More than 250 young professionals gathered together at Libation on July 24 to celebrate Israel at the Second Annual Layla Lavan, All-White Night. Based on the all-night festival held in Tel Aviv that highlights the city’s cultural life, this year’s Layla Lavan similarly featured numerous Israel-themed activities. “We wanted Layla Lavan to engage everyone with Israel’s dynamic culture and to give people of sense of getting a bit of Israel in New York,” said Karen Rubinstein, Executive Director of the American Zionist Movement, which sponsored Layla Lavan. “The concept is a great one and we think Layla Lavan can be built on from year to year, bringing in a growing number of participants and activities.”
The evening, which was co-sponsored by Isramerica in partnership with Masa Israel Journey and Bridging the Gap, was initially planned several months prior to Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Defense Forces’ current military activity. Organizers faced a dilemma about whether to cancel, but ultimately decided the event would continue as planned, though with several minor adjustments. “Israelis would be the first to say that life must go on, so we decided to take the same approach and celebrate everything that Israel has to offer,” said Sivan Hadari, founder of Isramerica and Layla Lavan Event Manager.
With the emotions of the precarious situation in Israel in mind, Hadari invited IDF Captain Amir Telem to speak about his experience in the Air Force. He emphasized that events like Layla Lavan bring together communities and should continue despite difficult times. “In Israel, we don’t take it for granted that you have to fight for freedom for your country,” he said. “Every generation in Israel has a mission to protect the Jewish land … [and] our mission here in the US is to support the soldiers as much as we can.”
Attendees took the message of standing together and staying in good spirits to heart, and danced to Israeli and American music all night. They lined up for henna tattoos, hammed it up at the photobooth, shopped at the mini shuk, and indulged in falafel and other Israeli snacks. They also participated in Café Ivrit, a space for practicing Hebrew through informal conversation and games. “I was so thrilled by the ruach [spirit] and pride at Layla Lavan,” said Allie Zur. “Coming together with so many people to share our love and support of Israel – especially in dark times like today – made me feel so connected.”
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