More than 100 people gathered in front of Boston Public Library Wednesday evening for a vigil calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and memorializing the lives lost in Gaza and Israel since the war’s outbreak.
The vigil, which started at 5 p.m., was attended by Rep. Ayanna Pressley along with numerous interfaith leaders and activists. Throughout the event, speakers condemned the U.S. government’s support of Israel and called for a unified demand for a ceasefire.
“For over 100 days now, civilians in Gaza have not known peace,” Pressley said. “For over 100 days, we have seen horror and trauma sweep across the region after the brutal Hamas attack that robbed us of 1,2000 innocent Israeli lives. For over 100 days, over 25,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, and hundreds more have been killed with no accountability.”
Throughout the event, attendees held electric candlelights and wielded signs given out by organizers reading “My faith demands ceasefire.”
Speakers at the rally included leaders from several Christian churches of various denominations, including Lutheran and Baptist, as well as those of Islamic and Jewish institutions around Boston. Attendees chanted “shame” and “ceasefire now” in response to some statements, especially those criticizing the U.S. government, by the vigil’s leaders.
“I wanted to come out tonight to support the people who are suffering in Gaza and Palestine in general,” said Rowan Sporte Ehn, a college student in Boston. “A personal reason is just that I feel that I am personally against killing people and that I think everyone else should be too.”
Many who spoke expressed grief for the loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives in the conflict and called for an immediate end to fighting. According to data acquired from the Gazan Health Ministry by PBS, the Palestinian death toll has risen to over 25,000 since the start of the conflict, and over 1,200 were killed in Hamas’ attacks on Israel Oct. 7.
“I’ve been listening to Israeli survivors of the massacre, some of whose families are still in Gaza, who had the courage three months ago to beg that the memories and lives of their loved ones not be used to exact revenge,” said Hadar Ahuvia, a rabbinical student at Hebrew College. “Israeli Jews, especially Palestinian citizens of Israel, are being detained and attacked for expressions even of empathy and grief.”
Speakers also rebuked the U.S. government’s support of Israel throughout the war. Though President Joe Biden has called Israel’s bombing of Gaza “indiscriminate” and said they may lose international support, the president has continued what some say is his unwavering military, financial, and political support of the country.
“I grieve the decisions of these United States, the United States that keeps [its citizens], complicit in this barbarity and oppression,” said Reverend Darrell Hamilton of First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain. “It is because of the decision of our president to be an unequivocal ally to the state of Israel. These decisions are sure to bring our national and the executive branch with it to destruction and ruin.”
This sentiment was echoed by several attendees of the vigil who said Biden’s stance on the conflict could drive away voters in the upcoming presidential election.
“I’m scared. For me, there’s no question — Trump is just indescribably worse,” said Ben Ewen-Campen of Somerville, who is Jewish. “But I know that there are a lot of people who are so traumatized by what’s going on right now that they need to see more coming from the government.”
Ehn said Biden’s actions may be making Democratic voters more polarized, making the decision of who to vote for, especially as potential candidates become clearer, muddled.
“There are people pointing toward Biden and pointing out what he is or is not doing, which is totally fair and justified,” Ehn said. “But it’s creating more people who are having different opinions on if he is doing it correctly, if he’s not doing it correctly, if he’s fit for the next term.”
Multiple speakers praised Pressley for her courage in coming out to the event in the face of opposition. As Pressley stepped up to the podium on the stairs leading up the Library, she said she did not accept the invitation to speak as a member of Congress, but as “a sister in struggle,” recalling her roots of growing up as part a small church in Chicago with her grandfather as the reverend.
“Let me make it clear — that’s what my granddaddy used to say,” Pressley said. “Vengeance is not a foreign policy doctrine.”
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