Last Saturday evening, roughly 150 community members gathered in downtown Palo Alto for a vigil hosted by local faith-based organization Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice.
The vigil, called “Vigil for Peace in the Middle East,” included songs, prayers and speeches related to the longstanding conflicts in the Middle East and offered support for those affected by the Israel-Hamas war. Several other local organizations were also present at the vigil, including the American Muslim Voice and the Bahá’í Community of Palo Alto.
Based in Palo Alto, Multifaith Voices was formed in 2003 with the goal of nonviolent action for peace and justice. Since then, Multifaith Voices has hosted “Peaceful Presence” meetings on the 11th of every month, where community members come together and pray for peace at various locations in the Bay Area.
Diana Gibson, co-founder and coordinator of Multifaith Voices, emphasized the necessity of gathering in times of conflict.
“This is clearly a time of crisis, when many in our own communities are just deeply, deeply hurt,” she said. “We felt it was really important to offer a place for people to come together and see each other as human beings.”
Attendees and speakers alike expressed the desire to help those suffering from the war in Israel and Palestine.
“[My motivation is] the desire for peace … just looking at that situation is just horrifying,” said Menlo Park resident Farha Andarbi, who led a prayer. “It makes you feel guilty for just being silent observers.”
During the vigil, Cantor Jaime Shpall from Congregation Beth Am sang “One Day,” and Mountain View High School freshman Naiel Chaudry sang “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Speakers and singers encouraged attendees to sing or chant along.
“It’s so hard to read one thing … on one side, and read something else on the other side [when] your heart goes out to everybody,” attendee and Menlo Park resident David Minnow said. “I’m here for peace and for prayer for everybody.”
Toward the end of the vigil, participants formed a circle and together sang “Peace. Salaam, Shalom,” a song by Emma’s Revolution. Vigil attendee and Palo Alto resident Karen Morrison said it is important to understand both sides in the war.
“It is so moving to experience the helplessness of both sides, for the Palestinians, [and] for the Israelis,” she said. “I wanted to be able to get a glimpse of what could be said in this group. It might be healing and I knew there’d be Muslims in this group and Christians and Jews, and so that’s why I came.”