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In Raleigh, one rally called for support to Israel — another called for Palestinian freedom

A side by side shot of two rallies that took place in downtown Raleigh Oct. 22, 2023 to protest the violence occurring in Israel and Gaza two weeks after Hamas' surprise attack on Israel. On the left, a large crowd holding signs that criticize Israel and call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel. On the right, another large crowd at Bicentennial Plaza where people are holding Israel flags and holding images of people who've been taken hostage in Gaza.
Matt Ramey
For WUNC / Composite Created By WUNC
On Oct. 22, 2023, hundreds gathered for two rallies in downtown Raleigh — on the left, a rally to call for support to Israel and the release of hostages in Gaza, and on the right, a rally to demand a ceasefire and freedom for Palestinians.

As Israel announces plans to ramp up airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of North Carolinians gathered in downtown Raleigh to call for action against the violence in Israel and Gaza.

It has been two weeks since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which killed roughly 1,400 people — mostly civilians. Overnight raids on the Gaza Strip this weekend killed at least 55 people, NPR reported. Since Oct. 7, more than 4,560 people have been killed in Gaza, including about 1,800 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

In downtown Raleigh, people gathered Sunday for two different rallies — one to show support for Israel and demand the release of people held hostage in Gaza, and another to express solidarity for Palestinians and demand a ceasefire.

At 12:30 p.m., more than 100 people gathered in Bicentennial Plaza in Raleigh, many waving the national flag of Israel and holding up images of people who’ve been kidnapped. NPR reports that 212 people have been held hostage, according to the Israeli government.

The crowd sang prayers together, chanted “Bring them home,” and held a moment of silence.

Apex resident Tali Mizrahi, 52, who was born in Israel and has lived in North Carolina for a decade, showed up to the rally wrapped in an American flag.

“Israel and America are tied together and we have to support each other,” Mizrahi said. “If we’re not going to support Israel, Hamas is going to be here in our cities. We know of people who’ve been killed, we know people who’ve been kidnapped. It’s hard watching the news every day. Haven’t been able to sleep for a few weeks.”

Zalman Bluming, a Chabad rabbi in Chapel Hill, brought his sons with him to the rally.

“I want to restore back safety and security to the Jewish people,” Bluming said, when asked what solution he wants to see to the conflict abroad. “Each one of us can stand with moral truth and with dignity and with strength and we need everybody in the world to be there together and that will change and sway the world.”

Omar (left) and Adam Sarah hold signs and peace signs at a Free Palestine rally in Moore Square in Raleigh, N.C. on Oct. 22, 2023.
Matt Ramey
for WUNC
Omar (left) and Adam Sarah hold signs and peace signs at a Free Palestine rally in Moore Square in Raleigh, N.C. on Oct. 22, 2023.

Later, at 3 p.m., hundreds of area residents and members of about 30 organizations congregated in Moore Square, including Muslims for Social Justice, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, and multiple university student groups.

Batoul Metwally, 39, arrived with her husband, Abdel Kareem, along with their 13-year-old daughter, Yara, and 12-year-old son, Ameer.

“We’re Muslims, Arabs, we feel for the Palestinians,” Metwally said. “This is not just killing. [Israel] is trying to wipe out a whole race. For what? For land that is originally for Palestine. We’re not going to just sit and watch. We make our posters and come out and let our voices be heard.”

After a series of emotionally charged speeches at Moore Square, the demonstrators marched in nearby streets, taking up roughly two entire blocks. They chanted phrases, like “Free Palestine.”

Among the crowd were two Palestinian American brothers, Ramzi and Fawzi Ali, along with their friends Mansoor Mansoor and Victor Ma. Ramzi Ali, 25, said he came to the rally to raise awareness of the violence happening towards Palestinians.

“We can’t escape it,” Ramzi Ali said. “You turn on your phone and all you see is ‘Condemn this’ and ‘Condemn that’ and people and children dying. We need to come out here and make sure people know what’s going on. Our lives have been upside down for the past few weeks.”

Fawzi Ali, 27, said that he wants a ceasefire to happen, as well as freedom for Palestinians.

“Our people have been dealing with this for almost a century,” Ali said. “I don’t think there is a solution until Palestine is free and the people of Palestine get the same rights that everyone else in the world does.”

Eli Chen is WUNC’s afternoon digital news producer.