How do you celebrate Israel at 60? Any way you like . . .

By Daniella Peled, April 24, 2008

With Israel about to mark its 60th anniversary next month, parties have been planned throughout the Jewish state and the diaspora. Barbecues will be fired up, falafel will be fried, and blue-and-white flags will be waved.

But some have decided to celebrate in a rather more unusual style.

In Israel, the committee tasked with organising the 60th-anniversary celebrations has come up with a variety of events — at a cost of NIS 98 million (£14m) — including a mass wedding for 60 new immigrant couples officiated at by Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger .

On the same numerical theme, 60 monuments to the Independence War will be refurbished, 60 new picnic sites established around the country, and a 60km path built around the Kinneret.

Israeli president Shimon Peres has brought top politicians and celebrities on board for a May conference on Jewish and Israeli contributions to humanity.

However, guests, including President Bush, Tony Blair and Mikhail Gorbachev, will miss out on Barbra Streisand singing the Hebrew prayer Avinu Malkeinu, after she cancelled this week. Media executives including Rupert Murdoch, Google founder Sergey Brinn and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerman are due to join them.

On a more prosaic level, a birthday bash will be laid on for everyone born the day independence was declared. There is also a competition to find a national bird for Israel — with current contenders including the griffin vulture and the Palestine sunbird.

On Yom Ha’atzmaut there will also be an attempt to hold the world’s largest ever picnic.

Organised in the Petach Tikva by the Nickelodeon cartoon channel, Picnickelodeon will bring together 20,000 people for food, shows, and an extreme-sports display.

Elsewhere, the Israel Flag for the Future project aims to collect enough pieces of decorated blue fabric from communities worldwide to create a vast flag, currently 12m by 85m, to be presented to the people of Israel.

In London, the Zionist Federation plans to create the world’s biggest pitta bread, stuffed with giant falafel, outside the Israel 60 Gala Show at Wembley Arena on May 8.

Other record-breaking attempts include an ambitious plan by Israeli businesswoman Galia Albin to get every Jew in the world to sing Hatikva on May 7, captured in a live broadcast.

A rather different take on the national anthem comes from Paris-based Francky Perez, who has created a new English-language version — in the form of a rap.

Mr Perez, 31, told the JC: “Rap is a way of getting a message across to the younger generation. The idea was to express the way we feel about Israel for the 60th.”

The Israelis have also picked up on the idea of musical fusion with top Zionist rapper Subliminal, teaming up with veteran kibbutz singers the Gevatron for a duet entitled 60 Years Old.

Germany puzzle and toy company Ravensberger has manufactured a 1,000-piece puzzle depicting the Western Wall. Israeli company Sacheck-Na have placed 400 pieces within the wall itself and those who find them will receive a free puzzle sent to their home.

The blogosphere has also got into the action with the launch of – a project dedicated to two months of daily posting about Israel in the run-up to Independence Day on May 8.

Advocacy group the Israel Project has launched an online contest with prize money of $20,000 (£10,000) to produce a TV advert, video, and printed flyer in any one of six languages to highlight the achievements of Israel at 60.

Last updated: 9:51am, April 24 2008