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(photo credit: AP [file])
When Arielle Perlow and Sarphya Gerrin returned from a trip to Poland, they set out to fulfill the promise of "never again, anywhere." Their dream of making a difference was realized Monday night when close to 500 people rallied in Jerusalem's Zion Square to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. The crowd chanted "Lo od," or no more, and dozens of youths wore shirts proclaiming "Save Darfur."
When Perlow and Gerrin returned to Israel, they found no way to channel their energies, so they and 300 friends from their yeshiva and seminary created the Save the Nation of Darfur organization, which held the rally.
"You don't see kids in yarmulkes and tzitzit holding human rights rallies every day," said Eytan Schwartz, winner of the TV show Ambassador and a speaker at the event.
The goal of the organization is to raise awareness in Israel about the situation in Darfur, where according to UN estimates, as many as 500,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced.
Almost everyone who approached the rally asked the same question, "What is Darfur?"
So why should Israelis focus on a conflict far away when there are problems here at home?
"Abraham begged for the people of Sodom and Gemorrah," said Gerrin, adding that Jews should never have a reason to not help the needy. As a nation, and especially as Jews, we have to help others and "be a light unto the nations," he said.
The rally was mostly paid for by the students, their families and friends, along with a $500 grant from the American Jewish World Service.
"I am in so much debt," said a smiling Gerrin.
The group also had the backing of 20 organizations, including The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bar-Ilan University, and yeshivot and seminaries in Jerusalem.
The organization, composed completely of Jewish students from English-speaking countries, is planning a fund-raising campaign for the close to 250 Darfur refugees in Israel. It offered its assistance to Schwartz's organization, the Committee for Advancement of Refugees from Darfur, to help provide education and clothing.
Other speakers at the rally included Rabbi Yehuda Gilad of Ma'aleh Gilboa, Prof. Elihu Richter of the Hebrew University and Elana Yael, a Holocaust researcher.