BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Amid an intensifying war that has reportedly left more than 1,400 Israelis and 2,750 Palestinians dead with thousands more on both sides wounded, dozens of University at Buffalo students gathered to show their support for Israel and the Jewish community in Western New York.
Students told News 4 they feel it’s important that they get their voices out there, and today they did so with a March around UB’s north campus.
One sign at Monday’s rally read, “Israel will never surrender to terror.”
Dozens of students and faculty marched in solidarity, holding up the Israeli flag and holding signs condemning antisemitism and Hamas, which launched a surprise attack on Israel last week that touched off the latest escalation of the conflict that has persisted for decades.
Hamas militants gunned down hundreds of civilians and took hundreds of others, including civilians, as hostages.
Brandon Meyer, president of UB’s Jewish Student Union, which organized the march, called the attack “devastating.”
“I saw the videos online … you can’t describe it. It’s heartbreaking,” Meyer said. “I’m sick to my stomach … every day for the past week this topic is on my mind.”
Meyer said student organizers wanted to stand up against violence and are hoping other people do the same. Meyer said support from the community means so much to him during a heartbreaking time.
“When we unite together, Jews and non-Jews uniting together in support of Israel, it shows people are there supporting Israel, it’s touching,” Meyer said. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done though.”
Some students counter-protested Monday’s march in support of Palestine. There was a police presence to keep the area safe and the marches remained peaceful throughout.
Noam Spevack, a UB student, said he lived in Israel for a year last year and developed a strong connection to the land. He said he has friends who still live there, many of whom have been fighting in the Israeli Defense Forces since Hamas’ surprise attack.
“It’s devastating watching it on the news every single day,” Spevack said “It’s really hard.”
Members of the Jewish community, who attend UB, say lately they’ve been feeling uneasy and anxious.
“I know there are students here who not only say things like free Palestine,” student Hudson Hort said. “But go further and say Hamas’ attacks were justified, and these are students in my classes.”
“To be honest I feel more paranoid, but we can’t be scared,” Meyer said.
UB Statement on Maintaining a Climate of Mutual Respect
The University at Buffalo is committed to upholding its core values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect—values that ensure all members of the UB community can study, teach, work and conduct research in an academic environment free from intolerance and discrimination.
The unimaginable tragedies unfolding in Israel and Gaza continue to impact members of the UB communities in different ways, leading to understandable feelings of unease, worry and sadness among many students, faculty and staff.
The Intercultural Diversity Center, Dean of Students and Office of Inclusive Excellence have been meeting regularly with individual students and student groups to provide support and will continue to do so in the days ahead.
The war has sparked intense debate across the globe, country and on college and university campuses, including at UB. As a university community, we all have a responsibility to maintain a climate of understanding and respect.
“While we attempt to process these appalling acts of violence, let us continue to center our discourse with each other in compassion and respect as we come together in solidarity with those who are suffering,” said UB President Satish Tripathi.
To be clear, antisemitic or anti-Muslim comments or actions have no place in our community. UB strongly denounces this kind of harmful rhetoric. Bigotry, intolerance and discrimination run counter to all that we stand for at UB.
The war that began Oct. 7 has become the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides, with more than 4,000 dead. At least 2,778 have been killed and 9,700 wounded in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry there. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, the vast majority civilians massacred in Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault.
The Israeli military said Monday that at least 199 hostages were taken into Gaza, more than previously estimated. Hamas said Monday it was holding 200 to 250 hostages, including foreigners whom it said it would free when it was feasible.
As the war has entered a tenth day, more than a million people have fled their homes in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected Israeli invasion that seeks to eliminate Hamas’ leadership in retaliation for its deadly incursion. Aid groups warn an Israeli ground offensive could hasten a humanitarian crisis.
Water has run out at U.N. shelters across Gaza and overwhelmed doctors at the territory’s largest hospital struggled to care for patients they fear will die once generators run out of fuel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.