MILWAUKEE – For the first time, organizers of the large, annual Yom HaAtzmaut event and its companion activity, the Walk for Israel, are asking attendees to sign up in advance.
Advance sign-ups help with planning (especially as free food and T-shirts will be offered this year). Although drop-ins are welcome, it’s best to text “Israel” to 51555.
The annual Yom HaAtzmaut event including the Walk for Israel is Wisconsin’s largest celebration of Israel and it returns this year on Sunday, May 7 to the Milwaukee County War Memorial, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive. Renamed for this year as the “Walk of 1000,” organizers hope to attract as many as 1,000 people to the event.
In 2016, about 700 people attended Yom HaAtzmaut, which is typical, but usually only about 250 do the walk. Yet in 2016 most attendees walked. In fact, hundreds of walkers formed a line that snaked off into the distance.
“It feels awesome to be in a huge crowd of people who are showing support for Israel,” recalled Rabbi Hannah Greenstein, vice president for outreach, Israel and overseas for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Yom HaAtzmaut is a program of the Federation and the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.
Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, the Israeli Independence Day, the Walk for Israel is to again start and end at the war memorial, where there will be food and activities. The festivities were moved from the JCC in Whitefish Bay to Downtown Milwaukee in 2016, to send a message of support for Israel to a wider audience than what a North Shore venue can offer.
The day is to celebrate the birth of the State of Israel. On May 14, 1948, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion established the State of Israel, initiating the world’s first Jewish state in 2,000 years.
Parking is free at the war memorial parking lot, on the north side of the war memorial. Buses are also being organized from locales on the North Shore – for more information, visit MilwaukeeJewish.org/Yamim.
Upon arrival, attendees will get free T-shirts and kosher dinners, while supplies last. The free dinner will be either shawarma or a hot dog and Israeli salad.
New this year are Israeli-themed stations run by local teenagers. Also, Capaim, an Israeli cover band based in New York and Los Angeles, is said to be a fun group that’s authentically Israeli. The band’s site says it offers “the biggest hits of the Israeli and Jewish culture.”
The Walk for Israel is under two miles in the Veterans Park area. Federation officials are working closely with law enforcement to ensure a safe experience for all.
Both Jewish and non-Jewish clergy will offer opening invocations at the event. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is expected. The co-chairs of the event are Ari Domnitz and Laura Graupe.
Domnitz was a proponent of this year’s Walk of 1000 theme.
“It would be a real accomplishment to say we brought 1,000 people to the lakefront of Milwaukee in support of a place that’s 6,200 miles away,” he said. “I see it as a way to show that Milwaukee supports the need for Israel and it’s not something to be taken for granted.”
“If any part of you supports Israel,” Greenstein said, “this is the place to be.”
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How to go
What: Israel Independence Day, also known as Yom HaAtzmaut, with the Walk for Israel
When: Sunday, May 7. Opening ceremony 4-4:30 p.m.; Walk for Israel 4:30-5:30 p.m.; Celebration, concert, food and activities for all ages 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Times are approximate
Where: Milwaukee County War Memorial, 750 N. Lincoln Memorial Drive
Cost: Free, with free parking or free bus rides to the event.
RSVP: Text “Israel” to 51555 or at MilwaukeeJewish.org/Yamim