Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Texas Hillel hosts annual Israel Block Party

Manoo Sirivelu
Students line up for catering at Texas Hillel’s 24th Annual Israel Block Party on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

Texas Hillel held its 24th annual Israel Block Party on Tuesday.

The event is the largest pro-Israel event on a college campus in North America and aims to “unite and educate the polarized student body through (the) celebration of Israel’s amazing culture, strength and resilience,” according to its website. The year’s theme was “Hatikvah Shelanu” which translates to “Our Hope.” 

Rabbi Stephanie Max, the executive director of Texas Hillel, said when she interviewed for her role last year, the Block Party was one of the first events she attended. She said events like the Block Party help students learn about Israel.

“For me, there’s this moment of coming full circle or back to where I started on campus,” Max said. “The mission and vision of Hillel is to empower Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life and learning and this is a big piece of it.” 

The event consisted of booths about music and culture, Israeli food and a tribute to hostages held in captivity by Hamas following the Oct. 7 attack. One hundred thirty-four chairs were lined up on Speedway with photographs of the hostages, balloons and yellow flowers.

“The choice of the color yellow, I think, has been emblematic of solidarity with the families of the hostages and the hostages themselves,” Max said. 

Atidna, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to solidify Jews, Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians as one cohesive group, chose to be on Speedway as a middle ground between the Block Party and subsequent protests, according to Elijah Kahlenberg, president and founder of the UT chapter. 

“We’re one family, and we’re not inherent enemies,” said Kahlenberg, a Middle Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies and government junior. “We’re trying to promote dialogue, get people in this in a similar space to have conversations that might be tough. They might just have questions, but (we want) to show that you can be in a space with Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians and have these conversations — especially amid the most divisive time on campus.”

Advertising senior Danielle Tauber said she attended the Block Party to be in what she considers an uplifting environment and to spread awareness about Israeli culture.

“It can feel really isolating and lonely in a time where there’s so much hate,” Tauber said. “But just to show up and show (there’s a community for) Israel no matter how much hate there has been … when you sit down to have conversations and are open to dialogue, I think that’s where change happens.”

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