Tariq Thabet, a Michigan State University Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow from 2021-2022, was killed by an Israeli bombing of his apartment in Central Gaza City.
Many MSU and East Lansing community members mourned his death and shared how Thabet touched the lives of those around him.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the Islamic Center of East Lansing said Thabet was a "cheerful young man" who was "always smiling."
"He used to attend prayers at our Islamic Center and was a beloved brother to many of us," the statement read.
Fifteen members of Thabet's family were killed alongside him in the bombing. The buildings they resided in were in Al-Zawaida and Al-Wusta.
According to the post, a Humphrey fellow was in touch with Thabet every day until Oct. 20 due to a lack of internet connection and power in Gaza. The fellow was not aware of Thabet's death until two days after the bombing, which occurred on Oct. 29.
Thabet became a Humphrey fellow as part of the Fulbright Program and attended MSU as his host university in the United States for ten months.
Islamic Center of East Lansing Board Trustee Thasin Sardar first met Thabet when receiving him and the other fellows from the airport as part of the Greater Lansing United Nations Association.
"He came from Gaza," Sardar said. "But you could not tell that from the smile on his face."
Sardar said Thabet would also come to the mosque to pray.
"He came across as a very vibrant young man, very passionate, enthusiastic to learn things," Sardar said. "His goal was to learn, acquire skills so that he can give back to his community ... (he was) very sincere and dedicated in that direction."
Thabet had a "contagious smile" and "positive and upbeat attitude" towards life, Sardar said. The last time Sardar saw Thabet was in August 2022 at the mosque.
"We hope he enjoyed his stay here," Sardar said. "We hope he had enjoyed the company that he had here. We tried to make the most out of his time traveling and getting to know people and learning from one another."
The MSU Humphrey Fellowship Program said in a statement that they were "deeply saddened" to learn of the death of Tariq Thabet and his family in Central Gaza.
"While at MSU, (Thabet) built on his extensive experience in the nonprofit sector and entrepreneurship by taking courses in finance and marketing, networking extensively with his local counterparts and speaking to local community groups and youth," the statement read. "His goal was to take the new knowledge, relationships and experience back with him to Gaza and improve the local economy."
The post also said Thabet collaborated with the Lansing Economic Area Partnership to promote entrepreneurship in Lansing. Thabet focused on economic development and empowerment of entrepreneurs in developing countries, especially in Gaza.
Humphrey Fellowship Program Manager Kyle Hess, who interacted with Thabet over email in January, said Thabet was focused on improving the economic conditions of Gaza.
"From my records of his time here, he was extremely motivated, kind, and loyal," Hess said in an email.
Sardar said he learned from Thabet to be positive no matter how difficult life is, and to have the "inclination" to give back to the community. The best way to honor Thabet's life, Sardar said, is to remember him as the "fine person he was" and serve others as he did.
"No more Tariq Thabets (or) children need to die, and multiple generations of entire families should not have to perish like his family did," Sardar said. "So if we can all collectively appeal to our lawmakers, demand a ceasefire now, that will be a great way to honor his life and legacy."
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Students United for Palestinian Rights and the Arab Cultural Society are organizing a community vigil to be held for Thabet tomorrow, Nov. 7, at the MSU Rock.
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