The Walk for Israel was primarily organized by Naperville Central junior and Jewish community member Talia Raab. About 70 people attended the rally scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Naperville City Hall. The event began with the playing of both the United States national anthem and the Israeli national anthem. Statements followed from Rabbi Mendy Goldstein of the Chabad Jewish Center of Naperville, as well as Talia Raab and former Central students Daniel Raab, Nina Raab and Sarah Gadd, as well as Sarah’s father, Sean Gadd. All of the speakers identified themselves as Jewish.
The group then marched around the downtown area and returned to City Hall around 1 p.m., when the event was cut short by the Naperville Police Department, who asked them to disperse before the pro-Palestinian protesters began to march, citing safety concerns. There was a heavy police presence at the event.
Talia began organizing the walk on May 10 after she saw the news of what was happening in the Middle East.
“When I watched the news and saw all the rockets going into my homeland, instantly I was worried about my family, I was worried about everyone,” Talia said. “And then I go to social media, and I'm seeing all these posts from people who are uneducated and they really don’t know the context of it.”
A subsequent rise in anti-semitism further infuriated Talia, who received death threats after announcing the event.
“I just wanted to unite the Jewish community and show we stand with Israel, we are supporting Israel, no matter how much hate we get.” —Talia Raab
Talia created the Instagram account @walkforisrael to spread information regarding her event. Several thousand pro-Palestine comments were left on the various posts condemning the event and recent actions of Israel.
The walk ended before its scheduled 2 p.m. end time as the nearby pro-Palestine protest attendees arrived and the atmosphere became tense.
“The police had asked that we end early because the counter-protesters were disrupting us,” Talia said.
Some attendees holding Israeli flags and counter-protesting could still be seen throughout the day after the official ending of the walk.
It began at noon at Rotary Hill, with various speakers. Afterward, the crowd of over 500 people, including local residents and those from neighboring communities, marched throughout the Downtown Area chanting phrases including “free, free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free.”
The event was peaceful, aside from one isolated incident where several protesters took an Israeli flag that was being waved from a car and attempted to burn it while the larger group marched on. Organizers continuously told them to stop and made clear that was not what they stood for. They also condemned anti-semitism, a sentiment some Jewish people have equated with pro-Palestinian protesters.
“We love our Semitic brothers and sisters, but anyone who tries to take land from someone who already was there, or anyone who tries to kill anyone who's innocent or a child, all of that is what we stand against,” said Nasar. “That's not anti-semitism, that's anti-Zionism.”
Most attendees expressed no hatred for Jewish people, but more so their distaste in the actions of the Israeli and United States governments.
“We're tired of constantly fighting the war crimes committed by Israel,” protest attendee Mimi Khan said. “What infuriates us more as Americans living here is that our tax money is being invested in genocide."
"We're tired of constantly fighting the war crimes committed by Israel" —Mimi Khan
Nasar hopes that protests like these inspire political action in support of Palestine locally and across the country. Similar protests have been held around the world, including one in downtown Chicago the weekend prior.
“We hope we can encourage others to take a stand as well against these issues through [boycott, divestment and sanction] campaigns, contacting lawmakers and all of these different things so that we can see some action being taken by local politicians as well as statewide politicians, and then eventually at the national level,” Nasar said.
One group of individuals attending the Protest for Palestine were seen surrounding a car and taking an Israeli flag from the window before ripping it apart and stomping on it.
Verbal confrontation occurs when a group from the "Walk for Israel" hold Israeli flag outside car window while the "Naperville Protest for Palestine" marches past. Police approach in attempts to maintain peace.
Talia’s friend was the one inside the truck that was approached by the protesters.
“My friend, Ben Fish; [pro-Palestine protesters] stole his flag,” Talia said. “They ripped it apart and burned it."
This was the only confirmed incident at the event. Police also described deescalating several verbal altercations between individuals throughout the day. Offensive finger gestures were also frequently visible.
Other forms of counter protesting continued throughout the events. Silent protesters holding Palestinian flags stood at the Walk for Israel. One Palestinian counter protester who wished to remain anonymous due to passport concerns shared his thoughts.
“As a Palestinian and as a Muslim, we do not have any conflicts with the Jews,” he said. “People need to understand that Judaism is a religion. And what we have a problem with is with Zionism, not Judaism.”
Zionism is defined as “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The counter protestors wanted to bring light to the effect of pro-Israel ideals on Palestinians.
“What they are doing by being here is they are pushing for more Palestinians to be killed.” —Anonymous protestor