Elected officials attend vigil for Hamas attack victims
A vigil took place Sunday in Bel-Air for victims of Saturday’s massive Hamas attack against Israel, which has claimed hundreds of lives and sparked a war between Israel and one of its longtime enemies, and prompted police departments to increase security and patrols Monday around Jewish and Muslim institutions throughout Los Angeles County.
“The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of the turmoil in the Middle East and lives lost,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore wrote on social media Saturday. “In those areas where we serve both our Jewish and Muslim communities, we will be conducting extra patrol to ensure the safety of all.”
A watch commander at the Santa Monica Police Department told City News Service: “There have been periodic checks that we have directed to our extra cars. I sent one out when I saw the news.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also said it was stepping up activity.
“LASDHQ is aware of the situation in the Middle East,” the department posted on social media. “We would like to ensure all residents, we are monitoring, remaining vigilant and conducting extra patrol checks in our areas. We are working closely with our federal and local law enforcement partners to monitor the situation.”
Similarly, the city of Beverly Hills said in a statement that the “Beverly Hills Police Department has increased security and patrols around Jewish institutions in the City and continues to work closely with law enforcement partners in the region to ensure public safety.”
The Vigil for Israel in Bel-Air was co-sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and The Board of Rabbis of Southern California. More than 80 organizations sponsored the program at Stephen Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, near the San Diego (405) Freeway and Mulholland Drive.
“Together we will pray, sing for and honor the memory of the … innocent Israelis who have tragically been murdered and pray for peace and the safe return of those who have been kidnapped by Hamas terrorists,” organizers said in a statement.
The gathering was streamed at wisela.org/online. In his opening remarks to a crowd of hundreds, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback said, “What happened yesterday has happened before … innocents slaughtered, young and old alike, sitting quietly in their homes or sitting outside their homes to enjoy music. What is happening now has happened before.
“After three millennia, we survived pogram after pogrom,” Zweiback said. “The pain that we carry is unbearable and yet somehow, we bear it.”
He added, “But here’s a truth I hope we can all acknowledge … that we can embrace: The pogrom is never our fault. Antisemitism is never our fault. We are not responsible for the hatred of others for … their murderous rage.”
Zweiback described Hamas as “a terrorist regime on Israel’s border … that prizes above all else the ability to kidnap one of our children or a grandmother.” He said, “The trauma will subside but never fully disappear.”
Jenni Alpert, a Jewish educator, next spoke, saying, “We’re joining in solidarity together to support the tragedy to persevere with our culture and our tradition, to be together as one during times of struggle for change.”
“We gather and we lament together, and we mourn,” she said.
Israeli Consul General Israel Bachar addressed the crowd next to say, “This is the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.”
He encouraged the crowd to “Stay strong with us. Stay the course. We need you.”
Rabbi Noah Farkas took the dais and thanked many elected officials in attendance at the event, including Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass — who lit the first candle at the vigil — and a list of other local elected officials, among them Sheriff Robert Luna and Supervisor Lindsay Horvath, and LA City Council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Bob Blumenfield, Heather Hutt, John Lee, Nithya Raman and Katy Yaroslavsky, along with some former elected officials.
Farkas also recognized all those in the room with military service. “Thank you for your service. … We wish all of you godspeed and safety in the days to come.”
He said, “To be a Jew tonight is to take all of this personally.” He also said that this time was one in which to share stories. “Tonight, we have to tell stories.” Then, he got emotional as he told the story of a boy being taken from his home as his mother heard him plead with his kidnappers, “I’m too little. Don’t take me.”
“They have our children. They have our mothers. They need us now,” Farkas said.
“We are one people. We are one global community,” he said. “Only in our unity, is there strength. Only in our unity is there justice.”
Bass posted Sunday on social media, “I’ve directed City Hall to be lit in solidarity with Israel this evening. Los Angeles stands with the people of Israel and unequivocally condemns these attacks.”
Mike Feuer, one of those former elected officials in attendance, posted Sunday on social media: “At the Israel Solidarity Vigil at Stephen S. Wise Temple. An extraordinary outpouring of unequivocal support for Israel here in Los Angeles tonight. This is a moment to stand together with strength and resolve.”
Elected leaders from the Southland and throughout the United States condemned the attack, and major airlines were suspending flights to the Middle East nation. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines all announced that they have temporarily suspended flights to and from the international airport near Tel Aviv.
Early Saturday, Hamas forces fired thousands of rockets into Israel as dozens of Hamas fighters infiltrated several locations, catching the country off-guard as the weeklong Jewish festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, came to an end.
Israeli authorities said a second round of rockets were fired Saturday evening and struck multiple locations inside Israel, including in Tel Aviv.
In addition to the casualties, Israel said at least 100 of its soldiers and civilians were captured and taken to Gaza as hostages.
Israel estimated that more than 700 of its military personnel and citizens were dead, and several hundred Palestinians have been killed in the retaliatory fighting, with thousands more wounded.
The fighting came on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War when Israel was attacked by a coalition of Arab states.
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist group, founded in 1987, that disputes Israel’s right to territory in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his nation in a televised address Saturday, “We are at war. What happened (Saturday) has never been seen in Israel. We will take mighty vengeance for this black day.”
The Jewish Federation has decried the attacks and pledged its support for Israel.
“Once again, on a holy day of the Jewish calendar, Israelis have come under attack,” an organization statement said. “The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles stands in solidarity with our beloved homeland. We are working with our partners in Israel and across the globe to ensure the people of Israel have our full support and all necessary resources.
“Israel will prevail and the Jewish people will stand together — as we always do.”
The Federation set up an emergency fund to support the victims, which can be found at JewishLA.org/IsraelCrisis.
Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA provided their perspective on the decades long land dispute in a statement to City News Service:
“Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA wish to stress that it is imperative to understand that Palestinians have suffered under occupation for decades, and resistance is a response to the daily violence, dehumanization, and colonization that Palestinians face.”
The Washington-based Muslim Public Affairs Council echoed those sentiments in a statement Saturday.
“To truly understand what is happening, we must look to the source of the problem; an ongoing occupation in violation of international human rights law that has left the Palestinian people, in particular Gazans, stripped of their basic rights and human dignity.
“By actively, and often violently, preventing their pursuit of a self-defined identity, national autonomy, and global recognition, Israeli occupation and the world’s continued silence has offered Hamas and other groups the political vacuum needed to propel themselves into positions of leadership and justify their violent attacks.
“In turn, Israel uses the attacks of Hamas, and other groups, to justify their disproportionate and devastating assaults on Palestinians, targeting primarily civilian areas. The resulting unyielding cycle of death and destruction reaps no benefit nor levies any consequence greater than the continued dehumanization and death of the Palestinian people.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, posted on social media Sunday, “Israel is experiencing its own 9/11. There is no both sides to this attack. Hamas is a terrorist group mass murdering hundreds of innocent Israelis and taking women and children hostage.
“The U.S. must stand ready to provide Israel with the support it needs to defend itself including humanitarian aid and funding for the Iron Dome.”
Schiff’s fellow Senate candidate Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, posted similar thoughts Sunday, “The climbing death toll & horrific videos that are surfacing of captives, including children, are barbaric. Israel has every right to defend itself against Hamas. Congress must take action NOW to aid our ally in its time of need. This is no time for partisanship.”
A third Senate candidate, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, posted Saturday, “I unequivocally condemn the ongoing acts of brutal terrorism by Hamas, and am horrified by the senseless loss of life that occurred in Israel and Gaza.
“I am praying for the victims, their loved ones, and the Israeli and Palestinian civilians impacted.”
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, posted Saturday, “Once again, appalling and unprovoked attacks by Hamas terrorists against Israel. Israel has the right to aggressively defend itself and its people against this aggression, and we must stand in solidarity with our most critical ally.”
In a 13-minute speech Saturday, President Joe Biden said, “I want to say to them and to the world and to terrorists everywhere that the United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have their back.
“We’ll make sure they have the help their citizens need and they can continue to defend themselves.”
According to the U.S. State Department, several U.S. citizens were believed to have been killed in the attacks. Officials said U.S. citizens seeking to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Israel should visit cacms.state.gov/s/crisis-intake or call 888-407-4747.