Don't cry for Argentina

The country is finally getting a festival to call its own - in Rishon Lezion.

Cesar Isella 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cesar Isella 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walking through the streets of Israel, it is not uncommon to hear numerous languages - Hebrew, English, French, and perhaps even a bit of Yiddish. But Spanish, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, seems to be almost a nonentity in Israel, despite the vast number of Spanish-speaking immigrants. But during the first-ever Argentinean festival set to occur in Israel on July 14, Spanish will be the language of the day in Rishon Lezion. According to Daniel Schwartz, general manager for Latina Media Group and an organizer of the event, there have been no local events to celebrate Argentina and its culture prior to the Festival Argentina-Israel 2009. "Normally, events are Latin American, not [exclusively] Argentinean. This festival will be authentic, as if it were there [Argentina]," Schwartz stated. The festival will feature genuine Argentinean food, none of which is available in Israel, crafts indigenous to Argentina and special tango performances. The biggest draws of the event will undoubtedly be Leon Gieco and Cesar Isella, two preeminent Argentinean musicians. Gieco, who has performed on more than one occasion in Israel, is best known as the folk-rock Argentinean protest singer oft compared to Bob Dylan. Isella, who has never been to Israel, is also a folk-rock singer known for his song, "Cancion Con Todos" (A Song With Everyone), which has become an unofficial anthem of sorts for Latin American countries. Both artists will be flown specially to Israel directly from Latin America via El Al. The national airline will be represented at the festival promoting its new direct flights to and from Latin America. Israeli artists will also be featured in the festival, including Perla Malcos, Mariel Sol and Liora. The event is being organized by the community Web site Mariano Man, content director for Latina Media Group and an organizer of the event, said, "The heart of the festival is to reunite the Argentinean people." It is a social event designed to bring the "Argentinean people all together, to reunite families, friends, schoolmates - to have a nice social event," according to Man. Attendance is expected to number around 5,000, mostly native Spanish speakers. However, according to Schwartz, there will also be many Israelis in attendance, "many who after the army went to Latin America and want to feel a bit of what they saw there." Festival Argentina-Israel 2009 will also be an opportunity to showcase Argentinean culture. "[The festival] is an opportunity for the Israeli people to know who we are, who we love and what we eat," said Man. Festival Argentina-Israel 2009 is sponsored by the Argentinean Embassy in Israel, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Municipality of Rishon Lezion, the Organization of Latin America, Spain and Portugal in Israel (OLEI) and Casa Argentina (an organization working to unify Argentineans in Israel). Special guests at the festival will include the ambassador of Argentina in Israel, Atilio Molteni; the mayor of Rishon Lezion, Dov Tzur; ambassadors of other Latin American countries; the Argentinean delegation from the Maccabiah games; and Argentinean soccer players on Israeli teams. Festival Argentina-Israel 2009 starts at 5 p.m. in the amphitheater in Rishon Lezion. To order tickets, call (03) 521-5200.