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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students honor Israeli hostages with pop-up installation on Deering Meadow

Micah Sandy/The Daily Northwestern
Friday’s demonstration on Deering Meadow was one of many around the world using empty chairs to honor Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza since the militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Two hundred and forty empty chairs sat on Deering Meadow Friday, each one bearing the photo, name and age of a hostage kidnapped by the militant group Hamas. 

Wildcats for Israel organized the display to bring awareness to the about 240 hostages remaining in Gaza and to foster a sense of community for those affected, said Medill sophomore Madeleine Stern, President of Wildcats for Israel.

“This is simply a display that we wanted to do because of the fact that it’s been several weeks now, and there are still 240 hostages in Gaza,” Stern said. “We really wanted to highlight the fact that these are human beings that are still kidnapped, and we’re praying for their safe return.”

In addition to the display, Wildcats for Israel also hosted a gathering Friday afternoon on Deering Meadow to say “a prayer for peace, a prayer for the captives and a prayer for hope,” according to Stern.

About 1,200 Israelis were killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing war as the Israeli military has responded with a continuous bombardment, blockade and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Each chair represented an individual taken hostage in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7. (Micah Sandy/The Daily Northwestern)

Stern said it was important to note that the prayers taking place at the demonstration for the hostages don’t disregard any mourning of innocent lives lost in Gaza and Israel.

Stern added she and her peers were motivated to organize the installation because of the personal nature of the war for many Jewish students on campus.

“For a lot of us, this issue is personal,” she said. “We know people in Israel, and if we don’t know people in Israel, we know someone who knows someone in Israel. Today, this event is for us to remember them. It’s for our friends in Israel. It’s for the families of those who are hostages. It’s for the hostages themselves.”

The installation comes after several student-led vigils, walkouts and demonstrations relating to the war in recent weeks.

According to Weinberg junior and Hillel student executive board president Sari Eisen, who attended the event, demonstrations like these are crucial to raise awareness for the hostages.

“We think it’s important that Northwestern students show our support for bringing the hostages home and representing student voices,” she said. “Students have been taking the brunt of a lot of the controversy recently, so we want to show that we will not let our voices be silenced, and we will continue to speak up for the issues we care about.” 

Empty chair demonstrations have taken place throughout the world in the midst of the war, and posters bearing the names and photos of hostages have also been used at an international level as a tool to increase awareness.

The chairs were on display for more than four hours Friday on Deering Meadow. (Micah Sandy/The Daily Northwestern)

Math Prof. Ezra Getzler, who stopped by the installation, said seeing these symbols on NU’s campus stirred strong emotions for him.

“I’m in tears,” Getzler said. “I’ve seen the posters around Chicago, but I haven’t seen them all at once in this way. We’ve seen in other cities and different places how moving it is when the cribs are put up for the children and so on, but seeing it here at our university gives me some optimism and some hope.”

Stern said she hopes the event reminded the NU community that there are 240 hostages who are still not free.

“For those who are very aware of this issue, we hope that it creates a sense of community for them,” she said. “For those who are not aware of this issue, we hope that it enlightens people.”

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Twitter: @Noracollins02

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Twitter: @lmschroeder_

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