With the blue-and-white star and stripes of the Israeli flag waving in the background, over a hundred students gathered on College Green yesterday in an act of solidarity for Israel following the weekend's terrorist strikes. The rally, held at noon, featured a slate of student, political and religious speakers, all of whom emphasized that following the three suicide bombing attacks on Israel this weekend, Jewish Americans must demonstrate support for their sister country. "Israel, you are not alone," Adam Groveman, one of the event's five speakers, declared from the podium placed directly in front of College Green's notable peace sign. "To Mr. Arafat, we have a message - act now to stop terror and be a leader," the Wharton freshman continued. "Israel and Jews abhor war." The event was prepared by members of Penn's Jewish community after 26 civilians were killed, and 250 injured, in three separate incidents - two in Jerusalem and one in Haifa - of attacks by suicide bombers last weekend. Since the attacks took place, the terrorist sect Hamas has claimed responsibility for the incidents, and Israel has begun retaliation by striking the offices of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Groveman's testament to the Jewish and U.S. support for the state of Israel as it battles terrorism in the Middle East came in the middle of the program, which began with a statement by Hillel President David Kagan. "We stand here today to declare that terrorist attacks for any cause anywhere are unacceptable," the College senior said to begin the rally. But throughout the series of speeches, one of the themes that resonated strongest with the audience was the parallel between the recent attacks on Israel and the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on U.S. soil, a sentiment represented by the handfuls of American flags billowing next to the Israeli flag. "Most Americans understand that the war we are fighting against terrorism is the same war the United States is waging right now," Giora Becher, Consul General of Israel, said in his address to the dozens of students who quietly and attentively waved Israeli flags as they watched. "It's the same war," Becher added. The generally somber group of students, gathered in a semi-circle around the podium, occasionally broke their silence for song, raising their voices for "Am Yisrael Chi," a traditional Israeli folk song. And for many of those assembled, yesterday's rally was an important recognition of the right of the state of Israel to exist, a right that several speakers said has been threatened since the day the United Nations first established the nation. "For 54 years, the state of Israel has been trying to live at peace with the Palestinians," said Michael Jankelowitz, the Campus Israel Affairs representative. At the end of the rally, the students and speakers demonstrated their Israeli-American alliance by singing the anthems of both Israel and the United States. For Kagan, yesterday's rally was a testament to the strength of Penn's Jewish community in offering support for the state of Israel. "Within 12 hours after the events of Saturday, a bunch of people at Hillel had already started e-mailing back and forth about having an event," Kagan explained following the program. "The response from the community was tremendous, how quickly everyone pulled together." And for the dozens of students who gave up the middle of their Thursday, attending a rally was a simple, but obvious, way to demonstrate their support for the state of Israel and their staunch opposition to and intolerance for any act of terrorism. "It's important for us to be aware and to make others aware of the fact that Israel is still victim to heinous acts of terror," College junior Joshua Kaplan said after the program. "It doesn't make a difference if it's blowing up a skyscraper in New York or going out on a suicide bombing. "We want to react, but in a positive way."Comments powered by Disqus
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