Last Thursday [15 December], on the eighth night of Hanukkah, Jewish Voice for Peace members shut down eight bridges and highways in eight cities across the US to demand an end to the genocide of Palestinians.
Thousands of Jews and allies protested in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego — eight cities symbolizing the eight candles lit on the final night of Hanukkah, plus the shamash, or “helper” candle.
JVP members blocked traffic for hours, singing, chanting, carrying giant menorahs, and holding signs reading “Jews says ceasefire now” and “Let Gaza live.” Hundreds were arrested….
Today, half of the over two million people who live in Gaza are starving, and the vast majority of them have been forced to flee their homes. But nowhere in Gaza is safe.
As the Israeli military expands its genocidal war on the people of Gaza, Palestinians have been forced to flee further and further south, sometimes three or four times over, only for the Israeli military to drop bombs where it told them to evacuate.
Across northern Gaza, which has been reduced to rubble, Israeli forces are rounding up hundreds of starving and terrified people and separating them from their families. Men are forced to strip down to their underwear, numbers scribbled on their hands, and are then thrown into the backs of trucks, bound and blindfolded. Amidst all this horror, settler groups are already planning their expansion into Gaza.
On Saturday, an Israeli sniper shot and killed a mother and daughter taking shelter inside a church alongside hundreds of other displaced people. The day before, Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa was murdered in an Israeli airstrike on a school in Khan Younis.
For hours, Samer bled to death as the Israeli military continued to bombard the area, even firing on an ambulance that tried to reach him. Al Jazeera says the drone strike that killed Samer was targeted.
Nearly 60 Palestinian journalists, along with many of their families, have been killed. Wael Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s Gaza Bureau Chief, was injured in the same drone strike that killed Samer last Friday. In October, Wael’s wife, two children, and grandson were murdered in an Israeli airstrike.
And journalists aren’t the only Palestinians that Israel is targeting for assassination. On December 7, outspoken poet and professor of English literature Refaat Alareer was killed alongside six members of his family when Israel bombed his sister’s home.
Less than a month before he died, Refaat published a poem called “If I Must Die.”
If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made,
flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale
Last Thursday, members of JVP-New Haven read Refaat’s words as they lit candles for a ceasefire. Because just as the Hanukkah light was never extinguished — even in the bleakest moments — we remain unwavering in our commitment to fighting for a world where Palestine is free.