Annual Israel Fest commemorates national birthday
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 01:05
The state of Israel celebrated its 64th birthday on May 6. To commemorate the event, U*SAID, a political group on campus that advocates for American-Israeli relations, hosted the annual Israel Fest event.
Junior Ally Turkheimer, intern and interfaith liaison for U*SAID, says Israel Fest supports positive relations between Israel and the United States and encourages Jewish pride and the cultural curiosity of non-Jewish students.
“It’s a worldly issue that everyone needs to support,” she says. “It will help students see another culture. It may also open up peoples’ eyes to another view on someone else’s life.”
Although the event was to be held on the North Green, threatening weather forced the event into the Trabant University Center multipurpose rooms, where students and families gathered for food and cultural activities on Friday afternoon.
Turkheimer says she requested that Hillel and U*SAID host the event this year, as it was previously hosted by Blue Hens for Israel. U*SAID partnered with StandWithUs, The David Project, Blue Hens for Israel, Interfaith, the Avi Chai foundation and Hasbara Fellowships to run the event, along with several other groups.
“I really wanted the group to take it on,” Turkheimer says. “I wanted to make the event as big as possible.”
Turkheimer says members of Hillel and U*SAID’s primary goals were to celebrate Israel’s 64th birthday, to raise awareness for Israel and to encourage good relations between Israel and the United States. At the event, participants learned about Krav Maga, the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces and ate free falafel. Attendees visited stations set up to inform participants about the historical and cultural aspects of Israel and Judaism, including a booth where participants could learn to write their names in Hebrew, and booths for Jewish student groups such as Chabad House.
The event also featured presentations about study abroad opportunities in Tel Aviv and Hebrew University. Students were also given a chance to write a letter to an Israeli soldier and other letters that could be sent to the Western Wall in Israel, one of the most sacred sites in Jerusalem.
Junior Ally Becker, co-founder of U*SAID, says she hopes the event will increase support for Israel within the university community.
“U*SAID is not a solely Jewish group,” Becker says. “Support for Israel is an American issue, not just a Jewish one. One of our goals is to form partnerships with other groups on campus.”
Becker says she is excited about the event and what it will do for U*SAID’s popularity mong the student population.
“We want students to realize diversity is a good thing,” she says. “Israel is a peaceful nation and has contributed in ways that many people don’t know about. The media highlights the conflict in Israel. We want students to know what Israel is really about, not what they think it is.”
Junior Jeremy Brooks says his brothers in the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi suggested he go to Israel Fest. Although he says he enjoyed the event, he thinks it would only appeal to a specific crowd.
“I think it depends on what their interests are,” Brooks says. “If they have a general interest in Israeli culture, this would be a good place to go.”
Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life says his children enjoy the entertainment the event provides every year.
“I thought the event was great, though I wish it was outside,” Sneiderman says. “I will always attend [Israel Fest]. Israel is central to the Jewish identity. It helps people understand the national character of Jewish people.”