A live camel content to stand for selfies drew the attention of many students passing through the University of Georgia’s Tate Center plaza Wednesday, April 11.
It wasn’t clear how many students read a small poster on the camel’s wire corral, but Lee Setty, the president of Dawgs for Israel, said the poster addressed myths about camels and the Middle East.
“There’s a misconception that Israel is a just a desert with camels,” Setty said with a laugh. “We want people to know that it’s a modern, diverse society with different religious groups and cultures.”
That was one of the messages of this year’s Israel Fest, one of a series of similar programs held on college campuses in Georgia around the time of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.
Tables at the UGA Israel Fest were arranged in a semicircle, each one offering information about a different program or product from Israel.
There were products from the Dead Sea and a table allowing participants to “ask an Israeli,” an Israel Defense Forces veteran.
At the shuk, people were given “5 shekels” with which they could buy Israeli snacks. Aaron Brown, 23, a criminal justice major from Milledgeville, staffed the snack table and offered Cheeto-like treats that tasted like peanut butter.
“We want people to know there’s a lot that Israel has to offer,” he said, pointing to chocolate wafers and some chocolate drops. “And there’s much more to Israel than what you might see in a news story.”
At the Karma Coffee table, Ben Goldklang, 20, gave cups of Jittery Joe’s coffee to people who first took slips of paper suggesting mitzvot. He said he had given away about 150 cups of cold-brewed coffee, and the day wasn’t done.
Since he became involved with the program last fall, he estimates it has given out 3,000 cups of coffee.
“It just promotes positivity,” Goldklang said. Karma Coffee can be found at various events on the UGA campus.
Finance and economics major Alex Platt, 21, was encouraging passers-by to sign a giant poster for peace in the Middle East. He wasn’t sure where the poster would be displayed but said it was the third poster to be covered with signatures that day.
At the next table, Jake Estroff, 18, was busy writing people’s names in Hebrew. A graduate of the Epstein School, Estroff said he grew up learning Hebrew. He plans to visit Israel this summer for two weeks with his parents and siblings.
Hannah Kemelmakher, 20, was writing names in Russian, her native language. She said her parents left Russia because of persecution. She plans to earn a veterinary degree and a doctorate to do research and teach in a vet school.
Another table featured posters with information about Israeli companies. The country is home to 6,000 startups and has been the setting for the creation of unmanned drones, USB flash drives and the PillCam, a camera you can swallow so doctors can examine your digestive track. High-tech giants such as Intel, Microsoft and Apple have research centers in Israel, and the traffic app Waze was created there.
Pro-Israel students gave away blue and white cupcakes to celebrate Israel’s birthday. If you stopped at three stations, you qualified for a plate of food, and six stations earned you a T-shirt as well.