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‘Not a Number’: Harvard Affiliates Gather to Mourn Palestinians Killed in Gaza

More than 40 Harvard affiliates attended a Tuesday evening vigil for the 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war since early October.
More than 40 Harvard affiliates attended a Tuesday evening vigil for the 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war since early October. By Frank S. Zhou
By Asher J. Montgomery, Crimson Staff Writer

More than 40 Harvard affiliates gathered at Memorial Church on Tuesday evening to mourn the 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the Israel-Hamas war since early October.

Organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestinian Solidarity Committee, the vigil saw keffiyeh-clad attendees braving the rain to light candles, read poetry, and tell stories about family and friends in Gaza.

After the candle lighting, PSC organizer Sanaa M. Kahloon ’25 spoke about the purpose of the gathering and led a reading of two poems by Palestinian poets Khaled Juma and Iqbal Tamimi.

“Today, we are grieving 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israel’s genocide, but we are also mourning the loss of education, of healthcare, of home,” Kahloon said.

Before the vigil, organizers unrolled canvases on the steps of Memorial Church covered with thousands of handwritten names and ages of some of the Palestinians killed since October. The canvases framed the candle-holding attendees, who gathered in a semicircle around the speakers.

A flower rests on a canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in the violence in Gaza.
A flower rests on a canvas listing the names of Palestinians killed in the violence in Gaza. By Frank S. Zhou

A Palestinian student from the Harvard Graduate School of Education — who did not identify herself — said in a speech during the vigil that this was the first time she has spoken publicly on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“I live in the hope that a free Palestine will come one day, but I mourn all those who have lost their life to date,” she said. “I think of Palestinian life, I think Palestinian existence — an existence that itself has challenged oppression, injustice, murder.”

One PSC organizer told the story of his uncles, who he said are being imprisoned without cause.

“I speak tonight as a Palestinian — someone who mourns their own blood every day,” he said. “Whether by yelling a protest chant, whispering a prayer, or lighting a candle at this vigil, we grieve each time we do so.”

“I’ve learned the only way for me to process this grief is to honor it,” he added.

Vigil attendees held candles, braving the rain to read poetry and tell stories about family and friends in Gaza.
Vigil attendees held candles, braving the rain to read poetry and tell stories about family and friends in Gaza. By Frank S. Zhou

Another attendee who taught in Gaza in 2022 told the story of her friend and fellow teacher, Bilal, who was killed in a bombing as he attempted to pull people from the rubble.

“When you hear statistics about the men who have been killed in Gaza, I want you to think of Bilal,” she said. “This was a good, kind, generous man, and he should not have died.”

“He is not a number,” she added.

After the speakers and a final poetry reading, organizers gave each attendee a white rose and instructed them to place it next to a name on a canvas.

To conclude the event, affiliates partook in a moment of silence.

“Think about them,” Kahloon said. “Think about their memory.”

“Mourn them for a minute, lay a flower down, and then carry this with you for the rest of your night,” she said. “Let it motivate you, let it fuel your actions, let it fuel all of us to fight for a free Palestine.”

—Staff writer Asher J. Montgomery can be reached at asher.montgomery@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @asherjmont or on Threads @asher_montgomery.

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