Ending a day of University activism centered around Middle East turmoil, students of the American Movement of Israel gathered on the Diag last night to hold a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday’s bus bombing in Haifa, Israel.
The bombing, which marked the end of a two-month respite from terrorism in Israel, left 16 dead and injured dozens of civilians.
“The purpose of the vigil is to show our solidarity with Israeli people in these trying times,” said AMI President Avi Jacobson. “It’s part of a national movement holding vigils of response to every terrorist attack against Israeli civilians.”
“We stand here this evening united with the Israeli people not only in their ultimate hope for a peace … but in their determination to continue with their daily lives undeterred by the threat of terror,” said Brad Sugar, co-chair of the Orthodox Minion. “Regardless of personal politics, it cannot be disputed that there is no moral equivalence for the direct and very intentional targeting of the civilian population, let alone for the suicide bombing.”
Huddled in a circle and carrying an Israeli flag, the 20 students sang the Israeli national anthem, the Hatikva, and recited a psalm to conclude the vigil.
But despite a conservative Israeli government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – who has consistently launched military reprisals against Palestinians after suicide bombings – students at the vigil did not feel yesterday’s suicide attack paralyzed the peace process in Israel.
“The fact that (Israeli government officials) are deliberating a response instead of going in shows the care with which they’re weighing their options,” Jacobson said.
And while Jacobson said he supports Israel’s military defense against terror attacks, he believes the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict transcends party politics.
“The Israeli people themselves do not wish to occupy another people,” he said, referring to the perennial presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “But they can’t withdraw under fire. It has to be done in a way that ensures the safety and security of both peoples.”
“It’s not just an attack against Jews, it’s an attack against Israelis,” LSA senior and Israeli native Arik Cheshin said, citing the large number of Arab-Israeli citizens who inhabit Haifa. “Actually, the bus driver was an Arab-Israeli.”
In addition to coordinating vigils, AMI will also send a petition to the federal government demonstrating University support for Israel.