On Thursday, October 30, the Israel Club sponsored Israel Fest, an event that included both a discussion and cultural celebration of Israel. The event started with a lecture given by visiting speaker Neil Lazarus titled, “Israel in the Changing Middle East.” Lazarus is an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of Middle East politics and Jewish educator whose website, AwesomeSeminars.com, aims to increase students’ ability to advocate for Israel.
Lazarus’s discussion focused on the escalation of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas that began over the summer and the ongoing issues in the greater Middle East. He emphasized that none of the parties currently involved in Gaza are happy with the status quo and that change must be imminent in the region. In his opinion, Hamas terrorism needs to be dismantled while all parties involved in the Middle East need to expand the education of young citizens. According to Lazarus, 42 percent of Gaza’s population is under the age of 14, and 62 percent is under the age of 26. He emphasized the importance of education and economic growth in the region, which could combat terrorists’ ability to recruit.
Lazarus also discussed his belief that Iran’s nuclear program is the biggest security threat in the world. He feels that Iran poses a bigger threat to the world than even the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
During the discussion, students were able to interact with Lazarus and ask questions.
“It was great to have someone with a unique and experienced background in dealing with all Middle Eastern politics speak at Colgate. As a dual citizen of Great Britain and Israel, he has a different perspective and he wasn’t afraid to criticize both parties involved in the issue in talking about the need for a change in the status quo both in Israeli and Palestinian political circles,” President of the Israel Club junior Adam Basciano said. “It was a great follow up to the Shimon Peres conversation from last week.”
This discussion was part of the Fall 2014 Middle East Forum Series in which various departments and student organizations such as the International Relations Council and the Religion and Jewish Studies departments worked together to organize open discussion lunches.
Following the lecture, a cultural celebration was held at the Philanthropy at Colgate (PAC) House where attendees enjoyed Israeli music, a mock-Jerusalem market that featured the traditional dried fruit and Israeli and Middle Eastern food catered from the Phoenician Restaurant in New Hartford.
Displayed throughout the festival were pictures and facts about Israel’s biggest cities. Participants in the Israel Club also set up a “Humans of Israel” station, which was modeled after the popular Instagram account “Humans of New York,” to showcase the various groups of people that comprise Israel’s population. The atmosphere of the event allowed students to become immersed in Israeli culture, giving them the opportunity to experience everything that Israel has to offer.
“I was really happy with the turnout to the celebration at PAC house and I hope people will be inspired to learn more not just about Israeli politics, but culture too because it really does have amazing cities and foods and music that people don’t necessarily always think about,” Vice President of the Israel Club junior Sara Sirota said.
There was a suggested $5 donation at the door that will be put toward the Israel Club’s yearlong philanthropy initiative “Innovation: Africa,” an organization that brings Israeli innovation to six subsaharan African countries. “Innovation: Africa” utilizes Israeli technology to provide rural villages with clean water, light, drip irrigation and refrigeration for lifesaving medicine.
“As someone who has been to Israel and loves Israel, it is important to show that Israel is not just a desert with camels, and that it shares many similarities with American culture,” Basciano said.