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Student groups hold vigil to honor Israelis killed this past weekend

October 10, 2023
<p>A hand-held candle and the flag of Israel on display at the vigil held at Spartan Statue in observance of the war in Israel-Gaza, on Oct. 9, 2023.</p>

A hand-held candle and the flag of Israel on display at the vigil held at Spartan Statue in observance of the war in Israel-Gaza, on Oct. 9, 2023.

MSU Hillel, the Jewish Student Union, or JSU, MSU CHABAD and Spartans for Israel held a candlelight vigil to honor the Israeli citizens killed this past weekend. Dozens of students and community members gathered around Spartan Statue on Oct. 9 holding paper candles, wearing white and blue and singing along with students leading the event. 

Hamas militants attacked central and southern Israel on Oct. 7. As of Oct. 10, the death toll has risen to more than 900 Israelis and over 100 in hostage, according to Al Jazeera. Israel declared war on Sunday, killing at least 830 Palestinians by launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, according to ABC. The Human Rights Watch condemned both Israel and Palestine for their war crimes.

At the vigil, public relations junior and JSU Vice President of External Affairs Matthew Zivian spoke to the gatherers

"With this war now beginning, I think it’s important to highlight that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers going to war are just kids like us: 18, 19, 20 year olds, going out to defend their homeland," Zivian said.

He recited a prayer to “bless the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force and the men and women of the security forces who stand guard over our land and the cities of our Lord."

"May God grant that the enemies who rise up against us be struck down before them," Zivian said

Zivian helped organize the vigil and spoke to the MSU community alongside seven other MSU students.

One of those students, mechanical engineering senior and MSU CHABAD member Elan Krakoff, spoke and led the group through Hebrew songs. They sang Israel’s national anthem, "Hatikvah," which translates to "the hope," while gatherers sang along and swayed together, arm in arm. 


"When so many people are wishing for destruction of the state Israel and the Jewish people, there’s no stronger message than over a hundred Jews standing together, proud, saying to anyone who has ever tried to destroy us — and still continues to try to destroy us — that no matter how hard you try, we are living proof that the nation of Israel lives on," Krakoff said. 

Attendees set their candles on the bricks around the Spartan Statue, which was adorned with Israeli flags. More candles were laid out to form the Star of David


"Being Jewish, we naturally have a connection to Israel," Zivian told The State News. "Many of us call it our homeland."

Zivian said that when he heard news of the terrorist attacks, he reached out to family and friends in Israel to see if they were OK. He found out about the situation through social media, where new details and opinions from both sides "kept piling up and piling up" until it became emotionally tiring, he said.

Student organizers used the same social media platforms to support their cause. MSU Hillel, the Jewish Student Union, Spartans for Israel and more East Lansing Jewish organizations announced the candlelight vigil through social media, spreading word of the gathering through people they already knew.

"The great thing about this community is how connected everyone is," Zivian said. "I don’t think I could do this without my community."

Horticulture junior Ilana Diskin learned about the vigil through social media. Like Zivian, Diskin has family in Israel and knows people currently fighting in the combat unit. 

“I felt like going to the vigil was a good way to support them, because there is only so much I can do here,” Diskin said. “In worrisome times like these, it (can) help to stand in unity with those who understand.”

Zivian said he and other Jewish students hope people of all religions and backgrounds can find common ground

"Students got reassurance that they have a community who supports them," Zivian said. "As for MSU, the school got a nice and clear message: we’re here for peace, we’re here for healing, we’re here for love."

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