January 31, 2024 507 PM
MARFA – In speeches and on signs, “Let Gaza Live,” was the refrain among some 45 people who gathered at dusk Saturday evening on the steps of the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa.
Resident Fatima Anaza was the first to speak at a vigil to recognize the recent deaths of thousands of Palestinians in war-besieged Gaza. Anaza stressed that even in a town this size, the voices of those who cared about the tremendous loss of life in Gaza can resonate and spread to stop the deaths.
“This is a moment to make a commitment to be present with what’s going on in the world,” Anaza said.
Anaza encouraged those in attendance to light one of several candles on a small square of cloth in front of the courthouse or to leave a memento of an item to commemorate the victims of violence far away. The crowd in attendance was diverse–– a mix of longtime residents, visitors, old and young, some adorned in simple puffy coats, one with a leather biker jacket, and many under an array of colorful knit caps to ward off the cold.
Morgan Bassichis, a Chinati artist in residence, helped pass out poems from Palestinian poets, including the works of Refaat Alareer, Mosab Abu Toha, Mahmoud Darwish and Dareen Tatour. Several people stepped forward to read the works, many of which described the contradiction between the beauty of everyday life in Palestine and the terror of missile strikes and destruction.
Some speakers protested the American government’s role in the conflict, reminding the crowd that taxpayer money was funding violence against Gaza, and called for a cease-fire. Many of those who spoke also unpacked the concept of what it means to be a “nation”: Israel has a permanent place on the map, while Palestine is often regarded as a place that doesn’t exist.
Israeli victims were also commemorated in many speakers’ reflections on the violence, but the focus remained on deaths in Gaza, where over 26,000 have been killed since October 7 –– a number that grows each day.
Corey Fogel, a visitor from Los Angeles, stepped forward to offer a Jewish perspective. Growing up, Fogel felt pressure to support the Israeli government without question and thought organizations like Birthright, which funds trips for young American Jews to Israel, were a form of political indoctrination. “I have family members who tell me you are not Jewish if you support a cease-fire, and people who fail to acknowledge Palestinian deaths and only acknowledge Israeli deaths,” Fogel said.
Marfa resident Eileen Myles reminded those on the courthouse lawn that the word “vigil” means “awake”: “It means purposeful sleeplessness … to stay in a place quietly, wait, pray for a period of time.“
They also reminded the crowd that “awareness” meant showing up –– that even a few dozen people in a far away place had the power to start a little spark that could stop the deaths of so many, so far away.