By Georgia Slater
For the Mitzpeh
For over six years, Maryland Hillel has hosted Israel Week, a series of events to explore and celebrate different parts of Israeli culture. This year, it will begin on Tuesday, April 25 and culminate with Israel Fest on Tuesday, May 2.
Israel Week is co-sponsored by various Jewish student groups on campus including the Jewish Student Union, Terps for Israel and J Street UMD. Each day there is a different event dedicated to a different aspect of Israeli culture in hopes of educating and entertaining both Jews and non-Jews on campus about all Israel has to offer.
“The week is very student-run,” said freshman letters and sciences student Jordan Amorelli.
Jewish Agency Israel Fellow Shira Gabay leads the committee along with other students ranging from freshmen to juniors. The group breaks into subcommittees of outreach, marketing and programming to brainstorm ideas on how to make the week a success.
“Our goal as a group is to reach out to tons of different groups of people to educate them about Israel. We have tons of interactive events that would be fun to experience, and give people a better idea about the culture of Israel,” said Amorelli, an Israel Week committee member. “We’re going to teach people that Israel is more than just a religious capital in the Middle East. It has more to give to the world than the conflict that it is associated with.”
Making connections with other Jewish groups on campus is another goal of the week, said Gabay. To build partnerships around campus with these organizations and to empower student leaders to plan such a large-scale event contributes so much to the week.
“My favorite part about Israel Week is the freedom we have with coming up with events. I feel lucky to be on the planning committee because I got to brainstorm which amazing speakers or events we would get to bring to campus,” said Layna Fromkin, an Israel Week committee member and sophomore psychology major.
The events differ each year, explained Gabay. The programs include interactive ways for students to learn and experience Israel, starting with a lecture from the Arab-Israeli journalist Lucy Aharish, film screening of “Mekonen-The Journey of an African Jew” and a lecture about the Ethiopian population in Israel and diverse society from Chloé Valdary.
There will be a bonfire “Kibbutz” evening, with small groups dictations, and a festive Friday night Israel Shabbat dinner that features Israeli food and comedian Benji Lovitt. A Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) ceremony will also take place during the week. Finally, Israel Week ends with Israel Fest, an event put on by the Jewish Student Union and co-sponsored by Maryland Hillel that brings in more than 1,000 students to the campus mall for different activities surrounding Israel.
“Ride a camel! Taste falafel! Climb the rock wall! You can even try an Aroma coffee! We will have a variety of activities to learn about Israel and the diversity present in Israel’s society,” Gabay said.“We will have many fun activities all day so make sure you don’t miss out.”