Courtesy of Annabelle Raz

May 1, 2024

Cornell Celebrates Annual Israel Week

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This upcoming week, from May 1 to May 7, Cornell will celebrate its annual Israel Week, run by Cornell Hillel. The week will focus on Israeli culture and traditions, with events ranging from a book fair to a food market, Tel Aviv Bar Night to Israel Shabbat and so much more. 

There has never been a more critical time for Israel Week. Presently, an encampment stands on the Arts Quad, where only a few days ago protestors chanted together, “There is only one solution, intifada revolution” and “globalize the intifada.” This “intifada” they mention is referring to the First and Second Intifada, two Palestinian uprisings which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Calls for another intifada revolution are calls for violence against Israel and those who support Israel’s right to exist. Calls to “globalize” the intifada are worse. There are no other Jewish states around the world, so calling to globalize the intifada can only mean one thing — to carry out violence against those who support Israel around the world. Such calls are so incredibly antisemitic that they were denounced by Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina, who stated, “We are also deeply distressed by chants made at some of the rallies near the encampment, particularly the phrase, ‘There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution.’ The protesting group has repeatedly stated that their protest is political and not antisemitic, but these chants belie that claim.”

Clearly, there has never been a more pressing time for those who love Israel to join together and celebrate the country which is so important to their cultural and religious identities. Mostly, this encompasses the Jewish population at Cornell, whom Hillel has been encouraging to attend. After two semesters of being bombarded with antisemitism from students and professors alike, both in person and online, Jewish students deserve a week to celebrate the only country in the world where they will always find security and Jewish pride. This week is also important for other students, however: those who have only been fed negative information about Israel. This is an opportunity for them to expand their viewpoints, to learn about the incredible diversity and mesh of cultures that make up Israel; it is an opportunity to truly understand what makes this tiny country (it’s only slightly larger than New Jersey) so incredibly important to so many of their peers. 

The week will begin with an Israel-themed book fair on Wednesday from 1-4 p.m. on the Agriculture Quad. The fair will hold a selection of books — including novels and graphic novels — by Israeli authors for purchase, including The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi and more. The stall will also include a table of poetry, where passersby can take a poem from a box of poems about Israel or write their own. 

Thursday will continue Israel week with a “shuk” (Hebrew/Arabic for “market”) on the Arts/Agriculture Quad. From 11-2 p.m., students can experience a culinary journey throughout Israel through food. This selection is expected to include the food of some of the many different cultures which call Israel home: Yemenite, Ethiopian, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, Bedouin, Druze, Armenian, Arab and general Israeli food. At this stand people can also write notes to IDF soldiers which will be sent to Israel. 

That evening is Tel Aviv Bar Night called “#WeWillDanceAgain,” which has become a slogan after the Nova Music Festival Massacre on Oct. 7. The beach-themed event promises to hold lots of fun, while also maintaining a somber undertone in light of what it memorializes — the almost 300 people killed, 40 captured and many more injured while innocently partying with friends and family. There will be information about the massacre at the event and ways to donate to survivors. 

Friday will also hold two events: An afternoon Krav Maga Workshop with the Center for Jewish Living and an Israel-themed Shabbat at 104West. At this Shabbat dinner, students will enjoy Israeli food and learn fun facts about Israel. 

The fun continues on Saturday with Israel Trivia Night at Willard Straight Hall, with categories ranging from Israeli history to geography, food to famous Israelis and more. 

Israel Week will take a pause for Sunday and Monday to recognize the international holiday of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. It seems appropriate for Israel Week to lead into Yom Hashoah, as the Holocaust and Israel will forever be intrinsically connected. If there had been an Israel before the Holocaust, we would not be mourning the six million lives brutally lost. And thanks to the creation of Israel in 1948, tens of thousands of survivors who saw no possible future in Europe were able to rebuild their lives in their indigenous homeland, surrounded by other Jews to care for them. Hillel will be having a Yom Hashoah event on Sunday, where speaker Ernest Brod will share his story of survival from Nazi-controlled Austria. 

Israel Week will continue and conclude after Yom Hashoah with an Israeli barbeque at Hillel on North on Tuesday night — a tasty ending to a fun-filled week. 

A week of remembrance for both the Holocaust and Oct. 7, of fun and celebration, of culture, community and learning, Israel Week promises to have it all. We ask you to come to these events with an open mind; to keep things peaceful, and to remember that this week is a celebration of a culture and a people — be respectful, and enjoy. 

Jenna Ledley is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].