Candles memorize those killed in recent Middle East violence. (Photos by Jack Wolfe/Carolina News and Reporter)
Columbia native Lynda Laban is distraught for one member of her family, who moved to Israel last week to learn how to speak Hebrew.
The timing of the move couldn’t have been worse.
More than 1,200 people have died in Israel and up to 150 were taken hostages after attacks launched by the Hamas militant group over the weekend, CNN reported Wednesday.
With retaliatory Israeli airstrikes killing at least 1,055 people, Laban is worried for her family member.
Laban was among the more than 200 people who attended the Columbia Jewish Federation’s Tuesday vigil after the Hamas attacks.
“We just heard that tonight he’s got a flight back to the States tomorrow, thank God,” she told The Carolina News and Reporter. “We have a (separate) cousin who lives near the Gaza strip. We don’t know anything, so it’s scary.”
Kenneth Berger, president of the Columbia Jewish Federation, emphasized the importance of knowing the attacks are a matter of life and death for Israeli citizens.
“You don’t need hyperbole when people are being lit on fire, you don’t need hyperbole when 40 babies are being murdered, you don’t need hyperbole when women and children are being kidnapped from their homes and tortured,” Berger told attendees. “These are facts.
Retired English and Hebrew teacher Marlene Roth can’t help but watch with tears in her eyes as television clips and videos are released.
“I just can’t believe the barbarity of it,” Roth said. “I’m a student of the Holocaust. I have a degree and a master’s in the Holocaust. I’ve studied that, and yet this one almost overshadows what was done.”
Roth said one of the key differences between the two events is that the Holocaust was perpetrated by a government, while Hamas’ attacks were performed by a “hate group.”
“Each of us is traumatized in our own way,” said Beth Shalom Synagogue Rabbi Jonathan Case.
Waves of sadness and worry were evident in the crowd. Some seized on the injustice of Hamas’ actions versus the Israelis.
Israel rightly took the extra step of notifying a group of people it was about to attack a building and that the people in it they should leave, said Israeli native Sarit Avni.
“I don’t know why, if it was me, I would not notify anybody and just bomb them,” Avni said.
Avni said there’s always been some form of fighting back and forth in Israel. Her sister is serving on the frontline of the conflict.
“I told them every time you are on the side just send me a picture, so I know that you’re OK, I know you’re alive,” Avni said.
Tree of Life Rabbi Erik Uriarte spoke to attendees about how they might feel small in a conflict so large.
“Who am I, one rabbi out of thousands, one Jew out of millions, what can I do safely 6,000 miles away in Columbia, South Carolina,” Uriarte said. “It is OK to not know what to do, so long as we don’t fall into despair.”
Uriarte said as a millennial his social media feeds are filled with what is going on in Israel.
“Half of my feed is my Jewish friends just passing on information, trying to process all of it, and the other half is just the mundanity of life,” he said.
The Columbia Jewish Federation is taking donations for the Israel Relief Fund, saying all proceeds will go to civilian relief services in Israel.
Lynda Laban lights a candle for remembrance and peace.
Marlene Roth holds a sign showing her support for Israel.
attendees raised their signs to show solidarity for Israel (Photo by Jack Wolfe/Carolina News and Reporter)
Some attendees had to stand outside the building to listen after the event space reached capacity.