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Harvard Affiliates Attend Vigil to Mourn Victims of Al-Shifa Attack in Palestine

Students attend a vigil in the Smith Campus Center in solidarity with Palestine.
Students attend a vigil in the Smith Campus Center in solidarity with Palestine. By Emma A. Lucas
By Jade Lozada and Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writers

Approximately 80 Harvard affiliates and local residents attended a vigil in the Smith Campus Center Tuesday afternoon to mourn the victims of the Israeli raid on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

Early Monday, Israeli troops raided the largest hospital facility in Gaza, killing at least 20 people and detaining dozens more, including journalists.

The vigil was jointly organized by the Harvard African and African American Resistance Organization, Harvard Jews for Palestine, Graduate Students 4 Palestine, Law Students for a Free Palestine, and Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine. While the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee helped publicize the event, the group was not a formally listed as an organizer.

Attendees gathered in the Smith Campus Center Arcade at 3 p.m., when organizers passed out flowers and small Palestinian flags. Shortly after, attendees sat down on the floor on either side of the arcade for a moment of silence.

Three graduate students from the Harvard School of Public Health delivered words of mourning during the vigil.

“Each of these Palestinian martyrs were parents, children, and loved ones,” one speaker said. “They were healthcare workers who dedicated their lives to healing others, patients who are fighting for survival, and displaced families looking for shelter.”

After recounting Monday’s raid and other attacks on hospitals across Gaza, the speakers spoke about their own backgrounds.

“We’re standing here as healthcare workers who are a part of the University, who work with people from the dedicated Palestine health program that is in the School of Public Health, that is in the Medical School,” the speaker said.

“The attack on Al-Shifa — like an attack on any and all hospitals — is the clearest case of a crime against humanity,” said a second speaker. “You don’t have to be a student of public health or a medical student to know that.”

The speakers declined to identify themselves.

Another organizer then led the attendees in a group reading of a statement condemning the raid.

“Today, we come together as a community to mourn the martyrs at Al-Shifa hospital and the over 31,000 Palestinians killed in over 160 days of genocide,” the attendees read. “We are assembling here as Harvard students and community members to bring accountability to Harvard’s moral and material complicity in colonial violence, apartheid, and ongoing genocide.”

Attendees then used their phones to play an audio recording of the names of Palestinians killed since Oct. 7. The overlapping recordings filled the space with a chorus of whispered names.

The attendees then walked single-file to lay flowers and Palestinian flags in front of the plant wall by the Mt. Auburn Street exit of the Campus Center. The line stretched halfway down the arcade.

Following a second moment of silence, attendees read the poem “If I Must Die” by Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

Though Longwood affiliates gathered at Harvard Medical School on Friday to protest a speech by American Medical Association President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, Tuesday’s vigil is the first pro-Palestinian action at Harvard since students returned from spring break. It marks the latest event in a season of demonstrations characterized by grief and protest.

HMS professor Amir M. Mohareb said he joined the Tuesday vigil in solidarity with besieged medical workers in Gaza.

“I’m a physician in Boston, which affords me a tremendous amount of privilege,” Mohareb said. “It means that when I work and see patients, I don’t have to worry about the hospitals being bombed, or my patients being shot, or my colleagues being assassinated.”

Brookline resident Susan Etscovitz attended the vigil wearing a poster around her neck.

“Another Jewish mother against the slaughter of Palestinian children,” her sign read. “Ceasefire yesterday!!”

“My child deserves to live, and so does everybody else’s,” said Etscovitz, who is an organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace Boston.

The vigil reflected ongoing outrage on Harvard’s campus over Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

“I’m at this event because I care about what’s going on,” one attendee said.

“I don’t think we can remain unfazed after thousands of children have died,” they added. “I don’t think we can remain passive when medical facilities are being stormed.”

Clarification: March 20, 2024

This article has been updated to clarify that the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee helped publicize the vigil, but did not formally organize the event.

—Staff writer Jade Lozada can be reached at jade.lozada@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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Student GroupsSchool of Public HealthUniversityProtestsSmith Campus CenterFeatured ArticlesIsrael Palestine