Controversy erupts as elite New York school holds moment of silence for Gaza

An elite New York school offered a moment of silence last May 15 for the 62 Palestinian victims killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. Controversy, however, followed the school activity after some Jewish parents expressed their outrage.

(REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo)Road sign pointing to the directions of border crossings, positioned next to the entrance of the Kerem Shalom border crossing terminal, Israel January 16, 2018.

Parents stormed Beacon High School in Manhattan to ask why the students were made to participate in an anti-Jewish activity. One father apparently told the New York Post, "I did not send my child to a New York City public school to pray for Hamas operatives."

Apart from the students' parents, members of the Zionist Organization of America also expressed outrage for what transpired at Beacon High School. Its organization president Morton Klein asked an apology from the school authorities.

"It is disgraceful to mourn the death of Hamas terrorists," Klein said.

The U.S. has regarded Hamas as a terrorist organization. The group claimed that a border clash at the Gaza Strip on Monday, May 14, involved 50 of their soldiers out of the 62 killed.

Not all Jewish parents are outraged by the school's initiative. Rebecca Vilkomerson from the Jewish Voice for Peace, whose daughter attends the school, told reporters that she saw the school activity as a sign of hope, and it made her proud that her child participated. Other parents also underscored that the school did not observe a moment of silence for a terrorist group. Instead, the kids said a prayer for the Palestinian victims of the massacre.

New York City's Department of Education, meanwhile, expressed its support for the schools initiative as it promoted inclusivity and respect. It also helped raise students' awareness of social issues.

Since March, Palestinians have been holding its "March of Return" protests at the Gaza border, which called for Israel to allow Palestinian refugees into their territory. The government of Israel, however, said that the Hamas has been behind these protests as a cover for a potential terrorist attack once the border has been breached.