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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Davis community gathers to mourn victims of Hamas attack

Following the events of Oct. 7, the Israeli and Jewish American community held a vigil to find comfort in grieving together  


By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org


Content warning: This article contains discussions of violence. 


In response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, a political and military group governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestinian territories, that left 1,400 killed and 3,400 injured, a vigil was held at Davis Central Park on Oct. 17 for the victims. Many Davis and Sacramento residents, who are Israelis and Jewish Americans, gathered to sing, pray and speak. 

“​​We are not okay,” Leah Hibel, one of the speakers at the vigil, said. “Your Jewish friends and neighbors are not okay. Grief is contagious. Being in the company of somebody who is in profound despair is deeply uncomfortable. As humans we want to avoid that discomfort either by avoiding people who are grieving or by cheering them up. But we cannot be cheered up. I beg you: do not avoid us, do not abandon us, do not look away from this. For we must all bear witness. We must all stand together. But it isn’t just your Jewish friends who depend on you. All of humanity depends on us being united against this atrocity.”

Hamas took more than 200 hostages who are believed to be held in Gaza. Bombings and attacks in Gaza have left more than 3,000 people dead and 12,500 injured. Those who remain trapped in Gaza are without electricity and running water and are left with very little food and medical supplies.  

“They specifically targeted innocent civilians,” Hibel said. “Reports say that 80 percent of the victims were tortured. This is not a political proclamation. This is a proclamation of humanity, where we get to say, ‘War is terrible’ but this was not the war. The conflict is complex and heartbreaking. But this was not the conflict. This was an act of terror.”

Hibel continued that the attacks remind the community of tragedies that have killed their ancestors in the past.

“We feel this terror on a cellular level as our DNA ignites to remind us of the pogroms that killed our ancestors,” Hibel said.

The Davis Police Department was at the vigil to protect those who gathered in peace to mourn. The FBI has tracked increased threats to Jewish and Muslim Americans since the Hamas attack. Hibel shared that there was anxiety that an attack would occur the night of the vigil. 

“Did you know that we have seen our fellow community members deny the events of last Saturday?” Hibel said. “Did you know that the number one question I received when inviting people to this vigil is, ‘Will there be security?’ Did you know that some of our elders declined to come because they can’t run very fast?”

Amir Kol, one of the organizers of the vigil, discussed how they believe some people in Davis have defended the attacks by Hamas. 

“People [who] are in our communities in Davis, people are justifying the Hamas attack, calling it legitimate resistance to occupation,” Kol said. “People are denying what happened. [There is] leadership that is not willing to look at reality and call it for what it is.”

Kol expressed that the vigil brought people together and that its solidarity was uplifting.

“I couldn’t stay quiet,” Kol said. “I had to do something. It’s not about if you’re pro-Palestinian [or] anti-Israeli, it’s about who we are as humans. [There] was something very uplifting in seeing everybody standing together as a community — and not just the Jewish community, but also non-Jewish neighbors, college friends, coming and supporting us. That means a lot in days like this.”

Dan Abramson, a vigil attendee, talked about having relatives in Israel and praying for peace. 

“I wanted to be here with my community,” Abramson said. “I know so many people here who have relatives there. I have relatives there. And you know, it’s important to stick together as a community and send our prayers for peace.” 

Written By: Zoe Smith city@theaggie.org