It's beginning to turn into somewhat of a minhag, a tradition — the Thursday-afternoon rally for Israel in frigid temperatures. This time, the event, on Jan. 15, took place on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, and while the turnout was only a fraction of the size of the previous week's Love Park event, the high level of sentiment seemed universal.
About 100 people — most of them young — showed up at the rally, which took place on College Green, between College Hall and Van Pelt Library. While the pro-Israel group gathered on the lawn, a group of about 50 counter-protesters quietly marched by on the sidewalk, making an apparent loop of the campus while holding aloft signs in support of the Palestinians.
"It's good to show both sides of an issue," said senior Daniel Bregman, who was there in support of Israel. "The media often only portrays one side, and college campuses even less so, so it's important to show our side."
Bregman was pleased with the number of supporters, despite the circumstances. "For a snowy day, on campus, mid-class, it's a good turnout," he said.
The event was a peaceful one, with little back and forth between the two opposing sides.
Students and supporters stood with signs reading "Free Gaza From Hamas" and "Stop the Jihad," as well as the more irreverent "Ham-Ass Ain't Kosher."
The event included remarks from a variety of speakers, including Penn students and faculty.
Senior Deena Greenberg, president of Penn Hillel, helped organize the event and served as its emcee.
"We all share a sense of both pride and sadness," she said, referring to pride for the soldiers fighting for the Jewish state, and sadness at the death toll on both sides of the conflict.
She added: "Beneath all the headlines, people in their 20s, like you and me, are fighting on the frontlines."
Environmental attorney and Penn-law faculty member Rob Fox took on the role of a recruitment officer.
"I'm Rob Fox, and I'm here to recruit you," he said. "Recruit you for what? To tell the truth!"
Fox asserted that the current conflict was not a war against Muslims or Islam, but against Hamas.
"Truth: Every sovereign nation in the world would react the same way Israel is reacting now," he said, offering examples of how the United States would respond if, for example, Toronto began lobbing missiles into Buffalo, N.Y., or if Tijuana, Mexico, set out to attack San Diego.
In closing, Fox offered a platitude that he borrowed from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: "Hamas will stop fighting Israel only when they love their own children more than they hate the Jews."