Anteaters for Israel
Last week, May 24-28, Ring Road hosted Anteaters for Israel’s third annual iFest celebration, “iFest 3.0.”
Purposely situated around Israel’s Independence Day, iFest is a weeklong, apolitical celebration of Israeli culture and society, as well as what the Jewish state has accomplished in its now 62 years of existence.
iFest 3.0 featured events and activities like the “iFest iPod Challenge” tunnel, where students were given 60 seconds to walk through a wooden tunnel coated with facts about Israel, then given a quiz at the end. Students who got all answers correct were then entered into a raffle to win a free iPod Touch.
There was also a competition for the Greek community, in which fraternity and sorority members signed in at events to try and win their own private bus to the Thursday night’s “Electric Garden” party.
Free iFest shirts were given away at the main booth. Students were also able to spin a multi-colored wheel and be quizzed on facts about Israel in order to win shot glasses, Frisbees, sunglasses and other prizes.
Some more popular aspects of iFest were the free hookah café modeled after Aroma Cafe, where students could smoke hookah on Ring Road and drink tea and an Israeli vendor fair – inspired by the Ben Yehuda Street shopping mall in Jerusalem – lined the walk between Aldrich Hall and the Cross Cultural Center.
Like in years past, iFest 3.0 comes after a period of heated tensions on campus regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While some students welcome iFest’s non-political atmosphere, other students believe iFest should address the politics around Israel instead of remaining as just a culture festival.
“I received a lot of positive responses from students,” said Matan Lurey, a third-year informatics major and one of the organizers of iFest. “For them, iFest is a welcomed change from the heated politics of the quarter.”
Monday’s events featured a “kick-off barbecue” where students passing by on Ring Road were able to choose from both kosher and non-kosher hot dogs and hamburgers.
Tuesday featured an “Israeli Pub Night” at Phoenix Grill, where students gathered to experience a pseudo-Israeli pub experience.
Students were treated to a performance at the flagpoles by the famous dance group Kaba Modern on Thursday. That same night students flocked to Red Lounge for iFest’s “Electric Garden” venue party with LA Riots spinning. The Electric Garden is meant to give students a taste of what the Israeli city of Tel Aviv’s world-famous nightlife and club scene is like. Close to 800 students attended the party.
On Friday night, Anteaters for Israel hosted their iFest Israel Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) in the student center.
While iFest has some events geared more towards entertainment than education, fifth-year political science major Isaac Yerushalmi, past president of Anteaters for Israel and founder of iFest, sees the weeklong festival primarily as a way to educate the campus about the relationship between Israel and America.
“America and Israel share a special and historical friendship,” Yerushalmi said. “Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and iFest is a time to celebrate the 62 years of unbelievable contributions Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, has made to American society.”
Co-sponsoring clubs, as well as invited guests, sat at booths along Ring Road throughout the week to inform people not only about their own causes, but the relationship between those causes and Israel, as well.
“iFest was pretty awesome. I loved all the different activities,” said Dasha Claussen, president of the Russian Club as well as a fourth-year psychology and social behavior and European studies major. “[I learned] a lot of information that I didn’t know before.”
AE Anteater is a member of Anteaters for Israel.