Annual Israel Fest celebrates blooming the desert, Israeli culture and food
Immersing in different cultures and witnessing how that culture operates offers students a chance to learn about other cultures, norms, beliefs and attitudes besides their own.
The Middle Eastern country Israel became the center of attention and spotlight on Nov. 16 with Israel Fest. The sights and sounds of the country were on display for MSU students and community members to partake in.
The Hillel Jewish Student Center, the Jewish Student Union and Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, hosted the annual event at the Union.
This year’s theme was all about “blooming the desert” and celebrating how Israel has lived up to this analogy through innovations in technology, the environment and politics, according to the event posting.
MSU political science and pre-law junior Brianna Carmona is a member of the club Spartans for Israel and member of the planning committee. She said blooming the desert is about how Israel basically is a desert and has emerged as one of the leaders in advancement of technology.
“The blooming part of it is that Israel has become the most technologically advanced place probably in the whole world,” she said. “Our concept was from the desert came all these resources that Israelis were able to come up with.”
Israel Fest opened the doors for people to come experience Israeli culture. There were multiple tables scattered around the ballroom that showcased different Israeli student organizations, art in Israel, Hebrew, women in Israel, technology in Israel, diversity and more.
“An event like this basically provides students with a taste of Israeli culture,” Carmona said. “We have the food over there, so you get to get a taste of Middle Eastern food and all these things (tables) are just different concepts of Israel, not just student orgs.”
Carmona said she likes putting on events like Israel Fest because of the Middle Eastern food and because of the various groups of different people that come out, including non-Jewish students and people of the community.
“I just love bringing the community together, not only the Jewish community but different MSU students from all over the place … anyone who is curious about Israel or just wanting to get to know more,” she said. “It’s just a really fun event.”
There was Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Israeli style food available for guests, such as falafel, hummus, spanakopita, Israeli salad, and a popular mediterranean dish among Americans: chicken shawarma.
There was a raffle that included a ton of free giveaways throughout the night and a virtual reality room where guests had the opportunity to put on virtual reality goggles, which showed users a virtual Israel.
MSU assistant professor of Hebrew Yore Kedem said having an event like Israel Fest is a great way to feature Israel and show off things they have done recently. It's also a way to promote his Hebrew program, academic courses and other things like the study abroad program, which goes to Jerusalem every year.
“It’s a way to feature Israel and to talk about the good things that Israel does and that are happening in Israel,” he said. “Specifically for my program, it’s a good way to enhance the visibility of the Hebrew program among students and other members of the community that are coming to this event.”
This is Kedem's second year as an assistant professor, and he said having an event as powerful as Israel Fest allows him to meet new students from all over and reconnect with some of his former students.
“The classes that we teach are not only about how beautiful and great Israel is ... but it's also about looking at things critically and in-depth and understanding how complex things are in Israel,” he said. “But this event is all about how great a place Israel is and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Kinesiology senior Jessica Sherbin serves as chair of Team Israel Programming Community on the executive board of Jewish Student Union. She said the theme of the event is a great way to show people how Israel has been an outlet in providing different resources.
“The concept on the theme was showing people and reflecting on the fact that Israel has provided lots of resources and a beautiful land in place,” she said. “We kind of just wanted to show how much years ago Israel has provided for the future of the state.”
Sherbin said Israel Fest gives students a chance to experience culture and things done in Israel that one might never have experienced in their life.
“It gives them a taste of Israeli culture, it gives them a feel for Israeli music, Israeli art,” Sherbin said. “It’s a non-political event kind of just showing the community the beauty in Israel ... the scenery and what it’s like to be there. It gives people the opportunity to travel back there.”