By Eve Lieberman
The American Movement for Israel, the University of Michigan's Israel advocacy group, drew thousands of interested students to its first annual "Balagan!" Carnival. The carnival highlighted many aspects of Israeli culture and society that are often overshadowed by regional conflict.
"'Balagan!' was an enormous success," Berman Fellow Samara Kaplan said. "Thousands of UM students passed through and saw tons of information focusing on the culture of Israel, such as its technology triumphs, study-in-Israel programs and food, rather than the conflict."
The colorful booths and wide range of activities held in the center of campus created the exact "balagan," or craziness, on campus the organizers had sought. The booths focused on everything from sports and entertainment to advancements in medicine and technology. Passers-by also had the chance to enjoy free massages and Israeli dancing and music. Hiller's Supermarket, a local store, treated hundreds of attendees to free samples of Israeli cookies, candy, hummous and pita.
Many of the booths featured travel and volunteer opportunities in Israel, including the Arava Institute Environmental Programs and Magen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross). Students also learned how to apply for birthright israel trips that Hillel organizes.
According to Adam Soclof, the coordinator of Balagan 2004 and cultural chair of American Movement for Israel, the festival helped students from diverse backgrounds learn about the richness of Israeli society.
"While the free food, free massages, and the moonwalks made for a great deal of fun, the information presented on programs and developments in Israel did a wonderful job of showing the university community that Israel isn't just some exclusively militaristic entity, as some of its detractors would have them believe," Soclof said. "'Balagan!' was a great way to begin conveying this message to the university community, and we are looking forward to more events that achieve the same goal throughout the year."
Eve Lieberman is a student at the University of Michigan.