Melbourne turns blue and white

Yom Ha’atzmaut at Caulfield Racecourse. Photo: Peter Haskin

ISRAELI flags fluttered, clutched in the hands of many amidst the sea of blue and white. Many happy faces were adorned with a painted Magen David, and Hebrew tunes were carried aloft upon the twilight breeze. The smell of falafel was in the air, as was a palpable love for Israel. This was Yom Ha’atzmaut 70 – Melbourne style.

More than 5000 people passed through the gates of Caulfield Racecourse on Thursday to attend the mega-event hosted by Zionism Victoria in partnership with the United Israel Appeal, a celebration that began in the afternoon and stretched long into the evening.

Children cavorted as the petting zoo and camel rides delighted, and arts and crafts activities kept small hands busy. Meanwhile, the young and old alike spun and shuffled in the Israeli dancing zone, and the inflatable slide and gymbus proved to be favourites for many.

The TLV cafe was a haven for some relaxed tunes, shesh besh and story slam, while the adjacent Shivim Shirim main stage got the party vibes happening. Choirs and musical acts performed a live countdown of the most beloved Israeli songs as deemed by a community poll. Taking out the number one position was Haleluyah, and later in the evening, voices united at the main stage to sing the classic in a kululam.

The audience were even treated to the live stand-up comedy of Israel’s ambassador to Australia, Mark Sofer, whose efforts received a rousing applause.

But the Yom Ha’atzmaut Community Festival was just one of Israel’s birthday events on offer last week.

On Wednesday evening, scores converged on Federation Square for a Yom Ha’atzmaut flash mob dance, while later 250 young adults aged 18 and over came together for Israel’s Birthday Bash at the Railway Hotel in Windsor. The event was hosted by Zionism Victoria, AUJS, AZYC, Masa, JNF, Magen David Adom, Young UIA, ZFA and Zooz. While some l’chaimed with a specially created blue Israel cocktail, others got jumping on the dance floor as DJs Ben Field, Benji Michelson and Jay Levy brought the sounds of the Tel Aviv club scene to Melbourne.

“I was absolutely thrilled with the success of last week’s events,” Zionism Victoria president Sharene Hambur told The AJN, crediting the combined efforts of staff of Zionism Victoria, the Zionist Federation of Australia and their many affiliate organisations.

“We gave so many people in our community an opportunity to connect with Israel on its 70th birthday.

“We have set a high bar for next year!”