Festival showcases Israeli culture

IsraelFest was an exploration of Israeli culture featuring food, music, artwork and a camel


Organizers of the event said IsraelFest was a way for students to gain exposure to Israeli culture and included food, music, dance, artwork and a live camel.

Courtesy of Talia Sion

Members of the Jewish community at the University gathered on Lambeth Field Friday afternoon for IsraelFest, a celebration of Israeli culture. The event was co-hosted by the Jewish Leadership Council, Hoos for Israel and the Brody Jewish Center and included food, music, dance, artwork and a live camel.

Truman Brody-Boyd, a third-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, was recently elected incoming chair of the Jewish Leadership Council. He explained some of the features of the event.

“We have an international group called Artists for Israel here, and they’re helping people spray paint and graffiti their own t-shirts that they can keep after the event,” Brody-Boyd said. “If you go around to the tables, there [are] displays from different organizations that are saying their part about Israel and why they find it valuable and why they identify with it.” 

Brody-Boyd helped organize IsraelFest, as well as some of the other activities that the Jewish Leadership Council has hosted this week as a part of Israel Week — a week-long celebration of Israel and Israeli culture. 

“Last year we just did IsraelFest, but this year we wanted to go bigger, so we did an entire week called Israel Week,” Brody-Boyd said.

Israel Week kicked off Monday with a hummus bar on the Lawn. Talia Sion, a fourth-year Nursing student and the outgoing chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said that Israel Week events also included a memorial service Tuesday and a guest speaker Thursday.

“Tuesday night we had a Yom Hazikaron service, which is Israeli Memorial Day, and we had a forty-five minute service to honor those lives lost fighting for Israel’s independence,” Sion said. “Last night, we had the first Arab-Israeli Rhodes Scholar, Lian Najami, she spoke on what it’s like to be an Arab-Muslim woman in Israel and the intersectionality of her different identities.”

Adam Cooper, a first-year College student and the incoming president of Hoos for Israel, also helped organize IsraelFest. He said that the events of Israel Week coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence this year. 

“The whole event is all about celebrating the culture of Israel and celebrating Israeli Independence Day … actually Israel is 70 years old this year,” Cooper said. “Everything here is all about celebrating what Israel’s about, the incredible things that Israel has done for the world, and the incredible things going on in Israel today.” 

However, Brody-Boyd said that IsraelFest was not meant to be a political event. Rather, the gathering was a way for students to gain exposure to Israeli culture. 

“All of Israel week is meant to engage people with different aspects of Israeli culture,” Brody-Boyd said. “It’s not so much focused on the political situation there. This is more just about the culture and the people and trying to engage people in some way with Israeli culture.” 

Sion added that IsraelFest was primarily a way to share the experience of Israelis with the University community. 

“A lot of people don’t know much about Israeli culture, so our goal is to showcase that a little, whether it’s the type of food we’re serving, the graffiti art t-shirts, dead sea mud products, the plant-a-seed station, just to take back little pieces of Israeli culture,” Sion said. 

Clara Sophia Camber, a second-year College student and the outgoing community chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, reiterated that IsraelFest was a cultural event, not a political one. 

“I think for a lot of Jewish people — this is just my perception, but I think a lot of people feel this way — the word Israel, its connection to a nation-state is so much newer in our tradition and our history than the thousands of years before when Israel was used to define the Jewish people, the children of Israel, the children of Jacob,” Camber said. “So it’s more of a peoplehood, less about the politics of a nation-state.” 

Fourth-year Nursing student Kaileigh Palmer was one of the attendees at IsraelFest. Though not Jewish herself, Palmer said that she was glad she came to the event. 

“I came here hoping to learn something and meet new people,” Palmer said. “And, I really wanted to meet a camel.” 

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