David London, Rafi Poch of AACI_311.
(photo credit: Elle Yahalom)
Hot dogs, yard sales and classic rock: In celebration of everything North
American, more than 1,000 olim from the US and Canada gathered in Jerusalem for
the annual Fourth of July and Canada Day bash organized by the Association for
Americans and Canadians in Israel.
The party, which spread out across
Kraft Stadium with tables for yard sales, face painting and food stalls, and a
music stage, was even bigger this year, in honor of AACI’s 60th
“For a lot of people, this is a big part of who they are,”
said Josie Arbel, AACI’s director of klitah (immigrant absorption) and
programming, who addressed the “multiple identities” that olim struggle with
every day. “We’re former North Americans who grew up and shared a particular
background, and we’re Israelis by choice who tend to speak Hebrew with an accent
no matter how long we’ve been here, but that accent doesn’t define us,” she
“I’m proud of being American, it was a big part of my life, I lived
there for almost 30 years,” said Mindy Schimmel, a former Boston resident who
came to celebrate with her family.
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin
Cotler joined in the festivities and addressed the crowd at the beginning of the
Most of the parking spaces became unavailable at the last-minute
when thousands of people came to demonstrate in front of the nearby Supreme
Court building in support of Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef, who was briefly detained on
Sunday morning for his endorsement of the controversial Torat Hamelech
Parking difficulties aside, for many, the night was a reminder of
the line that olim straddle between sweet childhood memories of fireworks and
barbecues, and their identities as Israelis.
“I’ve been here for 12
years, and at the beginning I was really into being Israeli and integrating,”
said Rafi Poch, AACI’s program coordinator.
“But the longer I’m here, the
more I connect with my roots and with being Canadian.”
children with blue and red balloons ran in between their parents’ legs as
strains of a Jimi Hendrix-style Star-Spangled Banner floated across the stadium
and the sun’s last rays reflected off Jerusalem stone, creating a new blend of
Israeli- North American identity for those in attendance.
multiple identities and identities that overlap: We’re Americans, we’re Anglos,
we’re olim – and we feel we’re olim no matter how long we’re here – but we’re
also Israeli,” said Arbel. “We must give renewed strength and attention to ways
we can contribute to this country we’ve chosen and which we love so much.”