U of I students and community members show support for Israel through campus rally
More than 100 people rallied at the University of Illinois Main Quad Monday to show support for Israel amidst the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people were killed and thousands wounded after Hamas launched a large-scale attack on Israel. In the attack, around 1,000 militants gunned down civilians.
At the campus rally, multiple students, local religious leaders and members of Jewish organizations spoke, including Omer Israel, a U of I senior and vice president of Illini Students Supporting Israel.
Omer Israel led supporters in singing the Israeli National Anthem. He said he has family in the country, including a cousin in the Israeli Defense Forces who had to lock herself in a room at her base as it was attacked.
“She had to be locked into this room for close to 24 hours without food and water, waiting for someone to help them get out of this horrible situation,” Israel said.
He said the rest of his family has been locked in bomb shelters since Saturday and that many people didn’t realize the extent of the danger going on around them.
“In Shabbat, there are a lot of people who don’t turn on their electronic devices, who don’t watch TV; it’s part of their religious observation,” Israel said. “Because of that, they just heard the sirens and assumed it was another rocket-launching brigade. They didn’t understand the whole impact of it, so a lot of them have been stuck at home.”
Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, executive director of Illini Chabad, helped organize the rally. He encouraged everyone to turn to one another in times of conflict.
“I opened my phone at 7:30 last night, and hundreds of messages of students [shared] a common theme: ‘Rabbi, I’m sad. Rabbi, I’m feeling alone. What should I do?’ There’s no better thing to do than to come together,” Tiechtel said.
He shared a story about a student who walked into the Illini Chabad Saturday morning and told him about an encounter with his mother.
“He said, ‘Rabbi, my mom asked me two things this morning. She said, “Don’t go to Chabad, and tuck your Jewish star away.” Therefore, I came to Chabad and pulled my Jewish star out.’”
Tiechtel said he visits Israel every year. When he was there this past summer, he was on the same military base in Gaza that was attacked.
Before he left the base, a soldier gave him his WhatsApp information, telling Tiechtel to give his contact to any students interested in knowing what’s going on at the Gaza border.
“I messaged him today. I didn’t hear back,” Tiechtel said. “I hope his phone is just closed because he was on that border. It’s very real, my friends.”