COLUMBIA — A dozen members of the Columbia community gathered Sunday afternoon to mark the anniversary of the military conflict between Israel and Hamas that began Dec. 27, 2008, on the Gaza Strip.
"Remembering Gaza: A Prayer for Peace" at the First Christian Church included inter-faith reflections, remembrances for the troops who died and a hope for peace with dignity for Palestine and Israel.
"We wanted to not let this anniversary go by, and it made a great deal of sense to keep it in the forefront of our minds," said Jeff Stack of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation.
There was a moment of silence for those lost in the attacks, a video featuring photos of Gaza after the attacks, acoustic guitar music and a discussion on the current situation in the Middle East.
Saleem Alhabash, a graduate student from Palestine, talked about the issues in Gaza from the perspective of someone whose family and friends have been directly affected.
He said both his parents were forced to leave their homes in what are now part of Israel before the 1948 war. They went to Jordan believing that they could go back after the war, but the borders closed and Israel was declared a state, preventing their return.
"I think it's very important to work locally on educating people and raising the awareness as well," he said. "A key to rallying people around this sort of issue is to just raise questions in their minds and make them wonder and make them research more and, you know, want to know more about it."
Shortly after the attacks on Gaza last December, both he and Stack recognized their desire to "highlight not only the situation in Gaza but also to highlight the whole conflict," Alhabash said.
"So much of the discussion about Palestine and Israel gets too political and we want to bring it down to a more social and cultural level," Alhabash said.