Jerusalem celebrated Anniversary: Baltimore joins the festivities as Jewish communities all over the world mark 3000 years since the establishment of what is now Israel's capital.

June 10, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

A race to the gates of Old Jerusalem. A trivia game based on the politics of Israel. A re-creation of the Zion Gate made entirely of Legos. A round of Jewish Jeopardy.

These are some events that marked Baltimore's celebration of Jerusalem 3000, the "event of the centuries" marking the tri-millennium of the capital of Israel, held yesterday on the streets of the Park Heights neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore.

"Maybe one of these days, we'll get there [to Jerusalem] for real -- but this is close enough for now," said Barbara Arbesman, 39, of Marriottsville who was one of thousands attending the event. "Jerusalem is the birthplace of the Jewish people. It's really important for us to have this experience."

Jewish communities in cities around the world are celebrating the anniversary of Jerusalem, considered the focal point of Jewish history and the spiritual touchstone for the Jewish people. The event marks the 3,000 years since King David formally established the city, which throughout its history has been burned to the ground, divided by concrete walls and finally established as the capital of a Jewish state.

Baltimore added its voice to the commemoration by reinventing Park Heights Avenue between Glen Avenue and Northern Parkway, filling more than three blocks with various delights, from the sound of klezmer music to the smell of knishes. Roughly 25,000 people attended the festival throughout the day, said event coordinator Leslie K. Pomerantz.

The street fair was one of a number of ethnic celebrations yesterday in Baltimore, which also played host to an Italian festival in Little Italy, a Latino festival at Hopkins Plaza and a Greek celebration on South Ponca Street.

Organizers of Jerusalem 3000 said Park Heights has never been home to a Jewish festival, and they were eager to re-create the streets as an Israeli marketplace, or shuk. Here, people could get their names painted on yarmulkes, have Middle Eastern mud treatments or make necklaces with their names in Hebrew letters.

"Oh, do I like it -- and how," said Mathilde Mackubin of Randallstown as she listened to a children's choir sing "Jerusalem," a Hebrew song. "God is taking care of us today. Otherwise there would have been rain."

The marketplace was bursting with children. A boy wandered the crowd in a Batman yarmulke. A toddler carried a plastic Israeli flag. A girl with pink shorts, pink socks and a brilliantly pink mouth nursed a cherry snow cone.

But it wasn't just a day for children. Several visitors said they came to feel a connection to Jerusalem and to each other.

Menachem Gundersheimer, 78, a resident of Jerusalem who was visiting his sister in Park Heights, was taken by the mock ancient city. With camera in hand, he ate kosher pizza, shook Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's hand and wandered past photographs of the place where he lives.

"Some Israelites could learn about the devotion to Jewish values in Baltimore," he said. "There is very intensive Jewish life here, in the studying of the Torah and the devotion to Jewish values."

Roughly 150 people helped stage the celebration, which was organized by The Association: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. At least $40,000 from corporate sponsors went into the event, run mostly by volunteers.

In the entertainment area, David Jack, who produced the childrens' videotape "David Jack Live! Makin' Music, Makin' Friends," did both for two hours yesterday. Also performing was juggler Michael Rosman, whose repertoire includes tossing bananas into a blender he holds on his head. And Uncle Moishy, who has recorded eight cassettes, sang childrens' ditties about how kids should respect their parents.

At the Yofi Tofi puppet show, roughly 40 kids sat in rapt attention while "Bubbie," a grandmotherly puppet in a shawl, mispronounced the word "kibbutz" for a laugh. Meanwhile, Jake Friedman, 11, performed card tricks and handed out his business card. However, he skipped the part of his act where he brings out a six-foot guillotine.

Too bad. Gabe the Falafel King might have found a use for one, at least during the lunchtime rush at his popular food stand. His voice grew more stressed with each passing falafel, as festivalgoers waited hungrily at his booth.

"Tahina!" shouted the King, also known as Gabe Baziz. "I need tahina."

By day's end he would stir several gallons of the Middle Eastern dish, not to mention 3,000 fried falafel balls. But even this overworked and falafel-splattered Baltimorean, a plumber in his regular life, was ready to have a little fun.

"I love Baltimore," he said. "Especially on days like this."

Pub Date: 6/10/96

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