SAN FRANCISCO - A candlelight vigil was held in San Francisco Thursday night to honor the innocent lives lost amid the terror attacks and ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. The gathering was organized by Manny Yekutiel, a restaurant owner who was stranded in Israel during the assault by Hamas militants.
"I feel like I haven’t actually been able to feel a lot in the last week," said Yekutiel at the start of the vigil. "I haven’t actually been able to feel sad, or grief, or actually imagine the people who didn’t deserve to die, who are gone."
The vigil, Yekutiel said, was an opportunity for he and others to finally process their emotions. Following the reading of a prayer, the names of 100 Israelis who were killed by Hamas militants last week were read aloud.
Then the names of 100 Palestinian civilians who were killed in Gaza amid the Israeli army’s response to the attacks were also read aloud.
Among those who were drawn to the vigil were those who say they have been struggling to find a safe place to mourn without picking sides.
"I do have a complicated response on both sides and I too felt safe coming here. This is the first thing I’ve come to," said Marti Goddard.
Another attendee felt the same way.
"I have very complicated feelings about Israel as an American Jewish person," said Karen Strauss. "The devastating callous attacks on the people of Israel have been upsetting to me, and people in Gaza don’t deserve to be attacked the way they are being attacked."
Amid days of divisive rhetoric, hope was expressed at the gathering that it might spur others to follow their lead.
"There needs to be more dialogue, there needs to be more civilized debate, and comfort with hearing things that you’re not comfortable hearing," said Nate, who only provided his first name. "I hope that moving forward there is a belief that there’s a common future where people can live together."
Over 4,300 people have been killed in the conflict so far, according to estimates on October 18 from the United Nations.