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In the News: June 11, 2009

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Eva Sinyaver, 2, and her 4-year-old brother Ariel participate in a drum circle inside the Be'chol Lashon Kids Interactive Zone at Israel in the Gardens on June 7. (Photo: Amanda Pazornik)

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For first-timers and old pros, Israel in the Gardens delights the senses


By Amanda Pazornik

J-Weekly
Published: June 11, 2009

Ariel Sinyaver grasped the drumsticks in his tiny hands, his excitement hidden behind a pair of cool black shades.

The 4-year-old approached a drum almost half his size, and with a bang, boom, bang, he added his own rockin’ beat to the lively drum circle.

No wonder his mother, Natasha Sinyaver, comes back every year to Israel in the Gardens.

“There’s a great energy,” the San Francisco resident said. “It’s like a little piece of Israel for one day.”

The West African drum workshop was one of dozens of activities throughout Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco during Israel in the Gardens on June 7, an event organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Israel Center.

Thousands turned out to celebrate Israel with music, booth-browsing and eating on a cloudless and sunny day in the city.

“Falafel-ly” speaking, hungry participants braved long lines to chow down on more falafels this year — in excess of 1,300 — than last year, according to Assaf Pashut, director of business operations for the Flying Falafel.

Bending, twisting and flipping to the rhythms of the drum circle were acrobat Olivia Weinstein, 17, and contortionist Allton Vogel-Denebeim, 11. Both are performers with City Circus in San Francisco.

“I love seeing that people are enjoying our tricks,” Vogel-Denebeim, of San Francisco, said. “This is our culture, and we’re happy to do it.”

Inside the Be’Chol Lashon Kids Interactive Zone, Israel in the Gardens’ first-timers Kim Lawrence and her 3-year-old daughter, Kendall, created photo magnets and colorful flowers made of bright pink and purple tissue paper.

“We’ve been in the Bay Area for 15 years, and had no idea this existed,” said Lawrence, of Menlo Park. “We plan to come every year now. My daughter is loving the art and music.”

On stage, a dancing and singing group called the Tzofim Israeli Friendship Caravan whirled and twirled, belting songs in English and Hebrew to the delight of the growing crowd. The cohort of 10 Israelis, ages 16 and 17, stopped at Israel in the Gardens to kick off a U.S. tour.

Megan Newton Gill of San Francisco Hillel won “Jews Got Talent,” a version of “American Idol” that put local college students to the musical test in front of a judging panel that included locals in the music business.

Later in the day, the Israeli rock band Ya-Rock got everyone up and dancing before the much-anticipated headliner, Ivri Leder, took the stage. The Israeli superstar played to a packed lawn of kids, teens and adults.

“This is a great opportunity to celebrate Israel,” said S.F. resident Jonathan Kolyer, who has been bringing his 7-year-old daughter, Maya, for the past several years. “It’s important to show our solidarity with Israel and be part of a gathering of people who support that.”

Over in the teen zone, Jewish Community High School of the Bay led a rousing game of trivia, stumping contestants with questions about the Super Bowl, Shakespeare and science.

The upper level of Yerba Buena Gardens was transformed into the Sheinkin Street Marketplace, selling everything from Judaic glass pieces and handmade tallits to Hebrew-language children’s books and jewelry.

Across the street, a sparse contingent of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered, waving anti-Israel signs and shouting at flag-toting pro-Israel supporters stationed along the festival’s perimeter.

There, a few Israeli and American flags flew, while Chabad volunteers wrapped tefillin on men young and old. One of them was 23-year-old Jason Fels, who recently moved to San Francisco from San Diego.

“My friends told me I had to go today,” he said. “It’s a lot cooler than I thought. I’m definitely coming back next year.”




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