At least 15 Chapman students slept in Roosevelt Hall Nov. 14 to 16 to symbolize the organizations that stay overnight at Umm al-Khair, a Palestinian village, to protect it from demolition and violence.
Chapman’s chapter of J Street U, a national college organization that is “pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace” and advocates for a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, hosted its first sleep-in, with plans to organize them monthly, said J Street U Chapman president Taylor Onderko.
“The campaign defends a two-state solution while opposing creeping annexation by the settlement movement,” said Onderko, who is a graduate student in Chapman’s international studies masters program. “J Street U Chapman (stands) with vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank like Umm al-Khair, which faces constant threats of demolition.”
The sleep-in, which was designed to educate students about the demolition of villages related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, comes days after the launch of J Street U’s national “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace” campaign, Onderko said.
The campaign pairs regional J Street U chapters with villages located on the West Bank in order to bring national attention and aid to the area. When J Street U Chapman was chosen to represent and help Umm al-Khair, the village asked for international recognition.
While symbolizing the struggles of the Umm al-Khair village, the sleep-in also gave club members and other supporters a chance to write letters to the U.S. Congress on behalf of the village, participate in a visual art campaign by signing a poster with “Stop Demolitions, Build Peace” written on it, and teach about J Street U, the village and the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Umm al-Khair, which is located in the southern West Bank, is being threatened with demolition because of its location in Israeli territory.
Onderko said that for future sleep-ins, the club will do “broader” outreach.
“We have close connections with both Palestinian and Israeli students on campus, as well as Jewish and Muslim students,” Onderko said. “This event was open to any student interested in learning about what we are doing in J Street U, regardless of political ideology or perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The chapter hopes to host sleep-in events monthly through the rest of the academic year, said the club’s vice president, Brittney Souza.
“This is a great way to bring awareness to the village and the conflict overall,” she said.
Sophia Barr, a freshman business administration and dance major, attended the sleep-in to continue her commitment to J Street U.
“I joined the organization this year. I am half Jewish and I wanted to learn more about the present-day Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” Barr said. “The sleep-in has sparked my motivation to keep learning about the village and this topic.”
Onderko said that she believes the event was a success.
“I could not be more proud of the other J Street U Chapman students for all of the hard work they put into this demonstration,” Onderko said.