To join the Walk for Israel this year, you’ll take your first steps at the war memorial on downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront, on Sunday, May 15, 2016.
It’s a change from prior years, when the walk started at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay.
The event starts at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive, with an opening ceremony at about 4 p.m. and the walk beginning at about 4:30 p.m. The walk is less than two miles.
The walk is expected to end around 5:30 p.m., which is when a celebration concert, food and activities for all ages are to commence and last until about 6:30 p.m. Activities are to include a train that attendees can ride in, plus games that people can play. The Listen Up! Jewish vocal band will perform.
Free parking is available at the event or you can register for free bus transportation to and from the JCC; Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun; Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid; Congregation Shalom and Congregation Sinai. Visit MilwaukeeJewish.org/Yamim to register or for more information.
A group is biking down to the event from the North Shore and it is open to additional participants. For more information, contact MichelleSilverman@Hotmail.com.
All Walk for Israel participants will get a free T-shirt, sporting silhouettes of walkers in front of the Israeli flag and a message: “MilWALKee for Israel. It’s a peace movement!”
“Israel believes in and pursues peace,” said Rabbi Hannah Greenstein, vice president for outreach, Israel and overseas for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “It’s important to know that the Jewish people pray for peace.”
The Federation is a co-sponsor of the event with the JCC. The walk through the Veterans Park area is intended to send a message of support for Israel to a wider audience than what a North Shore venue can offer, Greenstein said.
The walk marks Yom HaAtzmaut, which is Israeli Independence Day. Israel was founded on May 14, 1948, when David Ben-Gurion and others signed a declaration of independence.
“We’re so lucky to have Israel,” Greenstein said. “Thank God we have Israel for the Jews of Ethiopia, the Jews of Yemen and to bring the Jews of Europe.”
Federation President and CEO Hannah Rosenthal said that as a child of a Holocaust survivor, she is ever aware of the need for a safe haven for all Jews.
“I am a Diaspora Jew, but I know the importance of the Jewish state and I support its safety and security as a Jewish state with all my heart,” Rosenthal said. “Celebrating Israel’s Independence Day is a way that we in the Diaspora can salute, celebrate and inform the community about the importance of Israel in the Jewish world and the world at large.”
Greenstein said Israel is something to take pride in.
“It’s a democracy in the Middle East that’s doing amazing things for the world in arts, science and technology,” she said. “It’s not perfect, but what country is perfect?”
Milwaukee’s official Israeli community visitors, Omer Saida and Orni Bavli, will join the Walk for Israel. The pair, called shin shins, would be spending this Israeli Independence Day in the army if not for postponing their service for a year to come to Milwaukee.
Independence Day in Israel may be somewhat like July 4 in the United States, Saida said. “I have not been here for Independence Day yet so I am not sure,” the 19-year-old added.
Back in Israel, Yom HaAtzmaut is a day of fireworks and festivals, he said, with food stands, singers and magicians. It’s a day off from school and work. Last year, a star from a kids’ Israeli television show showed up at the festival for Saida’s town, Giv’at Avni, which is in the north near the Sea of Galilee.
Ten minutes away, in Bavli’s hometown of Kfar Tavor, people get together in a park and children put on a show. In the past she sang in the show, then got older and helped behind the stage. If she was there now she’d “go there and hang out with my friends and family and watch the show.”
“We have fireworks. We have the food. Usually, after we have the show we have barbecue,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s really the first year that I won’t be there.”
“I miss my family, but it’s a new adventure here.”
· Starts at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive.
· After a 4 p.m. opening ceremony, the walk starts at about 4:30 p.m., Sunday, May 15, 2016.
· Get there by joining a bike ride, taking a free bus from a participating site or parking for free at the event.
· For more information on the Yom HaAtzmaut Walk for Israel, visit MilwaukeeJewish.org/Yamim.