"If somebody's coming into your home, wouldn't you defend yourself?"
Three separate participants of the pro-Palestinian Nashville rally on Friday echoed this same comparison when asked to describe the ongoing crisis between Israel and Palestine.
While they had never met each other, all three had family roots in Palestine, and mirrored the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East with an intruder invading someone's home.
One of those three protesters was Centennial High School senior Adam Masri, a first-generation American whose parents moved to the United States from the Palestinian region of Gaza in 1997.
The current upsurge in violence between Israel and Palestine has left at least 248 Palestinians dead, including 66 children, and 13 Israelis dead, among them two children. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been injured since the recent violence began on May 10, with 116 Israelis injured during that same time frame.
The escalation of violence began earlier this month after Hamas militants launched a series of rockets at Israeli territory in response to a May 7 Israeli police raid on the Temple Mount, one of the holiest sites in the Islamic faith. That raid resulted in the injuries of approximately 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli police officers.
Hamas leaders also cited several impending evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem — territory that is recognized by international law as belonging to Palestine — as reason for the attack.
The Israeli Defense Force responded to the attack with a barrage of rockets of their own that same day, leveling buildings and killing 35 Palestinians, including 12 children.
On Friday, however, Hamas and Israel had reached a ceasefire, albeit a fragile one with the underlying disputes between the two countries still unresolved.
Palestine Protest & Rally
It was around 4 p.m. on Friday when around 50 pro-Palestinian protesters congregated in front of the Estes Kefauver Federal Building on Broadway. The group soon doubled, then tripled in size as the minutes went by.
"Israel, you can't hide, you're committing genocide," protestors chanted, waiving Palestinian flags and signs denouncing the killing of Palestinian civilians.
"Netanyahu, what do you say, how many people have you killed today?" protesters chanted.
Some passing motorists waived Palestinian flags outside their car windows in solidarity, whereas others looked on with curiosity. One man passing by on an electric scooter shouted "go Israel!" in an apparent attempt to disparage the protesters.
Among the hundreds of protesters chanting on Broadway that day was 18 year-old Masri, who was set to graduate from Centennial High School the Saturday following the rally.
"My family [and I] came down [to the rally] to support our people because we are going through an ethnic cleansing in our country," Masri said. "We're living a good life [here in Tennessee], but our people are being killed for no reason. That's why we are standing up for our people."
When asked to describe his thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict further, Masri pushed back on the use of the word 'conflict,' while also denouncing the Biden administration for its continued support of Israel's military operations.
"The problem with the media is they call it a conflict — this is not a conflict, this is oppression," Masri said.
"My people, we have no army — Hamas is a group that has just been started up by people. I'm not saying we support [Hamas] as a group, but [Israel] is a country funded with billions of dollars — we're talking about $3.8 billion just given them to by the U.S. like that. A recent deal, almost $800 million worth of weapons has been given to them by the Biden administration."
"We call this a conflict, but really this is just oppression."
Protesters march toward the Tennessee State Capitol Building
As 5 p.m. approached, protesters readied behind a black Toyota pickup truck in preparation of a march toward the Tennessee State Capitol Building.
As the truck began to move, protesters followed, shouting chants and waiving signs. One of those protesters was 29-year-old Ahmed Elrifai, a Ravenwood High School graduate.
"We know that Palestine has been struggling under a blockade and bombings from Israel 11 days this time, but it's been years and years of injustice," Elrifai said.
"One of the biggest arguments people give is 'what about the rockets that come from Palestine?' My answer to that is when you're oppressing somebody so much, there has to be a resistance. Some people might see them as terrorists, but that's not the belief amongst everybody."
Elrifai also has close ties to Palestine, having lost an extended family member in the region due to the conflict just last week.
When asked to contextualize the ongoing conflict, Elrifai made a simple comparison, while also urging Williamson County residents to look deeper into the details of the situation.
"Imagine if somebody was coming into your house and you can't attack them; it's just a resistance — resistance is not terrorism, within boundaries of course," Elrifai said.
"Of course Williamson County, we know how conservative it is being in the Bible Belt, and we know how important Israel is in the bible, but at the end of the day, it's not a war of Islam versus Judaism — it's Zionism versus the world. If you look at all the international laws that are being broken, everybody stands against what Israel is doing except for the U.S."
As protesters continued their march toward the state capitol, organizers of the rally shouted chants via megaphone while riding in the bed of the pickup truck.
One of the rally's organizers, Bushra Alammouri, described her motivation in organizing the event as an urge to communicate the plight of Palestinians, describing them as "helpless." When asked what she might say to Williamson County residents who disagreed with her cause, Alammouri, much like Elrifai, made a simple comparison.
"I might ask them, if somebody's coming into your home, wouldn't you defend yourself?" Alammouri posed.
"If children we're dying in this country, wouldn't you speak out about it? If things are happening to people that are outside your control and a government force is taking control of that, you're allowed to criticize the government. You're not criticizing the people of Israel, you're not criticizing Judaism, you're criticizing a government and a powerful army that's taking control over innocent civilians."
As protesters reached their destination, some lit up flares just across from the Legislative Plaza, with hundreds more ascending the steps of the State Capitol Building.
Masri, who could be seen waiving two Palestinian flags in front of the State Capitol Building, was asked by the Home Page as to what he might say to a fellow Williamson County resident that was not supportive of his cause.
Masri shared a now-familiar comparison.
"All I would ask them is really a question," Masri said.
"If somebody were to come to your house — you're beautiful home in Williamson County — and they were to say 'this is my home now.' They say 'you've got to leave right now or else we're going to take your house down while you're in it.' I'd ask them, how would you feel if you were in that situation?"