KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing for over a decade, but just in the last week with recent attacks, the issue has come to the forefront in the United States.
"I am here because I am extremely concerned about what is happening in Gaza and what is happening in Palestine today," said one of the vigil organizers Maliha Razakhan.
Malia Razakhan is a concerned member of the Muslim-American community as Monday marked the eighth day of attacks between Israel and Palestine.
That's why she and others hosted a vigil in Kalamazoo in hopes to raise awareness and speak up for those who are unable.
"I’m a human being, and I see what is going on. It is not just about who I am as a person. The fact is this is a humanitarian disaster. It is a humanitarian catastrophe that is taking place. The whole world can see it, but not everybody is speaking up," said Razakhan.
The tensions started at the beginning of Islam's holy month of Ramadan when Israeli police put up barriers at Damascus Gate, a holy location for both Muslims and Jews.
In turn, Palestinians protested the area, and Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules over the Gaza Strip, threatened Israel.
In addition, evictions in an East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah caused tensions when four Palestinian families were evicted from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.
"We feel that the violence against Palestinians has to come to an end. We have to stop the evictions of people from their homes, the expulsion of people from their neighborhoods, and especially the violence against the people in Gaza," said Daniel Smith with the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents of War's Working Group for Israel/Palestine.
Due to the protest response and evictions, Palestine began firing rockets towards Jerusalem. Israel responded with airstrikes into Gaza, which is home to two million Palestinians.
As of Monday, 198 Palestinians had been killed so far including 58 children and 35 women according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
"We want to let the community know that this is a horrible thing that is happening to the Palestinians, and it is on our dime. We are paying tax dollars to help fund it," said Smith.
In 2019, the United States provided $3.8 billion to the Israel military, and Smith said it needs to stop.
"I’m hoping that my community. This is my community. I am a Kalamazooan. I want my community to wake up and see what is going on, and to pressurize our representatives to in turn pressurize the White House," said Razakhan.
In Washington, D.C., new legislation was just introduced in Congress called the Palestinian Children and Families Act.
It's the first of its kind introduced by Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum to promote human rights and safety of Palestinian children and families living under the Israeli military.
The attendees of the Justice and Peace Vigil for the People of Palestine are asking Michiganders to call and show their support for it to their local representatives.
Check out our photo gallery from the vigil.