The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

South Bay Community reacts to Israel-Hamas war

Sascha Recht, an Israeli American from Torrance, holds up a computer showing photos of her friends Carmel Gat and Yarden Roman-Gat on Oct. 24 at El Camino College. Gat and Roman-Gat were kidnapped by Hamas during the attack on Israel on Oct. 7. (Raphael Richardson | The Union)

With daily updates on the Israel-Hamas war, El Camino College students, employees and community members are feeling the weight of the conflict.

While no vigil or protest events have taken place at El Camino, students including biochemistry major Lily Nemzer said several students in her class are troubled by the Israel-Hamas war.

“I know there was one student who is a mother and her husband is Israeli and her kids were really upset about what was going on,” Nemzer said.

Following an Oct. 7 attack from Hamas, Israel declared war resulting in mass destruction and thousands of deaths on both sides. The conflict has sparked national and statewide protests across college campuses, raising tensions between Palestinian and Israeli Americans, as reported by the LA Times.

Locally, a vigil demonstrating peace and unity for Israel took place at Manhattan Beach Pier on Oct. 11 and a pro-Palestine protest occurred in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 21.

The Union spoke to students, employees and community members with varying individual opinions regarding the conflict. Some individuals had different levels of knowledge about the topic and some hadn’t even heard of the conflict.

Some community members personally knew people affected by the war.

Sascha Recht is an Israeli American who now lives in Israel but grew up locally, attending South Torrance High School. Recht was visiting her family in Torrance and planned on rejoining her husband in Haifa, Israel before war broke out.

Recht is a close friend of Israeli citizen Alon Gat.

On Oct. 7 Alon Gat, his wife Yarden and their 3-year-old daughter were captured and forced into a truck by Hamas after celebrating the Jewish day of rest, Shabbat.

In an attempt to escape, the couple jumped from the truck with their daughter and ran to a nearby field, where they were separated. Yarden Roman-Gat was captured while Alon Gat hid with his daughter for 24 hours until Hamas left the area.

Alon’s mother was killed by Hamas on Oct. 7. Yarden and her sister Carmel, who was also captured, are still being held hostage by Hamas as reported by The National and The BBC.

Recht described the recent events as unprecedented brutality and a horrific loss of life, referring to the war as “Israel’s 9/11.”

Some people were unwilling to speak to The Union due to safety concerns. Nationwide, many pro-Palestinian voices are facing retaliation, according to reports in the LA Times and CNN.

The on-campus Muslim Student Association told The Union they did not wish to speak at this time and will release a statement regarding their stance soon.

Associated Students Organization President Jose Merino and three other organization representatives said they had “no comment” when approached by The Union regarding this story.

Two students agreed to speak to The Union with the condition of anonymity, stating they had safety and online retaliation concerns.

The students told The Union they were not surprised by the conflict, saying Israel has occupied Palestine for 75 years and has been at war ever since. One student said thousands of people, mostly women and children, are being killed in Gaza.

“Every detail shows it’s a genocide,” one student said. “Israel is committing genocide.”

The students said they think Western media has shown bias in favor of Israel, which has led to anti-Arab sentiments.

They also said Israel has restricted Palestinians from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a sacred Muslim site in Jerusalem, and previously launched an attack on the mosque during Ramadan, one of the most important Islamic celebrations.

In regards to U.S. involvement, one of the students said the U.S. “should not be involved and [should] stop funding Israel.”

Other college community members, including Library and Learning Resources Specialist Erika Yates, also think the U.S. should not get involved.

“I don’t want anyone’s bloodshed, but I’m definitely done with it being ours,” Yates said.

Board of Trustees Member Cliff Numark said he approves of President Joe Biden’s action plan.

“Israel has a right and duty to defend itself,” Numark said. “There’s a responsibility to the innocent people of Gaza.”

While the U.S. is not directly involved in the conflict, the government is providing $100 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians, according to the U.S. Embassy.

Board of Trustee member Cliff Numark looks over toward Administrative Services Vice President Robert Suppelsa as he details information about one of the many action items during the Oct. 16 board meeting.
Board of Trustee member Cliff Numark looks over toward Administrative Services Vice President Robert Suppelsa as he details information about one of the many action items during the Oct. 16 board meeting. In a separate interview with The Union, Numark said he hopes for a day of peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. (Khoury Williams | The Union)

Numark said he hopes for a day where there will be peace.

“I believe we should pray for the Israeli-American international hostages,” Numark said. “We should grieve for the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who have lost their lives.”

Lysa Browne, a member of Grow, a local Christian faith group that meets on campus, said the war among the nations was not surprising to her.

“Everything that’s written in the Bible has come to be,” Browne said.

While other colleges and school districts across the U.S. are releasing official statements regarding the war, Director of Public Information and Government Relations Kerri Webb said El Camino does not plan on releasing a statement.

Numark said it would be difficult to reflect “all the myriad points of view” in a college statement, although he believes El Camino should promote freedom of expression.

Numark added the war has generated an overall rise in anti-semitism and anti-Arab sentiments.

“We should be worried about hate, whether it’s hate against the Muslim community or anti-semitism,” Numark said.

Nationally, Reuters reported during a press conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is monitoring an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the U.S.

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, launching airstrikes before breaching the border and shooting civilians, taking hostages and raiding homes, resulting in what many say was the greatest loss of Jewish life in one day since the Holocaust.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,000 Israelis and more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed, as well as thousands more injured and hundreds taken hostage.

Food, water and other resources have run low for many Palestinians in Gaza after Israel declared war on Hamas and began bombing the city. However, trucks from Egypt carrying supplies such as medicine and canned food began entering Gaza on Oct. 21.

El Camino history professor Orion Teal said Palestine occupied the land under a British protectorate during the early 1900s.

After the U.K. stepped down in 1948, the U.N. proposed the Partition Plan, which would establish two separate states. While Israel accepted it, Arab nations disagreed with the plan, preventing it from passing.

Israel then declared independence as a nation in 1948, causing the Israel-Arab war to begin. After Israel won the war, they occupied the majority of Palestinian land, displacing about 700,000 Palestinians.

“Israel and Palestine have been at war ever since,” Teal said.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel gained additional territory from Egypt, Syria and Jordan (including the West Bank and Gaza Strip), resulting in the displacement of more Palestinians.

“It’s a really complex story,” Teal said. “I would encourage everyone to educate themselves about the history and use that knowledge to really think about how this is a tragedy for both sides.”

Recht, who eventually plans to return to Israel, said she hopes Palestinian and Israeli Americans can move past the distrust and divide between them.

“We are all in the fight together and it is not meant to divide us,” Recht said.

For anyone struggling with mental health issues due to the war, resources are available on campus.
Mental health counseling, therapy, and crisis assessment are available at the Health Center. There is also immediate mental health support accessible via the TimelyCare app, which is free.

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