Student vigil honors Middle East victims

Tensions between Jews and Arabs appeared to subside for a few minutes Thursday evening when about 200 students from all faiths gathered and prayed together in Kogan Plaza. Students organized a candlelight vigil to remember the people who have died in the most recent round of Palestinian-Israeli violence in the Middle East.

Students and mourners gathered around the plaza clock, which was draped with flags from both Israel and Palestinian.

Students read Muslim prayers from the Koran, Bible passages about the glory of the city of Jerusalem and poems.

Many students cried when they listened to the testimony of a recent GW graduate whose mother is in Palestine for her cousin’s wedding.

I spoke to my mother today on the phone and I heard the bombings in the background, she said. Then the phone went dead.

Students read the names of about 40 Israelis and Palestinians who had died since Oct. 4, lit a candle for each victim and passed the candles into the crowd.

Sophomore Rafid Fadul and senior Michael Plostock organized the event. The students said they wanted to organize the vigil to remember both the Israelis and Palestinians who died in the recent violent eruptions.

The organizers said they hope the vigil will send a uniform message of peace to both sides of the conflict.

Plostock and Fadul said they want both sides to end the violence and reach an understanding in a peaceful manner.

We just ask that this message (of peace) doesn’t end here tonight, but continues on, Plostock told the crowd.

Rida Barakat, a student of Palestinian origin who attended the vigil, also said he hoped that both sides of the conflict would end the violence and resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.

Barakat said the candlelight vigil in memory of those on both sides was an excellent idea because it promoted peace.

It’s either peace or endless war, he said.

But some students said they were upset by circulation of several flyers that blamed Israel for the violence.

Sophomore Lindsay Silverstein said she was upset by the flyers and thinks the Israeli government should not be solely blamed.

Violence cannot be a way to negotiate peace, Silverstein said.

Despite the partisan flyers, Plostock and Fadul said they thought students were able to remember people who have died as a result of the conflict and understand that it was time to stop the violence and promote peace.

I think the overall message of this evening was heard, Plostock said.

-Ashley M. Heher contributed to this report.

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