Students march to honor Israeli Independence Day

by Jeremy Eiden

Carrying large Israeli flags and signs calling for peace and independence, students celebrated Israel’s Independence Day with a march across campus Wednesday.

Approximately 60 students handed out white flowers and plastic Israeli flags to onlookers as they marched from Hillel to the West Bank Plaza.

Israel officially declared its statehood May 14, 1948, after the United Nations apportioned the land into Jewish and Palestinian states.

Many at the two-hour rally said they marched for peace rather than Israeli nationalism. Some of the students carried signs reading “terror destroys justice” and “never lose hope.”

Alissa Smith, a human ecology student, carried white flowers as she marched. “It hurts because even though we aren’t there, we can feel it,” she said.

The march began at the Hillel building next to the Dinkydome and continued over the Washington Avenue Bridge to the West Bank.

Hillel director Amy Olson said this is the first time they have incorporated a peace march into their independence celebration.

As they marched, students sang songs and played guitar. On the West Bank Plaza, the group sang, danced and prayed.

Tara Hoffman, a College of Liberal Arts senior, said she marched with the group because she is concerned about violence in the Middle East.

“It upsets me because, having a heart for children, it seems like the war is never going to stop. They are breeding the children to be future promoters of bloodshed,” she said.

Koby Nahmias, a biomedical engineering graduate student and president of Friends of Israel – a student group that co-sponsored the event – said he hoped the march would raise awareness about these conflicts.

“We hope that more people on campus will learn more about the situation and then understand the nature of the conflict. We can solve it only if we work together,” he said.

Trevor Ewanochko, a dentistry junior, said he marched in support of Israeli statehood.

“We want peace with the Arabs. But we can’t negotiate with terrorists Ö Israel’s war on terror goes hand in hand with America’s war on terror,” he said.

Nahmias said Friends of Israel invited the Arab Student Association and Students Against War to the march, but neither group joined the rally.

Ayman Balshe, president of the Arab Student Association, said the group would have attended but was not informed in advance.

“With no doubt, of course. Our group is all about peace and a Palestinian state, which means an end of occupation,” he said.

“This makes us happy that more Israelis are pro-peace, which means that they believe in a Palestinian state,” he said.