The Melbourne summer finally arrived and Hebrew music blared throughout Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre on Sunday, as Habayit, the home of Hebrew Language and Israeli Culture, held its 7th annual Festibayit Festival.
Habayit is part of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), which throughout the year runs several different events featuring guest speakers, Israeli films, art exhibitions and musical performances, all aimed at bringing Hebrew and Israeli culture to the wider Jewish Community. Earlier in the year, Habayit held three separate concerts, including its first in Sydney – with “Friends of Kaveret” – featuring the music of the iconic Israeli band “Kaveret”.
Festibayit is Habayit’s flagship event each year and is one of the biggest community events in the ZFA calendar. Festibayit celebrates Israel, Hebrew and Israeli culture and no other community event attracts as many Israelis and Hebrew speakers. There truly is no better way to feel connected to Israel than to walk around Festibayit and hear people speaking Hebrew, enjoying Israeli culture and listening to Israeli music. Over the past 7 years, Festibayit, which is supported by the World Zionist Organisation and Victorian State Government, has become a tradition at the ZFA, and an important one in bringing the community closer to Israel.
This year, over 1,200 people from across the community attended and they were treated to a range of activities including storytelling in Hebrew and a drama workshop in the Lamm Jewish Library, as well as arts and crafts stalls and Israeli dancing. There were plenty of fun games and activities for children of all ages, including a mini inflatable world. Stallholders such as the Zionist Youth Movements, Tzofim, Diller Teen Fellows WIZO Dor and Wizo Teens, UJEB, Jewish Care, the Jewish Museum, and PJ Library kept the crowds entertained.
And what is a festival celebrating Israeli culture without food and drink? The crowd was spoiled for choice with felafels and salads from Hillulim and delicious rugalach and other delightful pastry treats from Savyon. Meanwhile, Access Inc kept everyone hydrated with their coffee and limonana stall.
The entire festival was gently swaying to the sounds of Israeli music playing inside the hall where there were performances by the Leibler Yanveh College band, the King David School band and the Habayit “house band”. The afternoon was finished off with the sweet sound of the Harmony and Spice band. Habayit co-ordinator Hallely Kimchi said, “this band, which features members of the Israeli and the Jewish community epitomises this community in so many ways. What better way for us all to come together than through music?”
“The entire point of Festibayit, and Habayit in general, is to bring the community together and celebrate the beauty of Israeli culture, “Kimchi continued. “I saw the amazing Israeli and Jewish spirit come together not just with the finished product of the festival, but from the morning, when volunteers from all over the place came together to decorate, carry equipment, set up stalls, and do whatever they needed to do to support the event. It felt like everybody took ownership, that this event is for everyone.”
Kimchi concluded, “We have the most amazing Jewish community in the world. We have guests who come here from other countries who are in awe of what our community has been able to achieve. And yesterday at the festival, while walking amongst the buzz, I truly felt that. We could be a light unto the nations.”