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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Hillel Foundation brings Israel to Arizona with annual IsraelPalooza

Robert Alcaraz / Arizona Daily Wildcat Ben Berger, a sophomore, pours tea for friend Shahar Ben-Yelshaua during Israelpalooza on the UA mall on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.

“Welcome to Israel.”

The sign hung on the Mall, welcoming students to Hillel Foundation’s annual IsraelPalooza, where attendees could learn about Israel and its culture. The event lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

A tent housed a variety of stations, and nearby informational posters allowed students to learn about Israeli culture as they sipped Turkish coffee, used Dead Sea salt scrubs and participated in a variety of other activities.

“We wanted to bring Israel to campus through food, music, art and different aspects of Israel,” said Shani Knaani, Hillel’s Jewish Agency Israel fellow. “Basically we were looking for a non-boring way to bring Israel to campus, to the Jewish community and to the public.”

Students and others involved in Hillel volunteered for the event and set up in the morning. Those involved in organizing IsraelPalooza stressed the benefits of teaching people about the Israeli culture.

“I really feel that people don’t always know what Israel really is about and that we should show them how great Israel can be,” said Ben Berger, a religious studies sophomore and one of the event’s organizers.

Throughout the day, students stopped to learn about Israel, make kabbalah bracelets to ward off misfortune and learn about different cities in the country, amongst other activities.

“I’ve never seen this before so it was cool to come and see it,” said Stephanie Venalonzo an aerospace engineering sophomore. “You open your mind a little to other things that are around on the campus, not just focusing on academics. It’s something diverse.”

Also at the event was a representation of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where attendees could write a note and place it within the ‘wall.’ It is traditional to write a prayer or request on the note with the belief that a note between the stones will get to God, Knaani said.

The notes written on campus during the event will be taken to Jerusalem over winter break during the UA Hillel’s birthright trip, and will be placed in the real Western Wall, Knaani added.

Following the event, some organizers commented on the importance of finding more ways to engage with people.

“We want to bring Israel in a positive way to the U of A campus,” Knaani said, “outside of the classroom, and in a fun way that people will want to explore and will gain as much as they can from the information we have here and the different aspects of Israel.”

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