Venue switched to celebrate 'Israel@60'
- Article by: CURT BROWN
- Star Tribune
- April 3, 2008 - 11:06 PM
Citing unspecified security worries, Mall of America officials recently asked organizers of an Israel independence celebration to hold their event elsewhere.
So the 60th anniversary of Israel's statehood will be celebrated May 7 at the Metrodome.
"They told us that it posed a potential security threat to the facility," said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, which is coordinating the "Israel@60" event with other community groups.
Mall of America spokesman Dan Jasper said Thursday that, as a matter of policy, "we just don't talk about security."
"We constantly assess events that happen here and we determined, at this point, it's not an appropriate venue for this specific event," he said.
The mall's spokesman said the potentially controversial nature of a celebration for Israel was no factor in the venue switch. Jasper said the mall is host to more than 300 events each year, and "every group has been represented."
The Mall of America has made headlines before over security concerns.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, state officials provided a list of possible targets to the U.S. Department of Justice, and that list included the mall. In talking about increased security at the time, then-Gov. Jesse Ventura told talk show host Geraldo Rivera that "the Mall of America would be a potential target."
The Ghermezian brothers, who own the mall, are Orthodox Jews who fled Iran in the 1960s and live in Canada.
Hunegs said the Jewish groups organizing the celebration have no hard feelings about the decision.
"It should be noted that the owners of the Mall of America, who are supporters of the community, understand the importance of the celebration and have offered to help us address issues associated with the change," according to a memo from Israel@60 organizers obtained by the American Jewish World, a weekly Minnesota newspaper.
"People are just looking forward to the event and are very pleased the people at the Dome have been so friendly and accommodating," Hunegs said.
Metrodome event manager Bobbi Ellenberg said the stadium is "certainly adept at handling big events." She said a meeting is scheduled for today with Israel@60 organizers, and a security plan will be developed for the 3,000 expected to attend.
Minneapolis police and private security guards will be used, Ellenberg said, and typical bag searches are planned.
A related display of peace doves will still be shown at the Mall of America the first week of May, courtesy of the Tivoli Too company that brought statues of "Peanuts" characters to St. Paul.
Curt Brown • 612-673-4767
© 2013 Star Tribune