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With poetry and protests, Louisville residents call for cease-fire in Gaza

A group of people gathered in a park
Giselle Rhoden
/
LPM
Louisville residents held a protest calling for a cease-fire in Gaza on Nov. 4, 2023.

People across the world are coming together to oppose the Israeli military’s siege and bombardment of Gaza in response to last month’s Hamas attack in southern Israel. Louisville residents are adding their voices to urge the U.S. government to push for a cease-fire.

Scores of protesters of all ages and backgrounds gathered in Washington D.C. last Saturday to demand a cease-fire. They marched toward the White House, eventually confronting this symbol of an institution they see as condoning the bloodshed.

The Biden administration opposes a cease-fire, saying it would benefit Hamas. Instead, officials favor pauses in the fighting.

The protest drew participants from across the country.

Sid, an organizer from Louisville who spoke using a pseudonym out of concern for his safety, shared voice memos from his trip to the Capitol.

“You know, growing up Palestinian here, you don't see a lot of Palestinians,” Sid said. “But seeing all these people gather in one place in America, it's surreal. It's hard to put into words, but it's amazing.”

In a memo the day after the march, he said he felt good about it.

“I think everything went better than we could have possibly hoped for. It was very powerful. And I think we got our message across and I'm hoping that change will come,” he said.

As the march progressed in Washington, an advocacy group called the Louisville Coalition for Gaza held a protest at a park in the South End of Louisville. Speakers called for a cease-fire and said they mourned every Palestinian and Israeli life.

Israeli officials say about 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and more than 200 were taken hostage. In Gaza, officials say the death toll from the Israeli response is approaching 11,000 people.

The protesters in Louisville met near the factories of weapons manufacturers B.A.E. Systems and Raytheon, which supply the Israeli military.

Organizer Farah Mokhtareizadeh was one of more than a hundred people there.

“I want to have a future that includes good housing, good transportation,” she said. “And if we continue to pour all of our money into war, we will not make peace here and we will not be able to have peace in the Middle East.”

Mike Perlin is another Louisville resident who’s calling for a cease-fire. He’s Jewish and said he doesn’t believe the Israeli military response aligns with Jewish values and faith.

“It seems to me that there's this idea that Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli or Jewish lives,” he said. “And I don't believe that. And I don't think that is consistent with Jewish values either.”

Some other Louisville residents are turning to art to support the Palestinian cause. On a recent crisp fall afternoon at the University of Louisville, a group of students are sprawled across a sidewalk as two young women took turns reading poems in English by Palestinian writers.

The works span decades, and capture the loss, love and hope embedded in the days, months and years of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

One woman shared a translation of “I Belong There” by Mahmoud Darwish, a beloved Palestinian poet. It reads, in part:

"I belong there. I have many memories. I was born as everyone is born.
I have a mother, a house with many windows, brothers, friends, and a prison cell
with a chilly window!"

From poems to protest chants, supporters of the cease-fire movement had a common message: Palestinian lives are worth saving.

Giselle Rhoden contributed reporting.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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