Block Party celebrates Israeli culture

Janelle Polcyn

Texans for Israel hosted their 18th annual block party, where participants ate traditional Jewish food, took pictures with camels and learned about the nation of Israel yesterday on the East Mall.

The purpose of the event is to educate students about Israeli culture, government, new technology and military. Texans for Israel is an affiliate of Hillel International, a Jewish organization that is present on 550 campuses worldwide.

“[It] is a celebration of the culture and heritage of Israel in an environment that encourages growth and understanding of the reality that is Israel,” said Jacob Przada, co-chair of Israel Block Party and international relations and global studies sophomore. “What we’re trying to do is help people understand the shared values between the United States and Israel.”

About 100 volunteers worked the event answering questions, serving food and welcoming people.

A volunteer at the block party, said even after living in Israel for a year, the country’s political situation is too complex to explain. 

“It’s not as black and white as it seems right now,” volunteer said. “There’s a lot of bad media about Israel. It’s easy to take a side without personally experiencing something. I lived in Jerusalem for a couple months, and I did see checkpoints, and I did see the wall they’re calling the apartheid wall. … Only 10 percent of it is a concrete wall; the rest is a chain link fence.”

Every year, the Palestine Solidarity Committee has protested at the block party. This year, they stood on the stairs across from East Mall and yelled chants against the apartheid.

“We view the Israel block party as an event to hide some of the crimes by the state of Israel,” said Ahmed Khawaja, electrical and computer engineering graduate student. “We can’t have people just hearing one side of the story.”

Texans for Israel have come to expect this group every year and in response, moved their question booth closer to the protesters so it is easily accessible for anyone who wants clarification on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

“[They are] one of the reasons we put our controversies and questions tent right up front,” said Jenna Conwisar, co-chair of  Israel Block Party and government sophomore. “There’s so many different organizations, different Israel groups and ways that we’re involved to try to better Israel, to try to better the relationship and build the community.”

This story has been updated since its publication to correct the reflected titles and names.