A blue-and-white parade of cars celebrates Israel Independence Day in the age of Covid

Social distancing can’t stop the joy as seniors make some noise on Yom Haatzmaut

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BP Photo by Maia Lefferman

DIFFERENT: Seniors and a few faculty drove down Cresta Drive in the Yom Haatzmaut car parade April 29. A total of 46 vehicles joined the line, which zig-zagged for 4.9 miles.

Molly Litvak and Alex Rubel

Throughout Pico-Robertson and Beverlywood last Thursday, Shalhevet families, alumni and others stood outside their homes carrying signs and Israeli flags, and waiting to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, in the age of Covid-19. 

With the usual celebrations banned due to coronavirus stay-at-home orders, Shalhevet seniors and faculty organized a car parade to celebrate the holiday. It began at 1:25 p.m at Beverlywood’s Circle Park, and ended at around 2:45 p.m, with a total of 46 cars snaking around the area in a slow-moving, blue-and-white-festooned line.

A majority of the senior class participated, most driving, some walking, and all apparently attempting to follow social distancing guidelines. Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal and his family rode in the back of a pickup truck that was driven by Jose Flores and Diego Augustin Sanchez of the Shalhevet maintenance team. 

“I’ve lived in Beverlywood for a few years now, and I’ve never seen that kind of energy,” said sophomore Eliana Kerendian, who watched the parade from her family friends’ house on Bolton Road.

“The first car was Rabbi Segal and I didn’t think there would be so many cars,” Eliana said. “But then all of a sudden for 10 minutes there were 30 cars all going with lots of loud music and everyone decorated their cars with flags. There were a lot of people coming outside of their houses waving flags.” 

With bumper-to-bumper traffic at times and many stop signs in the area, the parade took more than an hour-and-a-half to travel just under five miles. Meanwhile, student drivers blasted Israeli music from a shared playlist as their cars traversed the streets. 

Of the 46 vehicles, 38 were driven by Shalhevet seniors, and eight were driven by faculty members. A few students who didn’t drive followed the lively parade on foot, chanting and waving flags as they walked. 

As the parade advanced through the streets, many spectators — not all of them from Shalhevet — stood on their front lawns or balconies cheering them along.

“As soon as I found out the route and I heard the honking around the neighborhood, I knew they’re coming,” said Dr. Sarit Karz, who is from Israel herself and is the mother of junior Sivan Karz.

“I took a flag of Israel and I was standing at the entrance of the house and I was just cheering and dancing with the flag as they were passing by,” Dr. Karz said. “It was really really exciting and I think it was beautiful.” 

Senior Ari Schlacht, Co-chair of the Student Activities Committee, appreciated the diversity of the crowd that participated on the sidelines of the parade. 

BP Photo by Maia Lefferman
DECORATIONS: Seniors Ben-Tsion Oliel and Noah Hertzberg plastered their cars with Israeli flags and blue and white balloons before the parade. The goal was to celebrate while observing social distancing.

 

“It was really nice to see that a lot of Beverlywood residents came out,” said Ari Schlacht. “Not just Shalhevet communities but I saw rabbis from different shuls, different schools, everybody was out, everybody wanted to be there.” 

Rabbi Segal, standing in the back of a pickup truck cheering and waving flags,  said in an interview that he received positive feedback from many Beverlywood residents. 

After leaving Circle Park, the cars zig-zagged through the area, going as far north as Alcott Street before turning south on Durango Avenue and heading back toward Beverlywood itself. 

Sophomore Andrew Petlak watched from the intersection of Cashio and Oakmore streets, near Canfield Elementary School.

“I was standing by Cashio, and at first I saw Rabbi Segal on the van just chanting around, and then 30 cars behind them, and it was really cool to see all the Israeli pride for Yom Haatzmaut,” said Andrew. “It was super super loud and a bunch of horns going off, loud music, and it was really cool to see all of it.”

The route was supposed to end back at Circle Park, but due to complaints from the Beverlywood Homes Association, the organizers ended it at the corner of Beverly and Monte Mar.

Rabbi Segal said someone from the association called him during the parade to voice a complaint. 

“They were upset that we hadn’t run this by them first,” said Rabbi Segal. “I hope we didn’t disturb anyone working and I do feel bad about that in retrospect. It’s something I wish I had thought of in advance because we’ve always been very good partners with the Beverlywood Homeowners Association.” 

A spokeswoman for the association said the homeowner’s group is usually appreciative of community events,  but in this case she got a lot of calls during the parade and wished Shalhevet had let them know in advance, she said. They would then have warned residents in advance, which might have reduced the number of calls they received during the parade, she said.

“We’re always in communication back and forth when something is happening in the neighborhood — we give everyone a heads up,” the manager of the association, who asked that her name not be used in this article because she doesn’t like her name in print. 

“In our neighborhood we have a group of Sikhs, and every year they have a parade and they let us know,” she said. “It’s a dialogue in Beverlywood because it’s a homeowners’ association. We did not have this dialogue with our neighborhood, so that’s why we got many calls…

“Bottom line is, we were not notified of this event and we weren’t able to do our due diligence,” she said.  “The office did receive numerous phone calls from concerned neighbors not knowing what was going on, a lot were worried about their personal safety, with the COVID, about traffic, of noise.  We have a lot of elderly people and they just didn’t know what was going on.” 

She also said  normally the Association would contact the city to ensure all safety precautions were carried out. 

Rabbi Segal said the school made sure to enforce social distancing guidelines. 

“We had asked people not to be in the same car,” said Rabbi Segal. “We had faculty stationed throughout the parade if a student got out of a car to get into another car asking them to stop.

“There were people standing outside the cars who may have violated social distancing,” he continued, “but not that we saw and in the moment we asked them to stop so I think by and large people did a great job.”

The event was originally the idea of Judaic Studies teacher Ms. Ilana Wilner, who is the adviser of SAC.  She said she was sorry about the complaints, but overjoyed about how the event turned out.

“It was more than I ever could have imagined it was,” said Ms. Wilner, who was not able there because she is sheltering with her family in New York. 

“I thought we weren’t going to pull it off, I thought people were going to flake, I thought someone was going to shut us down, I didn’t think we’d have an audience,” Ms. Wilner said. “But it was something that our seniors needed, something that the community needed, something that the world needed, it was just something to cheer for.”