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EVENT: Around 50 people gathered for an interfaith memorial circle Tuesday afternoon in Dewitt Park. They came together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Israel’s 2014 July-August assault on Gaza and the ten-year anniversary of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Occurring during Tuesday farmers market, participants in the memorial each held pictures of people who had been killed in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. Between July 8 and August 26, 2014, 2,285 Palestinians were killed, including 1,483 civilians and 521 children; 71 Israelis were also killed, including four civilians and one child.

The event began with Middle Eastern music from Max Buckholtz and Dara Anissi. Buckholtz is a principal violist for the Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes. He performs music from Romania, Turkey and India. Dara Anissi is a music teacher at Lehman Alternative Community School and performs with his own middle-eastern-influenced rock band.

Following the music was poetry. Participants came up to the microphone and read names of the dead. After the names were read, Dr. Najeeb Rahman, of the Muslim Association of the Finger Lakes, led a Muslim prayer for the dead, Linda Gaither of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship led Christian prayer, and Ariel Gold, of Jewish Voice for Peace – Ithaca led kaddish, a Jewish prayer for the dead.

Linda Gaither, of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, talked about the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) recent decision to divest from the Israeli occupation. The Boycott Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement was initiated on July 9, 2005. BDS  strategies, like church divestment, are now being implemented throughout the world as a way to support an end to Israel’s occupation, discriminatory policies and human rights violations. Similar strategies were successfully used to end apartheid in South Africa.

In Discussing UCC divestment from the occupation, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Pastor of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church, told the UCC Synod in Cleveland:

(I)n approving this resolution, the UCC has demonstrated its commitment to justice and equality . . . For Palestinians living under occupation or facing systematic discrimination as citizens of Israel, enduring the destruction of their homes and businesses, the theft of their land for settlements, and living under blockade and siege in Gaza, this action sends a strong signal that they are not alone, and that there are churches who still dare to speak truth to power and stand with the oppressed.

At 1:12, Dr. Najeeb Rehman, explained and led the afternoon Muslim Call to Prayer and participants prayed in the park. The 2014 assault on Gaza occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which this year is June 17 through July 17.

The Ithaca Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace hosted the event. Co-sponsors included: the Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine, the Ithaca Chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Congregation Tikkun v’Or’s Israel-Palestine Social Justice Workgroup, Veterans for Peace – Ithaca, the Ithaca Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ithaca Catholic Workers, the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca Social Justice Council, the Upper New York United Methodist Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel, and Boycott from Within.

Quotes from participants: “It was a privilege to join together today in solidarity with Muslims, Jews and Christians,  lifting up, in remembrance,  photos of children and adults killed in Gaza last summer during Operation Protective Edge.  DeWitt Park echoed with our prayerful cries,  WE WILL,  in response to calls for action for a just peace and an end to Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.” — Linda Gaither, Episcopal Peace Fellowship

“The sad but beautiful music and poetry shared at today’s memorial circle for the victims of last year’s Israeli military assault on Gaza brought to mind the sharp and horrifying images in Max Blumenthal’s just published book The 51 Day War. Along with the eyewitness accounts of brutality by Israeli soldiers, Blumenthal’s book also opened my eyes to a large important truth that many in the U.S. do not yet appreciate: Israel has become a far right, militaristic, expansionist state with little room for idealism or willingness to build a peaceful partnership with the Palestinian people.” – Richard Franke, Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine

“As a member of Ithaca Jewish Voice for Peace I was very moved to see so many in our community come together to commemorate the one year anniversary of Israel’s horrific assault on Gaza and the ten year anniversary of the call for a non-violent response — the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. With poetry, music, and prayers from Muslims, Christians and Jews, we mourned the many deaths and committed ourselves anew to the struggle for a truly just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” – Barbara Chasin, Jewish Voice for Peace – Ithaca