Last month, from May 23 to May 27, Anteaters for Israel hosted the 4th annual “iFest,” a festival of Israeli culture on UC Irvine’s campus in celebration of Israel’s 63rd birthday. The week-long event is designed specifically to be apolitical, so as to be more appealing to the common college student. The week is divided into specific events for each day.
Monday featured a free barbecue booth on Ring Road at noon. On Tuesday, the festival featured a pub night at UCI’s pub to allow students to try some “Israeli fermented drinks.” Thursday saw a performance by UCI’s own dance crew, Kaba Modern, at the flagpoles at noon. That same night, the festival hosted its famous night club party, “Electric Garden,” featuring DJ David Dann; the party is meant to give students a feel for the night life atmosphere of Tel Aviv. On Friday, students gathered at the Student Center for a free Shabbat dinner. In addition, AFI hosted an Israeli market and vendor fair on Ring Road from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Students were able to enjoy the free Aroma hookah lounge in a traditional Bedouin tent. They also had the opportunity to enter the iFest iPod Challenge; students enter a wooden tunnel, the inside of which is coated with facts about Israel. They’re given 60 seconds to memorize as much information as they can. At the end, they are given a quiz. Quizzes with the highest scores are then entered into a raffle to win a free iPod. In addition, the festival featured the live music of DJ Slander the entire week on Ring Road.
“iFest was a lot of fun this year,” said Eitan Karni, a first year undergraduate at UCI. “I’ve never seen it before. I’m really glad not only Jews and Israelis could share it, but many other people could as well.”
“I don’t know how many campuses can attract such a crowd with a festival about Israel,” said Eliena Mahgerefteh, a second-year undergraduate at UCI. “I’m lucky enough to be at UCI where I experience the fun of it.”
iFest this year came two weeks after the Muslim Student Union’s Anti-Zionist Week, just after the tension of the controversial political week had dissipated from the campus. Jewish students often look forward to iFest as a way to end the year on a positive note. The festival is entirely student-run and student-organized. The funding comes in primarily through independent donors and grants from the Jewish community in Orange County and beyond.
The co-sponsors of the event are: Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Anteaters & Medicine Abroad, Chabad of UCI, Christians United for Israel, Green Campus Coalition, Law School Preparation Fellowship, the UCI LGBT club (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) MyLife@UCI, myUCIrvine, Orange County Hillel, Phi Delta Epsilon, Russian Club, TGIF – The Green Initiative Fund and The Dean’s Fund.
The Jewish community co-sponsors of iFest are: The David Project, Hasbara Fellowships, Israeli Leadership Council, Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County, Jewish World Watch, Legacy Heritage Fund, Rose Project, StandWithUs, and Women’s Council for Hillel.