Over 300 students gathered last week at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) for Israel Peace Week, a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. Check out the top three moments from the week:
1. Getting Ready for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day)
In preparation for Yom Ha’atzmaut, students celebrated Shabbat together and spoke about their personal experiences with Israel and Israeli culture. Leading up to Yom Ha’atzmaut, students celebrated Mimouna together, a Moroccan Jewish celebration to mark the end of Passover. As part of Israel Peace Week, this celebration introduced students to another side of Israeli culture that brings together traditions from Jewish communities all over the world.
The Hillel community also gathered together to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, with a program honoring Israeli soldiers and civilians who lost their lives over the last 75 years. In Israel, Memorial Day always leads directly into Independence Day, as a powerful reminder that the establishment and continuation of the country rests on the shoulders of all those who have protected Israel since 1948.
2. Celebrating Israel in the center of campus
Yom Ha’atzmaut kicked off at UMass Amherst Hillel with a celebration in the center of campus, on a main thoroughfare where all kinds of students pass by and could participate in the event. Artists4Israel, an organization that educates about Israel and Israeli culture through art, spray painted Israeli themed t-shirts for students who came to celebrate. There was an exhibit called Humans of Tel Aviv, which showcased the diversity of the Israeli people and experiences. With good food, Israeli music, dancing, and swag, over 200 students proudly celebrated Israel’s 75th birthday.
3. Israel After Dark
After the sun set, UMass Amherst Hillel’s main Yom Ha’atzmaut event, Israel After Dark, officially started. This evening gathering is a joyful celebration for students to proudly celebrate Israel and everything the country represents. Students came dressed in blue and white, and many wore clothing that they purchased in Israel as a meaningful way to show their support. Over 130 students danced late into the evening, as if they were in Israel, celebrating the day in the same way Israelis do.
The Student Alliance for Israel, a Hillel student group that runs Israel programming for the UMass Amherst community, are excited to continue spreading excitement and knowledge about Israeli people, culture, and food throughout the year!