Eshed Ozeri was engulfed in Israeli flags during a small parade at a past festival celebrating Israel. The theme of the 2011 event was "Demonstrating Democracy."


A nation turns 65 but once, and Israel's time has come.

On Sunday, Tucson marks the milestone with a bash including live music, kids' crafts and games and belly-dancing lessons.

Guests can treat themselves at an Israel-inspired shuk (marketplace) and, of course, gorge on traditional food.

The festival is a joint program by the Weintraub Israel Center, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

And while birthdays may come once a year, these big bashes are more rare.

"We keep it fresh every five years," Jeffrey Artzi, the festival's co-chairman, said. The first festival was 15 years ago to mark a half-century of Israeli independence.

This year, the largely volunteer-supported event will also showcase artwork from local schools and a parade beginning at 1 p.m. with local participants, including schoolchildren displaying their creations honoring Israeli inventions.

A new feature of the festival marks the theme of Israel's many contributions to the technology industry. It is the Technology Pavilion, which will host local companies, speakers, educators and investors.

"One of our primary goals in this festival is not only to entertain but to educate," Artzi said. He said the gathering will highlight the connection between Arizona and Israel, especially.

"We'll also have speakers from all over the country focusing on how the Israeli technology connects to Arizona and Southern Arizona specifically," Artzi said.

Festival-goers will also be treated to the University of Arizona's marching band playing "Ha Tikvah (The Hope)," the Israeli national anthem. The Maccabeats, an a cappella group from New York, will also be among the many performers.

Guy Gelbart is the community shaliach (emissary) and director for the Israel Center. Jewish communities all over the nation have such representatives, whose job is to help build a connection and a bridge between Israel and the local community.

"We're inviting the entire Tucson community to come," Gelbart said. Gelbart said the idea is to have fun, but also to learn about Israel and possibly even be surprised by the many businesses and ideas coming from his native land.

Each entry ticket will be eligible to win a raffle with prizes ranging from passes to the Children's Museum Tucson to brunch at Hacienda del Sol.

"There is going to be a lot of community fun," Gelbart said. "It's everything you're looking for, for all ages and all walks of life."

If you go

• What: Tucson Israel Festival, Celebrating 65 Years of Israel's Incredible Innovations

• When: 12 to 6 p.m., Sunday.

• Where: Jewish Community Center campus, 3800 E. River Road.

• Cost: $5; free for kids under 5. Advance tickets at or email

Rachel Cabakoff is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at