An estimated 900 people – from infants to seniors – gathered, May 2, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) to celebrate the 69th Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day.
Ella Dagan, program director of the Vered Israel Cultural and Educational Program, Ella Dagan, had been planning the Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration since January and said that the event had something for everyone – and she was right.
In the downstairs gym, there was children’s programming including bouncy castles, an interactive circus school, sports stations, arts and crafts, face painting and more. Upstairs, the adults were just as content with a full spread of Israeli cuisine catered by Babi’s Restaurant and music and dancing with Israeli singer Yaakov Sassi and DJ Lahit Barosh.
Dagan said the event took place from 5 to 9 pm so that everyone could attend – from children finishing school for the day to community members coming to the SJCC after work. Indeed, a large and diverse crowd showed up to celebrate.
“Yom Ha’Atzmaut is a powerful reminder that we will no longer be exiled from nations around the world. I like to think of the holiday as a day of gratitude and I appreciate the SJCC bringing the community together for events like this,” said Alex Sarna, a young professional.
Another community member with a special connection to Yom Ha’Atzmaut was Tobin Kaiman.
“Celebrating Israel’s independence the moment after a nation pauses to remember its heroes [on Yom Hazikaron] gives extra significance to celebrating Israel’s sovereignty, said Kaiman, an Ottawan who served as a lone soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. “The celebrations at the SJCC create a strong sense of community with a common passion, attachment, and love for the State of Israel.”
Rabbi Idan Scher of Congregation Machzikei Hadas was happy to see so many people celebrating.
“We talk so much about creating unity, and that’s exactly what we had tonight. The entire community was out here celebrating something that we hold so dear: the State of Israel,” he said. “I also appreciated all of the family-friendly activities. My kids never wanted to leave! We’re already looking forward to next year’s festivities.”
Earlier in the day, about 200 people – including students from the Ottawa Jewish Community School and Torah Day School of Ottawa – joined dignitaries including Mayor Jim Watson, Israeli Ambassador Nimrod Barkan, several MPs and city councillors, and Jewish community leaders to see Israel’s flag raised in a ceremony organized by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa on the plaza at Ottawa City Hall.