Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson students hold vigil to mourn the lives lost in Gaza hospital blast

Amin S. Lotfi
Two posters displaying the names of Palestinian families and children killed in Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks. Individuals gather at The Embrace statue on Boston Common to mourn the civilians lost in the bombings in Palestine.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove the names of sources who requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. Although their names are not identified, their identities are known to the Beacon.

The Embrace statue in the Boston Common was adorned with flowers, candles, and posters on Oct. 20 as Emerson students and Boston community members gathered to mourn the innocent Palestinians killed in the devastating Al-Ahli Arab Hospital blast.

The vigil was organized by Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and was one of many held on college campuses nationwide in the wake of the fatalities in Gaza and the West Bank. Many attendees held flowers and wore keffiyehs, an emblem of Palestinian identity and resistance. 

The vigil was opened by a member of the Muslim Student Association at Emerson.

“Standing here in unity, we must be reminded that each life lost within the torn-down walls of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital represents a dream, an aspiration, a hope,” they said. “These martyrs were someone’s friend, someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s sibling, someone’s child.”

On Oct. 17, the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in central Gaza faced a deadly explosion that killed nearly 500 Palestinian civilians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, while U.S. intelligence agencies have suggested a lower death toll of 100 to 300 people. An unclassified U.S. intelligence report stated that these casualty figures may evolve, but the “death toll still reflects a staggering loss of life.”

A senior at Emerson and one of the vigil’s organizers criticized media coverage of the war and emphasized that people should bring their attention to the suffering of Palestinians, rather than determining who is responsible for the blast.

“To know that the media and propaganda are stripping Palestinians of their voices and their humanity is sickening,” the senior said. “While the media is trading blame on who did it, let us shift our focus on those Palestinian people who suffered, half of them being innocent children.”

They are referring to the conflicting coverage on mainstream media regarding the blast. Hamas officials said it was an Israeli airstrike and Israeli Defense Forces denied involvement, suggesting that the blast was due to a rocket misfire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militant group in Gaza, and President Joe Biden said U.S. intelligence backs these claims. Palestinian Islamic Jihad also dismissed those claims. 

CNN analysis suggests a rocket was launched from Gaza and broke midair, landing at the hospital. As of Oct. 24, U.S. intelligence officials maintain “high confidence” that Israel was not responsible for firing the rocket, but are unclear on who did. 

According to Al Jazeera’s Sanad verification team, the flash, which Israel claimed was a misfire, could have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. BBC also said an integral piece of evidence that can determine the projectile’s origin, missile fragments, are yet to be found. The investigation remains inconclusive.

Many of the victims of the explosion were Palestinians seeking aid, especially women and children. According to Dr. Ibrahim Al-Naqa, more than 3,000 people were at the hospital for refuge at the time of the explosion. Many parents wrote their children’s names on their body parts, fearing they wouldn’t be able to be identified.

“What we are witnessing today is a genocide. It’s an ethnic cleansing and a straight-up denial of human rights,” the senior said. “What occurred at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital a few days ago was nonetheless a war crime and atrocity.”

The senior’s speech was followed by a poem delivered by a sophomore at Emerson and vigil organizer. Their prose expressed grief and anguish for the devastation that Gazan children have faced in this conflict. 

“We have learned to stay stubbornly alive while children turn into martyrs all because of territory,” the sophomore said. “When they ask whose land this is, I say no one’s to take. I say, no one’s to name, no one’s to make a child not a child anymore.”

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Gaza has witnessed the deaths of 2,360 children and an additional 5,364 injured, according to UNICEF. More than 400 children have reportedly been killed or injured every day since. This 18-day period is confirmed as the “deadliest escalation of hostilities” in the region that the U.N. has witnessed in almost two decades.

A junior at Emerson and vigil organizer presented a poem demanding the liberation of Palestine to free its children from violence. 

“We know that we are here fighting for a free Palestine where children will not fear the sounds of airplanes or miss the joy of playing outside,” they said. “A place where children can grow old, families can return, and a future that is clear within our reach if we let it be.”

Another member of the MSA was the last speaker and closed with a prayer for Palestinians.

“We ask God to be with our brothers and sisters in Palestine. We ask you to protect them,” they said. “Embrace them and sustain them with everything, for every moment they have felt under the suffocation of oppression, grant them the expanse of paradise.” 

The vigil concluded with the organizers, speakers, and the crowd collectively singing a rendition of the song “Which Side Are You On?” The 1931 union song is often recognized as a trademark for solidarity demonstrations.

“We must remember the lives that were taken. They must be carried through our activism and our voices as the siege continues and intensifies,” an MSA member said. “You don’t have to be Palestinian to care, you don’t have to be Muslim to care, you don’t have to be Arab to care—you just have to be a human being.”

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About the Contributor
Sabrina Lam
Sabrina Lam, Staff Writer
Sabrina Lam (she/her) is a sophomore journalism major from Manchester, Connecticut. She is currently a Staff Writer for The Berkeley Beacon. Outside of the Beacon, Sabrina can be found strolling on Newbury St. or reading a book in The Boston Public Garden.

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