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Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

FAU students hold walkout in remembrance of Hamas attacks, call for release of hostages

FAU Students Supporting Israel held a walkout on Thursday to remember victims of Oct. 7 to call for the return of hostages and stand against rising antisemitism.
Participants+of+the+SSI+FAU+walkout+on+Jan+18.+posing+with+signs.+Photo+courtesy+of+%40ssi_movement+on+Instagram.+
Participants of the SSI FAU walkout on Jan 18. posing with signs. Photo courtesy of @ssi_movement on Instagram.

The FAU chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) held a Breezeway walkout Thursday at 10:07 a.m., a time chosen to commemorate the date of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. After a speech from the leadership of the organization, there was a brief moment of silence to remember the Israeli lives lost in this war. 

Students participating in the walkout wore and waved the Israeli flag, held posters and sang songs as they walked with campus police. Students did not run into counter-protesters. Jewish Owls Chabad Rabbi Liberow ended the event with a prayer. 

FAU SSI President Ellie Raab gave participants three purposes for the walkout: to remember the 1,200 Israeli victims of the attacks, call for the release of approximately 130 remaining hostages and take a stand against the rise of antisemitism around the world and in academic institutions. Other SSI branches have held similar demonstrations on campuses across the nation.

Ilan Sinelnikov, president of SSI National, reminded the crowd before the walk began that Jan. 18 marks the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, an Israeli baby taken hostage on Oct. 7.

Sinelnikov said that there should be no ceasefire until Hamas releases the hostages, Hamas is gone and the roughly 200,000 displaced Israelis can return to their homes. He also criticized South Africa’s decision to challenge Israel in the International Court of Justice and decried the accusation that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The Associated Press (AP) reported on January 15 that the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 24,000. This number was provided by the Gaza Health Ministry. In November, the AP published an article attempting to answer who controls the Gaza Health Ministry, how they get their numbers and how accurate they are, as there are conflicting reports that Hamas runs the ministry.

The UP interviewed people who support Israel to understand their perspective. 

The following Q&As have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Ellie Raab, president of SSI FAU 

Q: What goes into planning an event like this? 

A: When planning an event as significant as this one, a lot goes into it. While the obvious is getting people to participate, our goal was to ensure we had a diverse group of people from different organizations on campus. The most important thing was our safety and we were in constant contact with FAUPD and the dean’s office to ensure the safety of our participants and that the walkout would go smoothly and we would be able to express our purpose for doing it in the first place. 

Q: Why is it important to hold memorials or protests?

A: It was important for us to hold a walkout/protest in support of Israel to make sure FAU students don’t forget about the massacre committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 as well as the 136 hostages still being held in Gaza. We also made sure to recognize the rising antisemitism in academic institutions and around the world. 

Q: How did you feel while walking down the Breezeway with the police officers at your side while people stared? 

A: Walking down the Breezeway with police officers at our side made us feel extremely comfortable to be able to stand up for what we believed in. We are so grateful to FAUPD for being extremely accommodating and ensuring the safety of all of the students. 

Q: Are you surprised there were no counter-protesters? 

A: The fact that there were no counter-protesters was a bit surprising but is most likely due to FAU being an exemplary university when it comes to ensuring that antisemitism is not tolerated on our campus and that their students do not support terrorism.

Jonathan Cohen, an FAU student currently serving in the IDF

Q: How do you feel when you see students in the U.S., specifically at your school, showing support for Israel?

A: It’s wonderful to witness students at FAU and in the U.S. express support for Israel. Embracing diverse opinions encourages open dialogue and mutual understanding. It makes me very proud and gives a sense of safety knowing there are people standing up for Israel abroad. 

Q: Do others in the IDF who aren’t American see the support? What do they think about it? 

A: Non-Americans in the IDF definitely see the support. Besides from me showing them. Everyone is appreciative of the understanding that we are fighting a war we had no choice but to wage. A war started because of the thousands killed and hundreds kidnapped on Oct. 7, 2023.

Q: How do you feel when people call for the destruction of Israel? 

A: I feel sad and disappointed when people call for the destruction of Israel. It’s the only true democracy in the Middle East. Jews and Arabs sit together in the Supreme Court, have equal rights and so much more. More than 850,000 Jews were displaced from the Arab countries in which they resided, and none of them were allowed to live there or even visit anymore. So when someone calls to destroy the one country where Jews are fully accepted, it’s more than a shame. It’s a tragedy.

(UP: The Council on Foreign Relations reported on Arab citizens in Israel’s rights and opportunities and how they are represented in politics, as members of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament and Supreme Court. However, there is controversy regarding their equality in Israel. According to Israel’s official government website, 850,000 Jewish people were displaced in the 20th century due to a rise in Arab nationalism and the conflict in Palestine.)

Q: There were no counter-protesters at SSI’s event. Do you think that’s a good or bad thing? Why?

A: ⁠⁠I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing that there were no counter-protestors, but it has been a common theme recently to counter-protest with violence, racial slurs and chants of the obliteration of Israel. So it’s nice that they were able to do it in peace and quiet.

Inbal Shachar, an Israeli FAU postbaccalaureate health science major 

Q:  Why do you feel participating in this kind of event is important? 

A: I feel that it is important to participate in this kind of event because we are bringing awareness of the hostages that are still being held in Gaza for over 100 days in indescribable conditions, putting the unbearable pain in their families, friends and the entire country and Jewish people. Just as we walked on campus to show solidarity with Israel, many of us wore army tags that stated, “Bring them home now!” We always have them in our hearts and pray for their return. 

Ilan Sinelnikov, founder and president of SSI National

Q: Why is it important for events like these to occur around the nation? 

A: It’s important to continue raising awareness for our hostages that are in Gaza for 104 days, without visits from the Red Cross, without medication, held by a terrorist organization. We cannot slow down or forget them, and we must be visible in our main areas of campus all across the country so the public doesn’t forget.

Q: What kind of counter-protesting have SSI organizations around the country faced at their memorials/protests? 

A: We have faced counter-protests at some of our vigils, but most of the time, our students could handle it well and continue focusing on their messaging and program and not on the people who try to distract us. 

Jessica Abramsky is the Editor-in-Chief of the University Press. For more information on this article or others, you can reach Jessica at [email protected] or tweet her @jessabramsky.

Kayla Barnes is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, you can reach Kayla at [email protected] or direct message her on Instagram @kayvenb.

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About the Contributor
Jessica Abramsky, Editor-in-Chief
Jessica Abramsky is the Editor-in-Chief of the University Press. She previously served as News Editor during the Spring 2023 semester and is a junior majoring in multimedia journalism. She hopes to be a respected editor at a major news organization. You can reach Jessica at [email protected] or DM her on Instagram @jessabramsky.

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