A celebration was held Wednesday to mark Israel's independence from Great Britain and the realization of the centuries-old dream of a state for the Jewish people.
The cheerful celebration held in Wilder bowl was organized by the Oberlin Zionists, with members of Oberlin's Jewish community taking part as well as non-Jewish students, which was one of the group's goals.
"The relevance of this area's history goes back for longer than people have been keeping track. We are here with pamphlets about cultural and political movements that are going on now because we all need to share what we've got. There is more out there that isn't here but we've got to show what we know," said senior Ali Gothelf, President of the Oberlin Zionists.
Celebrants did traditional Israeli folk dancing and ate a large chocolate cake decorated with the Israeli flag in blue and white frosting. Throughout the hour-and-a-half event, traditional folk music was playing while celebrants brought in more and more onlookers.
Junior Shawn Steiman focused on the significance of the events. He said, "One can see it as a global sign of hope that persecuted people can get autonomy at some point."
Meanwhile, a day before the clebration, members of Students for a Free Palestine were distributing information about the 5 million Palestinians who have their homes and relatives in Israel. Senior Shira Schlesinger emphasized that the group is not calling for the destruction of Israel. Instead, she said "Palestinian students are not well-represented. This population should be acknowledged."
Another member of SFP, junior Angela Migally, said, "I feel the Israeli folk dancing is confrontational. There will be no recognition of the Palestinian cause. We are here to remember that it's not over. It is imperative that people remember the reality of today."
SFP circulated petitions, one to be sent to U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright to apply pressure to the Israeli government to end human rights abuses, and a second to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ID card confiscation in Jerusalem. Participants in the Independence Day celebration did not directly address of the issue of Palistinian self rule, saying that it was not what the day was about. "That's not what today is about. Our group is not affiliated with the right or left wing. It's a place to talk about this issue. We have stuff out here about alliances being made," said Gothelf. "We're here because there are things we are proud of. We're out here because of the alliances and progress that has been made."
Many of the onlookers and participants said the day was a good opportunity for members of the Jewish community to be seen. College Senior Erica Seager said "There is a large Jewish community here. It is important for us to come together, and other people as well."
"It reminds everybody how important Israel is," first-year Rachel Garland said. "It's nice to have different cultures represented, and this is a place where people can see it."
First-year Emily Hoffman said, "It connects every Jew. This is important because Israel gets a lot of coverage but it usually is not good. This is good for people to see that it's not all terrorist bombings and violence."
Celebration: Students recognize Israeli independence on Wednesday with traditional folk dancing. (photo by Rachel Pillsbury)
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 127, Number 21, April 23, 1999
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