Supporters of the Gaber family show off a flag calling for a Free Gaza and a Free Palestine. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Supporters of the Gaber family show off a flag calling for a Free Gaza and a Free Palestine. (Photos by Nuha Abdessalam)

Supporters stand in silence with Hickory Hills family

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Ashraf Gaber waves a Palestinian flag during the Stand in Silence rally in Hickory Hills.

By Nuha Abdessalam

Community members stood in silence against violence in solidarity with the Gaber family of Hickory Hills.

Neighbors and members were unsettled after Hickory Hills resident Lila Gaber’s family received two hate letters for having a “Free Palestine” sign on their front lawn.

The family recently received an outpouring of support through direct messages on social media and from the community. That ultimately turned into a “Stand in Silence” rally Dec. 28 at the Gaber family’s home.

reporter 1 2 24 silent protest3 in HH

A young supporter holds a sign calling for an end to antisemitism against Jews and Palestinians.

“I hope this illustrates that other people are not Palestinian and still do share the same message behind Laila’s sign, but not only that, there’s free speech here in America,” said Kate, the rally organizer who declined to give her last name.

The Plainfield resident first learned of Laila’s story through social media posts and news segments. Hoping to support the Gaber family, Kate helped organize the rally against the hateful rhetoric.

“We are here to encourage that a sign is not to illicit violence; we’re here to silence that violence, and standing up for the community is vital,” added Kate.

The rain did not discourage the dozens of community members who joined the rally on the Gaber’s front lawn waving Palestinian flags and carrying signs. Some came from out of town to show their support.

Holly Moore and her boyfriend, Efrain Prado, were so upset by the family’s circumstances that they drove in from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to show solidarity with the family.

“We’re here to be human, and as humans, not to be treated poorly,” said Moore. “I hope that the Gaber family feels fully supported and this gains traction and recognition so the people who live here feel safer.”

The rally helps show support for the Gaber family and “the freedom of speech,” added Prado. “We shouldn’t feel any type of way in our homes. This is their domain, and they pay their taxes and should be able to say do as they please.”

Oak Forest resident and supporter Sandra Gagliano also came in support of being human. “I’m here to show my support for the Palestinians, for the Christians, for the Jews, we’re all the same,” said Gagliano. “Gaza has opened the eyes of America, and still, some ignore it; it’s a shame, and it’s sad, but we’re here standing against it as humans.”

Signs saying “Free Palestine” and “End the Violence” curated further union among supporters, including Julius Allen and Hani Khatib. “I came out to show solidarity and to elevate the voices of Palestinians,” said Allen.

In fostering community and understanding, Khatib added, “The issue happening in Palestine is one that is heartbreaking. Each new day, the entire world watches, hoping for change. Remarkably, during this time, it was Palestine that changed the world. It united us and strengthened an unbreakable bond. I showed up today as part of that bond.”

Seema Imam, a Hickory Hills resident of over 30 years and Human Rights Commissioner, expressed the necessity of community allegiance within the city in helping bridge the gap for true inclusion and diversity.

“Our city can build bridges. This means a Ramadan party for Muslim children in the park district annually. It is equal to the Christmas party in the park district,” said Imam. “This will cause people to have a sense of belonging, and seeing it promoted by the city will make others say the city is with all of us.”

At the rally, Gaber’s family and community members stood in solidarity, collaborating to illustrate the Hickory Hills community’s support for Gaber’s family.

Laila Gaber said, “It brings me so much hope that people took time out of their lives to come and take a stand with us.

“I appreciate everyone who came out, shared the post, shared the story, and supported us – humanity still exists.”

reporter 1 2 24 silent protest2 in HH

Dozens of supporters gather on the front lawn of the Gaber family to show their support after the family received two hate letters.

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