July 19, 2018 | ° F

Club hosts 'haflee' for Lebanese orphans

Just outside Multipurpose Room of the Busch Campus Center Friday night, the smells of Middle Eastern food and the sounds of traditional Lebanese music led students to a highly anticipated biannual party and charity event hosted by the Lebanese Society of Rutgers University.

"All students are welcome to come to the party, as long as they embrace Lebanese culture," said Lebanese Society member and organizer Maroun Soueid, a Livingston College sophomore.

About 200 people attended the event, which raised $2,000 to benefit orphaned children in war-torn Lebanon.

"Auxilia is a charity based in Lebanon," Soueid said. "We fund two or three orphans a semester. The organization gives them shelter, while we fund the children."

Lebanese Society President Vera Richa, a Rutgers College sophomore, said she felt much pride for hosting an event to celebrate Lebanese culture.

"Twice a year, we hold a haflee or 'traditional party,'" Richa said. "Lebanon has always been called the Paris of the Middle East, and unfortunately, after many wars, there was a lot of damage and destruction in Lebanon. We are trying to show that there is more to Lebanon than war and poverty. There is a whole other side people don't get to see."

King's Pita, a Middle Eastern restaurant located in the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus, catered the event, while Lebanese Society members provided entertainment.

George Saliba, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, went by the pseudonym "DJ Sheikh" for the night while he played Arabic music, as well as hip-hop and house.

Students danced the debka, was done while traditional music filled the room and musicians played traditional tubla drums.

Many people from the crowd gathered on the dance floor, took one another's hands and danced in time to the music.

Christina Elhaddad, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, put on a belly- dancing show.

"Belly-dancing is a folklore dance of the Arabs," she said. "It's a dance that includes a lot of body movement, especially the stomach and the hips and [demands] flexibility as well. I had to prepare at home for hours and hours. It requires a lot of patience."

Elhaddad said she feels connected to her Lebanese culture at the University.

"I am very proud to be Lebanese, especially in America, [which] allows me to project my culture," she said. "It makes me very proud to give a little to such a huge community like Rutgers University."

Matthew Homsi handles public relations for the Lebanese Society, though he is not Lebanese himself.

"The Lebanese club is inclusive of all people," he said. "I am not Lebanese. I am Syrian, but last year, when I joined, they welcomed me with open arms. It was fun, because I did not really know a lot of Arabic people when I came here."

Darshan Panchal is the society's vice president of communications.

"I am zero percent Lebanese, but one hundred percent at heart," said Panchal, who is of Gujurati decent. "The haflee is a really great function to have. Anyone can come - Egyptians, Pakistanis, Indians, Italians. We've got everyone here. It's always good to come out and learn about a culture and its dances."

Pablo Albilal

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