Israel's First Australian Culture Celebration to Start Saturday

G'day Shalom Salaam Israel to include big-name music acts and feature films from Australian film festival.

World renowned classical pianist David Helfgott heads the list of artists scheduled to perform at G'day Shalom Salaam Israel, a week-long celebration of Australian culture beginning on Saturday.

Helfgott, who obtained global recognition after he was portrayed by Geoffrey Rush in the 1996 Oscar-nominated film Shine, will perform compositions from Rachmaninov, Chopin, Beethoven and Liszt in concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as part of the festival, being organized by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange.

Two-time Rolling Stone magazine Jazz Artist of the Year Paul Grabowsky and award-winning jazz pianist Joe Chindamo will also perform during the week.

The name given to the event, in its inaugural year in Israel, is based loosely on that given to other festivals showcasing Australian culture, business and tourism, including G'day USA and G'day UK.

G'day Shalom Salaam Israel will incorporate the sixth annual AICE Australian Film Festival, featuring 15 films and running from June 21 to July 5 with stops in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv.

The film festival will open in Jerusalem with the documentary Tackling Peace, which follows the joint Israeli-Palestinian Peace Team that competed at last year's Australian rules football International Cup.

Other films include: The Black Balloon, starring Toni Collette, about a 17-year-old put in charge of his autistic brother after his pregnant mother is ordered by a doctor to rest; The Combination, the story of a contemporary Lebanese family in the Sydney suburbs; and Salute, a documentary about Peter Norman, the third man on the podium when African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos staged their famous black power protest at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

The inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum has also been organized to coincide with the festival. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former treasurer Peter Costello will lead a delegation of Australian politicians to the forum, which will be launched with a gala dinner in Jerusalem on Monday.