Wash U Students for Israel hosts IFest to promote positivity in Israel talks
Graffiti artists from Artists 4 Israel visited IFest, Wash U Students for Israel’s annual event, to paint a Washington University-themed mural in Edison Courtyard celebrating Israel and advocating for peace Tuesday.
Artists 4 Israel (A4I) is an organization that seeks to spread awareness of Israeli issues through the arts.Wash U Students for Israel changed the venue of the festival this year, holding it on a weekday outside the Danforth University Center instead of on the Swamp, and partnered with a dozen students groups, including fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi, College Democrats, College Republicans, Wash U Israel Public Affairs Committee, Nice Jewish Queers and more. The event also attracted a greater turnout this year than in past years, sophomore and Wash U Students for Israel president Paul Felder said.
Freshman and Chabad Student Association Secretary Stephen Yoffie felt that IFest was a successful event that helped unite the University’s Jewish community.
“Whenever we get the Jewish community together—which I think should happen more often—we always enjoy it,” Yoffie said.
Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis was another group that partnered with Wash U Students for Israel to put on IFest. Miriam Ross-Hirsch, director of programming and engagement for the group, noted that A4I employs artists from diverse backgrounds who do art therapy in Israel with those who have experienced trauma. The artists also paint murals and do graffiti in various communities to spread a message of peace.
Felder estimated around 1,000 students participated in the activities in some way with the help of A4I.
“We wanted to reach as many students as we could from all different types of backgrounds and engage them with Israel, even if they’ve never even heard of it,” Felder said. “We thought Artists 4 Israel was a really great way to do that.”Yoffie added that a lot of the talk surrounding Israel is negative and that event organizers hoped to create a more positive message within the surrounding discourse.
“Chabad’s goal, along with all of the other Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus, was to cut through a lot of the negativity around Israel and to show that we could have a fun, peaceful event,” Yoffie said.
Felder noted that although this year’s event drew larger turnout than usual, Wash U Students for Israel hopes to make IFest even bigger in future years.
“Something that we couldn’t have that we really want to do in future years is bring a camel or a petting zoo,” Felder said. “We had some trouble with the administration, but we’re looking to do that in the future.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify Miriam Ross-Hirsch’s statement on A4I’s work in Israel.