As the Israel-Hamas war unfolds 5,000 miles away, New Yorkers stood together in mourning Wednesday night.
Large crowds gathered in Washington Square Park to honor the more than 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian lives lost since the war began.
“It’s just… It’s just loss. It’s just so much loss,” said Adam Shaukat, who’s both Muslim and Jewish and has family and friends in Israel and Gaza. He said these last few days have felt like a nightmare.
“I’ve woken up to some really violent stories of friends of friends being kidnapped and murdered and hiding behind their friends bodies to survive fire fights and it’s just really horrible,” said Shaukat.
Wednesday’s vigil was organized by the non-profit groups “If Not Now” and “Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.” Organizers said they felt compelled to provide a safe space for people who are hurting right now.
“We have not experienced Israeli death on this scale before. It feels new, it feels terrifying. It’s activating people’s trauma around the Holocaust and other atrocities that Jews have suffered historically,” said Eva Borgwardt, the Political Director of If Not Now.
As violence in the region continues to escalate, activists said they’re fearful for Israeli and Palestinian civilians that continue to be put in harms way.
“We’re trying to do something impossible or feels impossible as an American Jewish community, which is be so proximate to so much death of so many people that we know, which for us is happening for the first time and at the same time, not allow that pain and grief to be weaponized against Palestinians in calls for mass murder,” said Borgwardt.
As the war wages on, Shaukat said this tragedy is a reminder that life is sacred and must be protected.
“Be slow, be soft, be gentle and hug your loved ones,” said Shaukat.