Some 6,000 high school students from Israeli towns near the Gaza border reached Jerusalem on Thursday following a 100-mile march in what the teens said was an “apolitical” effort to effect change.
About 100 students began the march from Sderot, a southern Israeli town often targeted by Palestinian bombs, on Sunday, picking up supporters from southern Israel and across the country along the approximately 90-kilometer route.
They wore T-shirts reading, “Let us grow up in peace” and ended their march at the Knesset.
“Our message is that we want change. Enough of the current security situation,” Roei Rahaf of Kibbutz Mefalsim, a senior at the Shaar Hanegev regional high school, told Ynet at the start of the march. “Since we were born, we’ve been living from one war to the next. We want to grow up on the Gaza border in peace.”
The Gaza border area has seen near-constant unrest since a series of protest marches by Gazans along the border fence began in late March, punctuated by rocket attacks and the launches of incendiary balloons. Israeli leaders are said to be seeking a long-term calm with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, but are also under pressure to ensure any deal includes the return of Israelis and remains of soldiers held in the Strip.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas-led fighters in Gaza since 2008.
“The change is in the hands of the leadership in Israel, and that is why we are marching to the Knesset,” Rahaf said. “This is a journey to raise awareness of what’s going on here, on the Gaza border; to tell our story, of the teenagers who deal with the difficult security situation.”
President Reuven Rivlin met the marchers when they entered Jerusalem.
“I came to march with you on behalf of every citizen of Israel who is following you and is marching with you in spirit,” he said.
“Happy is the people whose young people march at its head, and happy are the parents who raised their children with such a feeling of national pride, of love of the country, of such a meaningful connection to our wonderful country.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.