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Clemson YWA chapter holds prayer vigil to support Israel amid global controversy

Ashleigh Snyder
Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nace speaks about a Jewish 3-year-old named Abigail who was captured by Hamas.

Rallying support for Israel, around 30 people, including students, staff and community members, gathered for a night of prayer inside the Samuel J. Cadden Chapel on Clemson’s campus on Wednesday night.

The event, hosted by Young Women for America, a subgroup of Concerned Women for America, came in response to the violence that has unfolded between Hamas and Israel over the last month and the resulting pro-Hamas rhetoric that has uproared college campuses.

Kicking off the event, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance, relayed her perceptions about the Middle Eastern conflict. Sharing the story of Abigail, a 3-year-old Jewish child who was kidnapped during the Oct. 7 invasion by Hamas terrorists, speakers from Concerned Women for America discussed the importance of “standing with the people of Israel and their fight for life.”

“We have no idea where this child is, but we know that God in heaven does, and we know that innocence is the apple of his eye, and we also know that he loves the children of Gaza, and we wish them no harm,” Nance said, fighting back tears.

Condemning the actions of Hamas and calling for Israeli support was the resounding theme of Wednesday’s event.

“Lord, I pray that you will break the hearts of their captors,” Nance prayed as she left the podium.

Emily Cope, the president of Clemson’s YWA chapter that organized the vigil, voiced her support for Israel to The Tiger.

“As a Young Women for America college leader, I’m proud to stand with Israel and proud for people to know that there are college students and that there are college students at Clemson that support Israel,” Cope said in an interview.

Two Jewish students in attendance expressed to The Tiger what this event at Clemson signifies to them.

“It (the vigil) showed us that our school is behind us, and it showed us that there are other people on this campus who will support us and that we’re not alone in this difficult time; that’s all we can ask for,” a sophomore member of Hillel, a Jewish student group on campus, told The Tiger.

“This event shows that people here at Clemson really value the Jewish community. We can stand with Christians as well and all hope for one goal, the safety of Israel, the Jewish people, the innocent Palestinians and really just all children,” Grace Dyenson, a sophomore member of Hillel, said. “I think that this allowed us to come together as a university and provide a safe space.”

At the vigil, students from YWA and Young Americans for Freedom gave out free t-shirts that read “Stand with Israel” and encouraged participants to wear blue, signifying solidarity with Israel.

Although the event faced no backlash or Pro-Hamas protests, the Clemson University Police Department stationed officers in and around the chapel to ensure attendees’ safety.

Two student organization leaders celebrated Clemson’s commitment to their First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of religion.

“As basic as a right as it is, to be able to freely speak, a lot of universities, as we all know, don’t allow their students to have gatherings like this,” Taylor Adams, president of Clemson’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter, told The Tiger. “I’m just really grateful to the Clemson admin for letting us come here tonight and voice our opinion and pray freely.”

“We were not only allowed to have our free speech tonight, we were allowed to have a freedom of religion because we prayed and worshiped,” Cope said. “I am so grateful to Clemson for allowing that and to Young Women for America for helping us put this on.”

Penny echoed the students’ sentiments as she commended Clemson students’ ability to gather, speak and pray freely on campus.

“I’m very happy to report that at Clemson University, there was full-throated, unequivocal support for the ability for students to gather and use their First Amendment speech rights to uplift Israel,” Nance said. “We’re very grateful and happy to feel the Tigers’ love.”

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a US-defined terrorist organization, attacked Israel. Since then, there have been roughly 1,400 Israeli casualties, mostly of which were civilian deaths on Oct. 7, according to The Associated Press. Counterattacks made by the Israeli defense resulted in over 10,000 Palestinian deaths.

In response to the violence, antisemitic messages have spread on college campuses nationwide. At a protest near Tulane University, at least two students were assaulted when someone tried to burn an Israeli flag, buildings at George Washington University were painted with “From the river to the sea,” designating the end of Israel and a student at Cornell University threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews.”

Similar prayer vigils have taken place at other colleges as part of a campaign led by the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee to counter the pro-Hamas protesting it characterizes as “Pro-terrorist Demonstrations.” Some YWA chapters that have hosted vigils include those at Baylor, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech.

“Tonight, we will not just be protesting; we will be using the most powerful tool at our disposal as Christians, and that is prayer,” Cope said during the event.

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Blake Mauro
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    SamNov 10, 2023 at 2:30 pm

    A large majority of Palestine supporters openly and consistently condemn Hamas. To call all supporters of Palestine “Pro-Hamas” is extremely disingenuous, dangerous, and outright inappropriate. Shameful reporting, shameful.