By Mauricio Rivera, for the Mitzpeh,@mnriver90
The Jewish Student Union at this university held its annual Israel Fest on April 28 at McKeldin Mall where students came and celebrated Israeli culture and history with a variety of games and activities.
Israel Fest closed out a week of scheduled events as part of Maryland Hillel’s Israel Week, which started on April 22 with a ceremony for Israel Memorial Day where Hillel honored American soldiers who died during this past summer’s war in Israel. The ceremony then transitioned into a festivity for Israel Remembrance Day.
“We started celebrating Israel Independence with a ceremony for Yom Hazikaron and then a party for Yom Ha’atzmaut. Israel Fest was just like ending it with a bang,” said Nurit Eitan, Hillel’s Israel fellow and one of the festival’s main organizers.
Over 500 students participated in Israel Fest with thousands of event goers attending throughout the day, according to Eitan.
“I was really proud of the students who organized it with us,” Eitan said. “I really enjoyed just watching the students care so much and just wanting to be there having fun.”
Camel rides, henna tattoos, a dunk tank, and an inflatable basketball rim were only a small portion of activities festival attendees took part in.
“It’s amazing. It’s really nice,” said Solome Getnet, a graduate student who has attended Israel Fest the past three years and knows her way around the event. “I used to go and ask questions everywhere because I didn’t want to seem very ignorant, but now I feel like I know enough so I can just enjoy everything.”
Israel Fest was more than fun and games, however, said sophomore English and communications major Rani Howard, who was responsible for reaching out to all the sponsors seen at the event.
“[Israel is] more than what you’re hearing in the news,” Howard said. “There is so much going on out there that you may not be aware of so we want show the campus that.”
“For students that know nothing about Israel, and that goes for Jews and non-Jews, it’s an opportunity for them to just explore it a little bit,” Eitan said.
Overall, awareness of Israeli culture was the main reason behind Israel Fest, according to Eitan.
“It’s very important to me that young Americans, and not just Jews, know about Israel and what it represents,” Eitan said.
Stoking the curiosity of students who originally came to have fun by playing games at the event is what Israel Fest and Israel Week is all about, Howard said.
“Most people by nature are curious,” she said. “The only way to raise awareness is to talk.”