Yom Ha’atzmaut is particularly special this year as Israel celebrates its 70th year of existence. College campuses across the country have been celebrating by throwing various birthday parties for Israel.
According to a press release from the Celebrate 70 campaign, the celebrations started on April 2 and will continue until April 26. By that time, there will have been events taking place at 73 college campuses in the United States and Canada that will feature a Tel Aviv-esque beach party theme.
“For years, BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] has worked to slander Israel and attack its supporters on campus,” Andrew Borans, the executive director of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), said in the press release. “On this special birthday, we will counter this hate by bringing to life the fun, passion, and inspiration that emanates from Israel’s people and vibrant culture.”
One such campus was UCLA, which held its Celebrate 70 event on April 14 during UCLA’s Bruin Day, an event tailored to prospective students and their families to learn more about the school and the programs it has to offer. Julian Markowitz, AEPi’s Director of Israel Engagement, told the Journal in a phone interview that around 250-300 people attended the Celebrate 70 event.
“We gave out a couple hundred ice creams to students, prospective students [and] their families, we displayed with great pride our Israel-themed surfboards and surf arts, we set up our surf shack-style furniture and décor, and we invited local students to partake in our celebration,” Markowitz said.
There were no anti-Israel BDS protests in response to the Celebrate 70 party on campus. Markowitz speculated that this was because any counterprotests would have been a bad look for the anti-Israel crowd.
“The way we framed our message was so overwhelmingly positive that it would have been very challenging for them to oppose it and not look like meanies,” Markowitz said, adding that he had chosen the idea of a beach-themed party because it was “universally positive.”
“Everyone likes a birthday party,” Markowitz said. “Everyone likes the beach, surfing, and surfboard[s].”
Borans told the Journal in a phone interview that thus far there have yet to be any counterprotests to the Celebrate 70 events across the country, even on campuses like Wayne State University that have anti-Semitic organizations on campus.
“I was concerned about some violence, I was concerned that people would get mad, and… zero. Zero of that,” Borans said.
Borans added that the Celebrate 70 events have given AEPi and other pro-Israel groups the opportunity to educate students and prospective students about Israel’s advancements in technology, humanitarian efforts and how they respect the rights of minorities.
“We gave it to people and they were like, ‘Wow, is this really the case?’” Borans said. “A lot of eyes lit up.”
Borans believes that by the end of April 26, they will have reached 50,000 to 80,000 students.
“We’re thrilled,” Borans said. “There’s never been anything like this attempted before.”
More information about the Celebrate 70 campaign can be found at https://www.celebrate70.info/.