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Community gathering offers prayers after attacks in Israel


Members and friends of the Jewish community from across the Triad gather at Temple Emanuel of Greensboro for a Solidarity with Israel service held Monday evening (Oct. 9) after Hamas attacked the nation of Israel last Saturday, Oct. 7. Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.
Anger, sadness, empathy, and hope were just some of the emotions shared at a community gathering at Temple Emanuel to mourn the thousands of victims of Hamas attacks in Israel over the weekend.

The community was invited to meet at the temple Monday evening to share songs, prayers, and uplifting words in support of the victims and hostages of the most recent attacks on Gaza by Hamas (In Arabic it means the Islamic Resistance Movement).

News reports on October 11, on the fifth day of the attacks, report that the death toll has reached at least 2,200 people, both Israelis and Palestinian civilians and fighters, including at least 140 children. The attacks came by land, sea and air on Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas, and happened almost 50 years to the day since the 1973 Yom Kippur War and marked a devastating escalation in the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. President Joe Biden has also confirmed that at least 14 Americans have been killed.

Rabbi Andy Koren, senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel and whose wife’s family resides in Israel, said more than 200 funerals of slain Israeli civilians had already taken place on Monday.

“Our hearts break for the lives that were lost,” said Koren.

Attendees looked on in shock and horror as social media footage from the attacks were shared on two projector screens during the somber meeting. Twenty-two Israeli towns were invaded, and families were being slaughtered in the streets, including another 260 young Israeli adults who were gunned down at a music festival held in the desert. At least 250 people, ranging from the elderly to young children were reported as being taken hostage by Hamas militants, to which Rabbi Fred Guttman noted the number is more than likely larger than that.

“We know that those numbers are going to increase. There is way more than what we are being told,” he said.

Guttman, a rabbi emeritus at Temple Emanuel, who also has extended family living in Israel, expressed his anger and sadness.

“This is not a good evening. What brings us here makes this a terrible evening. I’m angry because I’ve seen too many pictures of Israeli bodies in the streets. I’m angry because today, 271 of our precious young people were buried as their families wept over their graves. I’m angry because there are so many hostages – of all ages,” said Guttman.

After the attack, Israel stopped the entry of food, water, fuel and medicine into the Gaza territory — a 40-kilometer-long (25-mile) strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians. The sole remaining access from Egypt was shut down Tuesday after airstrikes hit near the border crossing.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, D-6th district, who is also a member of the Jewish community, was also in attendance and shared that the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism stands with Israel.

“We will stand with Israel, and we will make sure Israel has the support it needs to win this fight. This will be a long and painful battle and things will get worse before they get better,” she said. “Our job is to provide Israel with the support it needs.”

The National Jewish Federation, along with other organizations, have set up an emergency fund to help the survivors.

“We may be asking ourselves in this moment how can God be merciful with all the horrors happening,” said Rabbi Grace Gleason of Beth David Synagogue in Greensboro in a call for peace. “I believe the answer is that we are the ones who must bring this quality of mercy into the world, and we are the ones who must bring God’s righteousness into the world. In moments like this when our humanity is brutally stripped from us, we respond by behaving with the utmost decency and with the utmost mercy and compassion, and that’s how our humanity is restored.”