A small but committed group of local people gathered Thursday evening in the plaza in front of San José City Hall for a Vigil for Peace in Gaza. Organizers Cathy Do, Angela Cortese, Veronica Eldredge and Arinee Rahman asked participants to honor their intention for the evening to set aside political debate, religious argument, or taking sides in the conflict in order simply to focus on the human cost of the ongoing warfare in Gaza.
A list of the victims, both Israeli and Palestinian, was handed to each participant. The names, hundreds of them, filling both sides with the small print that spoke of the enormous loss of life, were listed alphabetically, with no effort to identify Palestinian from Israeli. “We want to recall that we are all human beings,” said Angela Cortese to the gathered crowd.
People were then invited to take a candle for the vigil. Each one was shielded from the wind by a paper cup on which the name of one of the victims had been written, along with his or her age. As the candles were lit, the leader invited each person to think of the person whose name was on the cup, and to recognize their shared humanity.
Forming a large circle, people walked around the path, sheltering their candles from the wind that blew across the plaza, and sharing in singing “Peace is flowing like a river.”
The few picket signs that appeared were set aside, no long and impassioned speeches were made. Each one there was free to hold their own thoughts and prayers, to share them quietly with others around, or simply remain silent. In a time when public debate is all too often carried on in the form of shouting, and understanding gives way to passion, it was an opportunity for quiet reflection and hope for peace.