By Jai’Michael Anderson

On Friday, Dec. 1, U of L medical students organized a candlelight vigil in the Health Sciences Campus (HSC) courtyard. The gathering was to honor Palestinian healthcare workers who have lost their lives in Israeli attacks on Gaza since the beginning of the most recent Israel-Hamas war starting on Oct. 7, 2023.

Attendees were asked to show support by wearing keffiyehs and black clothes. The speakers consisted of U of L medical students as well as health professionals, who provided anecdotes and statistics to convey the crisis that Gaza is in.

U of L Hospital Cardiologist, Dr. Amir Piracha, cited the World Health Organization on the “427 attacks on healthcare facilities” since Oct. 7.

“In Gaza, there have been 560 healthcare workers killed, 55 ambulances and 56 healthcare facilities destroyed,” Piracha said. “We have three major healthcare systems right here in this circle, could you imagine if all three of these were knocked out – and compare that to what’s been knocked out in Gaza.”

Though the sounds of airplanes and traffic left no room for complete silence, the gathering felt still and quiet. Stories and descriptions of displaced families and mutilated children were emotive and brought tears to many.

Candles on the steps of the HSC courtyard.

The director of Hematopathology in the residency program at U of L, Dr. Samer Z. AlQuran, talked about the experiences of his colleague’s father, Dr. Hammam Alloh, who had lost his life in an airstrike. Alloh’s story showed the resolve of healthcare professionals in Gaza to help their patients.

AlQuran remembered his words from an interview, “He was asked, why don’t you go with your family [south]? He said, ‘If I go, who treats my patients? They are not animals; they have the right to receive proper healthcare. We are doctors, we can’t just leave.’”

The vigil followed several protests and demonstrations that have taken place throughout the semester on U of L’s campus, the most recent of which being a walkout held at the Belknap Academic Building on Thursday, Nov. 30.

The organizers of the vigil urged attendees to take action by boycotting brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s. Boycott calls for both brands have recently become very popular on social media.

“#boycottstarbucks” gained popularity in Nov. after the company sued the Starbucks Workers Union after an employee tweeted “Solidarity with Palestine” on the union’s X account.

McDonald’s boycotts gained popularity after news reports that Israeli franchises said they would provide free meals to Israeli hospitals and Israeli Defense Forces soldiers.

Attendees were also urged to contact their legislators to demand for a cease-fire and for medical aid to be sent to Gaza.

File Photos // Jai’Michael Anderson, The Louisville Cardinal