Israeli-American night fest in East Meadow
The Israeli flags flowing gently in the breeze at Eisenhower Park got Eric Kravit's attention.
He and his girlfriend, Rachel Brillon, were at the park Sunday for another event, but wandered over to a gathering in honor of Israel's 65th birthday.
The annual Israeli-American Night concert at the East Meadow park -- organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island -- this year celebrated Israel's milestone (the birthday was actually in April) and featured for the first time a festival highlighting Israeli and Jewish culture.
"It's supporting Israel and I personally think that's a good thing to do," said Kravit, 22, of Plainview, who said he texted friends to join them. "Israel's got our back and we've got theirs. It's very important to support and maintain that relationship."
Brillon added, "It's a good atmosphere," as the couple snagged a patch of grass in anticipation of the concert, which is part of Nassau County's summer International Night Concert Series.
The concert series runs through the end of August and also celebrates the cultures of Pakistan, Poland and Italy, among others.
Sunday's concert -- featuring Israeli singers -- and the festival, which included vendors selling falafel and jewelry bearing the Star of David, was expected to draw 5,000 people, organizers said. The 2013 Miss Israel, Yitayish Titi Ayenew -- a native of Ethiopia and the first black woman to win the title -- was scheduled to appear, organizers said.
"It's really exciting to see so many people celebrating," said Arthur Katz, chairman of the Syosset-based JCRC. He said Ayenew's journey as an immigrant in Israel mirrors that of American immigrants. "Even though you're an immigrant, you can succeed. It shows how parallel our democracies are."
Bram Weber, a lawyer with a practice in Melville, brought his wife and 3-year-old son to the festival; his son was enamored with a large inflatable bouncer to which crowds of children flocked.
"Something like this is really for anybody," Weber said.
David Lelonek, 53, an eye doctor from East Meadow, manned a table selling handmade jewelry and other items shipped from a store in Jerusalem. Among the wares was a stack of yarmulkes and "Hand of God" charms, called chamsah.
Lelonek wore a tie bearing the Israeli flag, and though the sun bore down, he said he was proud to celebrate Israel.
"As a Jew, it's a place I feel a strong affinity to," said Lelonek.