Attendees at a rally for peace in Gaza in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Jan. 28. (Photo/Courtesy)
Attendees at a rally for peace in Gaza in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Jan. 28. (Photo/Courtesy)

Vigil and car procession in S.F. spotlight hostages and hopes for peace

“I’m going to read you a text that my mother wrote,” Leah Yael Levy said.

Levy, an Israeli American, stood against the backdrop of San Francisco’s Ferry Building at a “Vigil for Peace” on Sunday morning. Dozens had gathered to mourn the dead on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war.

“We believe in peace, and in each other. We have empathy for the suffering of all,” Levy read on behalf of her mother, who lives in Israel and is part of an Israeli and Palestinian group called Midwives for Peace.

Also on Sunday, a cavalcade of cars assembled to raise awareness of the more than 100 hostages believed to be alive who are still held by Hamas in Gaza.

In cars plastered with posters and draped with American and Israeli flags, participants met near UCSF at Mission Bay and drove along the Embarcadero — passing the peace vigil on the way — to Crissy Field, then across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. Around 60 cars joined the procession, according to participant Andrea Cassidy.

Cassidy said she was surprised and happy that the attention the group received was more in support than in opposition.

“It was a very positive response,” she said. “There were people on the street who were clapping.”

The Vigil for Peace, organized by an informal group, brought Jews, Muslims and Christians together, including many Israeli Americans, said Ben Linder, an organizer. They carried signs with messages that called for a bilateral cease-fire, more humanitarian aid and the return of the hostages. One stated: “From the river to the sea, only peace will set us free.”

There were several speakers, including Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Gazan profiled last week by J.

He told the crowd that 31 of his family members have died in Israel’s bombardment of Hamas, including babies. He attended the vigil with a message of coexistence despite the fact that “those who prefer confrontation, violence and incitement might be the loudest voices right now,” he said.

Alkhatib added that he hopes the “silent majority does in fact want a different path forward.”

Linder emphasized that the vigil, the second one his group has organized, was about holding space to mourn the loss of life without argument over which side is right.

“Our aim is to create a space where multiple narratives can be aired and heard with respect, and the pain of both sides can be expressed,” he said.

The first vigil took place in Oakland on Jan. 7.

The group, which goes by SFBay4Peace on X, hopes to host vigils twice a month, he said. People can join its WhatsApp group to get involved.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.