This weekend, something extraordinary will happen. In the midst of the division, the pain, and the grief of the war, Muslims, Jews, Christians, people of all faiths and none, will gather together to share in each other’s pain.
In the first vigil of its kind since the conflict started, Palestinians who have lost loved ones in the war will stand alongside Israelis newly bereaved. They will do so not because they share an exact analysis of what should come next or to propose easy solutions, but to protect and defend shared space for our collective humanity.
When conflict erupts and fear and pain descend, our empathy for others is often one of the first things we lose. Our own pain, anxiety and trauma is so oppressive, it drives out our emotional space to see that others might be feeling the same. That’s even more true when the other group feeling pain is seen as representing the ‘other side’.
That is what is so incredible about people like Magen Inon, an Israeli dad and teacher based in London. Both of Magen’s parents were murdered by Hamas on that awful day in October. He has talked powerfully since about his parents and his desire to be part of building a world where the hatred that drove that vile attack is extinguished as part of their legacy.
For Magen, who will be speaking at the vigil on Sunday, that means finding a way to feel the pain of Palestinians who are suffering too – even with all he is going through. If he can do that, it should make us ask whether we can too.
This will just be the start – we are hoping to help people organise local events around the country and to support schools and local authorities bring people together too.
The reason this matters so much is that extremists try to use the pain of this conflict to drive hatred against all groups. We’ve all seen it online – the Islamists preying on young Muslims, using the pain of what is happening in Gaza to radicalise them and spread antisemitism. And we’ve seen people from the far right suddenly pretend to be Israel’s (and Jews) new best friends – simply as a device to drive their hatred against Muslims.
That is the second purpose of Sunday’s vigil, to stand united against both antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate. To make it clear that you can’t use one minority to target another. We should all be clear that a society that is capable of targeting one minority group – will never be safe for any minority group. So standing up against hatred in all its forms is not only right, it’s a strategic imperative.
Sunday’s vigil will just be the start – we are hoping to help people organise local events around the country and to support schools and local authorities bring people together too.
None of this work will end the conflict in Israel or Palestine. None of it will end deeply held disagreements over what should happen next. But what we hope it can do is to elevate our shared humanity, draw a clear red line against hate and maintain connection with each other – even when we may disagree.
We hope you will join us.
– The event will take place on Sunday at 3pm opposite Downing Street.
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