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Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) hosted about 300 members of the campus community to celebrate Palestinian culture Thursday night at the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom. The event was hosted in conjunction with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters at University of Michigan-Dearborn, Wayne State and Oakland University. 

Comedian and storyteller Majdy Fares performed live at the event and the Mawtini Dabkeh Troupe were featured in a traditional dance performance. The evening also included a Middle Eastern buffet style dinner and ended with an open dance floor for all attendees. All ticket sales and donations will go towards supporting Palestinian refugees in Jordan. 

Wayne State sophomore Miral Dakhlallah, who will be on board for the SJP Wayne chapter in the fall, said she was excited to attend the event, especially to see Dabkeh, a traditional Arabic folk dance performed at celebrations. 

“I hope this event brings awareness to the fact that we need to support Palestinian refugees, and that is in my opinion the biggest accomplishment of this event” Dakhlallah said.

Arabic music played throughout the night as attendees helped themselves to dinner. The menu included salad, pita bread, rice and lentils, Moroccan vegetable stew, shish tawook, and cookies. A Kahoot game invited all attendees to test their knowledge on Palestine culture, art, music and dance traditions. 

The Dabkeh performance was welcomed with cheers and claps to the beat of the drums. Almost everyone rose to their feet to get a better glimpse of the performers, who wore traditional head scarves while dancing. The group danced energetically and performed a series of foot-stomping steps to the beat.

The culture night was the grand finale after a weeklong series of events for Palestine Awareness Week, an initiative that began in 2005 in an effort to increase awareness around the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the human rights violations Palestinians face. Other events this week included Tatreez Night, Palestinian Futurism in Art and Film, Printmaking in Organizing in collaborate with the United Asian American Organization and Art as Resistance with Islamic Arts Lecturer Dr. Sascha Crasnow.

Oakland University freshman Deema El-Baba, vice president of the SJP Oakland University chapter, said her grandparents were Palestinian refugees and that she was happy to have the opportunity to support, plan and create Thursday’s event to support other refugees as well.

“I wanted to see the culmination of my culture across people from Michigan,” El-Baba said. “It’s so nice to see so many people here, not just Palestinian people, and it is so nice to celebrate Palestinian pride and the fight for Palestinian freedom.”

Maitham Khanafer, an international student from Lebanon at Eastern Michigan University, said he attended the event with friends in order to celebrate Palestinian culture.

“It is always nice to see my Middle Eastern brothers and sisters, and I am stoked to see what is going to happen tonight, eat some good food, see some dances and have a good time,” Khanafer said.

LSA junior Salma Hamamy said Palestinian art forms such as paintings, embroidery and dance are expressions of resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Hamamy said without justice for Palestinian lives, there cannot be peace.

“Our existence is a form of resistance, yet we need to learn what it means to be in touch with our culture and our heritage,” Hamamy said. “How do we learn how to use this as a form of resistance? We need to form a deep relationship with our culture and not be embarrassed about it.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at