Earlier this month, over 1,000 students gathered on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans to celebrate Zionism. Defined as “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel,” the term has been hijacked in recent years by anti-Israel advocates who have attempted to redefine Zionism as racism.
The April 12 DYF (Declare Your Freedom) Music Festival was described to the Salomon Center as “unabashedly Zionist” by event co-founder Chloe Valdary. Headlined by international Hip Hop Reggae artist Matisyahu, the music, arts, and culture festival did not shy away from any aspects of Israeli life and the history of the Jewish State.
“We are really proud of this festival as it is the only festival completely run by students and which celebrates Zionism. We had tents on the quad, each of which represented a different aspect of Zionism or Israel,” explained Valdary. “One tent displayed signs and posters conveying the indigenous status of Jews in the land of Israel. Another talked about the totality of Zionism, and celebrated all of the founding fathers of Zionism, from Ben-Gurion to Jabotinsky to Lechi. We also promoted the rights of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria.”
Valdary continued, “What we found most fascinating about this festival is that most people who attended were non-Jews. Often times, we hear the saying that it’s a mistake to bring up issues that are “too political” or “too controversial.” But the way we conveyed our message actually transcended politics and controversy to the point where people not only agreed with our message, they celebrated it. This is a huge accomplishment!”
In addition to the majority of attendees not being Jewish, the same could be said for the event speakers.
African-American Pastor Dumisani Washington and Muslim Zionist Kasim Hafeez were two of the many non-Jewish supporters who addressed the crowd. Israel Defense Forces Reservist Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, a favorite speaker of the pro-Israel community, was one of the Jewish voices that spoke to the Zionist celebration.
“DYF does something that the Jewish pro-Israel community has failed to do for the past couple of decades – set a narrative,” explained event co-founder Maor Shapira. “We are not reactionary, we are not apologetic, and we are not defending ourselves. We set the tone. And in so doing, inspire others to do the same.”
A similar DYF festival took place the following Tuesday at Indiana University. According to Shapira, schools in Florida, New York, Tennessee, Canada, and Australia are looking to bring the celebration of Zionism to their campuses.