Minnesotans Take Sides in Israel-Gaza Conflict, Plea for Peace

Updated: 07/25/2014 7:38 AM
Created: 07/24/2014 10:44 PM
By: Stephen Tellier

The conflict in Israel and Gaza is dividing the world -- and many folks in Minnesota. On Thursday night, hundreds of Minnesotans dove into the passionate debate and made a plea for peace.

The crisis is about more than just politics; it's about people, including Minnesotans, many of whom have friends and family in harm's way. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with two such men who were born just three years and three miles apart -- one in Israel, one in the Palestinian West Bank.

The faithful waved flags and sang full voice. Hundreds turned out for a show of support for Israel at a synagogue in Minnetonka, and Ilan Sharon was among the crowd.

"Every day you're hoping it's going to end and peace will come to the area," Sharon said.

Sharon was born in Israel. His daughter is still there and has been called up into the Israeli army reserves. He has many other family members in Israel, including his mother, who is within range of the rockets.

"Here she is, 73 years old, and she has to hide in her home when rockets are coming in," Sharon said.

He watched Gov. Mark Dayton address the crowd and announce his strong support for the state of Israel on Thursday. Sharon said to be American is to be pro-Israel.

"There's this special relationship because we have the same values of freedom, human rights," Sharon said.

Thirty miles away, at a home in Woodbury, it was far quieter. Sameh Shabaneh was with his children, fasting for the holy month of Ramadan.

"It's heart-wrenching. It should not have happened to begin with," Shabaneh said of the current conflict.

He has brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles in the West Bank and said his people are not motivated by hate but by legitimate grievances and a yearning for freedom.

"The Gazans are saying, 'Enough is enough. We've been under siege for eight years now,'" Shabaneh said.

Still, he said he deplores the violence on both sides.

"Everybody should be working for peace," Shabaneh said.

Two Minnesotans, seemingly separated by infinite differences -- yet when you really listen to them, there is common cause.

"We just want people there to live a good life, on both sides," Sharon said.

"It just has to stop. It just has to stop," Shabaneh said.

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