Vigil for peace

A group of nearly 100 protesters gathered in Triangle Park Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil in opposition to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The purpose of the event was "to show the support for the victims who are being killed," said Jamil Farooqui, president of the Islamic Society of Central Kentucky. "They are innocent."

More than 370 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,400 injured in four days of Israeli airstrikes against Gaza.

A six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a militant group that seized control of Gaza in 2007, broke down earlier this month. Hamas says Israel has breached agreements by imposing a painful economic blockade on Gaza and staging military strikes.

But Israel says it has grown weary of the more than 10,000 rockets and mortar shells that have been fired into the country from Gaza since 2001.

Farooqui said the protesters hoped to urge the U.S. government to help bring an end to the fighting.

"Both parties need to come on one page," he said. "We need to go back to the cease-fire and start the peace process again."

The Islamic Society of Central Kentucky co-sponsored the event along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the University of Kentucky Muslim Student Association.

"It's not something that we can turn off and just forget," said Fatima Shalash, a member of the board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a lead organizer of the vigil. "They're fighting for their lives."

Firas Jarrar, a UK graduate student, brought his wife and their 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter out. He said he wanted to make a statement about the children killed in the airstrikes.

"The only difference between my kids and those is that my kids have been born here," he said, noting that he thinks American news outlets are biased toward the Israeli point of view.

Yahya Ahamed, who spoke at the protest, encouraged the group to contact the White House, the State Department, members of Congress and Israeli embassies and consulates.

"I don't want anyone to walk away from this content in their actions," he said. "Our moral compass obliges us to save people who cannot save themselves."

David Wekstein, who co-chairs the community relations committee for the Central Kentucky Jewish Federation, said that while it is terrible that anyone has been killed, "the vigil is very, very one-sided." Wekstein did not attend the event.

"What would the United States do if people were sitting in Ontario and shelling Detroit?" he said, referencing the thousands of shells that have been launched by Hamas into Israel.

Linda Ravvin, president of the Jewish Federation, said the Hamas rockets are aimed at civilian targets. She said the Israelis have tried to aim for more military targets.

"I'm very sorry for the casualties that are taking place on both sides," Ravvin said.

Observers on both sides said the fight is one all Americans should pay attention to.

Kerby Neill, a Catholic and a board member from the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice who attended the vigil, said he was impressed with the gentle attitude of the protesters.

"It's a demonstration that puts Hamas to shame, as well as the Israeli response," he said. "We need to see more moves to peace expressed in the manner of this."