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UCLA community gathers for vigil honoring Israeli, Palestinian lives

Community members gather at the bottom of Tongva Steps for a vigil that included the reading of poems and religious texts. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Dylan Winward and Catherine Hamilton

Nov. 2, 2023 5:43 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 2 at 11:26 p.m.

Nearly 100 community members attended a vigil held Wednesday in Bruin Plaza to mourn lives lost in attacks in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The event, which began at 6 p.m., was hosted by distinguished professor of history David Myers in collaboration with comparative literature doctoral student Sharon Zelnick and fourth-year Middle Eastern studies and psychology student Rachel Burnett. It included readings of poems as well as Islamic, Jewish and Christian texts by local religious leaders and academics.

According to the Associated Press, on Oct. 7, militant group and Palestinian political party Hamas attacked and took hostages from Israeli villages, continuing attacks on the region since then. In response, Israeli bombings and airstrikes, including a series of attacks on apartments in a Gaza refugee camp Tuesday, as well as a ground invasion, have killed thousands of Palestinian civilians, according to AP.

Myers said the vigil was intended to mourn the loss of life without including political opinions or commentaries on the conflict. He added that the vigil was not sponsored by a particular organization because the organizers did not want it to be associated with a specific political position.

“The vigil is intended to be a space where people can gather to mourn the loss of life in the wake … (of) the violence that commenced in Israel-Palestine on Oct. 7,” Myers said. “It’s intended to be a space where those who mourn the loss of all human life can come together.”

Myers also said the event was designed to help community members heal outside of these political tensions and to provide a space for people to escape polarization, suspicion and fear.

Burnett said she decided to take part in organizing the vigil because she had heard in the news about political division on college campuses in light of the war.

“I personally didn’t feel represented at a vigil that only mourned Israeli lives or only mourned Palestinian lives,” Burnett said. “(To) have a space to express that together, for me, is the most meaningful thing.”

Sofia Rips, a second-year neuroscience student who attended the vigil, said she thought the vigil was important because she felt it was not as polarized as other rallies and protests.

“I thought it was really nice to have a mix of both Muslim and Jewish communities coming together and recognizing the importance of human life,” she said. “(This) reminds people that every life matters.”

Rips, who is Jewish, added that she feels that there has been animosity between some Jewish and Palestinian people recently. However, she said she personally cares greatly about Palestinian lives, so the event gave her an opportunity to connect with like-minded people.

Dr. Adnan Majid, a psychiatrist at UCLA, said he attended the event because he is deeply connected to both the Jewish and Muslim communities. As a Muslim, he was uncertain about whether to attend the vigil because of his strong personal and political opinions on the conflict, he said.

“Seeing the crowd, I was a little uncertain whether to join, and I think that reflects the ongoing traumatic experiences that people are feeling in the community,” he said.

Mathew Rahban, a UCLA alumnus who attended the vigil, said he felt the event was important because it recognized the value of human life. He added that he was surprised that a vigil catering to multiple faith groups did not happen sooner.

Yareen Hagay Mevel, a third-year psychology student, said she feels that it is hard to find her voice on campus as a politically left-leaning Israeli who opposes Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and supports peace in the region. However, she added that she thought the vigil was a groundbreaking event.

“It’s been hard to feel like I’m actually making an impact as someone who still stands by my activism,” Hagay Mevel said. “This is a beautiful space to feel like I’m supported within my activism and validated within my narrative and my identity as an Israeli American.”

Myers said it is important to recognize the worth of all lives and that he hopes the vigil achieved its purpose.

“Perhaps this vigil can serve as a reminder to the wider campus community that all human life is precious,” he said.

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Dylan Winward | News editor
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Winward is the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. He was previously a News reporter for campus politics and features and student life. He is also a second-year English literature and statistics student.
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
Hamilton was the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor.
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