April 25, 2007

Students Celebrate Israeli Independence Day

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Along with hundreds of Cornell students, a camel on Ho Plaza celebrated the 59th anniversary of Israel’s independence yesterday. By the Hebrew calendar, yesterday’s cultural celebration commemorated the declaration of the state of Israel and the end of the British Mandate by David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.
The festival not only celebrated Israel’s 59 years of independence, but also educated Cornell students about the Israeli culture as Ho Plaza was alive with Israeli music, food, folk dancing and the famous free camel rides.
“Today is a non-political event to educate people about the Israeli culture. A lot of people hear the word Israel and immediately think about war and conflict because of what they see on the news, but this celebration will show the rich cultural aspects of Israel and all of its accomplishments over the past 59 years,” said Justin Weitz ’07, president of the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Ed Rosenthal, director of Cornell Hillel, said that, in its short history, Israel has largely contributed to the advance of society, as many recent innovations in medicine and technology have come from Israeli research. Rosenthal said even the technology behind the popular instant messaging programs on the Internet were developed in Israel.
Cornell’s Jewish Student Union, alongside with CIPAC and Hillel organized an event to celebrate and acknowledge all of the widespread contributions of the Israeli culture.
In Israel, according to Rosenthal, the celebration of its independence begins with the observance of a day of remembrance. Israeli citizens are obligated to serve in the army, thus this day is one of solemn reflection for many families. At noon, a two-minute long siren is sounded in commemoration for the lives lost at war. At this time, the country comes to a full stand still; cars even stop in the street.
At night, however, Israel comes to life, beginning the celebration of its independence. “While in the United States the 4th of July is about barbeques and fireworks, in Israel people are still alive who witnessed the beginning of independence in 1948, so it is a much more personal holiday,” Rosenthal said.
Students of many cultures appreciated Cornell’s version of the celebration. “I didn’t even know that it was the anniversary of Israel’s independence until I stepped into Ho Plaza today. I think it is nice that Cornell allows different cultures to express themselves and teach others about their heritage,” said Alejandro Haezaert-Caraveo ’09.