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by Brie Stimson March 28, 2018

One of our core objectives at Federation is to send as many young adults and teens as possible to Israel, but also to bring Israel to life as much as possible here in San Diego,” Darren Schwartz, chief program officer of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County, told me six weeks out from Celebrate Israel – Israel Fest.

This year, in addition to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary, Federation is also marking the 20th year of partnering with Sha’ar HaNegev, San Diego’s sister region in Israel. Sha’ar HaNegev is deeply connected to the San Diego Jewish community, and each year Federation helps bring high school kids to be campers and counselors at San Diego Jewish camps.

This will be Israel Fest’s first year at Liberty Station after holding it at San Diego Jewish Academy, Nobel Park and Mission Bay previous years. “It’s a beautiful venue, and we’re hoping that it’s going to be a draw for a lot of people,” Schwartz said.

Also new this year will be Federation’s partnership with the Israeli American Council (IAC), a national organization that partners in many communities for Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. “Our two organizations are really looking at how we really elevate the celebration of Israel’s independence by providing new and exciting opportunities,” Schwartz said. Another sponsor, the Jewish National Fund, plans to provide a beer garden for the event. “A lot of planning goes into this event,” he added. “We’re really lucky to have community partners that help us envision what this day of celebration can be.”

“We’re also doing some exciting things in terms of bringing Israel to life,” he said. “Participants this year can expect to visit different parts of Israel when they come to Israel Fest.” Schwartz explained that when guests arrive at the festival they will receive a passport, and as they step inside there will be different activities throughout the festival emblematic of different regions of the country – from the Negev to the Golan.

“We want to pair activities with regions within Israel,” Schwartz explained. For instance, Netanya is a beautiful beach community in Israel, and we all know beaches and beach volleyball come together very well, so we’re going to have our volleyball court set up in Netanya so that when guests come, if they haven’t been to Israel before, they can kind of associate the different communities with what’s kind of going on out there.”

In partnership with Camp Mountain Chai, the festival will have their annual Kids Zone, which in years past has included activities like rock walls, bounce houses, games and crafts. As of press time the family fun was still being finalized.

The festival will also include a wide variety of food, including venders from Shmoozers, the Place, Kona Ice and Froffee.

Israeli soprano Shanee Zamir will sing and there will also be Israeli folk dancing, sports teen programs and shopping.

The morning will kick of at 9 a.m. with the Friendship Circle of San Diego’s annual Friendship Walk to benefit children with special needs in San Diego and Israel.

“So this is the most profound way we do it each year, reaching over 2,000 people that come out each year for the celebration. So we really, again, want to bring Israel to life,” he added.

Celebrate Israel – Israel Fest will take place at Liberty Station’s Ingram Plaza on Sunday, April 29 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Go to for more information. The event is free.

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