The first annual Israel Day, hosted by USF’s Hillel, was full of food, fellowship and fun.
Students who stopped by were treated to two dance performances from Hillel’s Israeli Dance Troupe, bracelet making that translated student’s names from English to Hebrew, a Wailing Wall replica and an Israeli culture quiz.
“I was on my way somewhere else and I thought I’d stop by,” said Bijal Chhadva, USF student body president. “I thought it’s cool that Hillel is making their presence known.”
Chhadva said that Israel Day was a good place to go to get a more complete picture of Israel. “A lot of things you read in the news,” he said, “sometimes they’re biased. (Hillel) will tell you what’s up (with Israel).”
Metuschelah Etienne, a biomedical science major, came to Israel Day on a whim, like Chhadva.
“I came out for the job fair and thought I might check (Israel Day) out,” Etienne said. “I’m interested in visiting Israel. I have to look through the guides (that I picked up).”
Students were asked some questions about Israeli culture and facts.
“The purpose of the game (was to) show awareness and education,” said Suzanne Lippy, who is in her first year with Hillel. “They answer two or three questions and they get some food.”
A replica of the Wailing Wall was also a featured attraction at Israel Day, and students were able to put their requests in the wall to be taken to the real Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
“Every note put inside (the Wailing Wall replica) will be put in the Wall (in Jerusalem) during the birthright trip this May,” said Andy Frankel, who is in his fourth year with Hillel. Birthright trips are for Jewish individuals ages 18-26, Frankel said.
“(Israel Day is an) outreach to those who might not want to go to Israel and (then) they find out it’s not such a bad place. I went (to Israel) in May and fell in love with it.”
One booth at the event was dedicated to information about different cities in Israel and featured cards with facts about Israel and its people.
“I think (Israel Day) went very well,” said Leaha Widrowicz, vice president of Israel programming for the Hillel Jewish Student Center of Tampa Bay. “Everyone’s enjoying themselves. I haven’t heard any complaining.”
Widrowicz said she was on an adrenaline rush from the day. “The Israeli Dance Troupe did an excellent performance. (Hillel) probably will do (Israel Day) next year.”
“The goal (of the event was) to get an Israel presence on campus and to play upon the culture more than anything else,” said Wendy Levine, JCSC Fellow for the Hillel Jewish Center of Tampa Bay. “It’s important that people experience the (Israeli) culture and how great it is. (Israel Day was a) good chance for the campus to experience Israel and learn what they may not have known before.”
Levine said that Israel has been portrayed negatively in years past, and the goal of Israel day was “to bring a positive view (to light) through the Israeli culture.”
Timna Zaray-Mizrahi, a representative of the Aliyah center in Miami, was on hand to inform students about volunteer and internship opportunities in Israel.
“A lot of people stopped by (the booth), Jewish and non-Jewish,” said Zaray-Mizrahi. “About half were familiar with opportunities (in Israel).”
Zaray-Mizrahi said that Israel has much to offer to those who travel there. “It’s a place you can go as a tourist and feel very comfortable and have a lot of fun. It’s a very adventurous country, one of the most diverse places. All programs (for participants) are designed to participate in Israeli society.”
“It’s not just come-and-see, it’s come-and-do,” said Linda Hakim, an Israel fellow at the University of Miami. “See Israel from an Israeli’s point of view.”