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At Pro-Israel Rally in New York, Students Frustrated About Violence

March 13, 2002
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Mike Shapiro wanted to go on a teen tour of Poland and Israel that left this week, but his parents wouldn’t let him.

Although he has been to Israel before, "Now, after what happened this week, I don’t know if I’d want to go," he said, referring to ever-increasing violence.

A senior at Westchester Hebrew High School, an Orthodox day school in suburban New York, Shapiro was one of an organizers-estimated several thousand high school students from more than 40 Jewish day schools gathered at an Israel solidarity rally in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Many students — most of whom were from New York-area modern and centrist Orthodox day schools — carried pro-Israel placards, Israeli and American flags and signs with photos of Israeli victims of terror.

The rally included speeches, mostly by teens, prayers, music and presentations of gifts to representatives of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Mayor’s Office, as well as the Israeli Consulate and the Israel Defense Force.

But for most, the hourlong event — which concluded with boisterous Israeli circle dancing to "Am Yisrael Chai" — was a chance to mill around the square beyond the noise from the speakers, and chat with friends from other schools.

Creating a disturbing image, some of the placards and flags fell on the ground and got stepped on, picked up only at the end by rally volunteers.

There were some girls making interesting fashion statements.

One girl combined clunky Birkenstock sandals with a skirt made out of an Israeli flag, another had an American flag headband and one wore a Star of David pendant decorated with glittery red, white and blue beads.

Many, worried about friends and family in Israel, said they still would go to the Jewish state if given a chance.

"You can’t run away from everything," said Yael Baron, a junior at the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, in Long Island, who was carrying a poster commemorating Raz Mint, a 19-year-old Israeli killed in November.

Baron, who lived in Israel until she was 6, said she is praying a lot and worried about her cousins and friends in Israel who still go to shopping malls and still ride public busses.

"One of my friends just witnessed an attack," she said. "There were body parts all over. She was all right, but it scares you especially if it happens to a friend of yours. It just shows you that you could be next."

Like most American Jews and Israelis, students were frustrated that an end to the violence is not anywhere in sight.

"I don’t know if war’s going to stop them," said Chaim Yadlovker, referring to the Palestinians. "It’s a hard question. I don’t know what’s going to stop them."

A junior from the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys, on Long Island, Yadlovker wore a small pin with a photo of Shmuel Gillis, an Israeli terrorist victim. He said he "definitely" supports Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and hopes Israel becomes more "proactive," because "right now, reactive is not doing well at all."

Shapiro said he wished "both governments could work something out, so there doesn’t have to be all this terrorism."

"Innocent people are dying and there’s no need for it."

Adina Maik, a freshman from Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, N.J., wearing an Israeli flag draped around her shoulders, said she hoped the rally persuades the U.S. government not to make the Israelis "go through peace talks and give up land."

"The only way of solving the problem is if the Palestinians are kicked out, but that’s not happening anytime soon," she said.

What about negotiations?

"They tried it, it didn’t work," Maik said.

Ariela Wertheimer, a senior from the Stella K. Abraham School for Girls in Long Island, said she thought the only solution may be a full-blown war.

"I know that’s horrible, but it might have to happen," she said.

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