By DIANE KOVEN, Ottawa Correspondent
Thursday, 15 May 2008
OTTAWA — Canada’s support for Israel is strong and unequivocal, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier, LEFT, at a celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday.
Bernier was speaking at a reception hosted by Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker, RIGHT, for members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of Jewish community organizations.
Describing his recent trip to Israel, Bernier said that an aerial survey of the country gave him “an opportunity to better understand the security challenges that you are facing.”
He added: “Canada and Israel share the same values – freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This is why we are proud to stand with Israel… and we are proud to count ourselves among Israel’s best friends.”
The reception was held May 7 at the National Gallery of Canada, which, as Baker noted, was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, an Israeli Canadian.
A community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration took place the following evening at the Ottawa Civic Centre.
Outside the building, protesters held signs in a silent vigil to commemorate what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba” (catastrophe). Pamphlets were distributed to passersby, outlining why Israel’s 60th birthday is not a cause of celebration for Palestinians.
Inside the building, the atmosphere was festive and celebratory. This reporter encountered a Lebanese Christian friend who had come to the celebration with Jewish friends.
Chaired by Penny Torontow, the event attracted hundreds of people who enjoyed an array of Israeli foods, took part in various children’s activities and gambled at the “Dizengoff Casino.”
“We want everyone from kids to grandparents to experience first-hand the energy and jostling of being on a crowded street or park on Yom Ha’atzmaut. When you enter the hall, you will see circus acts, balloon art and jugglers, hear the sounds of Israeli music and smell the food being prepared at kiosks, just as you would walking around Israel on Yom Ha’atzmaut,” Torontow said in her program message.
The official part of the event was opened by a colour guard (flag spinning) by the Ottawa War Veterans, who were followed by a procession of children from various Jewish schools. After the singing of the national anthems of Canada and Israel, and messages from Baker and event chair Torontow, everyone was invited to wander around and enjoy the event.
The InJoy Orchestra, led by Gilat Rapaport, performed traditional and contemporary music, bringing many to the dance floor for Israeli dancing.
A number of other events are planned in the coming weeks in celebration of Israel’s 60th birthday, including a gala reception and concert by the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra May 20.