Israel week brings opportunity to learn about country, culture and food

When people hear the word Israel, they immediately think about wars, politics, drama, religion and various other topics with negative connotations. It’s easy to forget that places exist for more reasons than to just fill out headlines with controversy and fear.

Israel Week 2011 is here to educate people about a tiny country, as small as the state of New Jersey, about its significant contributions to the world.

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This week, hundreds of students are gathering together to celebrate a place, with real people, a distinct culture and delicious food. Behind what we see in the news on a regular basis, this country is a place that is visited by hundreds of University students every year for breaks and semester study abroad programs. This is a place that many University students have lived in, have family members who currently reside in the state, or plan to move there one day in the future.

For at least 51 years, students who see Israel as much more than a war-zone have found a way to present the culture to the campus.

“The purpose of the week is to spread knowledge about Israel to people who would otherwise not be able to experience it,” said Alana Rubin, freshman in LAS.

Rubin is one of the six student interns that helped coordinate this week.

The week began April 8 with a free Shabbat dinner filled with traditional Israeli foods, including Israeli salad, hummus, pita, falafel and shawarma. Today on the Quad, there is a huge party, with Israeli food, Israeli music and tons of opportunities to learn all about the country.

Throughout the week, there will be opportunities to learn Israeli dances, experience Bedouin culture with tea in a Bedouin-style tent at Allen Hall.

“When I was in Israel, I really liked staying overnight in a Bedouin tent and drinking the tea and experiencing the culture, so I’m really excited for other people to get to experience that,” Rubin said.

Coordinators and sponsors of the week are even bringing a camel to campus.

On Thursday, close to 1,500 students are listed as attending on the Facebook event for camel rides on the South Quad. Some of the proceeds from this event will go to the Jerusalem Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals.

“I hope that people can see a different view of Israel, and I hope everyone gets to ride a camel!”

This week is not a week about politics or religion. It’s a week where students can learn a little more about a place in the world that gets a lot of negative attention in the news. It’s a week for students to embrace a culture that is unique.

“I don’t like when people will say things about Israel when they’re not informed,” Rubin said. “They need to know that there is more to Israel than just what they see in the news.”

By taking the time to learn about other cultures and seeing the ways in which we are similar and different, we can better connect ourselves to the rest of the world and ultimately try a few new things.

Ashley is a senior in LAS.