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A display recognizing hostages held in Gaza was set up at the LOVE sculpture on Feb. 22. Credit: Chenyao Liu

Penn community members hosted a vigil on Feb. 22 in memory of victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

At the vigil, Penn undergraduate and graduate students displayed red and yellow handmade poppies, a flower abundant in Israel, accompanied by posters depicting Israeli victims of the attack. The vigil — which was open from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. — was a part of a grassroots, citywide project, in which community organizers moved the poppies to different locations around Philadelphia.

According to Penn postdoctoral researcher and vigil participant Danielle Gutman, over 1,200 red poppies were planted in honor of those killed in the attacks, while 134 yellow poppies were planted in honor of Israeli hostages, and 121 white poppies were planted in honor of hostages who were returned. 

The poppies were handmade by Israeli-Jewish community members in the suburbs of Philadelphia, according to Gutman. She added that the event itself had a turnaround time of one hour to set up, after one of the organizers received word that they had a permit. Numerous students at the graduate and undergraduate level helped set up.

The flowers were displayed in observance of Darom Adom, an Israeli festival that commemorates the blossoming of poppies on the fields surrounding the Gaza Strip. This year, the festival was canceled due to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. 

“The people who run this festival are the ones who were attacked. Many of their communities were destroyed. [These] people haven’t gone back to their homes yet. Many of them don’t have homes to return to because their homes were burned down,” Gutman said.  

The remembrance was organized to run the same day as the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law’s film screening of "Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre." According to Gutman, hosting these events in tandem served to build a community of support and strength for Israeli and Jewish members of the Penn community who had been either directly or indirectly affected by the October attacks and ongoing war. 

Gutman reflected on the lack of support she said she has felt from Penn administration as an Israeli-Jewish postdoctoral researcher at the University and added that this is the first time since Oct. 7 that the Israeli postdoctoral community has felt "warmly accepted and invited" into the broader Jewish community.

“[The vigil] was very heartwarming and just gave us a nice feeling that we're not alone,” she said. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that Gutman was a participant in, not an organizer of the vigil; and to clarify comments from Gutman about the Israeli postdoctoral community at Penn.