Hailed as their most successful event of the year, 49ers for Israel at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) set up a Peace Wall on campus. The wall was one of seven events held for Cal State Long Beach’s Israel Week 2016, which aimed to showcase Israel’s vibrant culture through art, music and food, while advocating for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.
The Peace Wall is an initiative of Artists 4 Israel. The group was founded after a group of artists observed that during Operation Cast Lead, while Israel was being attacked by Hamas rocket fire, those who were attacking Israel were also attacking the arts: arresting, intimidating, and in some cases, killing artists who dared to express themselves freely. Even more disturbingly, the founders saw that these attacking groups were abusing the arts to spread lies and anti-Israel propaganda.
In response to the terrible situation, the founding members state that they “dared to draw the straight and unflinching line between the two points: artists’ rights equals the right of Israel to exist in peace and security”.
While on the Peace Wall, the four artists spray painted a beautiful image of the CSLUB mascot with “peace” written behind it, their focus went beyond creating art. The artists were proactive in encouraging students to come and share their own messages of peace on the wall. The artists’ engaging manner had many students asking them questions about how it feels to be in Israel. Having students painting and talking at the wall attracted even more students, which meant that hundreds of students of all ages, faiths, origins, beliefs and ethnicities engaged in genuine conversations about Israel, community service and peace.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), accompanied by their anti-Israel and anti-Zionism signs, made an appearance at the event, and wanted to spray paint messages on the wall. However, once the students of 49ers for Israel explained to SJP what the focus of the event was, they decided not to protest the event.
Attracting an amazing diversity of students unaffiliated with Judaism or Israel and successfully deterring SJP from engaging in hate was a huge success for 49ers for Israel and partnering group Beach Hillel. A strong sense of accomplishment was felt by the students that day, who noted their sense of pride in being pro-Israel. Sadly, this sense isn’t always easy to come by as a student on Cal State Long Beach’s campus.