By Liam Hofmeister, inside editor
A flag of blue and white hung from a table. Biting into fresh falafel, Northeastern University students stood and talked about the religion and nation of Israel.
On Friday, Sept. 4 from 2 to 5 p.m., Huskies for Israel hosted an Israeli Cultural Festival on Centennial Common. Huskies for Israel organized in support of Israel’s right to exist, but the group also aims to teach the student population about Israeli life.
“We’re trying to showcase Israeli culture,” said Elizabeth Levi, president of Huskies for Israel and a third-year journalism major. “Israeli culture is very versatile, very diverse, because Israel is really made up of a country of immigrants.
The Israeli Cultural Festival was both Huskies for Israel’s premiere appearance at Welcome Week and its first event functioned by the Student Activity Fee.
Hundreds of students stopped by throughout the day to see what was happening at the festival. All students were welcome to join the festivities, whether they were interested in the club or not. Levi said she was just happy to spread some Israeli culture to campus.
On Centennial Common’s lawn, students played matkot, a popular paddle game played on the beaches of Tel Aviv. Levi said that in Israel, one finds “millions of men and women playing matkot all day.”
Later in the afternoon, Huskies for Israel served food. Trays of falafel, pita and hummus lined the information table, and a constant flow of students stopped by for something to eat.
“It’s notable that all of this food is vegan,” said David Zingher, a junior majoring in economics who was eating falafel. “[Vegan food] tends to be common in Israeli culture because of how you have to separate milk in every meal [for Kosher purposes].”
Drawing a line to Arabic culture, Zingher thought that a Kosher diet is similar to a Halal diet in their use of specific equipment for specific foods.
“Falafel can sell to anyone because there’s no animal products at all, which does very well for Arabs as well as Jews,” Zingher said.
Some features of the festival were not unique to Israel. Levi said that Huskies for Israel was happy to spread the greater culture of the Middle East rather than just focusing on Israeli culture.
A professional belly dancer going by the name Celia performed in the middle of Centennial Common throughout the afternoon, captivating students’ attention. She posed with scimitar swords for pictures, and Levi said the music playing simply had a “Middle Eastern vibe.”
As a filler activity, corn hole was set up on the lawn for attendants to play, and a caricature artist set his canvas on the lawn to draw cartoon portraits.
Through these activities, Levi said that Huskies for Israel is trying to show Israel in a new light, since the nation is often linked to controversial political issues.
“We try to educate people about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also Israeli culture, Israeli politics, because there’s a lot of politics within Israel that have nothing to do with the world context,” Levi said.
She wants students to be open to diversity and truly learn about the culture instead of relying just on published information.
“We really want to show the student population that there’s more to Israel then what they write in the newspaper,” Levi said.
Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Levi.