I found out on Thursday morning, via an Instagram post, that Columbia University would be holding a brief vigil to remember victims of national and international terror. As I was already planning to be in Harlem, not far from Columbia University, I decided to stop by this vigil. (The reason for being in Harlem will be a partial topic of my next blog entry.)

When I first saw the announcement of this event a few thoughts crossed my mind. First, it would be an excuse to visit my alma mater: I am a graduate of Barnard College, part of Columbia University, and it would be a nice diversion to stop by the pretty St Paul's Chapel, where this event was to be held. Second, I do feel badly about the horrific events in the United States, France, and elsewhere.

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But during my subway train ride to 116th Street, the Columbia U stop, I thought of a more practical reason to stop by this vigil: to see if Israel and Israelis would also be mentioned in this ecumenical service.


Turned out that I was a few minutes late to the vigil. There were about 25 people there, of varying ages. Many other people walked by, several part of a tour group on the campus. A man stood on one of the steps up to St Paul's Chapel and read some opening remarks. Then he read a list of names, of people who died because of police shootings in the US such as Philando Castile, who was shot dead in Minnesota by a police officer recently, as well as the names of the five police officers who were shot dead by the sniper in Dallas, Texas. The man also read the names of victims who died in Nice, France on Bastille Day.

After that he read a list of countries where recent terror victims could be found, and he mentioned "West Bank." I flinched because as far as I know, "West Bank" is not a country. Was this man, on the staff of the Chapel, shrinking away from saying "Israel"? And then when he asked if there were other countries that should be mentioned, a woman said "Palestine." 

I added "And Israel, too." A few seconds after I said that an Asian woman in front of me turned around and looked at me; I couldn't quite read her expression because she wore dark sunglasses. And I wondered if I should spoken even louder. No one mentioned another nation to add to the list.

Then a man rang the chapel bell, which to me was the most interesting action here, visually. I watched him tug on the rope, using all his strength. The bell ringer was right within my view, working from an open side doorway right by the main Chapel doors. It was a timeless motion, and kind of stirring.

But I remain annoyed at the slights that Israeli victims of terror received at this feel-good service. Hallel Yaffa Ariel, just 13 years old and the same age as my younger daughter, was a recent victim of terror. She should be alive today. At the very least she should have been remembered at this vigil...as an Israeli.

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