Under the glow of the Campanile, about 40 students and community members gathered at a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening to commemorate Israeli citizens who have been killed or injured in recent acts of terror in the Middle East.
Though the overall issue is deeply rooted, these recent acts of terror have been sparked by rumors that Israelis have been attempting to change long-standing religious arrangements at a Jerusalem holy site. There has since been a steep escalation in Palestinian violence toward Israelis.
Bears for Israel — a campus group dedicated to supporting Israel — hosted the vigil and has been addressing the issue on campus through various events and a social media campaign called #ItCouldBeMe.
Students at the vigil shared stories from victims, read the names of Israelis who have died or have been injured in the past few weeks, and recited the Mi Shebeirach — a Jewish prayer often reserved for healing.
“Because this campus is so politicized,” said Becca Berman, president of Bears for Israel, “sometimes there is not room for people to actually mourn for the losses that they are feeling with regards to this issue.”
Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group that stands in solidarity with indigenous Palestinians, issued a collective response regarding the message of the vigil, adding that the event failed to acknowledge “systematic state violence and terrorism against the Palestinians by the Israeli government,” alluding to the violence as the “root of destruction” on both sides.
“These (Palestinian attackers) are not West Bank Citizens — these are citizens of Israel,” said Rabbi Gil Leeds, who was present at the vigil. “A lot of the violence that is happening within Israel, like in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, has nothing to do with occupation.”
According to Berman, the current dispute is less about land occupation and more about religion and ethnicity.
Along with UC Berkeley, other universities across the nation, such as UCLA, have been participating in the #ItCouldBeMe campaign to raise awareness of the unrest in the Middle East.
According to Berman, the premise of the campaign is to bring to light the plight of Israeli victims of terror and the violence occurring in the region. She added that the campaign will allow members of the campus community to connect with the issue at hand and delve into what is occurring in the Middle East, which is often neglected by the media.
“We want to really emphasize to the campus that these are just innocent people going about their daily lives in the sense that if I was just walking around the streets of Jerusalem right now, I could be the target of one of these attacks,” Berman said.
As the vigil came to a close, attendees prayed, “Not to wipe out haters but to banish hatred, not to destroy sinners but to lessen sin … not for a perfect world, but a better one.”