Sharon expected to attend gala as Israel turns 55 years old
By Matthew E. Berger
Feb 24, 2003
BALTIMORE, Feb. 24 (JTA) President Bush and Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon are expected to attend a May 19 rally in Washington
to commemorate Israels 55th birthday.
The Concert for Israel will feature major entertainment
acts and political messages of support for the Jewish state, said
leaders of the Israel Forever Foundation, a new organization formed
by leading Jewish philanthropists to honor Israel.
The focus is to recognize the contributions of Israel and
the Jewish people to democracy and to humankind, said Richard
Heidemann, a former president of Bnai Brith International,
who is serving as national chair of the foundation with his wife,
Organizers hope to sell out the MCI Center in downtown Washington,
which can hold close to 15,000 people, and to use the concert to
launch Israel@55, a yearlong series of educational events about
Israel across the United States, Heidemann said.
Were going to use a series of activities to raise the
spirits of the Jewish people and raise the spirits of Israel, because
these are difficult times, he said.
Organizers said the event has been placed on Bushs calendar,
though the White House would not confirm.
They have given us the commitment they will be there,
said Jeanne Ellinport, executive director of the foundation.
Daniel Ayalon, Israels ambassador to the United States, told
participants at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs plenum in
Baltimore on Sunday that Sharon also would attend the gala.
More than 100,000 people attended a rally for Israel last year
on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. But Heidemann said he
did not expect masses of people to travel to Washington for the
May 19 event, which would not have the same political undertones.
Its a totally different type of event and approach,
he said. This is supposed to be a concert about the spirit
The foundation has hired Wayne Baruch of Los Angeles to produce
the event. He was responsible for Israels 50th anniversary
celebration in Philadelphia, and has produced concerts of The
Ellinport would not say who would perform at the concert, but said
the foundation was in discussions with top-tier talent.
Promoters expert to feature Israeli companies in the venues
The concert has been scheduled for Lag BOmer so as not to
conflict with other celebrations of Israels Independence Day
two weeks before.
In addition to ticket sales, the event is being funded by individual
donations and foundation contributions, Ellinport said.
Among the honorary chairs of the event are Abe Pollin, owner of
the MCI Center; Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of the Conference of
Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and James Tisch,
chairman of the United Jewish Communities umbrella organization
of Jewish federations.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews also is planning
an event in Washington, scheduled for April 2, to show interfaith
support for Israel.
The majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay (R-Texas),
and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), he ranking minority member of the
House International Relations Committee, will be honored at the
latter event, which is expected to bring 500 evangelical Christian
leaders from around the country.
What we want to do with this event is bring together and
educate folks on the ground, the people who love Israel but dont
know what do with this love, said George Mamo, executive vice
president of the International Fellowship.
Because the interfaith event is the same week as the American Israel
Public Affairs Committees policy conference, organizers hope
Sharon or another senior Israeli official will attend.
Performers supporting Israel at the concert include Jerry Seinfeld,
Norah Jones, Tony Bennett, Noa, Ben Stein and Tovah Feldshuh.