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The Hillels of Illinois
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Chicago, IL 60606
phone: (312) 444-2868
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email: hillel@juf.org

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phone: (312) 444-2868
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University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Celebrates Israel

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by Danielle Perlin, Hillel/JCRC Israel Initiative Intern

 

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Blue and white balloons decorated the University of Illinois main quad on Tuesday, April 19 in celebration of Israeli Independence Day. The smell of hummus and falafel filled the air, and the Hebrew music blasting from the radio helped bring Israeli culture to campus.
The week of April 12 was Israeli Peace Week at the University, and the week after was Israel Week, celebrating Israel's 62nd birthday. A plethora of programs and events were planned by Hillel, The American-Israeli Student Coalition (AISC), Jewish Education Team (JET) and IsraelIllini. These events were comprised of Israeli dancing, cultural group meetings, speakers and more.
Daniel Flesch, senior in Political Science, named Sgt. Benjamin Anthony's speeches as his favorite events. The British native talked to pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups on Tuesday, April 13, and he spoke with a purely Jewish crowd on Wednesday, April 14.
"The first night, he spoke as a soldier. He gave us numerous accounts of how the soldiers don't celebrate or rejoice after a battle. They cry; they write down their last will ... they're ultimately striving for peace," said Flesch.
Anthony has an organization called Our Soldiers Speak. According to its website, its mission is "to bring the IDF’s proud truth from the front line of Israel’s battlefields to the people of the Diaspora; wherever and whenever audience is granted."
"I'm going to remember his tone and the way he approaches the issue of the conflict in broad terms," said Flesch. "We can engage in these conversations with people who don't like what we have to say ... in a calm, collective manner."
The  events throughout the two weeks, including Anthony's speeches, were successful, according to Erez Cohen, Israel Programs Coordinator at Illini Hillel.
"We have seen greater numbers attend all events than in recent years, " he added. "More than that, this is the first time that the Jewish community of Champaign-Urbana, the Israeli community who work here and the student community are celebrating together."
Opening up the celebration to the community has helped foster new relationships with other student organizations. Cultural groups on campus, including the Turkish, Indian and Phillipino Student Associations, now have a connection with the Jewish community.
"These relationships [open] the campus to more opportunities in the future," said Cohen.

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