American University’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel participated in a national walkout Jan. 18 in honor of the over 130 hostages who have been held by Hamas for more than 100 days.
The national SSI chapter organized the walkout, asking university and high school chapters to “remember the victims of the attack, call for the return of the hostages, and take a stand against the rising antisemitism around the world and in academic institutions.”
Tamara Listenberg, the president and founder of SSI at AU and a senior in the School of International Service, said the AU chapter hoped their participation in the national movement, despite not walking out of classes directly, would bring awareness to the hostages still being held.
“What we are here standing for is to raise awareness again for over 130 hostages that we don’t know their conditions. We know that some of them were raped. We know that some of them have been tortured and some killed in captivity and their bodies still held,” Listenberg said. “What we want is just for people to understand that and to support and to raise awareness and to really try and help the world understand how important it is to bring them home.”
The event featured posters of some of the Israeli hostages, including Kfir Bibas, who turned one year old in captivity.
“Some of [the hostages] are our age. Some of them were kidnapped from a music festival, some of them were kidnapped from their homes,” Listenberg said. “This could have been any of us. This could’ve been me; I’m Israeli. This could’ve happened to me, my friends.”
For Ethan Kassar, a member of SSI at AU and freshman in the School of Public Affairs, it was also important to note that the kidnapping “could’ve happened to anyone.”
“It wasn’t just Israelis who were murdered, it wasn’t just Israelis who were taken hostage,” Kassar said. “It was so many different nationalities.”
AU Hillel hosted an empty chair installation the day prior, also aiming to bring awareness to the hostages taken by Hamas.
“There are a lot of sides and that’s okay and a lot of pain on campus as well,” Listenberg said. “But we don’t need to cancel each other out, and we need to learn to respect one another and understand the bigger issue.”
This article was edited by Kathryn Squyres, Zoe Bell, Abigail Turner and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.