Well over a hundred people gathered at the University of Vermont Thursday evening for a vigil for Israel amid its war against Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic militant group that launched surprise attacks from Gaza last Saturday.
“I have family and friends in Israel,” UVM first-year student Josie Leit said. “And it’s really, really important to me to be there for them and to be there for all Israeli people.”
Several people drove north from the Mad River Valley for the occasion.
“The whole Jewish community is heartbroken about all the losses in Israel,” Susan Bauchner of Warren said. “It’s just shocking, it’s heartbreaking — it’s frightening. We really want to be part of it. We want the young people, but everybody needs to be here.”
UVM Hillel organized the vigil with the stated intent of remembering Israelis who’ve been killed and praying for the safe return of those held captive.
“It means a lot to the Jewish people when others express their support because it’s a very sad time for us, and to feel we’re not alone is important,” Bauchner said.
Leit’s brother nearly ended up having to fight in the war. She told everyone assembled for that vigil that he still might enter the conflict.
“I’m wearing his shirt right now,” she said. “He finished (service in) the (Israeli) Army only two months ago. Two months ago! He came back and now he’s at Tulane (University) studying. He’s debating possibly going back.”
Leit was one of many people sharing thoughts that transcend Israel alone.
“It’s completely devastating, and the war is now going to affect both Palestinians and Israelis,” she said. “It’s really upsetting.”
“And we’re going to have another gathering in our own little town in Waitsfield tomorrow,” Bauchner added.
A vigil in support of Israel is also planned for 3 p.m. Sunday at City Hall Park in Burlington.
UVM Hillel said on social media earlier this week that school Chief of Safety and Compliance Officer Michael Schirling told them UVM Police would increase patrols throughout the week and station a car outside of Hillel. Campus police were also present at the vigil.