Flickering candles illuminated the marble slabs of Beinecke Plaza as a small crowd of Yale students and New Haven residents observed an hour of silence last night. Robert Beloin, pastor of St. Thomas More Church, borrowed St. Francis of Assisi’s words.
“Lord God, make us instruments of your peace,” he said to the group, which had gathered to call for peace in the Middle East.
The rally, the latest response to the violence engulfing the region, came two days after Yale Friends of Israel and a group of Yale students protesting the recent Israeli military campaign held two separate demonstrations on Cross Campus Friday.
Yesterday evening, Beloin and Yale University Chaplain Frederick Streets spoke briefly before leading the group in silent meditation.
John Kennedy, a New Haven resident and son of Yale professor Paul Kennedy, obtained support from University religious leaders to hold the peace rally after hearing the idea mentioned at church. Although only 25 people showed up to the rally, Kennedy said he was content that a group “large or small” gathered to show concern for the violence in Israel.
“I’m not sure why [the situation] struck something in me,” Kennedy said. “After Sept. 11, I realized the world is interconnected — what happens there affects us.”
While students at last night’s vigil spent much of their time in silence, Friday’s rallies were vocal.
Over 100 students held Israeli flags and signs as part of a demonstration sponsored by Yale Friends of Israel. Avi Perry ’05, one of the event’s coordinators, said that the rally was held in response to anti-Semitism and was intended to evince support for the Jewish people, whom he said “feel abandoned.”
“Over Passover, a lot of Jews lost faith in peace,” Perry said. “There’s a terrible sense of depression around the Jewish community.”
Perry added that the rally was not necessarily in support of the actions of the Israeli government.
“We want to point out the distinction between supporting the Israeli government and supporting the Israeli people,” he said.
The rally was immediately followed by a demonstration by a group of Yale students who denounced the Israeli government’s military actions, launched after the terrorist bombings over Passover.
Justin Ruben FOR ’02, who was present at the rally, said it began as an offshoot of another demonstration on the steps of the New Haven courthouse on Church Street. When the rally had finished, it was suggested that the remaining members of the group march to Cross Campus, where they waited until the rally being held by Yale Friends of Israel was over, Ruben said.
“I was there because I’m appalled at what’s going on right now in Israel,” he said. “The conditions in the occupied territories are making the process for peace harder and harder to imagine.”