An air of solemnity prevailed outside Calgary city hall on Monday as a multitude of demonstrators rallied to back the Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints in the ongoing Israel-Hamas disagreement.
The rallies coincided with Israel’s military implementing a comprehensive blockade on Gaza, in retaliation to a sudden assault launched by Hamas insurgents on the previous Saturday.
The conflict has resulted in over a thousand fatalities on each side, with numerous more sustaining injuries.
A sober assembly with a vigil was arranged by Students Supporting Israel from the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University at midday.
Dorit Gerov, who orchestrated the gathering, explained their purpose, “The reason behind our gathering here today is to grieve and express our solidarity with the Israeli populace. We are not here to incite a protest.”
Many supporters of Israel, adorned in the national white and blue flag, lit candles to commemorate the hundreds of Israelis who have lost their lives in the recent attack.
Shira Kogut, personally affected by the conflict with loved ones residing in Israel, shared her distress, “The conflict has claimed the lives of innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists, one of them was my family. Our sole wish at this point is their safe return.”
There was an aura of fear and worry among the attendees, given the situation in Israel, particularly for Lauren Shimonov, whose mother and pregnant sister live in the war-torn nation. She confessed, “The uncertainties are terrifying – living with the dread of receiving a distress call, while praying fervently and retaining hope. We’re battlers, we’ll survive this adversity.”
The “Justice for Palestinians” rally, a much larger gathering, set stage at city hall two hours after the pro-Israel rally had concluded. The assembly demanded the liberation of Palestine.
Wesam Khaled, a leading voice in the group, highlighted the extent of violence against Palestinians, “The destructive acts of violence have been prevalent for quite some time now. In this year alone, the violence has claimed almost 250 Palestinian lives, even before this Saturday’s incidents.”
Mount Royal University’s sociology professor and a Palestinian-Canadian, Muhannad Ayyash, called for an earnest dialogue about the tensions leading up to the present confrontation. He emphasized, “In analyzing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the erasure of Palestine from the regional map during the past decade, we must not overlook the structural violence at play.”
A significant police force was deployed at both rallies on lookout for provocateurs. A man, who was allegedly not associated with either of the rallying groups, was detained on Monday following allegations of disturbing the peace. He was spotted hurling obscenities at the pro-Palestine demonstrators. Further investigation is underway, though no charges have been pressed at present.
Supporters from both sides yearn for a peaceful resolution. As the pro-Israel group voiced, “This issue boils down to the sanctity of human life. Israel values human life, and we endorse peaceful coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians.”