North Americans celebrate July 4/Canada Day in the capital

The party,which spread out across Kraft Stadium, was even bigger this year, in honor of AACI’s 60th anniversary.

David London, Rafi Poch of AACI_311 (photo credit: Elle Yahalom)
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 anniversary.
“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 said.
“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 event.
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 book.
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.”

Israeli-born 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.
“We have 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.”