iFest at UCI: Partying with the Pink Gorilla

By now, you’ve probably seen the iFest posters, the iFest booth, the iFest pink gorilla, the iFest Web site and the iFest dogtags. iFest, iFest, iFest … it’s been advertised for weeks. So, what is iFest?
iFest is a new Israeli cultural event sponsored by Anteaters for Israel and co-sponsored by Alpha Epsilon Pi, Epsilon Phi and Hillel: Jewish Student Union. It comes just in time to honor Israel’s 60th birthday. I managed to get some Q&A time about iFest with Isaac Yerushalmi, the president of AFI.
Elias: What exactly is iFest?
Yerushalmi: iFest is a weeklong, campus-wide celebration in honor of Israel’s 60th birthday. We want students to have a good time … and to learn a little about Israel. Many Americans don’t know that the technology for their cell phone was developed in Israel, or that Israelis bioengineered seedless watermelon. Yet they benefit from Israel on a day-to-day basis.
E: What are some of the events that you have planned for it?
Y: Throughout the week, we will have a variety of festivities, beginning with a campus-wide kickoff event on Ring Mall on Monday, followed by an Israeli market on Ring Mall on Tuesday through Thursday. While the Israeli market is open, there will be an open hookah lounge and “The “iFest iPod Challenge,” a free game in which you could win a brand-new Apple iPod Touch in less than 60 seconds! Thursday night, we will be hosting Southern California’s largest summer kick-off party, titled OASIS, to celebrate Israel’s [60tth] anniversary. And to bring the week to an end, there will be a free Israeli Shabbat dinner in the Student Center. The great thing about iFest is that all events are free to attend.
E: What impact do you hope for iFest to have on the campus community?
Y: We want people to have fun while appreciating a new culture. UCI students come from such a diverse group of beautiful cultures, and we’d simply like to share ours with them.
E: Israel’s 60th birthday is coming up soon. Can you tell us a couple of things about what Israel and the Israeli people have done for the global community in such a small amount of time?
Y: If you take a look at Israel’s resume, it’s [hard to believe] how much such a small country has accomplished in under 60 years. [In] everything from developing cell phone and instant messaging technology to nearly completing the world’s first flying car, Israel is a leader in innovations that Americans benefit from on a day-to-day basis. In addition, Israel can be depended on when it comes to humanitarian aid. [It is] one of the few countries that [has] provided refuge to Darfuris who escape the ongoing genocide in Sudan. Israel continues to provide its citizens with freedom and equality, even though it lives in a neighborhood in which minorities live as second-class citizens and are [treated as] inferior. In less than 60 years, Israel has symbolically become an oasis in the Middle East.
E: iFest is an apolitical pro-Israel event, noticeably scheduled right before the infamous “anti-Zionist” week. Is there any reason for this? Why not host an equally condemning and hostile event in response?
Y: There are certain groups on campus … that host events which aim to demonize Jews, Zionists and the Israeli people as a whole. With immigrants from over 120 countries, Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. These hateful events are often anti-Semitic and call for the destruction of what the Jewish people have called their homeland for nearly 3,000 years. It’s difficult coming to a campus where large student groups intimidate you and tell you that you shouldn’t be allowed to exist. But that’s the reality for us. I believe the best way to fight hatred is to love. And that’s exactly what this event is about. We want this community to see how loving the Israeli people are and to see everything they’ve done to help humanity. These are things that are never revealed in our media.
E: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers of the New U?
Y: This event was planned for you … so come out, have fun and celebrate diversity! You don’t need to know a thing about Israel to have a good time at iFest.
The Jewish community’s first annual celebration of Israeli culture sounds like a great dedication to Israel’s 60th birthday, its struggles and its benefits to the world. I don’t know about you, reader, but this is something the campus community and the general public sorely need.
Every day, Israel gets flak from the media and anti-Zionist organizations. We never see Fox News or CNN talking about the humanitarian aid and technological innovations that Israel has given to the world.
What could a state as tiny and young as Israel possibly contribute to mankind? Try Microsoft Windows XP and NT, the Pill-Cam, all firewall/anti-virus software, Google, the flash drive, the Intel Pentium MMX or the Centrino chip used in computers.
None of those things appeal to you? How about cell phones, radiation-free breast cancer scanners, drip-irrigation technology, solar panels or the PHP programming language (which was used to create Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, our own UC Irvine Web mail, EEE and probably your club’s Web site).
All that and more were developed in Israel. Something more UCI-related is the Paul Merage School of Business. Merage is one of the biggest Zionist Jews in history and has donated $30 million to UCI and $100 million to the Zionist Jewish State of Israel. You know, small things like that.
From what I’ve seen, iFest promises to be a great way to inform the campus about Israel’s culture and accomplishments in a light-hearted, friendly way. Seasoned readers probably know that I have a very strong stance regarding anti-Semitism on campus, but really? I welcome the prospect of a weeklong, informative event with no politics, no debating and no doorway for hate speech to invite itself in.
It should be a nice alternative to the usual mudslinging that goes around. iFest is a testament to the peaceful and informed campus the Jewish community in Irvine hopes to promote. More than that, it should inform everyone about what Israel has given to the world that we now take for granted everyday, and the things we’d be living without if Israel did not exist.

AE Anteater is a second-year English major. He can be reached at emailremoved@uci.edu.