Turlington Plaza was packed but divided Thursday afternoon.
At about 12:30 p.m., about 100 UF students rallied in response to the rocket attacks in southern Israel and Gaza launched by Palestinian militants.
According to CNN, more than 300 rockets have been launched since Wednesday as part of the latest developments in the historical conflict stemming from cultural differences.
The military leader of Hamas, an Islamic political party with a militant wing, was assassinated earlier this week. Palestinian rockets have killed at least 18 people.
“For the last decade, Israeli civilians around the Gaza Strip, which is a little piece of land, have been living under the threat of rocket fire,” said Josh Kahn, the Jewish Agency Israel Fellow to UF Hillel.
The 28-year-old helped organize the pro-Israel rally, which was put together Wednesday night by varying Jewish organizations on UF’s campus.
“This is being fired discriminately at neighborhoods,” he said. “These are not military targets. It’s literally schools and houses.”
Above heads, signs read “NO to HAMAS, YES to PEACE” and “Pro Peace.” The crowd sang Jewish prayers and chanted, “It’s great to be a Jewish Gator.”
Across the plaza, a smaller group brandished a Palestinian flag. UF Students for a Democratic Society lead organizer Skye Schmelzer, a 20-year-old history junior, said they were there to counter-protest in support of Palestine.
Kahn said the event was not meant to be Israel versus Palestine.
“We are on the same side,” he said. “I am scared not only for the people of Israel but for the Palestinian people.”
Shajar Epsztein, a 24-year-old law student, came to attend UF from Israel in August. She described how alarms would go off before rockets hit and said her family has had less than a minute to find shelter before impact.
Epsztein said she was happy to see so many UF students at the rally supporting Israel.
“It warms my heart,” she said.
Rabbi Berl Goldman, co-director of the Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center, said he was pleased with the turnout.
“The entire Jewish community is concerned,” he said. “We feel for them, we pray for them, we stand with them.”
Kahn said no matter which nation people are from or agree with, everyone needs to stand up against terrorism.
“It should be viva Palestine, viva Israel, viva peace, viva human rights,” he said.