Volume 96, Issue 66
Tuesday, January 28, 2003

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Israel Day celebrated

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Colourful posters, information booths and cultural foods filled the University Community Centre atrium yesterday in celebration of Israel Day.

Organized by Western's Jewish Students' Union, the event showcased Israeli culture and attempted to dispel inaccurate media portrayals of Israel, said JSU President Paul Rakowski.

Framed by a backdrop of the Wailing Wall, a religious and cultural monument in Jerusalem, Rakowski spoke of the London Jewish community and other Jewish organizations' attempts to convey the message of Middle East peace.

"Israel is a land of multiculturalism," Rakowski said, adding one of the objectives of Israel Day is to communicate a message of peace.

Rohan Belliappa, a second-year honours business administration student, described the event as boisterous and full of energy. "It's nice to look at what Israel is all about," he said.

Other observers were more critical of the information Israel Day organizers chose to promote.

A third-year Canadian-Palestinian student, who chose to withhold his name, said too much emphasis was placed on Israel as a state, and failed to address serious issues concerning human rights and the ongoing turmoil in the region.

"Before you celebrate your culture, you need a just law," the student said, noting concern with recent incursions by the Israeli army that have left 13 Palestinians dead.

Salam Al-Attar, a first-year science student, acknowledged the political delicacy of the situation, but called for improved relations between Muslims and Jews.

"If [Israel's] message is peace to the world, then they should, morally, include Palestinians," Al-Attar said, adding all cultures and religions should be accepted.

Jesse Guberman, director of communications and public affairs at the Israeli Consulate-General in Toronto, said Israel is a strong democracy which respects the rights and freedoms of individuals.

"Israel stands as a beacon of hope in the Middle East," Guberman said, adding Israelis will never abandon their values.

"[Israel Day] is a testament to the people and the state of Israel," Guberman explained.

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