By Joe Atmonavage
The University of Maryland will be hosting its annual Maryland Hillel Israel Week starting April 29 as a way for Jewish students to better understand the nation of Israel.
The event, which will be held at Maryland Hillel, will have events all week long to allow students to better connect with Israel.
“Hillel puts this event on because they want the UMD community, and not only Jews, to know about Israel. Hillel wants people to know about the issues Israel is facing with surrounding nations,” said University of Maryland student Evan Horne. “They want students to experience the culture and lifestyle of an Israeli.”
Horne is part of a six-member committee who is in charge of putting on the event. The committee had to coordinate with the various Jewish and Israeli organizations that will be hosting an event during the week. Each committee member is in charge with scheduling various events with Israeli or Jewish organizations at Maryland.
“Staying in touch with each host organization and making sure their needs are met is our biggest preparation,” Horne said.
There will be a wide variety of activities for students to take part throughout the week. There will be Israeli dances, an IDF boot camp, and a special Shabbat dinner, among others.
“The dancing event is a music workshop to take you through different aspects of Israeli culture led by Mijal Ben-Dori,” Horne said.
The boot camp will provide a simulation workout led by a former Israeli soldier to get a feel for what it is like to be a soldier in the Israeli army.
The weeklong celebration this year is going to be a significant change from last year. Instead of just having Israel Day on Yom Haatzmaut, the event will be seven days of Israeli related activities.
“We wanted to give students a chance to really appreciate the many different facets of Israeli society so we have created Israel Week where each of the Israel groups at Hillel is responsible for putting together their own event,” said University of Maryland freshman Jacob Magid, another member of the committee.
With the whole event lasting a week this year, students will be able to attend events at their convenience.
“If people are not able to attend one of the events, they have the opportunity to go to many others,” Horne said.
The week also coincides with two important Israeli holidays, which adds to the festivities as well as making it even more relatable to Israel.
Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haazmaut will fall during the week of events. Yom Hazikaron, which is on the fourth of Iyar, is the Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives in battle or defending the Israel.
Yom Haazmaut is the following day on the fifth of Iyar and is the day Israel gained independence in 1948. The two holidays will allow various Israeli and Jewish organizations to hold events informing students about the two iconic national holidays.
For Yom Hazikaron there will be a ceremony held at the Stamp Student Union and Yom Haazmaut will be celebrated with Israel Fest.
“As someone who used to live in Israel when I was younger, I experienced many amazing Yom Haatzmaut celebrations, and I am looking forward to experience something similar on campus,” said Maryland student Ori Gutin.
Besides providing students with an opportunity to better understand Israeli society and traditions, Maryland Hillel Israel Week is a good opportunity for students to become more involved in Jewish organizations on-campus after the week is over.
Yael Gertel, who was unable to be reached, carefully picked a committee of various Jewish students at Maryland to better attract Jews from all different backgrounds to attend the events and get involved.
“The committee Yael made at Hillel to organize the event was strategically planned,” Horne said. “It is made up of Jews who come from all walks of life on campus. This will attract all kinds of students.”
One of the biggest priorities of the committee is to make the event compelling to Jewish students who are not closely connected to Hillel as others.
“This week brings Israel back into all of our lives in a powerful way, and unites the Jewish community on campus,” said Gutin.