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Thousands Turn Out for Israeli Independence Day

The event draws supporters to Van Nuys to celebrate the nation's 55th anniversary.

May 12, 2003|Daniel Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

With Israeli and American flags waving and a heavy but unobtrusive security presence, thousands of people celebrated at the 55th Israeli Independence Day Festival on Sunday in Van Nuys.

"Happy birthday, Israel! Happy birthday to you!" toddlers sang in English and in Hebrew.

The festival at Woodley Park featured local and Israeli entertainers, fair rides and games and plenty of food.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 40,000.

Merchants who flew in from Israel for the festival sold wares, jewelry, paintings and even water from a reservoir in Galilee.

"The festival is to support Israel and to bring all the Jewish people and Israeli people of Los Angeles together," said Itsik Glazer, festival chairman, gesturing to the mingling crowds.

Among them were seniors dressed in Israel's national blue and young people in designer sunglasses. Many festival-goers wore "United We Stand" pins and T-shirts, and others wore olive-colored Israeli military T-shirts.

Religious and civic leaders such as Gov. Gray Davis offered praise for the nation of Israel and addressed the need for tolerance for people of all faiths and cultures.

Dozens of young people sang Hebrew songs and danced.

"They're wishing for peace, saying 'salaam,' too. That's 'peace' in Arabic," said Aviva Mageni, 40. "It's a festival, it's music, why not? Everyone wants peace."

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