They came for the camel and stayed for the food and information.
“I just passed by and saw the camel and was like ‘Whoa!’ ” said student Jacque Nutter, 19, of Dacula. She snapped a selfie with Oscar, the dromedary camel standing on a rug in a small enclosure.
Oscar’s owner, Jeff Gray, said the 10-year-old camel is completely tame and loves being petted.
Many students, such as Sonny Phan, 20, saw the camel, then spent half an hour going from table to table, talking to the students staffing each one. At each table a visitor earned a stamp on an activities card, and a certain number of stamps meant a free T-shirt or free food.
Students could nosh on pita bread, falafel, salad and yummy dressings, as well as sweets.
At one table, Golda Adler, who is studying communication science and speech disorders, was selling challah loaves the size of cantaloupes for $4. It’s a weekly practice for students at Hillel at UGA: making bread, selling it and donating the money to organizations combating hunger in Athens.
Tessa Green, 19, was demonstrating how to make chocolate milk in a plastic bag at her table. Beside her, a young woman was talking about Israel’s humanitarian efforts and handing out cupcakelettes. Each featured the flag of a country where Israel provides aid and expertise.
Statistics major Claire Wong, 20, of Johns Creek was visiting each table with her family. “There’s a lot of stuff here,” she said, glancing around. “The camel, of course. But the technology stuff is really cool.”
Avi Lyons is a 19-year-old Atlantan who’s studying engineering and business. His was the technology table, showcasing some of Israel’s many high-tech companies. Among them were Zebra Medical Vision, which uses computers to read and diagnose medical images; ReWalk, which makes a wearable robotic exoskeleton to help wheelchair-bound people walk again; Mobileye, which makes vision and collision-avoidance technology for autonomous cars and is being bought by Intel, and Water Gen, which collects drinking water from the air and was demonstrated by Alan Dershowitz at the recent AIPAC Policy Conference.
Lyons has been to Israel twice and has met officials from some of the companies he was talking about. While he admires many companies, he said he would love most to work for Beit Issie Shapiro, which betters the lives of people who have disabilities.
At another table Karin Sowieja, 20, of Roswell said she was just passing by when she saw the camel and decided to see what was happening with the tables, the balloons and all the people.
“I love how much all these kids love the culture of Israel,” she said. “Events like this represent the diversity on campus.”
New to the celebration this year was a table staffed by Christians United for Israel, which expects to get up and running on campus soon, said Matthew Garces, 20, from Buford. He went to Israel last year, he said, “and it was the most impactful trip I’ve ever had.” Until he was in the country, he hadn’t realized how diverse and how tolerant Israel is. “People can practice their different faiths and live their beliefs,” he said. “It’s something we should be doing too.”
While Israeli music blasted from speakers, a small group of students stood nearby, yelling pro-Palestinian chants, until UGA police ushered them to another spot on the Tate Center grounds.