Israel Week at Elon promotes diplomacy, remembrance

Jewish Life is offering a variety of programs and events to mark Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Elon Hillel marks Israel Week, which began May 2 and lasts through May 6, with a visit by the Israeli Deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Ambassador Noa Furman, a commemoration of Israel Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) and a celebration of Israeli Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut).

Israel Week kicked off on Monday, May 2 with a conversation about the Israeli role in the UN, and the challenges of representing Israel at that international body. Furman spoke to a group of students and staff about how she and fellow Israeli diplomats work to change the conversation about Israel with the international community.

Rather than focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Furman prefers to promote Israeli achievements and leadership in the fields on hi-tech, agriculture and medicine. She cited a resolution condemning workplace sexual harassment brought to the floor of the UN by the Israeli delegation and passed by consensus as one of Israel’s successes in international diplomacy work at the United Nations.

As part of the work of Jewish Life, Elon students have many opportunities to be involved with Israel on campus, from participating in Birthright and Onward Israel, celebrating Israeli holidays, cooking and tasting Israeli food, celebrating Israeli culture and innovation, and providing opportunities for internships, programs and study abroad.

“Our Israel-related goal at Elon is simple, and is derived from Hillel International’s Israel vision. We aim to inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful relationship to Israel,” explained Director of Jewish Life Betsy Polk. “We encourage our students to love Israel, and to also ask questions and make space for open and respectful conversations that are inclusive of all viewpoints.”

On the evening on May 4, students will gather at Hillel with Israel Fellow Amit Melchior and Israel Chairs Lauren Smith and Mandi Lichtenstein to mark Israel Memorial Day. The program will include conversations with lone soldiers who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) and are completing their mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and a chance to write letters to soldiers.

“Israel week connects us to our Jewish roots and ancestral homeland,” Smith said. “Sharing the sorrows of Yom HaZikaron and the celebrations of Yom HaAtzmaut, we actively engage in the conversation of why Israel matters not only to the Jewish people, but to the rest of the world.”

That celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut will take place in the backyard of Elon’s Sklut Hillel Center from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5. The festivities are free and open to all members of the Elon community.  Students will enjoy Israel snacks sponsored by the Hebrew club, participate in Israel Dancing, learn more about Israel’s vibrant culture and important role as the only representative democracy in the Middle East.