Students for Justice in Palestine hosts a “wall” protest at the Bell Tower.
In a peaceful demonstration, members of Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and other activists sat in front of the Bell Tower April 29 where they constructed an 8-foot model of the wall that exists throughout Palestine.
The student organization said the educational program was held to inform students about the barrier between Palestinians and Israelis, which is approximately 25-feet and more than 400-miles long.
Event coordinator and senior biology major Razi Fareed said planning for the event began last semester.
“We are here to raise awareness to the Temple community of the injustices committed upon the Palestinians, which are intentionally being taken out of the mainstream media,” Fareed said. “We feel that because of that, it’s our duty to expose such oppression and injustice.”
The “Apartheid Wall,” as the Palestinians refer to it, is an Israeli “security fence” that was constructed in 2002 by the government to keep out West Bank militants. However, in 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel’s West Bank barrier is illegal because it “gravely” infringes on the rights of Palestinians.
President of Students for Justice in Palestine Wafai Dias, a sophomore journalism major, said the wall makes it difficult for Palestinians to travel throughout their land and divides communities. In order for people to cross the barrier, they have to show their passports to Israeli soldiers at checkpoints who guard the wall.
“Students miss classes because of checkpoints,” Dias said. “If they were at a checkpoint for four hours, do you think they got to their exam? No. And a lot of them have missed their exams, and we think it’s vitally important that people understand this.”
During the event, the student organization demonstrated the passport process that takes place in Palestine. Members set up a mock checkpoint with volunteers who posed as Israeli soldiers. The “soldiers” blindfolded students with Palestinian passports and “forced them” to sit down by the wall.
The students, who were acting as Palestinians, shouted a message in unison: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Dias, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, said many of her relatives live in Beit Hanina, a village near Jerusalem, which is directly impacted by the Israel barrier. She said half of her uncle’s land is divided by the wall and that he needs to go through a checkpoint to harvest his olive trees.
“We think it’s vitally important that people know what’s happening in Palestine, and we think it’s important that people understand Israel’s policies toward Palestinians,” Dias said. “It’s a system of oppression that has to stop.”
Several local activist groups joined the students at the event, including Philadelphia Veterans Against War and Christian-Jewish Allies.
“It’s so [exciting] that college and university students are getting more involved about this issue,” said Mary Allen, a member of the Middle East Study Group of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. “I thought this was a really creative idea. It’s very exciting to see it in the heart of the campus with the blessing of the administration, and there hasn’t been any heckling or anything. There’s been discussion, which is just what it should be.”
Junior kinesiology major Christian Corso, who stopped to look at the wall, said he wanted to read the information signs to learn more about the issue.
“I know things have been going on with Palestine for a while with Israel and the West Bank,” Corso said. “I should know more about what’s going on in the world, but when it’s right in front of me, why not take a minute?”
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.