Last week Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary and Hillels around the world joined in the festivities by hosting Israel pride weeks, speakers, dance parties, Israel-themed dinners and more. Here are a few of the ways different Hillels celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day.
UC-Irvine held its first ever iFest, a weeklong Israeli cultural event sponsored by Anteaters for Israel and co-sponsored by Hillel, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Epsilon Phi. Throughout the week UC Irvine students were treated to a variety of festivities, including an Israeli market, hookah lounge, summer kick-off dance party called OASIS and an Israeli Shabbat. Students also had a chance to win a brand-new Apple iPod Touch.
Stanford University Hillel also held a weeklong celebration on campus and in the new Koret Pavilion at the Ziff Hillel Center. Israel Pride Week included a panel of Israelis sharing what life was like in the different regions they were from, a guided tour of posters of Yom Ha'atzmaut, a campuswide fair including free falafel, Israeli music and "tours" of Israel's famous cities, an Israeli-themed Shabbat, barbeque, Israeli dance party and ending with an Ahava spa day.
San Francisco State Hillel held a concert on the campus quad that featured the bandsEggroll, an Israeli rock band and another group named Invisible Arms.
Stony Brook Hillel hosted Ruth Gruber, 97, a former writer for the New York Herald Tribune and New York Post, author of several books and a former special assistant to the U.S. secretary of the interior, who spoke about the formation of the state in 1948. Her talk centered on her own role in documenting the passage of the Exodus 1947, a ship that attempted to bring some 4,500 Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors to Palestine.
Hillel at the University of Minnesota and their campus Israel group, Gopher Israel, celebrated the 60th anniversary of Israel's establishment with Israeli music, a kosher buffet, a piñata and a live camel.
University of Washington Hillel started their celebration with a service commemorating Israel's Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, which falls a day before Israel Independence Day. The service blended elements of a traditional Israeli Yom Hazikaron service with more contemporary traditions that relate to the United States. UW also hosted a bonfire and barbeque with the local AEPi chapter and Israelpalooza 2008, which featured falafel stands, belly dancers, hookah and Turkish coffee.
Hillel at Kent State held its third annual Israel Fest where participants were able to "climb" Masada, participate in an Israeli-style archeological dig, learn to belly dance, feast on falafel, relax in the “Dead Sea” Spa Center with free massages, and raise money for philanthropies at the “Sea of Galilee” dunk tank by dunking a campus celebrity. Israel Fest was preceded by Hillel's "Six Weeks of Israel" program.
Hillel at University of Vermont described its events as "Jewish pluralism in action for Israel." The week-long festivities a UVM included a Friday night Shabbat celebration with special guest speaker Rony Yedidia, consul to the Consulate General of Israel, as well as an Israel@60 Community Fair which featured homemade falafel stands, Israeli dancing, gaga competitions and displays about Israeli art, the beverages of Israel and Israeli sports.
Hillel of James Madison University hosted venture capitalist Mike Granoff who spoke about his investments in Israel, and sponsored a campus-wide party featuring free food.
Hillels in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil simultaneously Webcast their Yom Ha'atzmaut parties, giving others a chance to infuse some Latin American flavors into their celebrations.