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Festival of Israeli Culture brings a taste of Tel Aviv, along with buzzworthy Arak, to Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver

Photo by Galit Lewinski
There will be plenty of Israeli dance on Sunday (May 14) at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Photo by Galit Lewinski.

With a blast of warm weather expected this weekend, Liora Bukofzer Gal is closer to achieving her dream for this Sunday’s (May 14) Festival of Israeli Culture. The Israeli immigrant has been hoping for sunshine for visitors who take in a vast array of performing and visual arts, music, culinary treats, sports, and workshops at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

“I want them to feel like they’re at the beach,” Gal, the JCC Israel and Jewish cultural programmer, tells Pancouver by phone. “I want them to feel like it’s summer.”

The festival welcomes anyone who wants to get a sense of what life is like in this Middle Eastern country along the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the headliners is Israeli choreographer and musician Elad Shtamer, who will lead a sing-a-long.

In the video below, Shtamer leads a group in his famous “Circle Dance”, which has been performed in many countries.

Shtamer also choreographed a popular dance to the song “Toy” by Netta Barzilai. It was Israel’s official entry into the 2018 Eurovision contest

The Festival of Israeli Culture is made possible with funding from Canadian Heritage and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. Among the performers will be the the Winnipeg-based Kadima Dance Company from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. In that timeslot, local dancers will also go on-stage.

That will be followed by an exhibition of video art from 2:30 to 3:45 by students from Jerusalem’s highly regarded Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. A professor from the academy, Ronen Leibman, now lives in Vancouver and will deliver a lecture in the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre.

“Before then, we’re going to have a cocktail party with Arak,” Gal says.

Arak is a translucent and unsweetened alcoholic drink traditionally made with grapes and aniseed. In addition, there will be an Israeli wine-tasting event on the balcony.

Israeli food featured at festival

Visitors to the festival will need to be 19 years or older to take in these libations. But the variety of culinary treats from local vendors, including hand-poured candies, are available for everyone. There will also be food trucks on-site as well as a “Sassy Sesame” cooking workshop.

Furthermore, Gal says there will be workshops on abstract painting and calligraphy in Hebrew. Moreover, the festival will include an artisan market offering clothing, jewellery, arts and crafts, and Judaica.

“All the artists are local and they make their art locally,” Gal emphasizes. “That’s very important for us to have local people doing something that has an Israeli aspect to it.”

There’s also a community drumming circle, belly dancing, and flamenco to add a Mediterranean vibe. Plus, there will be sports activities, including Krav Maga, which is an Israeli martial art incorporating aikido, judo, karate, boxing, and wrestling.

Gal was born and raised in Tel Aviv before moving to Israel’s northern countryside at the age of 30, where she gave birth to her son. She and her family immigrated to Metro Vancouver nine years ago.

To her, one of the similarities between Tel Aviv and Vancouver is the diversity of the population. Both cities attract residents from around the world.

However, she adds that there’s also a significant difference when it comes to night life.

“Tel Aviv is known for being the city that never sleeps,” Gal says. “We’re used to going out in public or to a party at 11 p.m. It’s early for us in the evening.

“Here, everything closes at 10,” she adds.

The Festival of Israeli Culture takes place at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday (May 14). For more information, visit the festival website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.