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United in Grief: Haverford’s Apolitical Vigil for Israel-Palestine

Yesterday at noon, dozens in the Haverford community gathered on Founders Green for a vigil to mourn the lives lost in the recent tragedies across the world. Although the event was promoted as a place to grieve and foster conversation regarding all recent tragic world events, such as the earthquakes in Morocco, the wildfires in Hawaii, and the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war, its focus was entirely set on the outbreak of war in Gaza and Israel. Dozens of faculty and staff, as well as alumni and students, gathered to form a supportive environment where all could express their feelings and emotions about the troubling news.

The vigil commenced with a brief address from President Wendy Raymond. She began by thanking those in attendance and praising the Haverford community for coming together in a time of sorrow. President Raymond addressed the deep impact these recent events have had on both Jewish and Palestinian Haverford students, before making a denunciation of anti-Semitism as well as an acknowledgment of Haverford’s history of anti-Semitic policies and actions. Moreover, President Raymond’s remarks focused on an underlying theme of common ground and her appreciation of those of varying beliefs and backgrounds coming together, even if it was based in shared grief.

Then, in true Quaker fashion, President Raymond opened up the conversation to anybody in attendance who wished to speak. A handful of students, staff, and alumni spoke about their feelings on the matter and expressed sorrow for the lives lost and for those affected by it. 

One staff member, reflecting on this situation’s impact, remarked “We all lost something over the weekend. Above all, most of us lost hope,” encapsulating rather well the melancholy tone of the occasion. 

Other speakers, including some with familial ties to Palestine and Israel, expressed the intense emotions they have been feeling since the initial outbreak of the war. 

Student reaction to the vigil was mixed, with some questioning the lack of vigils in the past in reaction to other losses of life from this conflict. Tala Qaraqe ’25, who grew up in Palestine, commented “It was interesting to see Haverford hold such a gathering for the first time, from what I know, related to Gaza/Israel. What has changed now? Is this gathering a result of losing people on both the Palestinian and Israeli side? Didn’t Palestinian lives matter enough in 2021 to hold such a gathering to stand in solidarity with Palestinians?” 

While Qaraqe and others expressed such reservations regarding the timing, the apolitical nature of the event drew praise from attendants such as Ally Landau ’24. Landau, who has family in Israel, said “I’m glad it stayed relatively unpolitical, I think there’s a time and space for that,” and added that the vigil gave her hope for a civil campus conversation about the war.

In a highly politicized conflict, this vigil offered a safe and meaningful space for all to come together in a time of sorrow to mourn the destruction and the lives lost. 

“At Haverford, there’s a lot of different beliefs,” remarked Landau, “and I think what’s really special is that we were able to come together and support each other through this.” 

Although the lack of previous vigils leads some to question whether Haverford is addressing this conflict in a balanced manner, the opportunity to express one’s emotions on a particularly difficult matter in an apolitical space was welcomed by many.

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