Folk songs, football and franks mark N. Americans' celebrations

"We are not only showing a good time but also that [North America] is interested in making a positive impact in Israel," says Independence Day event organizer.

In keeping with North American tradition, celebrations of US Independence Day and Canada Day took revelers out to the ballpark Monday, with some 2,000 people marking the event at Jerusalem's Kraft Stadium for a mixture of cookouts, music from back home and flag football. According to Chana Shapiro, AACI organizer of the event, the celebration was months in the making. "This is much bigger than last year's," said Shapiro. "When the second intifada happened we stopped holding the event in open areas and held it at the zoo, but this year we are back outside." Shapiro said that the celebration shows the best of the US and Canada in Israel. "We are not only showing a good time but also that [North America] is interested in making a positive impact in Israel and that we are here to contribute. There are a lot of organizations here like JELI (Jewish Education Leadership Initiative)." The event ran from 4:30-9:00 p.m. and had several activities for both adults and children. A highlight of the evening was flag football exhibition games between the men's and women's national teams and temporary squads. Steve Leibowitz, president of the American Football in Israel, was on hand as a referee for the games. "It's a real chance for Jews from America who live here to act like Americans from the old country like we never did when we were actually living there," said Leibowitz. "We miss American sports and American culture. Here we get to hear American music and see people from the community that we don't get to the rest of the year because of work." Leibowitz said he is glad that this event was held for the first time at Kraft Family Stadium because it is the American sports center in Israel. "It's great that the flag football and the AACI are gathering together for this event and I hope it continues in future years," said Leibowitz. Following the flag football there was a puppet show for children, stand-up comedy by David Chinitz and other programs. Canadians and Americans also got to join in for their national anthems for the first time in a long time. The finale was Hatikva followed by fireworks, reminding the crowd that they are Canadians and Americans in Israel.