By Jamie Kerner
The Maryland Jewish Student Union held its annual Israel Fest on McKeldin Mall as it celebrated Israel’s culture and 70th birthday Thursday.
The event, which was held from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., featured various activities and stations. Each vendor there had an educational aspect in regards to Israel’s culture and history.
One of the more popular activities at Israel Fest was camel riding. Throughout the day, a long line of attendees waited their turn to ride a camel in a circular loop around a portion of the mall.
The day also provided an opportunity for students to partake in other activities, such as rock climbing and falafel and hummus tasting.
Israel Fest was held on the same day as Israel’s birthday; this year marks 70 years since the country was established. The milestone birthday was the focus for the theme of this year’s Israel Fest, making it different from those that occured in the past as JSU recruited new vendors and food options for the event.
Some vendors and co-sponsors’ tables began the day stationed underneath tents. However, due to windy weather conditions, the tents had to be taken down.
“I think the wind was a little bit unexpected,” said Stephanie Bekerman, the Birthright Israel IACT coordinator at Hillel. “We had to take our tents down, but that’s totally fine.”
Bekerman added that despite the strong wind, the day was still fun and the event had a great turn out.
Israel Fest serves as JSU’s largest event of the year, and according to JSU President Josh Goldstein, there are multiple steps that need to be taken into account in terms of the event’s planning process.
“The actual planning process starts in September consisting of reaching out to vendors, co-sponsors and working on the big picture,” Goldstein, a junior communication sales and real estate development double major, said. “The executive board along with the other members of the JSU team all work together to ensure this event can be run as successful as possible.”
Multiple people are involved in every aspect of the planning process to ensure that the event is run as successfully as possible, Goldstein said. People involved in the process include the executive board, the full JSU cabinet and the vice president of Israel Affairs team.
Talia Orencel, the director of social justice & engagement at Maryland Hillel, said her favorite thing about Israel Fest is how it unifies people on this campus.
“My favorite part of Israel Fest is that it brings together students from all across campus and from various diverse backgrounds and they come out and celebrate our wonderful country of Israel,” she said.
Sophomore early childhood special education major Hannah Dornbush believes in the importance of Israel Fest.
“I love how Israel Fest can bring our community together to celebrate Israel,” Dornbush said. “It’s important for Israel Fest to continue to happen every year because it serves as a constant reminder about how special and important Israel is.”