By Maria Saporta
Atlantans celebrated the 65th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day Sunday evening at the Temple — braving a steady rain to mark the significant date in history.
The event was organized by Israeli Consul General Opher Aviran, who welcomed Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as honorary guests. Peter Berg, senior rabbi of the Temple, gave his introductory welcome. But it was Aviran’s event.
“In 1948, we were only 800,000 people,” Aviran told the crowd of more than 200 people who attended the reception celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. “Now we are 8 million.”
In introducing Reed as the guest of honor, Aviran called him “a great friend of Israel.”
Reed quickly won over the crowd by saying “Shalom” in his greeting.
“Israel’s founding stands as one of the most important accomplishments in the 20th Century,” Reed said. “I unequivocally stand with the people of Israel, with the State of Israel.”
He went on to say that Israel continues to face threats — and that’s not just a Jewish cause, but also an American cause.
Reed said he had the opportunity to travel to Israel when he was a Georgia State Senator with a group of five Democrats and five Republicans.
He remembered going to a place in Tel Aviv that had been recently bombed. And he talked about going to a restaurant where the group was given a choice to sit indoors or outdoors. But if they chose to sit outdoors, they would have to pay an extra security fee. The mayor said he was most impressed with the strength of the Israelis and their commitment to carry on despite all the adversity.
The culmination of the evening was a concert by David D’Or, an internationally-recognized Israeli singer and performer. Just a few weeks ago, D’Or sang “Amazing Grace” to President Barack Obama during his trip to Israel.
D’Or said that after he played for the president, Obama came up to him and said that next time they should sing a duet. After telling that story to the Atlanta crowd, D’Or then shared with them his rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
D’Or — described as having “a voice from heaven” — is known for his vocal range that spans at least four octaves. That range was in full display on Sunday evening as he performed for the Atlanta audience, saying it was an honor to be able to sing on the 65th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day.