Hundreds of students and community members gathered in the Amphitheater Tuesday evening for a community vigil in support of Israel after attacks earlier this week. The vigil included Jewish songs and prayers as well as students sharing their stories.
On Saturday, Hamas, an Islamist militant group, launched a surprise attack in southern Israel — Israel then declared war against the group. Since then, more than 1,000 people have died in Israel and over 900 people have died in Gaza, a strip of land bordered by Israel and one of two Palestinian-inhabited territories.
The vigil was planned by various Jewish students and organizations across grounds, including the Brody Jewish Center and the Chabad House, both organizations that offer support and services to Jewish students.
Fourth-year College student Hannah Mikowski, who is involved with the Brody Jewish Center, spoke at the vigil on the importance of remembering Israeli civilians who lost their lives.
“Unfortunately, it is our responsibility to remind the world that murdering Jewish people, Jewish civilians, our friends, loved ones and relatives, is always a failure on humanity’s behalf and never a triumph,” Mikowski said.
The event was open to anyone in the community who wanted to show support for Israel and the Jewish community. Candles and stickers with the words “My heart is with Israel” were passed out to people as they arrived at the event, and a scannable QR code showed the different songs and prayers for the program.
Attendees filled the Amphitheater wearing blue and white to listen to different speakers take turns sharing their stories and leading songs. Students leading the program shared their personal connections to the attacks, expressed concern for the people in Israel and led the group through songs and prayers.
At one point in the vigil, fourth-year College student Adin Yager urged students to use compassion rather than anger when explaining the attacks to others and emphasized the Jewish community’s desire for peace.
“Showing love in times like these always will outdo being intolerant, even when intolerance is actively thrown at us, as it is now,” Yager said.
First-year College student Ryan Berman, one of the event’s organizers, said students were quick to begin planning the vigil Saturday because they wanted to raise awareness about the attacks and showcase the voices of Jewish students. He said he wanted to help plan the event because of the importance of a community among college students.
“During a hard time like this where we all saw the news and didn’t know how to react, it’s really important to find community,” Berman said. “I hope that from the vigil, students at [the University] see that the Jewish community here is strong and stands with Israel.”
During the vigil, students swayed with arms around each other as they sang Hebrew songs and listened to fellow students. Second-year College student Samara Tanner spoke to the crowd at the vigil before leading the singing of the song “Hinei Ma Tov”.
“The Jewish people have prevailed together,” Tanner said. “To see so many of us here in community gives me hope for the future.”
The event concluded with a moment of silence, and students were welcomed to stay after to continue singing traditional Hebrew songs for peace.
Students for Justice in Palestine at U.VA. is hosting a teach-in and demonstration at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on the Rotunda steps.