David Harouni’s Vigil in El Cajon Calls for Peace and Deeper Investigation

Nadin Brzezinski
6 min readMar 4, 2024

Photos: Tom and Nadin Abbott

On Thursday February 29 David Harouni, a Jewish American dentist of Mizrahi extraction, the family is originally from Iran, was murdered in El Cajon. The alleged shooter was 29-year-old Mohammed Abdulkareem. The reality is that this shooting, in the environment of antisemitism we live in, triggered fear in the local community.

Jake Harouni is Benjamin Harouni's younger brother. Understandably, he was emotional when he read a prepared statement, a eulogy to his brother. He asked anyone who faced loss, “Where do I even begin? My brother, Doctor Benjamin Harouni, was beyond life. Those who knew him knew he was one of the most empathetic, selfless, dear souls they have ever known.”

He went on to tell the crowd, of about fifty, that his brother attended to people of all backgrounds and economic means. Realize people came from as far as Sacramento and Los Angeles. Ben could have gone to a private practice. But it was not about the money. It was about helping others.

Jake also got a lot of messages over the last few days, which emphasized Ben as “an extremely positive person, and someone who always who had a head on his shoulders. Always putting others over himself.”

Jake went on to tell us what he intends to do to memorialize his brother. “Why was it Ben who had to be murdered in cold blood? The purest soul taken by an act so hateful? After sitting with this question over the past few days, it started to make sense to me. He was the only person who could have made an impact this big. As you can see on all your guys social media and everything.”

“His light was burning so bright that it could not be contained by his physical body. Even an act of hate could not dim that light.”

“As we continue to mourn the dead of my bother, we need to understand that this senseless acts of hate need to come to an end.” Jake also told the crowd that (social) media is trying to downplay this, all the way to Instagram censoring #BenHarouni.

“Now more than ever, we need to spread love and positivity in order to promote peace and to be able to see this tragic event as a pivotal change in the way we treat each other. If everybody would spread the messages of peace towards each other, there would be no room for hatred to grow. Over the next few weeks we will be creating a foundation to stop hate and to promote peace and love as his honor and legacy.”

His brother was laid to rest on Sunday morning, and the reason for the delay under Jewish law was civil law. There was an autopsy to perform. But under Jewish law, the burial is supposed to happen the same day unless it is a holiday or Shabbat.

Rabbi Salman Carlebach also said, “These tragedies don’t happen in a vacuum. Because life has been cheapened, Jewish life is not appreciated. It’s ok, almost to do things like this, in our society because there are not enough people that stand up, cry, and scream and say we will not allow this.”

He thanked the attendees for standing up against hatred. He also thanked the media for attending.

His uncle, Daniel Sadish, who came from Iran, also spoke. His was also a message of peace:

“I really want to reach out… to all of my non-jew friends all over the world. I want you to just stop this. This is really nonsense. We are all one. We come from one God, one divinity, one part of this being, and enough is enough. I just want to ask, please, please go to your heart, and just from your heart, just look at this. Does a jewish boy deserve this, does a Muslim boy deserve this? Does a Christian boy deserve this? Nobody deserves this. Nobody deserves to be in this situation.”

“Nobody can do it, but each one of you, each one of us.” He called for each of us to turn towards unity and love, which will lead to a better world.

Now, let me speak to the investigation via Mayor Wells. I think it is essential to understand that these investigations take time. Initial calls that there was no hate crime were probably premature. The mayor was clear on this, first on the short presser with press members, and later to the community. First to the press the mayor said, “it is more concerning that the person that was killed is Jewish. As everybody knows, we have seen a huge increase in the number of Jewish people who have been involved in violence. And have been targeted over the past four months since October seven. Everybody has a right to be shaken up.”

“I can’t give that answer tonight. The FBI and our police Department are still investigating. And of course they are going to be very careful about not labeling one thing or the other until the question (whether this was a hate crime) has been answered.”

The mayor also addressed the community:

“There is nothing quite so devastating as the loss of a beautiful young person. And a loss so unexpected. And a loss so unimaginable as there is no sense whatsoever.”

He then told the crowd that the city of El Cajon, the city council, “we all grieve with you. And we pray that there is something we can do to ease your pain.”

“As a Christian. I know that Christian churches around the city are praying with you and feeling your pain tonight, and they stand with you.”

Then he told this to the community about this that the investigation “is in process.” The person who did this is in jail, “his computers and social media are getting poured over right now.”

He also said that there are interviews right now “with all the people he knows and his family. And I promise you that we will get to the truth of what happened.” He also spoke to people who have told him that they fear the FBI, or whoever is in charge, may try to “sweep this under the rug. And treat this as though it was a simple crime.”

“I don’t know what will happen as far as the charging goes, that’s not to any of us, that’s up to the District Attorney. What I can tell you is that I am committed to telling you the truth as this process goes through.” He also vowed to share the state of the investigative process with the community.

The mayor closed by telling the community that he is aware of how antisemitic violence in the United States is going through the roof. We are up to a “450% increase since October 7.”

“I want to tell you that you are not alone. There are a lot of us who are very, very concerned and will not let it stand on our watch.”

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Nadin Brzezinski

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game. You can find me at CounterSocial, Mastodon and rarely FB