Students celebrate 50th Israeli Independence Day

Students for a Free Palestine attend festivities to educate others

by Benjamin Clark and Michelle Becker

Students celebrated the 50th anniversary of Israel's independence outside of Wilder on Thursday afternoon. A chalking on the sidewalk by Wilder Bowl read, "Happy 50th Birthday Israel!"

The Oberlin Zionists and Hillel sponsored the festivities. A student klezmer small orchestra played on the porch of Wilder, while students listened on the porch and danced on the sidewalk. The celebration observes the day Israel was declared a state. A large cake decorated with the flag of Israel was served to students outside of Wilder.

"It's a chance to be glad of the fact that my people have a home, after thousands of years of not having one," sophomore Shawn Steiman said.

Senior Joshua Kaye said, "It's important to support the state of Israel, and today we celebrated with food and dance."

"I think what stands out the most to me was the incredible klezmer orchestra," senior Melissa Preger said. "I've been here for four years and since my freshman year, there's been a big difference in the support or lack of support for Israeli Independence Day."

Preger said she was surprised by the unwillingness of members of the Jewish community to dance. A small number of students danced to the music of the klezmer orchestra.

The space of Wilder Bowl was reserved solely for the festivities of Israel's 50th anniversary. The presence of the Students for a Free Palestine in the middle of Wilder Bowl caused Director of Security Keith James to ask the group to leave.

Junior Erica Seager said, "They have a right to say what they want to say, as long as they don't interfere with our celebration."

Members of the Students for a Free Palestine set up a table to educate students on campus about various issues, including the alleged human rights abuses of Palestinians in Israel. A Palestinian flag waved above the table as students read with interest the information that was made available.

First-year John Partridge said, "We are out here giving the other side of Israel's history. There are a lot of things that have to be honestly criticized."

The same day of the founding of Israel, some Palestinians observe "al-nakba," or "the catastrophe." Over 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from Israel in 1948, according to U.N. estimates.

"The group of students reserved Wilder Bowl for their celebration," James said. "I recognize that they followed the policies and I encourage the Students for a Free Palestine group to do the same in the future."

Representatives of the group refused to move their table from Wilder Bowl, despite James' request.

"We didn't disrespect or impede on anything during their celebration," junior Angela Migally said. "This is my free speech."

According to Schedule Manager of the Student Union Kathy Drennan, students can reserve the entire Wilder Bowl for various events.

Sophomore Atif Aziz said they would not move because the entire Bowl wasn't being used. He said he saw no reason for them to leave when no tables or stands were on the grass of Wilder Bowl.

"I apologize for not going through the process. I didn't know," Migally said. "I feel bad people took this in a bad way, but the two groups cannot be separated. It's important that there is a presence so people don't forget."

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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 23, May 1, 1998

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