More than 300 members of the Dartmouth community gathered on the Green Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the people of Israel following the terrorist attacks carried out days earlier by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.
The vigil—co-sponsored by Dartmouth Hillel, Chabad at Dartmouth, and Kol Ha’Emek, the Upper Valley Jewish Community—was an opportunity to “mourn the loss of life, offer healing for the wounded, demand the return of captives, and pray for peace,” according to the event organizers.
More than a dozen people, most of them students, spoke, many expressing anguish over the dead and the continued persecution of the Jewish people.
“Our very survival is precarious. Mitzrayim, the Exodus story of our oppression, was not a historical blip but a ubiquitous reality,” said Grace Dean-Saadati ’24, president of Dartmouth Hillel.
“As we walk this bridge, the most important thing is not to be afraid. In this moment, as a community, we stand on that narrow bridge with courage, resilience, and determination, bolstered by the support of each other and united by the unshakeable belief that justice will prevail in the land of our biblical ancestry.”
Lihi Dadon, an exchange student from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said she had previously served in the Israel Defense Forces as a military commander in the combat surveillance unit at an outpost near the Gaza border which was overrun by Hamas militants on Saturday. Many of the soldiers there, she said, were slaughtered.
“Most of them didn’t make it. I will never be able to describe the pain and anxiety,” Dadon said. She said a close friend was among the dead.
“Dekel Swissa. Remember his name,” she said tearfully. “Dekel Swissa. Please remember his name.”
Interspersed with short statements were prayers, psalms, Hebrew poems, songs of mourning, and the Israeli national anthem.
Also in attendance was President Sian Leah Beilock, who told the assembled crowd, “I stand with you at this vigil in condemning the horrific, terrorist slaughter by Hamas of hundreds of Israeli civilians—including old people and little children—as well as citizens of other countries, including the United States.”
Speaking directly to the many individuals in the Dartmouth community who have been personally affected by the violence, President Beilock, her voice breaking, said, “My heart goes out to you, and it breaks for you. I feel what you feel. I get it. I am here for you. The Dartmouth community is here for you.”
Beilock, who is Jewish, asked the entire community to come together to both guard against antisemitism and “to ensure that the acts of terrorists are not blamed on innocent Palestinians and Muslims.”
Calling colleges and universities “perhaps the greatest institutions in our society at creating hope,” Beilock urged community members “to respond, in light of the emotional toll this news has taken, with our sharpest intellectual tools. To better understand what has happened, to chart a path for the world out of this turmoil, and to prevent these acts of terror and their terrible aftermath in the future.”
Earlier in the day, faculty from the Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies Programs held the second of two public discussions on the crisis with a capacity crowd in Filene Auditorium. Including the livestream audience, more than 1,200 people watched the forum.