Progressive Jewish group holds mournings across US for Palestinians, Israelis
In cities across the US this week, the progressive Jewish group "IfNotNow" has been holding gatherings to mourn the Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their lives from the new war that erupted on Saturday, 7 October.
On Wednesday evening in Washington, DC, a large group gathered in Cleveland Park with a rabbi for the kaddish prayers and liturgical songs. They lit candles and talked about the loss of their loved ones.
"We've had so many people looking and needing somewhere to grieve and speak out against the war and call for de-escalation," Matan Arad-Neeman, communications director for IfNotNow, told The New Arab.
"It's the horror of Hamas killing Israeli civilians and the horror of Israel's indiscriminate bombing of Gaza," he said.
So far, more than 2,800 Palestinians and Israelis have died in the latest war, including more than 25 Americans, with many more on both sides wounded. As tensions escalate, there are fears that Israel's complete blockade, which started shortly after the surprise attack, could cause mass starvation of Gaza's two million residents.
2023 was already the 'deadliest year' on record for Palestinians, including children, in the occupied West Bank as well, with the increased bloody Israeli army raids and attacks by illegal Israeli settlers. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed prior to Hamas's surprise attack on 7 October.
Much of this week's media attention in the US has been focused on the American public's widespread support of Israel as well as pro-Palestinian demonstrations where there have been accusations of "antisemitism".
However, there is a growing anti-occupation movement among progressive Jews, who regularly speak out about Palestinian civil and human rights. They have been particularly active with the election of Israel's far-right government at the end of last year.
"Everyone was there to call for de-escalation. It felt like a powerful moment of unity," he said.
"We're calling for a cease-fire. We want the hostages to return home safely to prevent any further bloodshed," he said. "We want to make sure we don't go back to the status quo with Israel's system of apartheid. Its siege on Gaza is nearing two decades."
He said, "If we don't address those root causes, I'm worried we'll be back again."