Students gather to celebrate Israel’s 60th

Gopher Israel and Hillel organized the enertainment and food for the event.

While conflict in Israel continues to resonate around the world, the University served as a place for celebration Thursday for roughly 500 Israel advocates.

Gopher Israel and Hillel, the University’s Jewish student center, observed the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment with Israeli music, a kosher buffet, a piñata and a camel on the Northrop Auditorium patio.

Julia Krieger, president of Gopher Israel, said the event was designed to showcase things people like about Israel rather than push a religious agenda.

“I don’t identify religiously as Jewish or Christian,” Krieger, a journalism and women’s studies junior, said. “I think it’s important for people to see Israel as an issue that goes beyond religion.”

Two people protested at last year’s on-campus Israeli birthday celebration, Krieger said, though none protested this year.

Internationally, Israel has received harsh opposition since its establishment in 1948, largely from pro-Palestinian groups.

Gopher Israel received about $6,000 in grants for the event from multiple donors, including Hillel, Krieger said.

Rafi Samuels-Schwartz, a Hillel employee, said the event was an educational opportunity for many students who aren’t otherwise exposed to the Israeli culture.

It also gave Israel supporters an opportunity to celebrate their pride, he said.

“It’s a way of showing the campus that yes, there are people who are very passionate about Israel,” Schwartz said.

University general counsel Mark Rotenberg was among the event’s speakers.

Rotenberg said he’s an active member of Minnesota’s Israeli community and came to show his support.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, as well as envoys for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, U.S. Sens. Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar’s offices were among others who spoke at the event.

Krieger said the bipartisan support was evidence of Israel being a “politically uniting issue.”