Hundreds of students and community members gathered on South Lawn Friday evening for a vigil mourning the death of thousands of Palestinian civilians in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The vigil was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, and co-hosted with other student groups, including Young Democratic Socialists of America, Dissenters and many others who also helped to organize the Oct. 25 walkout.
The president of SJP — a third-year College student who did not want to be identified by name — said SJP had planned on holding a vigil for a long time, but had not found a good time until this week. He noted they did move the date from earlier in the week to give students more space to mourn for the anniversary of the Nov. 13, 2022 shooting on Grounds. The president, who is also a Jewish student, said he has witnessed solidarity on Grounds with the Palestinian people.
“I think that the Jewish faith really compels us to stand with refugees, and people who are oppressed and people who are victims of violence and genocide,” he said. “And I think that what Israel is doing is completely immoral and completely antithetical to the Jewish faith.”
One speaker at the vigil, who chose to remain anonymous, said the attendees were coming together to mourn lives that had been taken at the hands of occupation. However, the speaker said, this is a type of enduring injustice that Palestinian people have been mourning for the past 75 years.
Israeli forces have killed at least 11,470 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom are women and children. Human rights organizations have referred to the Gaza strip as an “open-air prison” due to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip since 2007, exacerbated by a very restrictive Egyptian border. The strict border with Egypt has decimated the Gaza economy and worsened the ongoing war crimes and humanitarian crisis. Notably, Israel has severed communications and, until recently, fuel supply, leaving Gaza’s 2.3 million people in perilous conditions amidst Israeli bombings.
Attendees at the vigil were invited to read around 150 names and stories of Palestians who have died in the conflict, including many infants. Some cried while reading names, and the stories shared belonged to Palestinians of all ages and walks of life, focusing on their humanity, love and resilience.
The second speech, delivered by a non-student speaker who introduced himself by the name Fahad, was about the ideas of names and history. The ideas of people’s names, he said, are more than their abstractions — something larger but also an individual human being. Arabic naming conventions often include the names of several generations of ancestors as “vessels of heritage and history.”
“When you read the name, when you hear the name, know that you're not just hearing the names of the deceased,” he said. “You're hearing the names of their fathers, their grandfathers and great grandfathers.”
The vigil was closed with a quote from James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” followed by a moment of silence, where mourners were asked to reflect on what “impossible” future they hope to one day see.
“I know what I'm asking is impossible,” the quote reads. “But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand.”