By the time [email protected] opened the gates at DC’s Union Market on Sunday, June 9, the clouds had cleared to make way for a sunny afternoon party that brought out 10,000 people to celebrate Israel with food, drinks and music.

Food trucks and restaurant booths had long lines all day while in the “Jewnity” Beer and Wine Garden, new craft beers from Israel were tasted in the US for the first time. In the shuk marketplace, vendors enticed buyers with films, fine art food products and more. Music, dancing and activities including an archaeological “dig,” and the PJ Library corner provided much fun for families.

The JFE’s “Tent Full of Flavors” was full of people all day as cooking demonstrations, tastings, a cookbook sale and author signings created a culinary tour through Israel’s diverse food traditions. The demo stage warmed up with a cooking demonstration by Leah Hadad, owner of Tribes-a-Dozen, who shared her Yemenite Israeli background recipe for malawah, a delicious “layered” bread and fresh tomato salsa with spicy s’hug.

Kosher pastry chef Paula Shoyer (The Kosher Baker) made a moist, multi-layered Mediterranean baklava that provided a sweet taste for everyone in the tent. And we haven’t forgotten that she also mentioned that she could use some local taste-testers while her kids are away at summer camp!

Joan Nathan (The Foods of Israel Today and Jewish Cooking in America), who has been immersed in the Israeli food scene since serving as foreign press officer for Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek in the 1970s, shared anecdotes about the country’s fantastic food transformation. Once a place where restaurants were wildly expensive and frequented only by tourists, Israel’s eateries, cafés and chefs now make waves internationally and showcase the rich history, creativity and local ingredients of the country’s cuisine.

Sheilah Kaufman (Sephardic Israeli Cuisine) delved into Sephardic food in Israel, really bringing into focus the incredible diversity of foods that fall under that description—from Turkish to Persian, North African to Italian—each with its own special ingredients, spices and techniques.

“Recipe” Rachel Harkham and “Mama” Doni Zasloff Thomas (Get Cooking: A Jewish American Family Cookbook) taught us how to make sweet-and-salty milk and honey bars while they got us thinking about our own family food traditions and ways to bring Jewish food into our homes on a daily basis.

As part of the successful cookbook sale, authors Beth Kanter (Washington, DC Chef’s Table) and Abbie Rosner (Breaking Bread in the Galilee) joined Shoyer, Nathan, Kaufman, Harkham and Thomas in signing books and talking with the many “foodies” in attendance.

The [email protected] celebration was a feast for all senses. It felt like an afternoon in Israel—no plane ticket required.

Top photo: Leah Hadad (center), owner of Tribes-a-Dozen, demonstrates making Yemenite malawah with assistance from JFE project director Susan Barocas (right) and the sign language interpreter.