UC Santa Barbara student group Students Supporting Israel organized a “Stand with Israel” walk in downtown Santa Barbara on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The walk garnered over 100 attendees and began at noon at the intersection of State Street and East Gutierrez Street, with the crowd proceeding to the Superior Court of Santa Barbara.
The walk was organized in the aftermath of an Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, a militant group based in the Gaza Strip, that killed at least 1,400 Israeli civilians and kidnapped more than 200. Following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas and ordered a siege of the Gaza Strip, halting resources like water and medical supplies to the region. Succeeding airstrikes to the Gaza Strip have killed over 4,300 Palestinians since Oct. 7.
Students Supporting Israel (SSI) organized the event, according to SSI President and fourth-year biology major Eyal Wrobel. SSI received support for the event from Santa Barbara Hillel, Chabad at UCSB and the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara.
“The purpose of this walk was to denounce terrorism and to stand with the Jewish people and the people of Israel,” Wrobel said. “The walk was peaceful, and its only goal was to spread peace.”
Individuals of all ages participated in the walk, with non-Jewish people present in the predominantly Jewish crowd as well, Wrobel said. The crowd toted signs with phrases like “We stand with Israel; bring back our family,” “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” and “Hamas = ISIS.” The group repeated chants supporting Israel throughout the walk, such as the Hebrew phrase “Am Yisrael Chai,” which translates to “the people of Israel live” in English.
Once the group reached the courthouse, five speakers addressed the crowd, including a UCSB student who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and addressed misconceptions about the IDF and her experience as a soldier. A representative from the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara talked about the current strife of the Jewish community and the need to stay united and have conversations about spreading peace. UCSB Associated Students President Tessa Veksler and Wrobel also gave speeches.
Wrobel said the event was imbued with both sadness over lost lives and the strength and hope of the Jewish community.
“It was a mixed feeling between unity and sadness,” Wrobel said.
He said this unity among people is critical during this time and called for people to humanize one another.
“For both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students, it is our responsibility to come together and have conversations and respect one another,” Wrobel said. “Because at the end of the day, there is no future in which Palestinians are excluded and Israelis are excluded.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Oct. 26, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.