Pro-Israel organizations hold 'Bring Them Home' rally on Abele Quad, draw pro-Palestinian protesters

Per a Thursday email from Student Affairs, the pro-Palestinian protest was a “non-registered event that included outside individuals who were not approved to be on campus” and is currently under investigation.

Over 50 community members gathered on Abele Quad for a “Bring Them Home” rally Wednesday calling for the release of Israeli hostages.

The event took place in front of the Duke Chapel 180 days after the initial Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel. Student leaders of pro-Israel organizations, religious figures from around the Triangle and family members of some of the hostages shared remarks to the crowd.

“The world stopped in Israel, and the world stopped for many Jews around the world, but life around us just kept going on,” said senior Alanna Peykar, co-president of Duke Students Supporting Israel.

The event was co-sponsored by multiple organizations at Duke and in the Triangle including Passages, Duke SSI, Club Z, Duke Friends of Israel and Chabad at Duke.

“The Duke Jewish community has stood very, very strong during one of the hardest years in our lives,” said sophomore and DFI President Sam Feldstein.

Over 50 pro-Palestinian students gathered on the other side of Abele Quad to protest the event.

According to a Thursday afternoon email to The Chronicle from Margot Cardamone, student affairs chief of staff, the demonstration was not registered with University administration and "included outside individuals who were not approved to be on campus." Cardamone added that the event is "currently under investigation."

When asked about the specific charges the event is under investigation for and the circumstances that non-registered events or outside individuals may be allowed on campus, Cardamone wrote that she could not comment further amidst an ongoing investigation. 

Hostage accounts

Some Triangle residents with family members who were taken hostage on Oct. 7 spoke about their experiences.

Lucy Siegel is a Chapel Hill resident whose brother, Keith Siegel, and sister-in-law, Aviva Siegel, were kidnapped by Hamas militants from their home in Israel. Aviva was released Nov. 26. Keith is still being held hostage.

Lucy described the conditions Keith is currently being subjected to, which include “very little food, very little water, no medications, verbal abuse [and] psychological manipulation,” according to Aviva Siegel and sources within the Israeli government.

“It’s unimaginable how long it has been,” Lucy said. “As life goes on … we’re all experiencing more and more milestones in our lives. For Keith and Aviva and their four beautiful children and five grandchildren, they’re not able to celebrate milestones together.”

Lucy, who has 30 family members currently living in Israel, recounted her experience receiving live updates during the attack via their WhatsApp group chat on Oct. 7.

“Naively, I sent them a message Saturday night [Oct. 8] assuming I was going to get up the next day and there would be a message from Keith or Aviva telling me ‘we’re fine,’” Lucy said.

Lucy learned from a neighbor the following day that Keith and Aviva were kidnapped at gunpoint by Hamas militants, which was later confirmed by the Israeli government. Her family eventually learned that two of Keith’s ribs were broken and one of his hands was shot during his capture.

The Siegel family has been calling for Keith’s release since Oct. 7 and has met with several U.S. government officials, including President Joseph Biden, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and multiple members of Congress.

“We will not stop until Keith is home — until all the hostages are home,” Lucy said.

Marion Robboy, who has multiple cousins being held hostage by Hamas, spoke next. She recalled celebrating the end of Sukkot — “one of the most joyful Jewish holidays” — the evening of Oct. 6. She said that early the next morning, “the world shattered.”

“Hamas terrorists were brutally killing people, raping women, killing children, destroying homes and abducting very many members of the kibbutz,” Robboy said. “In short, terrifying chaos was everywhere.”

Robboy said that 97 of the 1,000 who resided in the Be’eri kibbutz were killed in the initial attack and many were kidnapped, including seven of her cousins who Hamas held for 15 days.

“We ask ourselves how my family, your family, any family deals with such unimaginable trauma. They have no choice,” Robboy said. “They are resilient, but the pain is deep and very persistent.”

Robboy closed her remarks by calling attention to the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza.

“They need to come home now. We all need to bring them home now,” she said.


Community support

Marion’s husband Stanley Robboy, vice-chair for diagnostic pathology in the department of pathology at the School of Medicine and secretary and treasurer of Voice4Israel, spoke about the role university administrations play in combating antisemitism on campus.

He identified Voice4Israel as “an advocacy group trying to make this area safe” that works to hold the Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill administrations accountable for “the antisemitism that is in both places.”

Stanley Robboy advocated for a review of Duke’s academic departments by “legitimate outside reviewers” to assess how the University fares in addressing antisemitism, directing his remarks in particular at the department of Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

“The war in Gaza weighs heavily on many of us, and both faculty and students are experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety,” Shai Ginsburg, chair and director of graduate studies for the AMES department, wrote in a Wednesday evening email to The Chronicle. “I am dedicated to ensuring all voices are heard, and I am committed to listening attentively and engaging in meaningful dialogue to address any issues that may arise.”

Ginsburg extended an invitation to meet personally with any students who have concerns, encouraging “open dialogue and constructive criticism.”

Stanley Robboy also criticized POLISCI 497S, Settler Colonialism, for teaching a unit on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that it "suggest[ed] that Jews are illegitimately occupying the land of other people." 

Abdeslam Maghraoui, associate professor of the practice of political science who teaches the course, wrote in a Thursday morning email to The Chronicle that "it is absurd to claim that in a course we can’t compare 'extreme right-wing Zionism' (not Zionism tout court) to the French 'civilizing mission' in Algeria or 'apartheid' in South Africa." 

"This is akin to devout Muslims on campus asking me in a different course I teach not to compare political Islam, which is nation-based, with global terrorism associated with Islamic extremism," he continued. "Of course we should. Students can write a paper arguing and demonstrating that the two are very different, similar only in some respect, only at specific moments of history, or completely dissimilar."

Maghraoui wrote that only by "studying the institutions, ideologies, the behavior of the actors and their strategies" can people understand these nuances. 

“As the discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has absolutely exploded on college campuses all over the world, we’re very lucky that at Duke, the environment has been … much more calm relative to other campuses,” said Duke SSI co-president Alexandra Ahdoot, a junior.

Remarks were also given by two religious figures from the Triangle: Pastor Vince Vincent from the Calvary Chapel of Chapel Hill and Rabbi Nossen Fellig of Duke Chabad.

Vincent expressed support for his Jewish “brothers and sisters,” saying “our hearts should break for what breaks God’s heart.”

Fellig expressed his gratitude for everyone who attended the event. He spoke about “pidyon shvuyim,” the concept of redeeming captives in Jewish scripture. 

“[It’s] the greatest mitzvah of all mitzvahs in the Torah,” Fellig said. “We are doing that mitzvah by being here as proud, loud, strong advocates for our people.”

Pro-Palestinian protest

While the "Bring Them Home Rally" was underway in front of Duke Chapel, pro-Palestinian students gathered on the other side of Abele Quad to protest the event.

Protesters chanted slogans such as “long live the intifada; intifada, intifada,” “ceasefire now” and “from the river to the sea.” Additional slogans included "free, free Palestine," “Jews say, ‘Ceasefire now!’” and other call-and-response phrases. 

Demonstrators also accused Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “committing genocide.”

pro palestine counter protest.jpg

Some students took issue with how Duke has handled its response to the conflict, criticizing the decision to host Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, in a Monday event for the Provost’s Initiative on the Middle East.

“They really applaud themselves on that being a ‘two sides of the coin’ showing, but it completely ignores the history of the Palestinian Authority having no actual power within Palestine and it also being a structure put in by the Israeli state,” participant Nina Ray said. “Why are they amplifying a minority voice from the [Palestinian Authority] … when most people support the resistance?”

A wartime poll conducted in December found that 88% of Palestinians across Gaza and the West Bank support the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine. Meanwhile, 44% of respondents in the West Bank supported the militant and political group Hamas — a 32 percentage point increase from the latest poll conducted in September. Support for Hamas also slightly increased for those living in Gaza, from 38% in September to 42% in December. 

Ray also believes that student protests around the issue have been “heavily policed” by Duke’s administration, which she feels is “counterproductive to any kind of meaningful dialogue.”

“I think right now, the key thing that people are uniting behind [is] the people on the ground resisting and fighting for the war to stop,” Ray said.


At 6:59 p.m., the protesters began to circle the quad. Some officials initially stood in the walkway, but eventually moved aside and walked in front of and to the side of the group. Some protesters paused before the steps leading to the Duke Chapel to shout slogans at the rally attendees.

“I don’t choose to focus on that situation. I choose to focus on the incredible support and incredible event that we put on,” Feldstein said. “We’re not making any sort of political statement, we’re not trying to be provocative. We’re simply saying we wish that innocent people are returned back to their homes.”

Abby Spiller and Samanyu Gangappa contributed reporting.

Editor's note: This article was updated early Thursday morning with Maghraoui's comment, Thursday afternoon with Cardamone's comment and Friday morning with Cardamone's subsequent email. 

Zoe Kolenovsky profile
Zoe Kolenovsky | News Editor

Zoe Kolenovsky is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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