Israel Independence Day celebration at Daley Plaza draws pro-Palestinian protesters

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team and Michelle Gallardo WLS logo
Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Israel Independence Day draws pro-Palestinian protesters downtown
A Daley Plaza protest in Chicago got underway during an Israel Independence Day celebration on Tuesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Even while Israel itself has held a more subdued Independence Day celebration on Tuesday, canceling several planned events, here in Chicago, the commemoration of Yom Ha'atzmaut was an important one for hundreds of local Jewish people.

Hundreds gathered at Daley Plaza under the watchful eye of the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday afternoon to hold a celebration of the Israeli nation's founding 76 years ago. It was joyous at times and somber at other times.

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"We need to celebrate and come together and strike a balance. How do we remember those who were hurt and continue to be hurt on October 7th, but also celebrate the 76th anniversary of the miracle of Israel?" said Dan Goldwin with the Jewish United Fund.

There were reminders of October 7th and its aftermath everywhere on Tuesday. The music played at the beginning of the program was the same music played during the Nova Music festival before Hamas's brutal attack that left 1,200 people dead inside Israel.

"It feels like we have very few reasons to celebrate this year," said Consul General of Israel in Chicago Yinam Cohen.

Reminders of the 132 people still held being held hostage were also everywhere.

A very human reminder, Leah Polin, the grandmother of American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was present. It was just a few weeks ago that Hamas released video of the 23-year-old, providing his family with the very first glimpse they've gotten of him since the start of the war in Gaza.

"We just sat on the floor in my little house in Florida, watched it and cried and tried to analyze how he's looking. He had his hair shaved. Now, it's growing back. How's the arm that was blown off? Analyzing every little thing," Polin said.

And yet, there was also pain evident on the other side of the equation on Tuesday as dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in opposition.

Two protesters managed to get on stage at Daley Plaza before being dragged off by police. For Palestinians, Israel's founding is known as the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," as some 700,000 of them fled or were driven from their homes.

"How can anybody in the world celebrate that? Especially now, I wouldn't celebrate if there wasn't a war. I could definitely not celebrate it when 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last seven months," said Hatem Abudayyeh with the United States Palestine Community Network.

Following the celebration, both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian supporters dispersed peacefully. Chicago police said no arrests were made.