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Jewish Community Rallies Around Israel

By Jia Han, Contributing Writer

Members of the Jewish community gathered on Saturday at a rally held at Harvard Hillel to show solidarity for Israel in the wake of recent attacks on Israeli civilians in Haida and Jerusalem.

The rally was organized to bring together the Jewish community at a time of great turmoil and confusion, the rally’s sponsors said.

Hillel also issued a statement at the rally composed by six Jewish Chaplains from the Harvard United Ministries. Read out loud, the statement denounced all “deliberate, targeted murder of civilians.”

It reiterated the Hillel position for “peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian people” and asked “fellow Jews” to join in on “support for Israel at this time.”

“We ourselves [the Jewish students], on this very campus, sometimes feel isolated and alone, as Jews whose hearts are bound up with Israel,” reads a portion of the statement.

But Ben Galper said Saturday that, “Jewish life on campus is very vibrant” and that the administration has been, on the whole, “very supportive and understanding.

Dr. Bernard Steinberg, Executive Director of the Harvard Hillel emphasized on Saturday that the Hillel’s role is to act as a “catalyst for student activity and not a center for action.”

He said that the rally was a student initiative.

Steinberg said “We want to suspend the brittleness of ideology and explore the human level” of recent violence in Israel.

Steinberg said the Jewish community has specifically tried to reach out to the Islamic community after Sept. 11 events and has made efforts to combat racial profiling.

Steinberg expressed frustration that the “Arab and Muslim community have not expressed solidarity” with the pain of the Jewish people after the murders last week

“This is a mis-characterization” responded Saif I.S. Mohammed ’02, president of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS).

Mohammed said he was surprised and disappointed that neither he nor the HIS’ United Ministries representative was contacted about the rally beforehand.

But Mohammed emphasized that there is no conflict between the Jewish and Islamic communities on campus.

“Our official position calls for the resumption of the peace process, security and peace for both sides and the condemnation of attacks on innocent civilians,” Mohammed said, similar to Hillel’s public statement issued at the rally.

There was some debate about where to hold the rally.

Organizers hoped to have part of the rally take place in the Yard.

“The original plan was to meet at the steps of the Hillel and march to Memorial Church but we did not give the administration enough notice,” Benjamin Z. Galper ’02, former president of Harvard Hillel, said.

But rally attendee Arielle J. Cohen ’04 said “It was important that the rally was held at Hillel rather than in the Yard because it was more for ourselves...a comfort thing.”

Cohen added that with the various prayers, personal statements, and songs in both Hebrew and English, “There was something for everyone.”

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