Credit: Alice Sukhostavskiy / Mustang News

A group of 37 students and supporters gathered in the University Union (UU) for the ‘Bring Them Home’ march on Tuesday morning.

Cal Poly’s Jewish organizations – SLO Hillel, Mustangs United for Israel (MUFI) and Mishelanu – hosted the march dedicated to a global effort to demand the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas.

Hillel previously organized a march through downtown SLO and created a petition requesting more public support for Israel from Cal Poly.  

MUFI is a Pro-Israel Pro-Peace coalition at Cal Poly SLO, according to their Instagram, representing the views of students protesting for peace.

“We are now fighting for awareness of the people who are alive and taking life there,” visiting faculty and Sapir Academic College professor Sagit Kedem Yemini said. 

Before marching through campus, attendees met in the UU to write on posterboards and learn rally chants. 

“Let’s be loud. Let’s be visible,” organizers said to the crowd. 

An organizer with SLO Hillel who wished to remain anonymous expressed discomfort in knowing that there is no explicit Jewish community on campus.

According to organizers, Cal Poly’s campus has become an uncomfortable place for Jewish students following Cal Poly President Jefferey Armstrong’s message sent out on Oct. 12, not condemning the Oct.7 Hamas attack on Israel. 

“Our practice at Cal Poly is not to comment on current national and world events that do not directly impact a critical mass of our students and employees,” Armstrong wrote in the campus-wide message. 

A day later, Armstrong followed up by apologizing for his previous email, shortly following a hate crime targeting two Jewish students. 

“I was really disappointed,” art and design sophomore Aviv Kesar said. “At the end of the day, I think it’s a matter of humanity.” 

Kesar addressed Armstrong in an email following his message, urging him to acknowledge the Jewish student population as a critical mass. 

“It kinda just weighs down your whole soul, to be honest,” Kesar said.

Kesar has family in Israel and recalls visiting over the summer, calling it her “safe place.” She said she has a fear that she may never be able to experience that again.

“Nowhere really feels like a safe place anymore,” she said.  

Similar to Kesar, mechanical engineering sophomore Guy Kalach describes Israel as his “second home,” as he visits Israel every year. 

“Israel is just very important to me, my identity and I’ll always stand with Israel,” Kalach said. “If anything, I feel like I haven’t been doing enough but it’s hard to do much other than try to raise awareness.”

He recalled feeling “pissed off” after seeing the president’s initial message.  

“They [the administration] say we will not take a stance about this political issue,” Kalach said. “When like over hundreds of Israelis and Jews are killed, they say we will not take a stance about this political is, it’s like, it’s not a political issue, it’s like a terrorist attack that we’re grieving from.”

Additionally, attendees and organizers hoped the march would also bring awareness about the community’s experiences with families and friends directly impacted by the Israel-Hamas war. 

“To me it’s shocking, the anti-semitism and the amount of, and how ignorant people are,” Kalach said. “People choose to be ignorant – not are ignorant – choose to be ignorant because there’s so much evidence to prove that Hamas is a terrorist organization.” 

“It doesn’t take going into politics and history to understand that going and killing civilians is inhumane,” Kesar said.  

A ‘March for Palestine’ advertised by Abolitionist Action Central Coast/SLO took place on Thursday, beginning at Mission Plaza. Mustang News will follow up with more information.

Update: This story was updated on Nov.10 to provide more context of protests happening on Thursday.

Editor’s Note: Mustang News is referring to the ongoing conflict as the Israel-Hamas war based on the Associated Press Stylebook recommendations for the conflict.