Members of the Jewish community in Chicago gathered near Belmont Harbor on Thursday to honor Palestinians and Israelis killed in the ongoing conflict.
The mourner’s Kaddish, a Jewish prayer typically spoken during the mourning period after the death of a loved one, was recited by members affiliated with the group IfNotNow, a national Jewish organization that advocates for the end of the Israeli government’s presence in Gaza and the West Bank.
“We are here to grieve for the innocent Israelis, including children, who were killed by Hamas,” Elie Katzman-Jacobson of IfNotNow told those gathered. “We are here to grieve for the innocent Palestinians, including children, who have been killed by the Israeli Defense Force.”
Candles were lit in memory of those killed, and attendees sang prayers for those still missing and for peace in the region. Organizers also read part of a poem by Palestinian American poet Suheir Hammad.
Hamas’ surprise attack on Saturday killed more than 1,300 people in Israel, including 222 soldiers — a toll unseen in Israel for decades — and the ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to authorities on both sides. Israel says roughly 1,500 Hamas militants were killed inside Israel, and that hundreds of the dead in Gaza are Hamas members.
Gaza’s interior ministry on Thursday said that an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza has killed at least 45 people and wounded dozens more.
Eli Newell, who is also with IfNotNow, said people should remember that every person killed had their own story and were someone’s loved one.
“Children, teachers, doctors, artists, neighbors and so much more,” Newell said. “All lives lost too soon.”
Newell added that this isn’t the first time that blood has been spilled in the region. He said the only way to end the conflict is for the Israeli government to come up with a solution that works for all parties.
State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid (21st) said he’s been in grief and morning with both Israeli and Palestinian families.
“I’ve joined my colleagues in calling for peace and deescalation because that’s the only way forward if we want to see safety for everyone in the region,” said Rashid, who is Palestinian American.
Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein said he’s disheartened that some have used the deaths as an excuse to push their own agendas.
“I have been experiencing nightmarish recollections of the lead-up to the Iraq war. Real and profound grief, fear and trauma are being hijacked and directed towards dehumanization, brutality, mass murder and narrowing of framework with no place for context, no place for empathy,” Bernstein said.
Newell said mourning Palestinians and Israelis is the best way to honor the Jewish faith, which he said values all lives.
“We are American Jews, and we honor our Jewish tradition, which is rooted in the belief that human life is sacred, and we are called to oppose oppression everywhere it lives,” Newell said.