More than 50 Harvard affiliates gathered to mourn the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza at a vigil outside Memorial Church Wednesday evening.
The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee organized the vigil after three Palestinian undergraduates were shot in Vermont on Saturday, in part to provide a space for students to “process grief” over the shooting as well as the Israel-Hamas conflict as a whole.
The three students — who are undergraduates at Brown University, Haverford College, and Trinity College — were immediately hospitalized, and two remained hospitalized as of Tuesday. The alleged shooter pled not guilty on Monday following his arrest.
A student organizer with Natives at Harvard College began the vigil by offering attendees copal, a tree resin native to Mesoamerica that is often burned in spiritual or ritual settings.
After this, a student speaker at the vigil said it was important to remember that Palestinian lives lost in Gaza are “not just numbers.”
“I urge you to think every single day about the fact that 20,000 families have had their lives uprooted because they lost a loved one,” the student said. “Over a million are not living in their homes and have been displaced in life. And that we simply cannot move on with our lives just because it’s been about two months.”
“Remember yourself and remind those around you: Palestinian lives are of equal value to any other life in this world,” they added.
A student at the Graduate School of Education told attendees they had taught two of the Vermont shooting victims — Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Kinnan Abdalhamid — in eighth grade.
“These boys, now young adults, showed me what humor and dedication and hard work look like for adolescents growing up under Israeli military occupation,” they said.
“With bullets still in their body, they are still speaking out,” they added. “They will not be silenced, and neither will we.”
Other speakers also reflected on their reactions to the shooting.
“For me, the past weekend and the shooting in Burlington, Vermont, was a reminder of how easy it is to let go of grief for people who feel far away,” one speaker at the vigil said.
The speaker said the students who were shot in Vermont in part “felt closer” because they also attend U.S. universities — but added that students should have that same amount of grief for Palestinians in Gaza.
“They felt closer because we saw each of their faces and got to know each of their stories,” the speaker said. “But it feels wrong to have such differential grief when the very thing that each and every one of us here advocates for is stopping and putting an end to the differential valuing of lives.”
The vigil closed with readings of the poems “Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear” and “my grandfather and home” by Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha, a former Harvard Scholar-at-Risk in the Comparative Literature Department who was detained for questioning by Israeli security forces for two days earlier this month.
—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.
—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at email@example.com.