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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson reacts to Israel-Hamas war

Palestinian supporters rally downtown; JCC hosts vigil for Israel; UA leaders speak out
A young girl waves the flag of Palestine with her family outside the downtown Tucson Federal Building, 300 W. Congress St., on Monday, Oct. 9. A group of people rallied there to chant support for Palestine. (Liv Leonard, El Inde Arizona)

Within 24 hours of Israel declaring war on Hamas, Tucson residents held events for both sides of the conflict, on Monday, Oct. 9.

Around 75 supporters of Palestine rallied at 4:30 p.m. outside the downtown Tucson Federal Building, 300 W. Congress St., chanting support for the Palestinian people in Gaza

By 6:15 p.m., hundreds of people gathered at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on East River Road for a community solidarity vigil for Israel.

Although they represented opposing views of the conflict, both events had similar messages calling for the end of the brutal destruction and violence in the region. 

Palestine rally

At the downtown rally, organized by the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, people of all ages chanted in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Protestors waved Palestinian flags and held signs that said “Free Gaza” and “Free Palestine.” 

“We’re calling this a community rally bringing people together to go in solidarity with the Palestinian people in anti-violence expression by people united, by people here in our community in Tucson. We believe that war and violence is not the answer,” said the chief organizer, Mohyeddin “Mo” Abdulaziz. 

Protesters hold up signs in support of Palestine at a downtown rally in Tucson on Monday, Oct. 9. The event was organized as a reaction to the Israel-Hamas war. (Liv Leonard, El Inde Arizona)

Abdulaziz, who has lived in Tucson for over 30 years, is a retired spokesman for the Arizona Court of Appeals Division II and was chief information officer at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Abdulaziz said his biggest concern was the continuation of Palestinian oppression and said he was concerned about President Joe Biden’s recent decision to send over additional warfare supplies to Israel. 

“One more important thing is the violence,” Abdulaziz said. “There was no need for it to happen. But we, the United States government, allowed it to happen and encouraged Israel to continue its operation and occupation of the Palestinian people by providing them with unconditional military, political and economic support.”

He said sending more weapons would only cause more death, not solve anything. 

“War is not the answer,” Abdulaziz said.

Throughout the rally, Tucson police officers and patrol cars were stationed near the crowd, though no incidents were reported. 

“I’m horrified at how old these signs are and how they remain relatively irrelevant,” said Betz Hidalgo, a Tucson resident who has supported Palestine for 20 years.

She and Abdulaziz wore T-shirts emblazoned with “All Walls Must Fall” as she sat on the curb of Congress Street, holding her signs that expressed solidarity for Palestinian citizens, especially children caught in the crossfire of war. 

Hidalgo said the thing that would retire the signs for good would be “Palestinians and the Israelis”  living “together, in peace, without anybody having to be top-dog.”

Jewish Community Center vigil

The parking lot at the Tucson Jewish Community Center filled to capacity within minutes and late-comers had to park in a nearby patch of desert. 

Tucson police officers were stationed at the River Road entrance and in front of the building. The JCC also employed security within the building and around the memorial garden where the vigil was held. Foldable tables lined with water and dozens of boxes of tissues were placed surrounding the chairs. Hundreds of people from the Tucson community flooded outside to the garden, some wearing Kippahs and Tzitzit; and the Israeli flag over their shoulders. 

Abbii Cook, director of the JCC’s Weintraub Israel Center, told the crowd that the gathering was “not in despair, but in unity.”

“We stand together as a community bound by a deep and abiding love for Israel. It is in these moments of darkness that the strength of our community truly shines,” Cook said.

Hundreds of people attend a vigil at the Tucson Jewish Community Center on Monday, Oct. 9. They gathered in solidarity for Israel. (Liv Leonard, El Inde Arizona)

As the cantor began to sing the national anthem, attendees sang along, tissues in hand. A moment of silence followed for the Israelis who are lost, in fear or dead and the vigil continued with different poems and prayers from the Torah with the hope of unifying the community. 

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero read the Prayer for the State of Israel.

“Bless the state of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with your loving kindness, envelop it in your peace and bestow your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers and advisors, and grace them with your good counsel,” Romero read. 

Local religious leaders including Rabbi Israel Becker recited prayers and invited attendees to speak aloud alongside them. A multi-religious prayer was read aloud in standing with Israel to show unparalleled support from communities across Tucson. The vigil ended with the song “Yihyeh Tov” (“Things Will Be Better”) written by popular Hebrew songwriter David Broza

As the crowd began to leave, families hugged one another in solidarity. “Shalom” (meaning “hello,” “goodbye” and “peace”) echoed through the halls and garden. 

“The Tucson community is remarkable and we come together to celebrate, but we also come together at times of sorrow to feel a sense of resilience and hope, and to know we’re gonna get through this, and we’re gonna get through this together, and we will be fine in Israel, but we stand together,” said JCC President and CEO Todd Rockoff.  “This is a scary, scary time.”

“Israel belongs to all of us. It is a part of the generation’s past and the generation’s future. There’s something about Israel that will resonate with everyone and they should explore, discover and have it belong to them, too,” Rockoff added.

University statements released

University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins released a statement on Monday, Oct. 9, expressing sympathy to those affected by the war in Israel and Gaza and offered student resources including counseling services and where to report threats of any kind. 

Our hearts are with all those who are suffering in that region as well as all in our community who are concerned for loved ones, friends, and colleagues. If you have loved ones in the areas where hostilities are occurring or are otherwise affected by this conflict, please know the university as an institution and our Wildcat community are here for you,” Robbins said. 

“[] I ask that everyone remember our core values of compassion and inclusion. The University of Arizona stands against all forms of racism and prejudice, and I urge every member of our community to stand together in upholding our values,” Robbins added.

Leaders from several UA departments including Judaic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, released a joint statement the next day to speak out against the violence.

“We disagree, sometimes vehemently, regarding the Middle East — who is right and who is wrong — yet we work together with mutual respect, as scholars and responsible people, toward maintaining a campus community in which all students, staff, faculty, and visitors may exercise their freedom of speech, and are as safe as possible from bigotry, from incitement to hatred and violence, and of course, from physical violence itself,” the statement said.

At the end of the statement, the group also encouraged those who are being affected by the conflict to seek help from the school’s available mental health resources.

El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

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