Northeast Ohioans rally for peace in Israel after Hamas attacks
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland held a community gathering Monday evening as a memorial to those killed in Israel in violent Hamas attacks this past weekend. The local Jewish community is struggling to convey the magnitude of the violence to the community.
Seven hundred Israelis were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded over the weekend, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Most of the victims in the attacks were civilians.
It’s hard for people in the United States to understand this level of violence on the Israeli people, JewishAkron Board Chair Stuart Glauberman said.
“What happens in Ukraine in one day pales to what happened in one day in Israel," Glauberman explained.
In fact, federation Board Chair Dan Zelman said this might be the largest slaughter of Jewish people since the Holocaust.
Several hundred people attended the memorial service outside the federation’s headquarters in Beachwood. Joanne Davis from University Heights said she has lots of family and friends in Israel and had to postpone plans for later this month to visit. She brought her daughter Sophie, who’s in 5th grade, to the service.
“It’s good to be around so many people, but I don’t think I’ve felt this terrified since 9/11," Davis said. "And we’re just heartbroken.”
“It’s very scary," Sophie added.
Davis said she appreciated the turnout, particularly from non-Jewish allies.
“It was good to see so many people come together and so many people not just in the Jewish community, and I got a text message from somebody who is not Jewish," Davis said. "And he just said, 'I’m praying for you, and I’m praying for everybody there.'"
Lucas Shawlson, who lives in Downtown Cleveland, attended the community gathering in Beachwood with the flag of Israel draped over his back. Cleveland and its large Jewish community should play a big role in providing comfort to those grieving, he said.
“We must be a light. We must lead," Shawlson said. "We must keep doing what we do best – teaching, doing mitzvahs, community together as a community and show that we’re stronger than this.”
JewishAkron's Stuart Glauberman said his family and friends in Israel are also rallying together behind the tragedy.
"They also shared that it's pretty remarkable how the whole country is rallying together to find a solution and to protect the whole country," Glauberman said.
But the future of Israel remains uncertain, JewishAkron CEO Daniel Blain said.
"This is one where we don't know how it's going to turn," Blain said, "but we know things will never be the same."
The federation announced it is donating $1.2 million to relief efforts in Israel and urged others to show support for Israel. The funds will be handled by partner agencies the Jewish Agency for Israeland the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
“We’re providing shelter. We’re providing transportation," Zelman said. "We’re going to be providing mental health resources, and it’s too soon to really know what all our needs are.”
Rabbis from around Northeast Ohio spoke at the community gathering offering prayers and words of encouragement, including Rabbi Binyamin Blau from Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood.
“This is very personal to us, but 'Am Israel' is internal," Blau said. "And we will survive, and we will be victorious, and we will rebuild.”
Cleveland Peace Action, meanwhile, organized a "Free Palestine" demonstration in Cleveland’s Market Square Monday evening. They are calling for an end to the violence but also for the United States to end its support of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, President Don Bryant said.
“We do hope for an end to the violence," Bryant said, "but justice much also occur, such as the Palestinian right to return to their homeland.”
Bryant pushed back on the notion that the attacks were unprovoked, saying it was like a "kettle on the stove" after decades of Israeli occupation.
"The people eventually will want to rise up and get their freedom, and they've been doing it nonviolently for decades," Bryant said. "Just existing is nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine."
In retaliation for the attacks, Israel has launched reprisals in the Gaza Strip, which is home to more than two million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees.