For students looking to learn about another culture, Israeli Culture Week offers a look into a different way of life. “Students see a lot about Israel in the headlines, but they only hear about it as a politically charged country,” said Jewish Student Union president Sam Blumberg. “This week is about showing students another side of Israel and giving them a chance to become familiar with its rich culture.“
Israeli Culture Week is an annual event put on by Hillel and a handful of student groups on campus, including Aggies for Israel and the Jewish Student Union. This year promises to be particularly special as it marks Israel’s 60th anniversary.
“Thursday is the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence, which is a big accomplishment,” said sophomore Emma Schnur, religious chair for Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish-interest sorority on campus. “We just want to focus on and celebrate [Israel’s] existence. Israel has a beautiful landscape with a beautiful culture and it is really important to bring that aspect to campus.“
The week kicked off Monday with a culture fair on the Quad, where students could browse different Israeli-themed stands and receive free falafel. Among the other events is an Israeli-themed Shabbat dinner tonight at 7 and a Havdalah with the Jewish Student Union on Saturday at 9 p.m. Both events will take place at Hillel House.
“Havdalah is a closing ceremony of Shabbat,” said Shiri Steinberg, Koret Israel intern for Hillel. “[Hillel] usually holds it every week. It is somewhat separate from the other events because it is a Jewish religious ceremony, but we are incorporating into this week’s events and ending it with an Israeli-style music session.“
The week’s activities will come to a close on Sunday when Hillel participates in the “Salute to Israel” at the state capitol.
Steinberg, a sophomore sociology major, said she thinks Sunday’s event is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in getting a taste of Israeli culture.
“There will be a walk-a-thon, and afterwards there will be live music by Israeli musicians, Israeli folk dancing, theater and tons of food,” she said. “A lot of people from the Sacramento and Davis area will be there. It’s going to be a big celebration [of Israel’s anniversary].“
In addition to celebrating Israel’s culture, Blumberg, a senior religious studies major, said he hopes that this week’s events provide new learning experiences for students and a chance to connect with the culture.
“Israel has accomplished so much in science and technology and the arts as well,” he said. “Israel is also a very environmentally conscious country, which a lot of people don’t know about. Whatever you are interested in, Israel has something.“
Steinberg said that Israel’s diversity is why she thinks that so many people can connect with the culture.
“A common misconception is that Jewish culture and Israeli culture are the same, which is not true,” she said. “There are Jews in Israel, but there [are] also Muslims and Christians and people of the Baha’i faith…it is such an ethnically diverse country which makes it very unique. Almost anybody can find something that they identify with.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX