Mon­treal­ers cel­e­brate Is­rael

Largest cer­e­mony of its kind in Canada

Montreal Gazette - - Montreal | Quebec - CHRISTO­PHER CUR­TIS THE GAZETTE

Mon­treal’s Phillips Square was awash with blue and white Tues­day morn­ing as the city’s Jewish com­mu­nity gath­ered to cel­e­brate the state of Is­rael’s 65th birth­day.

Dozens of school buses un­loaded stu­dents, fam­i­lies and the el­derly into the down­town park in what is the largest cer­e­mony of its kind in Canada.

“I’m a very proud Cana­dian, I’ve had op­por­tu­ni­ties to move to Toronto, to Win­nipeg, to Cal­gary, but I al­ways say: ‘La joie de vivre, c’est à Mon­tréal,’ ” said Michael Sheck, who was born in a lib­er­a­tion camp in Ger­many shortly af­ter the Holo­caust.

Sheck wore a Cana­di­ens shirt that had the team’s name writ­ten in He­brew un­der its iconic logo. He also held an Is­raeli flag along­side Que­bec’s Fleur­delisé in his left hand.

Marc Eisen­berg brought his chil­dren to the cel­e­bra­tion and em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing their Jewish her­itage. Eisen­berg spent a sab­bat­i­cal year in Is­rael, where his chil­dren be­came flu­ent He­brew speak­ers.

“The beauty of Is­rael is that you have such a huge per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion who speak He­brew with an ac­cent,” he told The Gazette. “They learn the lan­guage later in life.

“Is­rael comes out of the ashes of the Holo­caust and while we cel­e­brate to­day, its im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the fallen. That’s why yes­ter­day was a day of re­mem­brance for those who died in war and in ter­ror­ist at­tacks.”

Like many of the young at­ten­dees of Tues­day’s cer­e­mony, Ein­sen­berg’s chil­dren at­tend He­brew Academy — a school that im­merses its stu­dents in French, English and He­brew ed­u­ca­tion. Schools like Bialik and other Mon­treal Jewish in­sti­tu­tions were well rep­re­sented at the march.

The crowd left Phillips Square fol­low­ing a flatbed truck that fea­tured a band of teenagers play­ing up­beat ver­sions of tra­di­tional Jewish songs. Al­most ev­ery­one waved an Is­raeli flag, with many chil­dren wear­ing it as a cape. Some had the Star of David painted on their faces as they marched to­ward Place du Canada.

Just a few feet from the stat­ues com­mem­o­rat­ing Canada’s war veter­ans, Is­raeli rap­per SHI 360 ramped up the fes­tiv­i­ties with a mix of hip hop and tra­di­tional mu­sic.

“This is a day that makes us all very proud to be Jewish, but also a re­minder that we should be com­mit­ted to peace in the (Is­rael) re­gion,” said Carmella Ai­gen, who was born in a vil­lage be­tween Tel Aviv and Haifa. “It’s great to see fam­i­lies and kids here, to see this be­ing passed on.”

JERUSALEM — Is­raelis cel­e­brated 65 years of in­de­pen­dence Tues­day, with more than a mil­lion peo­ple pour­ing into na­tional parks.

As flags flut­tered from win­dows, street lamps and build­ings across most of the coun­try, fam­i­lies braved whip­ping winds and rain to in­dulge in the hol­i­day’s tra­di­tional pas­time — the park bar­be­cue.

At for­mal state cel­e­bra­tions in recog­ni­tion of the mil­i­tary, the coun­try’s lead­ers kicked off fes­tiv­i­ties to the tune of old pop stan­dards, re­mind­ing their coun­try­men of the Jewish state’s ad­ver­saries as air force jets cut across the skies of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres said Is­rael must re­main vig­i­lant against mil­i­tant groups at its bor­ders — Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah and Pales­tinian Ha­mas in the Gaza Strip.

He also said wars fought by the Is­raeli army were jus­ti­fied and de­scribed Iran’s cler­i­cal lead­ers as “mad.”

Mil­i­tary chief Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Is­rael’s army will con­tinue to de­fend its ci­ti­zens un­til “the day that peace comes.”

Con­grat­u­la­tions poured in from around the world, in­clud­ing from Washington.

“A free and in­de­pen­dent Is­rael has had no greater friend and ally than the United States,” U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said. The fes­tiv­i­ties come just one day af­ter the coun­try mourned its war dead dur­ing its an­nual Re­mem­brance Day.

The strik­ing con­trast be­tween the som­bre­ness of Re­mem­brance Day and the joy of In­de­pen­dence Day is in­ten­tional, meant to re­mind Is­raelis of the sac­ri­fices made to cre­ate and de­fend the Jewish state, which is then cel­e­brated with ec­static joy.

PHO­TOS: MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER/ THE GAZETTE

Peo­ple gath­ered in Place du Canada on Tues­day to cel­e­brate 65 years of in­de­pen­dence for the state of Is­rael.

Cana­dian, Que­bec and Is­raeli flags were given away dur­ing the march, which was at­tended by about 12,000 rev­ellers.

URIEL SI­NAI/ GETTY IM­AGES

Is­raeli chil­dren play with foam spray in Tel Aviv dur­ing Is­rael’s 65th In­de­pen­dence Day on Tues­day.

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