A crowd of over 100 Northwestern community members gathered on the candle-lit steps of Deering Library on Thursday to honor the Palestinians who lost their lives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The vigil was organized by Northwestern University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

Candle flames lit the keffiyeh scarves and masks of those gathered, as SJP leadership, the faculty sponsor and others from the crowd spoke to remind everyone of the Palestinian people’s existence and continued fight for freedom.

“These flames are a silent commitment,” an student organizer of the event said, to continue remembering and advocating for the lives of the Palestinian people.

Colors of the Palestinian flag illuminate the facade of Deering Library as community members gather for the vigil. Michelle Sheen / North by Northwestern

On Sunday, the Israeli government declared war on Hamas, a political militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, after a violent attack the day before. At least 1,500 Palestinians have been killed since, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, also declared that electricity, fuel, food and water would be cut off from Gaza.

“These are not abstract statistics,” the organizer said, reminding those gathered that over 180,000 individuals have been displaced just this past week.

After two of the event’s organizers spoke, the faculty sponsor of SJP recited a poem she had written, inspired by a journalist’s conversation with a seven-year-old boy from Gaza. The poem, from the child’s perspective, reveals the heartbreak and terror he experiences during an air raid. When the journalist asks him what he wants to be when he grows up, the boy wonders if he will be able to grow up at all.

Attendees of the vigil were also inspired to share their thoughts. One student cited the “75 years of mourning” that the Palestinian people have endured, reminding those gathered of the events in 1948, a date known as Al-Nakba to Palestinians or Independence Day to Israelis .

Themes of gratitude and solidarity resounded throughout the vigil. Multiple speakers spoke about how thankful they were for the crowd of people gathered and how the sorrow for the lives lost in the conflict crosses cultural, religious and ethnic lines.