to Israel, and a variety of food trucks, including at least one iconic Israeli favorite, falafel.

“This is a nonpolitical and inclusive moment to say, ‘We love you, Israel, and we are grateful that you are there!’ ” Inbar said.

Local bands Sol Tevél and the Peatot will perform and Noa Hadar, a senior at Kehillah Jewish High School, will sing “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem.

Flags are raised at Israel in the Gardens, 2013 photo/nora smith

The Peatot, a group of Israeli ex-pats, has performed at Israel in the Gardens and played backup to Israeli pop star Efrat Gosh onstage in 2012. The lively five-man San Francisco band plays Israeli songs from the past four decades.

Sol Tevél is a multilingual reggae band led by Israeli-born Lior Ben-Hur that focuses on Hebrew roots and contemporary interpretation of old Jewish texts.   

Also front and center will be this year’s Israel in Our Hearts Award winners — Bay Area residents who have shown outstanding commitment to Israel. 

Honorees are Myron Zimmerman, founder of MZ Foundation, an Oakland-based organization that fights global anti-Semitism and promotes campus and high school Israel advocacy; Riva Berelson, who volunteers time and resources to the federation, Anti-Defamation League and Congregation Emanu-El; and Dr. Murray L. Zucker, who serves on the international board of governors of Tel Aviv University and the California Israel Chamber of Commerce, and is active in the federation and other pro-Israel organizations.

In addition to the community party on the plaza, the federation provided microgrants of up to $500 to area schools, synagogues and a Chabad center for their own Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations, said Ilan Kayatsky, its director of communications. 

Kicking off S.F. Yom HaAtzmaut events at 6 p.m. Monday, May 5,  is the Young Adult Division of the S.F.-based JCF’s annual Blue and White Monday, at the Thirsty Bear. The YAD gathering will fete Israel with food, a photo booth and drinks. Money raised will go to the federation’s Israel Fund.

Yom HaAtzmaut Celebration of Israel’s 66th Independence Day, begins 12 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at Justin Herman Plaza, Market Street and Embarcadero, S.F. Free.


Plenty of options for celebrating Israel’s 66th

There will be no shortage of Israel Independence Day celebrations around the Bay Area this year. From a camel posing for pictures to live music to the recognition of Israeli innovation — and a multitude of Israeli food offerings, of course! — there should be something for everyone.

Though Yom HaAtzmaut falls on Tuesday, May 6, many of the celebrations will occur the weekend before. Moreover, some events also will honor Israel’s Memorial Day, which is on Monday, May 5. Yom HaZikaron remembers Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.


Sonoma County

In Santa Rosa, observances and celebrations will be spread out over three days at Congregation Beth Ami. Things kick off at 6 p.m. Friday, May 2 with a Shabbat service in commemoration of Yom HaZikaron. A dinner with Israeli food and live music by musician Sonia Tubridy will follow at 7:15 p.m.

The focus on Saturday, May 3, will turn to Israeli Independence Day, starting with a service at 9:30 a.m. that will feature guest speakers sharing their most memorable experiences in Israel. On Sunday, May 4, there will be a celebration for kids starting at 9:30 a.m.

Most events are free, but may require advance reservations. Beth Ami is at 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. For information, visit or call (707) 360-3000.



Hump-free the Camel and his handler at “Israel in Marin,” 2012 photo/courtesy osher marin jcc

The Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael will be giving guests what it is billing as a “whirlwind  taste of Israel.” Hump-free the Camel will be back for a third straight year (for photo opportunities, not rides), and there will also be an “archeological dig,” an “Israeli boot camp” and a Tel Aviv photography exhibit.

“Israel in Marin” will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 4, with food booths from San Rafael’s Miller’s East Coast Deli and San Francisco’s Sweet Thrills Bakeshop. At 2 p.m., the Stockton-based Hebrew Project — which performed at Israel in the Gardens last year — will perform traditional Jewish songs with a gospel and jazzy twist.

The event is free, but people are asked to bring canned food items to donate. The Osher Marin JCC is at 200 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael. For more information, visit or call (415) 444-8000.


North Peninsula

The North Peninsula community will be celebrating Israel Independence Day from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Peninsula JCC, 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City. There will be kosher wine tasting, Israeli dancing, a performance by the North Peninsula Youth Choir, storytelling and a musical performance by Israeli singer-songwriter Maya Haddi at 7:15 p.m. The free event also will include falafel and rugelach to eat and a crafts shuk (market). For more information, visit or call (650) 212-7522.


South Peninsula

Palo Alto’s sixth annual  celebration of Israel Independence Day will run from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Oshman Family JCC. The theme this year is “Made in Israel,” and Israeli entrepreneurs and innovators from Silicon Valley to Israel will be recognized.

A portion of the event starting at 7 p.m. (and featuring wine tasting) will serve as a platform for local entrepreneurs to meet Israeli counterparts. Earlier, there will be music from the Peatot rock band (fresh off its performance in San Francisco that afternoon) and a lot of other entertainment and activities.

The event is free. The Oshman Family JCC is at 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. For more information, visit or call (650) 223-8700.


East Bay

The Jewish Federation of the East Bay is organizing a Yom HaZikaron observance in Lafayette at 7:30 p.m. May 4. An entertainment troupe from the Israel Defense Forces will perform. For more information, call (510) 318-6453.

At noon on Tuesday, May 6, Berkeley Hillel will host a Yom HaAtzmaut picnic on campus. For more information, (510) 845-7793. — abra cohen

For additional events, see calendar, page 24a.


on the cover

A celebration of Israel Independence Day, or Yom HaAtzmaut, will be held at noon Tuesday, May 6, at Justin Herman Plaza, across from the San Francisco Ferry Building.