Students build mock apartheid wall to shed light on Palestinian cause
By: Sarah Jaber
Benedictine University’s SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine, hosted their annual Apartheid Awareness Week with a series of events and activities throughout campus. Along with the help and coordination of members from UNICEF, Black Student Union, and the Muslim Students Association, the club was also able to construct an 8 foot high, 24 ft. wide mock apartheid wall that stood in the middle of Kindlon Hall.
“It took months of planning and collaboration with other clubs. We had to figure out how big it would be, the material, the budget, and how much time it would take. The most rewarding part of it all was seeing the positive reaction from faculty and students and subsequently the big turnouts at our events during the week. To put it simply while not sounding cliché, it was a dream come true,” said Co-President of SJP, Mohamad Hassan.
The wall displayed different images, symbols, and quotes painted by the different clubs. One of the panels of the wall detailed the statistics of Palestinian loss of land, information on the actual apartheid wall, and facts on checkpoints throughout the occupied territory.
“Our goal in creating this event was to raise awareness on campus and have students ask questions about the wall and learn about the injustices taking place in occupied Palestine,” said Hassan.
The week began with a falafel sale on Monday and a general body meeting to kick off the awareness week. At the GBM, the club welcomed speaker Awad Sifri from Haifa, Palestine. In 1948 Sifri fled with his family to Lebanon to escape attacks from Zionest groups in the region.
“Sifri had firsthand experience with the beginning of what would turn out to be an everlasting conflict in Palestine. His goal was to present the root causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I think it’s important for students to understand the root causes before they can really absorb what is happening today,” said Co-President of SJP, Sondos Masoud.
Tuesday included an event with the involvement of the S.E.E.D.S. club on campus. The picture event titled ‘Saving Palestine 1 Tree at a Time’ strove to depict the conflict to students using photographs to present the information near the mock wall.
UNICEF also partnered with SJP to talk about the conflict in Palestine during its GBM on Wednesday. Students had the opportunity to learn about what life is like as a refugee, especially in areas of conflict.
“The refugee simulation definitely was eye-opening for our members to realize that being a refugee means living in constant fear. While refugee camps are often depicted as cramped living conditions with minimal resources, this simulation unearthed the emotional aspect to the life of a refugee,” said President of UNICEF, Sree Bodepudi.
Also on Wednesday, all the organizations came together for open mic night at Coal Ben. Students from Benedictine as well as other universities showcased their talent and passion on the stage.
“Open mic night exposed our minds to the truth. It showed how deep the conflict(s) run within the people whether they are physically there or not. It reminded me of the neighborhoods we are trying to improve and save as African Americans. The fact that they cried out so loud in their poetry and arts during open mic made me realize that we all deserve to have our voices heard,” said President of Black Student Union, Desmond Washington.
On Thursday, the club hosted a movie screening of Occupation 101 in the Krasa Presentation Room. The 90-minute documentary covered the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the United States involvement, as well as what the daily life of the Palestinian people are like.
“What really touched me about the movie was how the Palestinian said that no matter how many documentaries we see about their hardships, we will truly never understand their constant pain and suffering,” said senior Sagedha Yasin.
The week came to an end with ‘Breaking the Borders’, an eventful dodge ball tournament co-hosted by UNICEF. Students were able to create teams with their friends and participate in the competition. All proceeds from the night went to UNICEF’s efforts to help the struggle in Palestine.
Apartheid Awareness week brought students together from different clubs, different backgrounds, and different struggles. It offered to all students a way to understand the issues in Palestine and how they can help those in need.
SJP hopes to continue to expand its efforts on apartheid awareness in the years to come with the mock wall possibly placed outside in order for those who are not in Kindlon to be exposed to the conflict. In addition, the clubs hope to continue to collaborate in order to work in unison towards achieving their goals.
“I once heard something amazing about the concept of unity. Human beings love being in unison, it brings beauty. It’s important to be in unison whether it be with our fellow clubs or elsewhere. As long as the message being preached is positive, the lessons learned are numerous, and the time spent is blessed, then unity is beautiful,” said Co-President of MSA, Maaz Fitter.