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Aggie Hillel to recognize deaths of Israeli teenagers

Prof talks Israel-Palestine conflict

By Allison Rubenak
On July 3, 2014

Texas A&M Hillel will hold a brief memorial service as a part of its regular Friday night Shabbat service in remembrance of the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped while hitchhiking in early June and whose bodies were found buried in a field in the West Bank Monday.

Rabbi Matt Rosenberg said the service would be an important time for Jewish Aggies to come together as a community and remember the lives of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.

“I have other friends or students who are in Israel right now,” Rosenberg said, “and anyone whose colleagues are in Israel now or who lives, or is visiting there, or anyone who has Jewish friends, feels this loss.”

Rosenberg said he understands the need for justice, but he continues to hope for a peace that can swiftly “end bloodshed” for both Israel and Palestine.

“I don’t want there to be many dead because of these three boys,” Rosenberg said. “I want peace now, I truly do.”

Since Tuesday’s burial of the boys, there is unrest in Israel said Ashley Passmore, an International studies professor who is an academic fellow with the Shusterman Institute of Israeli Studies and staying in Israel this summer.

Passmore said the death of the boys, who’s suspects have yet been found, represent an idea of an erosion of safety among Israelis and “represents an existential threat to Israel because it is carried out by people who don't recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel.”

Wednesday, reports announced and speculated the disappearance and killing of 17-year old Palestinian boy Mohammad Abu Khieder whose body was later found outside Jerusalem. Khieder was reported as possible retribution for the Israeli boys’ deaths.

Thursday, reports confirmed heightened tensions of continued firing from both Israeli airstrikes and rocket fire from Hamas, which is currently in control of the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas — a Sunni Muslim political movement, which was, founded in 1988, and which recently "entered into unity representing Palestine with Fattah and headed by Abbas,” Passmore said — is believed to be behind the death of the three boys.

Passmore said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel authorities blame Hamas for the deaths.

“The unity government, which no one currently seems to think will survive long, will be under strain, divided between Fatah's Abbas, [the President of the State of Palestine], who condemned the killing of the Israeli teens and Hamas, who has not [condemned the killings],” Passmore said. 

Passmore said in the midst of an investigation, a small right-wing group of Jews in Israel called others to "avenge the blood" of the three teens.

“All day Tuesday there were clashes between police and Arab protesters in East Jerusalem while anti-Arab vandalism was reported [Wednesday] at light rail stations in the city,” Passmore said.

Passmore said the Israeli deaths also represent a further hardening in national sentiment towards Palestine, because of a perceived lack of intention by Palestinians to not live peacefully with Israel.

“This act of killing only reinforces that view,” Passmore said. “It also strengthens the right wing elements in Israel who call for an all out attack on Hamas and its supporters in Gaza and the West Bank.”

The situation and Israel-Palestine conflict is far from simple, Passmore said, and if land sharing and peace were possible, it would still be unclear if resolve could take place. 

“Recent polling of Palestinians by the Washington Institute shows very low support for Hamas and a relatively solid support for the moderate Abbas,” Passmore said. “At the same time, an overwhelming majority believe that their goal should be the reclaiming of all of Greater Palestine, that is, all the land of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, even if it takes generations.” 

Daniel Rosenfield, sophomore communication major and president of Hillel group, Aggie students supporting Israel, said having this memorial is important because it reminds Jewish students that these boys were a part of a larger family.

“Just like you have the Aggie family, and you have silver taps and then muster —in Judaism, every Jew is important to us, so that’s why it’s so important, because this Friday we are remembering these boys,” Rosenfield said. “We lost basically our family members.”

Rosenfield said the deaths of the three boys impacted him. Rosenfield said only a few weeks ago he was in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city and a location near where the boys’ bodies were found.

“Coming home and then hearing about this — like ‘wow, something like that could have happened to me?’” Rosenfield said. “Plus, these kids — one of them was an American citizen so it becomes a more of a ‘These are our people, this is a real national problem.’”

Rosenfield said he hopes college students would find the time to take the opportunity to become educated on the conflict

“There is always something to explore, and there is always a truth that needs to be discovered,” Rosenfield said.

Shabbat will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Texas A&M Hillel building. 

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