There was food: I ate spinach burekas, and a felafel arrangement the size of my head, and watched as the health inspection people had their annual fight with one of the felafel booths about whether everything was sufficiently refrigerated. Fought my way through the mob at Flying Felafel, where the whole experience is authentically Israeli.
There were vendors: I looked at children's games, and jewelry stands, and interesting tallitot, and stacks of Shalom Sesame DVDs.
There was music: I watched a troupe of teenagers in folk-dance costumes bounce around to Israeli songs, including a Bollywood-inspired number. There was singing. There was a gay Israeli pop star.
There were approximately a bazillion small children running around screaming in English, Russian, Hebrew and Chinese.
I checked in with some organizations. JIMENA was out, so was Hadassah, and BlueStar. BlueStar was very excited because they had a plane coming to fly around overhead with a banner saying WE STAND WITH ISRAEL. This was very nice and cheerful. In past years, the planes have said unpleasant things. (Those planes, obviously, were not chartered by BlueStar.)
And, there were protesters, although not nearly as many as we were fearing. Across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens, on the steps and the sidewalk in front of St. Patrick's Church, were a scattered line of representatives of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, and QUIT. Frankly, I was expecting something grander. After all, they sent out this:
Kind of looks impressive, no? It wasn't.
Best sign over there was a banner that read "Lesbians Support The Palestinian Uprising". This is one of those things that just makes you blink a lot, but there they were. Apparently, the IJAZN people were specifically irritated that Ivri Lider, the singer who was the star of the IitG entertainment, is gay, and per IJAZN, "Queer people reject this exploitation in the service of a racist state." Well, queer people except for Ivri Lider, and all the gay San Franciscan Jews and their loved ones, lounging on the grass listening to him sing. They were, I daresay, having a better time than the IJAZNers. Plus, they got burekas and felafel.
I joined the banner line on our side, grabbed an Israeli flag, and waved for a while. The opposition gave up around two-thirty, and wandered away. In the meantime, I got to meet a number of people previously only known through e-mail and blogs, and generally enjoyed myself.
After a felafel break, I decided to head across the plaza and check out the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which I had not previously seen. Very nice place, saw a display on Chagall and the artists of the Russian Yiddish/Hebrew theater, enjoyed myself a great deal. New piece of knowledge: I had been aware that Sholem Asch wrote a play called "God of Vengeance", but I had not been aware that it had a lesbian theme. In 1922. Quite cool. Banned in New York. Gawd I love the Jewish arts.
Headed home, very relaxed. A nice, nice day.