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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Thousands gather in Boston Common to show support for Israel in wake of Hamas attacks

Arthur Mansavage
A crowd of Israel supporters in the Boston Commons waving flags and signs, creating a sea of blue and white.

On Monday afternoon, just hours after Israel initiated its first retaliatory bombings on Gaza, thousands gathered at the Boston Common bandstand to stand in solidarity with the country and its people, transforming the green lawn into a sea of blue and white Israeli flags.

Earlier this weekend, the Palestinian militant organization Hamas unleashed attacks that killed more Israelis, at least 700, in a single day than any day since its induction as a state. In response, the nation of Israel took action in Gaza on Monday, launching airstrikes on mosques and a marketplace and killing nearly 700 Palestinians, many of whom were civilians.

In Boston, thousands, including Jewish community leaders, community members, and government officials such as Gov. Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss gathered at Boston Common to demonstrate support for Israel as part of the Solidarity for Israel Under Fire rally. 

The rally, organized by local chapters of Jewish nonprofit and philanthropy groups, drew a significant crowd by the time the politicians and community leaders took to the podium.

Although the speakers at Monday’s event came from diverse backgrounds, they all expressed one resounding message: It is wrong to stand by and watch while Israel is attacked. These actions must stop.

Robert Leikind, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s New England chapter, spoke to this sentiment.

“The question for us today is whether, after 2,000 years of exile and persecution, there are still those who seek our destruction,” he said from the bandstand. “We will not let that happen.”

While there was widespread agreement that action must be taken in response to these attacks, there was evident division regarding what kind of action should be taken. 

Markey was booed after he called for a “de-escalation of the current violence” in Gaza. A similar reaction was given to Massachusetts state treasurer Deborah Goldberg when she voiced support for a two-state solution in her speech. 

“Do not boo me … I’m a Zionist … I was conceived in Jerusalem,” Goldberg said in response to the crowd.

In contrast, Auchincloss received applause for his response.

“De-escalation is not possible when they are taking hostages,” he said. “Israel did not ask America to de-escalate on September 12, 2001.”

The Newton representative underscored that he believes America should fully support Israel with all “military and diplomatic support necessary.”

“I implore House Republicans … to work with Democrats in passing the policy that Israel expects and deserves from its most trusted ally,” Auchincloss said.

After the formal proceedings concluded with a recitation of the Israeli national anthem, the crowd fanned out into prayer circles to sing together and engage in the traditional Jewish practice of tefillin arm binding. 

For many in attendance, the conflict is very close to home. 

At one point in his speech, Auchincloss asked the crowd if they had family or friends directly affected by the attacks in Israel, to which a majority of the attendees raised their hands. Many had recently lived in Israel, had once resided there, or even served in the Israel Defense Forces.

“These people, that number … 800 people [dead] now, it’s not just a number,” said Liyam Chitayat, a 19-year-old Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former IDF soldier. “Those are my friends; those are my family, those are the people I grew up with.”

Chitayat moved to Boston from Israel a month and a half ago.

“I had conversations with my friend who was stuck for 17 hours in a shelter alone … talking to me, telling me that she keeps hearing terrorists outside of her door and no one is coming to help,” Chitayat continued. 

Chitayat believes that much of the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict misses the heart of the issue. 

“This is not a question of who is right and who is wrong,” she said. “Just like I showed up when Ukrainians [needed] help, just like I showed up when the Iranian protests happened, every time we, as people who have the privilege not to be there on [the] ground, can come and show our support, we have to do so. And there’s no other right thing to do … to be on the right page of history.”

Dave Brenner, 65, was born in Israel but raised in New York before moving to Boston. His son, an immigrant to Israel, was called into reserve duty for the IDF Sunday and will likely be going into combat in the coming days. 

“I didn’t get him on the phone. I don’t know what he’s doing today,” said Brenner. “I’m concerned, I’m scared, I’m bothered.”

Brenner said the weekend’s violence is the realization of what has been Israel’s greatest fear for decades. He anticipates a lot more violence will come before the situation resolves. 

“If Israel has to go to war, then people are going to get hurt on both sides,” Brenner said. “I don’t want to see my son get hurt if they have to go in. I don’t want to see anybody’s child get hurt.”

Brenner disagreed with the rhetoric from congress members and other elected officials who are sympathetic to Palestine.

“I think the Palestinians have had a tough existence, no question,” Brenner said “I think that the Israelis have tried to do their best with their security concerns without running over the Palestinians … You don’t want to see much blood spilled or any blood spilled if possible, but you also can’t let your citizens be massacred out of hand.”

Shai Boker fled the country Saturday evening in the wake of the first surprise bombings by Hamas.

“It’s disgusting what they’ve been doing to us. I’ve lived in Israel for five years. I’ve never been as scared as I was on Saturday my entire life,” Boker said.  

Boker said he hid with his brother for five hours on Saturday morning in a bomb shelter at their home in Yavneh, 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv. That night, as he prepared for his flight out of Israel, he described being caught out in the open during a Hamas bombing raid. 

“I was walking … to get one of my prescriptions and all of a sudden sirens [played] again and I had to hide on the north side of a truck,” Boker said.“I ran for my life back into my building, 150 feet in like 15 seconds. All the while I could hear booms all over the place above my head.”

Some attendees directed their anger and blame beyond Hamas and Palestine.

“I have mixed feelings about some of the things that were said,” 28-year-old Tom Sasson said. 

While he stressed he generally appreciated the politicians being here, he did take issue with the appearance of Sens. Markey and Warren, who he said “funded Iran, who supports Hamas.”

“$6 billion was sent to Iran, and subsequently this tragedy happened to us,” Sasson said, in reference to the $6 billion in Iranian funds that were unfrozen by the Biden administration as part of a prisoner swap deal with Tehran in early September. 

While Iran has a history of close relations with Hamas, the Iranian government has denied involvement. Israeli intelligence services have yet to definitively link Iran with the attacks.

“There is no peaceful solution with a terror group that wants you dead,” said Sasson. “There’s no one to negotiate with.”

Many attendees, like 44-year-old Los Angeles native Ace Gershfield, believe that Jews and Israeli people ultimately want peace and are being forced into an adversarial position by the militancy of Hamas. “If we put down our weapons, they’d slaughter us. If they put down their weapons, we’d have peace,” Gershfield said.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Solidarity for Israel Under Fire rally late Monday afternoon, updated death counts reported more than 900 Israelis were dead due to Hamas’ attacks.

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About the Contributor
Bryan Hecht
Bryan Hecht, News Co-Editor
Bryan Hecht (he/him) is a freshman journalism major from Havertown, Pennsylvania. He currently serves as an assistant editor of The Berkeley Beacon News section. Bryan also contributes to WEBN Political Pulse and hopes one day to work in broadcast news media. As a member of the Emerson Cross Country team, Bryan can likely be found on a run around the Boston area when he's not writing for the Beacon.

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