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The Voice

SSSAS Community’s Response to Tragedy in the Middle East

On October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists (designated as such by the U.S. State Department) carried out a surprise attack on Israel. There has been much violence between Israel and Hamas, a militia group that controls Gaza since this attack. This event was widely broadcast worldwide through multiple news sources, catching many people’s immediate attention, including members of the SSSAS school community. 

Anna Strauss, a junior at SSSAS who identifies as Jewish, held a bake sale to raise money for the Israeli Red Cross Foundation. She stated that she “felt like an action needed to be taken to show that some students in our community, like the tennis team, support the people in those countries and know that we are thinking of them. I am not sure if it made a difference (…) of course any impact is helpful, but I feel that not all of the students were aware of what was going on.” The tennis team raised $170. 

 Señor Gluzman, a faculty leader of the Jewish Affinity Group (JAG), stated that JAG “provided for our group [JAG], some space for people that wanted to come, immediately after the attack on Tuesday when we came back to school. Surprisingly some students that normally do not come, showed up.” Senor Gluzman said that he is adamant about showing his support to students who are struggling with this situation in and outside of JAG. 

Ms. McGuire, the dean of students, also identifies as Jewish. She stated that a lot has been done to support the students through JAG, which she is also an active member of. In addition to this, Ms. McGuire said she has had conversations with students who have chosen to reach out to her regarding this topic. However, she doesn’t feel like she will be doing anything else to spread more awareness about the situation to avoid voicing her political and emotional opinion as she believes that “school is for the students more than the adults.” In the future, Ms. McGuire is looking forward to having more open conversations while creating a safe space for the SSSAS community. 

An anonymous student voiced their concern with the lack of support they have felt as a student who identifies as Muslim. They stated that besides one teacher reaching out to show their support, they feel that “the school has not been supporting me, or even reaching out to me regarding the past few weeks (…) the SSSAS community in general has been fairly one-sided. I feel like the only loss of life being talked about is the deaths in Israel, and the 8000+ innocent Palestinians who have been killed haven’t even been mentioned.” They continued to mention how the school has not done enough to recognize the loss of life in Gaza. 

The loss of life in Gaza is getting worse every day due to the Israelis bombing the Gaza Strip from various air strikes causing immense damage to the community. The Israelis are targeting certain suspected terrorist buildings in Gaza City where they believe the Hamas terrorist leaders are hiding. Not only are the Israelis launching air strikes, but they also are invading the Gaza Strip with ground forces in tanks.

 Mr. McNutt, a former upper school English teacher, moved to Jordan, a neighboring country to Israel and Palestine, to pursue language studies. He has had firsthand experience of the “grief, fear, and anger [as Jordan is] very close to the tremendous amount of Gazans being killed.” He mentioned how [although] the violence is not expected to reach Jordan, there is still an underlying fear of the unknown and tragedy happening within such proximity. 

He also talked about the importance of considering the horrific circumstances for both groups involved in this violence. He elaborated on this point by saying, “Peaceful methods of resistance have historically been ignored or responded to with violence, so many Palestinians feel that Hamas is their only option. There are, however, very many Palestinians who strongly oppose Hamas no matter what and always very strongly disapprove of their violence. It’s important to recognize that Hamas and Palestine are not one and the same and that Hamas does not represent most Palestinians.” 

As this is an ongoing issue, he mentioned how this situation is being followed closely throughout Jordan as everybody is anxious to keep in contact with family and friends in Gaza as well as stay up to date with the news regarding the violence.

Reverend Cavanaugh worked on Capitol Hill, representing the Episcopalian Church from 2002 to 2005. On Capitol Hill, he worked to give the Episcopalian Church’s stance on peace issues, specifically the issue of creating a two-state solution, Palestinian and Israeli states coexisting with each other. In addition to this, Reverend Cavanaugh has worked on archeological sites in Israel and has connections in both Palestine and Israel, so this situation has affected him on a more personal level. 

He explained why this is such a sensitive attack because of the “shared land, but also just a shared value system, where the family is really the center of everybody’s universe, their kids are revered in both cultures, which is [why] they go at each other, they don’t always do a good job of avoiding kids on both sides of the conflict (…) It sends everybody into this almost sort of crazy response. It’s like they know how to hurt each other.” 

Reverend Cavanaugh mentioned how this attack was different from any prior attack, due to the brutality and uncertainty of people’s safety whether it be in Israel, Palestine the United States, or the SSSAS community. Reverend Cavanaugh does not have any plans to spread awareness about the situation, however, he has held forums in the past to give historical significance to this conflict, which he voiced he would be open to doing again. Besides this, his doors are open to discuss this conflict with the faculty and students to whom this has directly affected or for people who want to know more. 

The school has not made any sort of official statement regarding this conflict, however, there have been conversations in history classes, advisories, and school-sponsored organizations. 

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