More than 100 students gathered in Kogan Plaza Thursday evening to show their support for Israel in the violent Gaza conflict that shook the country for several weeks.
Wearing blue and white ribbons, the colors of the Israeli flag, students at the rally shared personal stories and experiences to defend Israel and what it represents.
“It is an inexplicable feeling to land in Israel as a Jew,” said sophomore Natalie Lazaroff. “The second my plane lands I feel like I am home again.”
Lazaroff has been to Israel seven times, including a semester in high school and three months this past summer. She said she feels that the humanitarian crisis in southern Israel is being ignored and that the problems Israel faces would not be tolerated by any other country.
“I wanted to show my support for Israel because it is such a unique and important state,” junior Marc Friend said. “Not just only because it is the sole democracy in the Middle East, but also a refuge for persecuted Jews from all over the world.”
Sophomore Aliza Grossberg spent a year in Israel before college. She returned this past winter break and planned to reunite with a friend. The friend canceled suddenly when he was called to serve in Gaza. It was then that she fully realized the burden Israeli teenagers face in a country with a conscript military.
“Kids our age are fighting for the protection of their country. It made me realize how lucky we are,” Grossberg said.
Senior Benji Davis spent a semester volunteering at an elementary school in Israel. He said he had to dodge the Qassam rockets Palestinians launched into Israel.
Davis said he was playing a game in the schoolyard when a code red warning sounded, indicating that he and the students had 15 seconds to seek shelter. He rushed to a bunker where he heard a blast he compared to a special effect in a movie or video game. A rocket had landed 30 yards away.
“The terror in the kids’ eyes was just unreal,” Davis said. “I can’t even put it into words.”
Davis added that the turbulent environment produces children crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder and that unless conditions change, today’s children will become a “lost generation.”
“The rockets weren’t just causing damage and death, they were causing psychological damage,” Davis said.
After the rally, which lasted around a half-hour, the group walked to Hillel where Oren Anolik, counselor for political affairs at the Embassy of Israel, gave a lecture on the operation in Gaza and where Israel stands.
In response to criticism that the strikes have caused a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Anolik said that 1,600 trucks filled with supplies have been allowed to enter Gaza.
Anolik said Israel wants peace and normalcy for its citizens who have been living in fear for the past eight years, and that the strikes on Gaza have made progress. Many terrorists have been killed and rockets destroyed, but Anolik said it is crucial that Hamas be prevented from smuggling rockets into Gaza.
“Israel is using weapons to protect children,” Anolik said. “Hamas is using children to protect weapons.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (January 29, 2009)
The Hatchet misquoted senior Benji Davis as saying, “The rockets weren’t causing damage and death, they were causing psychological damage.” He said, “The rockets weren’t just causing damage and death, they were causing psychological damage.”