A refreshing demonstration of unity

Wednesday evening, students gathered in the DUC courtyard for a candlelight vigil and moment of silence to reflect on the recent violence between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza. Many other universities around the country held similar vigils the same night.

Most of us have been exposed to the politics of this situation—we see it on the news, we read about it, it’s even markedly present in something as simple as the Facebook statuses of our friends. But what we often lose sight of, and what this vigil reminds us of, is the humanity of the crisis in Gaza. The politics of the situation often obscure the human cost of the conflict. No matter how you view the conflict, the loss of innocent life is a loss to be mourned.

The vigil, organized by the Jewish student group J Street U in collaboration with the Muslim Students Association, Wash U Students for Israel, the Inter-Beliefs Council and St. Louis Hillel, gave us the opportunity to get away from the harsh yet impactful social media scene of the situation. The event brought together a diverse group not for argument but for support of a common goal.

The rhetoric we often see in situations like these is based in deeply-rooted, long-standing and unchanging views on both sides of the issue. Given that the conflict has intense religious and cultural roots, it can be difficult to view the situation with objectivity. While each side certainly has its merits, we often have a tendency to focus on who is in the wrong and lose sight of the personal loss taking place in a region that longs for a solution to allow its people live in peace. We cannot help but recognize the countless deaths resulting from the most recent bout of violence as a tragedy, and the sporadic bursts of violence won’t end if we continue to move forward without a solution for peace.

It’s commendable for students on both sides of the issue to come together. Although arguing political points with one another is within our rights of expression, we cannot move forward without finding common ground. Decades of diplomatic standstill over the issue are emblematic of a failed discourse.

Any international conflict can seem distant when we are caught up in our own lives. But the simple acts of gathering and lighting candles in support of our common humanity promotes peaceful dialogue and debate on campus. While we obviously cannot solve the conflict in Gaza, we can still come together to have civil dialogue about the issue. And mourning casualties on either side of the divide is certainly a worthy place to start.