Dance the day away

Yom Ha'atzma'ut affords a plethora of festivities.

Independence Day is set to be chock full of food, drink and music. For the big "five-nine" there is much planned for just about everyone in your Zionist family. The festivities begin on Monday the 23rd, Independence Day eve. Fresh off the mourning tip there is no time to play catch up. Head over to Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park and you might be in for an interesting surprise. Arcady Gaydamak, the Russian-born billionaire who may be running for this country's top spot when elections next hit, is throwing just about one of the biggest block-parties Israel has ever seen. Expecting at least 200,000 people to attend, food and drinks will be available for a nominal fee with proceeds earmarked for a charity of some sort. If you are a kid, expect a free Popsicle. The performance line-up is set to include Mashina, Rita and Rami Kleinstein, Sarit Hadad, Ivri Lieder, Eyal Golan and a fireworks display spectacular. If you don't manage to get it all in this year, no worries - there's always next year. The municipalities haven't forgotten their obligations this year and will be setting up the traditional city square and neighborhood stage free performances. Tel Aviv City Hall organizes a community sing-along at Rabin Square with Einat Saruff, Yehoram Gaon, Sarale Sharon, an orchestra and plenty of youth groups, starting at 10 and continuing on into the wee hours. Not far away, at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, everyone is invited to folk dance 'til dawn, starting at 11 p.m., with free kids' shows starting at 8:45 p.m. A bit gurther south, Jaffa's Davidoff Park hosts Sarit Hadad, A Star is Born 4 stars, rapper Avi Mesika and others, starting at 9. And over at Park Darom, Yizhar Cohen and Avihu Medina headline what is usually a Mizrachi stage, also from 9 p.m. Haifa has termed this year's festivities "Independence Day for the Young," and, for the fourth year in a row, is spreading concerts and performances around the city in an effort to involve as many residents as possible. Starting from 8:30 p.m., performances will take place on stages specially set up in Kiryat Shprintzak, Neveh Sha'anan, Kiryat Haim, Kiryat Shmuel. At 9:30 p.m., the city will launch a massive fireworks display from four sites: the beach next to Maxim's restaurant; the Carmel Center auditorium roof; the Sportek in Neveh Sha'anan, and the Science Museum in the Hadar neighborhood. And at 10 p.m., Aviv Geffen will perform for the first time at the city's sports center in Romema. Ramat Hasharon is planning a massive celebration for all ages and is setting up seven stages around the city for performances. The festivities will begin with "Independence Day for Little Folk," which starts at 8:15 p.m. on Sderot Bialik and features children's entertainer Sharon Tsur. Then the city puts on a fireworks display at 9 p.m., to be followed by "Independence Day for Children," with local dance groups, children's performer Hadas Moreno and a disco party for elementary school children. At 10:30 p.m., there's a repeat fireworks display, and then at 11 p.m., the Stage for Youth in the city center leaps into action, with performances by veteran entertainer Tzvika Pik, Shorty, DJ Asterix and others on the bill. Ra'anana is setting up four stages at various places inside the park, and, for the first time, another in the city center (at Yad Lebanim). Festivities kick off at 8:30 p.m., with performances on the main stage and the children's stage in the park. On the main stage, local dance schools and rhythmic group Trararam performs, to be followed by the versatile Tzvika Pik and ethnic singer Mosh Ben Ari. On the children's stage, local groups Pninei Hasharon and Efrohei Ra'anana perform, as will children's entertainers Efrat Boimwald and Roi Bar Natan. At 9:30 p.m., the stage at Yad Lebanim swings into action, with folk songs and Israeli dancing, and at 10 p.m., the musical stage in the park strikes up with a mass dance party. And when all the older and younger folk have had enough and gone home, at 1 a.m. the youth stage in the park does its thing, with bands such as Sheigetz, Synergia and Infectzia performing. The city is running shuttle buses to and from the park to transport party-goers. The city continues its celebrations into the next day, when at 5 p.m. the annual massive Dance Parade takes place along Rehov Ahuza, with some 1500 school students dancing their way down the street. Jerusalem offers popular hip-hop band Hadag Nahash to kick off this year's Independence Day celebrations at Kikar Zion at 9 on Monday evening, followed by appearances from singer Pini Hadad and rock group Gaya and a midnight fireworks display. As always, Safra Square is set for folk dancing and a live museum. The annual Live Museum event of historical street theater, concerts, and more takes place the next day, Tuesday, in two locations - Kikar Safra and the nearby Russian Compound - beginning at 3 p.m. and culminating in a performance at 7:30 p.m. This year the theme is the 40th anniversary of the city's reunification. Historical figures and tableaus of Jerusalem from 1867 under the Ottoman Empire, through the British, independence, 1967 and the city expansion onward will be presented. As every year, admission is free. (Miriam Bulwar David-Hay contributed)