Ox­ford, city of dream­ing spires and per­spir­ing camels as Is­rael drops in

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY CANDICE KRIEGER

A LIT­TLE bit of Is­rael in­vaded Ox­ford this week — com­plete with hum­mus, pitta and camels. But this was no guer­rilla tac­tic de­signed to pre­empt an aca­demic boy­cott — merely the launch of the Ox­ford Is­raeli Cul­tural So­ci­ety (OICS).

Set up to co­in­cide with Is­rael’s 60th an­niver­sary, the so­ci­ety aims to com­bine main-street Eng­land and con­tem­po­rary Is­raeli cul­ture. On Mon­day, as part of its fort­night-long iFest, Ox­ford town cen­tre was turned into a miniIs­rael. More than 1,000 peo­ple gath­ered on Broad Street, closed es­pe­cially for the fes­ti­val, where they could ride camels, watch Is­raeli belly dancers and buy Is­raeli goods from a variety of mar­ket stalls.

On of­fer were books, Is­raeli cal­li­graphic art, Ju­daica, san­dals, head mas­sagers, and even a mini-Ko­tel in which mes­sages could be put be­fore be­ing de­liv­ered to Jerusalem.

Ox­ford Univer­sity stu­dent and OICS or­gan­iser Ja­cob Turner said: “We wanted to re­cre­ate what a Tel Aviv or Jerusalem mar­ket would be like.

“The pur­pose was to show peo­ple that there ex­ists an Is­rael be­yond the pol­i­tics. We weren’t try­ing to fo­cus on Is­rael’s cre­ation, but on Is­rael’s con­tri­bu­tion to the world.”

Sev­eral of the stalls, which in­cluded Dead Sea cos­met­ics Ahava, Steimatzky, Osem and Su­per Sue’s Chicken Soup, were pro­vided by Lon­don-based char­ity The Spiro Ark. Other spon­sors were the Lewis Fam­ily Trust, Mish­con de Reya and the Union of Jewish Stu­dents.

Pro-Pales­tinian sup­port­ers turned up to protest at the fes­ti­val en­trance and the Net­work of Ox­ford Women for Jus- tice and Peace held an hour-long silent vigil dressed in black cloaks. But Mr Turner said this did not mar the event.

“We knew they would be there. A lot of peo­ple said they could not un­der­stand what the protests were about,” he said.

“The fact that the day was about cul­ture and not pol­i­tics gives us the op­por­tu­nity in the fu­ture to hope­fully hold joint events with the Arab cul­tural so­ci­ety and even the Pales­tinian so­ci­ety. This is some­thing we would re­ally like to do.”

The iFest ( www.ifestox­ford.co.uk), which started on May 1, con­tin­ues next week with Is­raeli film screen­ings, talks on Is­rael’s med­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal in­no­va­tions and a club night ded­i­cated to Is­raeli mu­sic.

PHOTO: ALEXIS DARAS

Camel power: one of the hun­dreds of vis­i­tors who en­joyed the iFest

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