Outpouring of emotion in Minnesota following Hamas attacks on Israel

Minnesotans react to the war in the Mideast

Minnesotans react to the war in the Mideast

There was an outpouring of emotion at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, just days after the Hamas attacks on Israel.

“There was a vicious terrorist attack,” declared Sami Rahamim, the Director of Communications and Community Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “This is a level of inhumanity that we haven’t seen in a very long time.”

Hundreds of people gathered inside and outside the Synagogue on Tuesday night in support of Israel and its people.

There was music, prayer, and heartfelt words.  

“As a Jewish community who cares deeply about our brothers and sisters in Israel, we’re coming together to express the full range of our grief, outrage, and anger at this horrific atrocity,” Rahamim told reporters. “They’re sleeping in bomb shelters; they’re terrified at what has already happened and what may come.”

The war, which has claimed about 2,000 lives on both sides, is still escalating.

Meanwhile — at Lake Street and Chicago in Minneapolis, Jews who say they are in solidarity with Palestinians held a mourning ritual to pray for the lives lost and for an end to the Israeli occupation that began decades ago.

“We really, really know how much grief is in the air,” said one speaker. “We’re yearning also for an end to the cycles of violence playing out generation after generation.”

“We mourn the civilian casualties in Gaza as well,” Rahamim says. “And we trust the Israeli military will do what it can to minimize those casualties and strike only at Hamas terrorist targets.”

The violence is taking its toll on the civilian population.

“Our hearts go out to them. We are facing now an existential threat to our country,” says William Kolbrener, a literature professor at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

He says he feels for civilians in Gaza who are being killed, but adds this is no ordinary conflict.

“We shouldn’t confuse it for being something else,” Kolbrener says. “It was a deliberate and planned military operation, the aim of which was the killing of Jews.”

The professor is talking about Hamas, which has been designated by the U.S. and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

“This is not just a fight between two countries,” Kolbrener says. “This is a fight between the democratic and civilized forces in the world and barbarism. So, for us, it really is a question of survival, because the Hamas charter calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people.”

Eric Schwartz, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, now a public affairs professor at the University of Minnesota, believes the Israeli government needs to re-examine the occupation, as well as the possibility of a Palestinian state.

“We have to mourn those who’ve died, but I don’t think it’s too soon to be talking about how we can move toward peace,” he notes. “The government of Israel is going to have to come to grips with that, otherwise, it is just going to be a recipe for continued conflict in the months, years, and even decades to come.”