Fashion event promotes ties between Oklahoma and Israel, but also draws protesters (2024)

A demonstration was held to protest Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Gaza

Carla HintonThe Oklahoman

An event focusing on fashion recently held at the First Americans Museum to celebrate Oklahoma Indigenous and Israeli cultural connections drew supporters and protesters.

"Fashionably Tied: Oklahoma and Israel Common Threads" was hosted on Tuesday by Oklahoma Israel Exchange, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit that works to promote goodwill, understanding and collaborative partnerships between Oklahoma and Israel.

The event drew a crowd of more than 250 for a meal that highlighted elements of Indigenous, Oklahoma and Israeli cuisine. A fashion show featuring the fashions of the Israeli fashion house Maskit, and products were displayed by Sulphur-based Mahota Textile, a design house bringing Southeastern tribal aesthetics to home and fashion. Before and after dinner, attendees were encouraged to shop and purchase Maskit fashions items and Mahota Textile products.

In addition the hundreds of attendees, the event also drew protests from about 15 members of an Indigenous group who stood in the public right-of-way at the museum's entrance. Some of the protesters with Indigenous Liberation Collective waved Palestinian flags and held signage with messages like "Fashionably tied to genocide" and "Our ancestors didn't fight genocide for you to profit off it."

The fashion-focused event initially been planned for the latter part of October 2023, but it was rescheduled after Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and the resulting war between Israel and Hamas. Edie Roodman, executive director of Oklahoma Israel Exchange, informally called OKIE, quickly coordinated "A Night to Stand With Israel," which was held at the museum, 659 American Indian Blvd., in place of the planned fashion show.

"A Night to Stand With Israel" was a somber event featuring prayer, messages of support from several Oklahoma leaders and the personal accounts of Israelis in the aftermath of the Hamas attack.

More: Oklahoma crowd shows solidarity at 'A Night to Stand with Israel"

Wednesday's event was much more festive, although OKIE leaders and others spoke of an Israel that continues to reel from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Roodman thanked attendees, some of whom modeled Maskit fashions during the fashion show segment of the evening.

"It was a long journey to get here," she said, referring to the event rescheduling and the many ways Israeli life and Jewish life has been impacted by the Hamas attack and ensuring war.

Though it wasn't the central focus of the evening, it was obvious that the event with Israel as one of its primary focuses would include references to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, the Israel-Hamas war, hostages still being held by Hamas and plight of Palestinians in war-torn Gaza.

One of the event organizers, told guests that while they were there for a "glamorous event" promoting the strong bond between the state of Israel and Oklahoma, the evening was also an opportunity to reflect on the separation of families, hunger and displacement occurring during the humanitarian crisis amid the war.

Roodman encouraged guests who had not shopped among the fashions and products to do so and consider it a way to support Israel. She said OKIE promotes advocacy, goodwill and mitzvah, which means commandment and a good deed in Hebrew.

"Even from halfway around the world, one of the reasons you can support Israel is by supporting its businesses," she said.

Roodman said she did not know anything about the Indigenous Liberation Collective group that demonstrated at the museum's entrance, but she understood that the group's members aligned themselves with the people of Gaza.

"None of us wants to see suffering in Gaza," she said. "No human being with a heart wants to see suffering in Gaza and that goes for Israelis and the Jewish community and the the general community ― that's heartbreaking."

She said the demonstrators had a right to protest "and that's the beauty of our country."

"We have the right to express ourselves in a manner that is dignified and respectful and I applaud that because I want to know that I have the freedom to do that when the time is right," Roodman said. "But, I will say that you have to pick and choose carefully where you're going to throw up your flag, so to speak, and a cultural event that celebrates community and bringing people together may be counterproductive."

Avery Underwood, 24, who is Seminole Comanche and Kiowa, was among the individuals participating in the demonstration. He said the Indigenous Liberation Collective was made up of Indigenous people and their allies.

U.S. Army veteran Robert Radcliffe, 54, said he was an Indigenous Liberation Collective ally taking part in the demonstration for several reasons.

Radcliffe said he befriended a Palestinian man from the West Bank who served as an interpreter for his military group while he was serving in Afghanistan. He said some of the interpreter's family members were killed when they refused to move from the West Bank. Radcliffe said he also did not think U.S. dollars should go to Israel when America could use the money to tackle its own problems.

Fashion event promotes ties between Oklahoma and Israel, but also draws protesters (2024)

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