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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
<p>Hundreds of UF students and community members gather in Turlington Plaza for a candlelight vigil to show support for Israel after after Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas launched a large-scale invasion on Monday, Oct. 10, 2023. </p>

Hundreds of UF students and community members gather in Turlington Plaza for a candlelight vigil to show support for Israel after after Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas launched a large-scale invasion on Monday, Oct. 10, 2023.

Hundreds of UF students and community members gathered in Turlington Plaza for a candlelight vigil to support Israel after Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas launched a large-scale invasion, but the vigil ended in chaos, confusion and five people injured after a commotion turned into a stampede.

At 8:55 p.m., a vigil attendee fainted causing others to ask people to call 911. This call was misunderstood by the crowd and led to panic to break out, according to a UPD press release.

Attendees trampled each other in an attempt to flee the scene causing five attendees to sustain injuries in the crowd rush, according to the release.

"We have no reason to believe that there was malicious intent behind this incident. It was an accident that was misinterpreted by the crowd that led to panic,” said UPD Chief Linda Stump-Kuick

Rabbi Berl Goldman, a 51-year-old co-director of Chabad, helped organize the vigil and witnessed the panic break out. 

“I was standing up at the front with Ben Sasse, Robbie, Jonah and everybody before the panic started,” Goldman said. “I could just see the tears on the students' faces rolling down their faces standing there in unity, listening to these firsthand reports. And it's just heart wrenching.”

Before the panic broke out, Goldman said it was a beautiful event of solidarity. 

“A lot of raw emotion but with the termination, condemnation against Hamas terrorists, and support and love of Israel and its people,” Goldman said. 

Goldman’s wife, Chanie, went to UF Shands to be with the injured attendees. 

Before the panic broke out, community leaders showed support for the Jewish community.

The candlelight vigil was opened by Rabbi Jonah Zinn, 41-year-old executive director of Hillel at UF. Zinn touched on the emotional state of the Jewish people and how there are no words to describe how we feel. 

As the speakers spoke and sang prayers of peace from the Book of Tehillim, people began to light their candles from the flames of their friends. The flames of light lit up and set the tone for the solemn vigil.

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A testimonial was read from a UF alumnus, who now is teaching in Israel, about his experience living through a state of war. 

Two Israeli exchange students shared stories about first hearing about the current state of Israel over Shabbat while at Chabad UF. 

One of the students, a former Major Sergeant in the Iron Dome Unit of the Israeli Defense Forces, has been in touch with his soldiers from his unit, family members and friends back in Israel. He shared the emotional phone call he had with one of his younger brothers, which left the crowd in tears.

UF President Ben Sasse spoke at the vigil and said he was grateful for Goldman and Zinn’s leadership.

"Tonight's vigil was an opportunity for our community to condemn Hamas' terrorism and stand by our Jewish Gators,” Sasse said.“I'm grateful for each and every Gator who came to show their support,” Sasse said. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Molly Seghi at mseghi@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @molly_seghi.

Contact Claire Grunewald at cgrunewald@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @grunewaldclaire. 


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Claire Grunewald

Claire Grunewald is a fourth-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Editor In Chief of The Alligator. In her free time, she likes to go to concerts and attempt to meet her Goodreads reading goal. 


Molly Seghi

Molly Seghi is a first-year journalism major at UF and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When not writing or journaling, she can be found at a live music event or working on her podcast “An Aural Account.”


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