Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Wednesday, September 3rd, at 8:00pm, students will gather on the front steps of Parrish Hall to hold a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the lives lost this summer in Gaza and Israel. The vigil is being hosted by Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP), J Street Swarthmore, Swarthmore Hillel, Swarthmore Islamic Society, the Israeli Cultural Society (ICS), Swarthmore Progressive Christians and the Newman Club.
Each group will lead those gathered in prayers, poems, and speeches. Organizers of the event have stressed that the vigil is not meant to be political: Rachel Flaherman ‘16, president of J Street Swarthmore and primary organizer of the event, said that the vigil is a time for all to “come together and find common ground in mourning and commemoration.” Flaherman decided to organize the vigil because “a lot of people have been reading the news alone this summer, and I think a lot of us have wanted to find a way to come together.”
Aneesa Andrabi ‘16, a member of SPJP, stated that she thinks it is “extremely important for all these different groups with such different religious, and political views to come together… [and] to plan a safe space for the Swarthmore community to mourn the Palestinians and Israelis that were killed this summer.” She went on to state that “Swarthmore has a duty to be at the forefront of acknowledging these deaths,” and must work as a community to reflect and be “collectively aware of such injustices.” Timmy Hirschel-Burns ’17, another SPJP member, said that the vigil is a demonstration of groups across wide political spectrums working together, and that “the heart of this event is recognizing the human costs that this conflict has created.” He hopes that the “collaborative and commemorative spirit” of the vigil can serve as a “foundation for [Swarthmore’s] efforts to change the political dynamics that underlie the conflict and could lead to an even greater human toll in the future.”
While both J Street Swarthmore and SPJP are explicitly political organizations, the event’s other co-sponsors are religious or cultural clubs with no specific political standpoint. Organizers are conscious of the worry that the vigil will bring up strong political sentiments among its attendees. Flaherman said that they will not ask anyone to “divorce themselves from their politics,” acknowledging that while the vigil is not intended to be a political space “people all bring with them their own personal story and political view.”
Those wishing to express political views or discuss their reactions to the vigil are encouraged by Flaherman to attend the meeting being held by SPJP and J Street Swarthmore on Thursday, September 4th, at 7:30pm, in Kohlberg 116. The meeting will focus on a “debrief” of the vigil before moving on to a more general discussion of what has happened in Gaza and Israel this summer.
Featured image courtesy of dosomething.org