Israel Fest, a joint collaboration between Hoos for Israel and Brody Jewish Center, was held for the first time in Lambeth Field on Friday. The festival is a celebration of Israeli culture and included attractions for attendees such as a live camel for attendees to pet and take pictures with.
According to its website, Hoos for Israel promotes itself as a non-partisan group for Israeli cultural and political awareness. As for their collaborator, the Brody Jewish Center has been a center and home for the 1,800 Jewish students on Grounds. Both groups are members of the Jewish Leadership Council, a coalition of Jewish student groups.
“JLC strives to expand and enhance Jewish life at the University of Virginia by ensuring diverse opportunities for Jewish expression, developing student leaders and promoting a welcoming, pluralistic community,” the website states.
Though there are many resources available for Jewish students on Grounds, a member of both Hillel and Hoos for Israel, second-year College student Truman Brody-Boyd, said this was the first time an event like this had been held at the University.
“We really just want to highlight Israeli culture and draw positive attention towards a region in the world that people might not pay attention to normally, and just get [people] exposed to a new culture and do it in a low-key, fun environment,” Brody-Boyd said. “We want to give people an opportunity to hang out with their friends as well as learn something.”
The spread on Lambeth Field included educational opportunities from a series of talks on Israel as a start-up nation to a live camel. Other attractions included a spa corner with materials from the Dead Sea like mud and soap to rejuvenate the skin and promote Israeli products, as well as free giveaways from Basil, a Mediterranean-style restaurant on the Corner.
Hoos for Israel and the Brody Jewish Center also partnered with Sustained Dialogue for a talk about engaging in conversations on thought-provoking and difficult topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With a heavy turnout to enjoy the attractions, as well as the opportunities to learn more about Israel, Sophie Ritt, a first-year College student and incoming co-president of Jewish Social Connection — which is under the umbrella of the JLC — said she felt the event was a success.
“It was so nice see so many people come out to support Israel Fest today,” Ritt said. “It seemed like everyone was enjoying the free food and taking pictures with the camel. I would confidently say that Israel Fest 2017 was a success.”