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Penn community members rallied in support of Israel and marched on Locust Walk on Oct. 20, holding Israeli flags, signs of citizens kidnapped by Hamas, and posters.

Credit: Derek Wong

Editor's Note: The original story published did not accurately reflect The Daily Pennsylvanian's standards for fair and unbiased reporting. The article has been updated to reflect that the pro-Palestinian rally-goers at Penn did not identify or view themselves as pro-Hamas. The story has also been updated to reflect the safety concerns voiced by Jewish and Palestinian students on campus.

Around 400 Penn community members rallied in support of Israel on Friday, emphasizing Jewish unity while urging Penn to denounce pro-Hamas and antisemitic rhetoric that some allege is present on campus.

Rally-goers gathered at the LOVE Statue at noon on Oct. 20 to hear speeches, prayers, and songs before marching on Locust Walk to continue the event outside Penn Hillel. Penn community members held Israeli flags, signs of citizens kidnapped by Hamas, and posters in support of Israel. 

College junior Kevin Bina, an organizer of the rally, opened the event by stressing the rally's focus on building community.

"We are here today for prayers, unity, and action," Bina said. "I hope everyone learns something today and turns that into something beautiful moving forward."

College senior Eyal Yakoby also spoke at the rally, calling for "action from the administration, not words" to address antisemitism on campus. 

“It is without question that our University, our community, has failed us,” Yakoby said. “It has allowed hatred to reverberate throughout campus with an utter lack of shame."

A similar frustration was voiced by Wharton junior Jesse Behar at the rally. Behar said that Penn and its community members are guilty of enabling acts of “terrorism and antisemitism” through their silence and lack of action. 

Behar said that freedom of speech and hate speech are different, pointing to the rhetoric of Penn-sponsored groups that some view as antisemitic and pro-Hamas. 

"These blatant acts of antisemitism by students and professors of this University have made it unsafe to be a Jewish student on campus," Behar said.

Students and professors have also voiced concern about Palestinian students.

“The safety I genuinely worry the most about and what I would like to see the administration be really vocal about standing up for is the people who are organizing for Palestinian rights,” College senior and Penn Chavurah member Sam Cheever previously told the DP. 

In a speech at Wednesday's University Council meeting, Wharton sophomore and Muslim Students’ Association representative Mouctar Diarra said that the current environment has caused Muslim and Palestinian students to fear associating with identity and advocacy organizations at Penn and discussing the humanitarian crisis due to the concern that they will receive severe academic and career repercussions.

In response to vandalism at Penn Hillel and Meyerson Hall, Penn released a statement condemning the antisemitic acts. In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League, Penn President Liz Magill outlined steps that Penn would take to combat antisemitism on campus.

Following the acts of vandalism, a gift from the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation recently established two funds: one for studying Jewish history and culture in Israel and another for studying antisemitism. On Wednesday, Magill addressed the Penn community for a third time since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, warning that hate speech and violence are not tolerated amid recent rallies in solidarity with Israel and Palestine.

Despite accusing Penn administration of a lack of action amid recent antisemitic rhetoric on campus, some speakers and attendees at the rally stressed the importance of hope and community support as the conflict continues.

Wharton and Engineering junior Noah Rubin led the crowd in a Hebrew prayer for the safety of the Israel Defense Forces at the LOVE Statue after admitting that he has had a difficult time praying and has wondered where God is.

"One thing is certain, though: We, the Jewish people, have prayed for thousands of years, and we are still here today. And we will still be here tomorrow," Rubin said. 

Attendees sang Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem, before walking to Hillel. The demonstrators sang songs as they marched and chanted, "Am Yisrael Chai."

Speaking outside Hillel, Wharton junior Sadie Waldbaum likened the unity of Penn’s Jewish community to the biblical story of Noah, who God chose to save the human race because of his piety. 

“We are the righteous of our generation, and we are ready to stand up for what we believe in,” she said. “Despite the emotional turmoil during these past two weeks, I have been in complete awe of the amazing community and our amazing allies who have come together in support of justice, peace, and the State of Israel.” 

Wharton senior Lawrence Froymovich said he came to the rally hoping for a “vision of peace and compromise.” Froymovich’s family immigrated from the Soviet Union, where they had limited religious freedom, prompting him to feel deeply connected to the Jewish struggle. 

Yakoby told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the Jewish student body remains unified during a difficult time.

Last week, pro-Palestine community members held demonstrations on Oct. 16 and Oct. 18 at Penn where they showed solidarity with Palestine and criticized Magill's recent statements that have not acknowledged Palestinian students on campus. Both rallies were met with pro-Israel counter-demonstrations. 

“I know that many in our Palestinian community feel especially unseen, and that their pain and grief has not been acknowledged,” Magill said at Wednesday's University Council meeting. “I acknowledge, and we must acknowledge and support all members of the community, including Palestinian students and faculty and staff, and we will do better."

Engineering first-year Beni Romm said it made him happy to see the number and diversity of proud Jews and allies. He said that he felt the groups who participated in the pro-Palestine rally last week did "not adequately distinguish" between mourning the suffering of Palestinians — which he empathizes with — and support for the Palestinian resistance.

"I see their calls to resistance using the terms ‘Intifada’ and ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ a motivation to harm the civilians of the state of Israel and Jewish people," he said. 

Some critics argue that the phrase, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" insinuates a desire to eliminate the state of Israel and its people, while proponents say that the line asserts the boundaries for the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

College junior Marc Fishkind said that he thought Friday's rally was a positive moment which allowed the Jewish community to unite.

"It was a beautiful showing of support from on-campus as well as off-campus Jews to show to the entire world and to show what we’re supporting,” he said. 

Delegates from Penn’s Vice Provost of University Life and the Division for Public Safety were present, monitoring the rally to ensure compliance with Penn’s Guidelines on Open Expression

Editor's Note: The Daily Pennsylvanian previously reported that "around 150" Penn community members attended the rally on Oct. 20 in an Instagram story. This number has been updated online to better reflect the reporting of more DP staff members and other outlets.