AREA — Vigils were held in Cranford and Westfield within the past week, with one focusing on a call for peace and the other seeking an immediate ceasefire and mourning the lives of Palestinians lost in the war.
The Cranford vigil, organized by the Cranford Clergy Council and Interfaith Committee, and held on December 13, was titled “A Vigil for Peace: Seeking Light in the Midst of Darkness.” Approximately 70 residents gathered around their township’s gazebo to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah and the second week of Advent in addition to holding a moment of silence for the lives lost (including those of Palestinians and Israelis) and to pray for world peace.
Saturday’s “A Vigil for Palestine” was held at Mindowaskin Park in Westfield, where approximately 40 people gathered at the gazebo. This event was organized by speakers including Westfield Board of Education member SaharAziz and Westfield resident YaraAssadi. Palestinian flags were draped over the bushes above signs that read, “Cease Fire Now, Choose Peace Every Time.” Some of those in attendance also supported Palestinians by waving flags, holding signs, and wearing keffiyeh. There also were numerous posters attached to the columns of the gazebo with pictures of Palestinians which read “murdered by Israel.”
“Darkness can never overcome the Light…even a little spark conquers the dark, and even when it gets darker, the light shines brighter! Oh, shine a little light while we wait for the dawn,” the Reverend Jin Bae said as the second light of the Advent wreath was lit in Cranford.
Members of the Cranford High School Choir led the group in singing “Dans nos obscurites,” while members of the community were invited to sing the chant.
Pastor Clem Salerno led the Prayer for Peace, which began, “May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world.”
Rabbi Paul Kerbel chanted an excerpt of Psalm 30 in Hebrew during the Hebrew scripture reading. A portion of the translation read, “Adonai, I cried out and You healed me. You saved me from the pit of death.”
In Westfield, coordinators passed out battery-operated candles and flyers with a QR code for the web address, act.uscpr.org, where pre-drafted emails can be sent to Congress demanding a ceasefire. The user is prompted to enter their information into the system. The flyers also displayed a QR code to follow Rutgers University Center for Security, Race, and Rights (CSRR) on Instagram at www.instagram.com/rutgerscsrr along with the hashtag #CEASEFIRENOW.
The speakers in Westfield cited metrics on the number of Palestinians killed since the war began and used numbers provided by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. They also cited the large number of injuries that have occurred and said that many will die from injuries that would have been treatable, but that the healthcare system has been destroyed. The speakers also decried the number of aid trucks currently able to get through to the people of Gaza, before beginning a poetry reading.
The first poem read was titled, “If I Must Die” by Refaat Alareer, who was killed in an Israeli air strike along with members of his family. It reads: “If I must die,/You must live to tell my story/to sell my things/to buy a piece of cloth/and some strings,/(make it white with a long tail)/so that a child, somewhere in Gaza/while looking heaven in the eye/awaiting his dad who left in a blaze-/and bid no one farewell/not even to his flesh/not even to himself-/sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above/and thinks for a moment an angel is there/bringing back love/If I must die/let it bring hope/let it be a tale.”
The Westfield coordinators asked for two moments of silence from the crowd in honor of the lives that were lost. They also read the names of some of these civilians and stated that if they were to read all the names, they would have been there all night.
The Cranford ceremony concluded with A Prayer for Transition adapted from the Islamic tradition and the Aaronic Blessing performed by the Cranford High School Choir. A pamphlet with the words of the songs and prayers, along with battery-operated candles, were distributed to the crowd. A quote from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was printed in the pamphlet, which read, “For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness from the world.”