Section: Opinion

Vigil sets foundation for unity, peace

By Evie Kallenbach and Samantha Shanker

On Sept. 18, students and faculty joined together to honor lives lost in the latest escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Circling Middle Path, we held candles to memorialize the 2,000 individuals who died this summer. We shared moments of silence, poetry and a scroll with names of Israeli and Palestinian victims. This summer’s escalation was devastating for those on the ground. In response, college campuses have become deeply divided. Not far away, at Ohio University (OU), the student Senate president poured red liquid over her head in a “blood bucket challenge,” demanding that OU divest from Israel. The student received death threats. A pro-Israel group attempted to filibuster an OU student Senate meeting, ending with four students arrested. Though OU is an extreme example, similar tensions exist at schools across the country.

This raises the question: Why did polarization occur at OU, but not at Kenyon? We would like to suggest that polarization happens because discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tells us we must pick a side. It tells us that we can’t be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli at the same time. At J Street U, we, like many Kenyon students, understand that polarization only stalls our efforts for peace. Everyone has suffered in this conflict. That is what inspired our chapter to join Kenyon Students for Justice in Palestine and Kenyon-Israel Public Affairs Committee in sponsoring the vigil. We created a productive space on campus to recognize the totality of loss on both sides.

Together, we displayed our frustration with the status quo and determination to create a peaceful future for the entire region. The vigil is one step in our effort to bring together the student body. J Street U is part of a national movement that demands that our communal and political leaders take action to end the unsustainable violence in Israel-Palestine and create a two state solution. Toward that end, J Street U will partake in a fundraising effort for Friends of the Earth Middle East and Other Voice. To learn about these humanitarian causes, please visit their websites and look for us tabeling in Peirce.
Together, we will continue to take action for two states. We will do this with the recognition that we must end the occupation to ensure that Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and security. This past summer’s escalation was the third such crisis in Gaza in seven years. Together, we must say enough is enough.

Evie Kallenbach ’15 is a psychology major and Samantha Shanker ’17 is a political science major. As members of J Street U, they can be contacted at


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