Public officials, as well as members of the local community, gathered in West Hartford on Monday afternoon for a rally organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford in solidarity with Israel.
By Mike Savino
Hundreds – perhaps a thousand – people gathered at West Hartford Town Hall Monday to show solidarity with Israel amid a conflict after Hamas launched an attack over the weekend.
Public officials voiced their support for Israel, including a pledge to provide financial and military aid and to help area residents who want to help loved ones evacuate the country.
“We are here to say, in fact to shout, that we stand with Israel,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford organized the rally, one of many held around the country since Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel starting Saturday morning.
According to the Associated Press, more than 900 people have died in Israel since the fighting began and another 680 have died in Gaza.
Some at the rally, including speakers and attendees, described their experiences trying to contact family in Israel after learning about the attacks.
“I felt like I am in some sort of bad movie scene, except this time the names of the settlements that the terrorist broke in are my settlements,” said Asif Peretz, Israeli emissary for The Jewish Agency of Israel.
She spent the weekend contacting family and friends who reported Hamas soldiers were outside their homes, fearing for their safety.
Many of the speakers also referenced videos and reports of kidnappings and other actions by Hamas soldiers and denounced them.
Rabbi Tuvia Brander, of Young Israel of West Hartford, said the weekend attacks shouldn’t been viewed as part of the ongoing dispute over who controls Gaza.
“Make no mistake: this is not a territorial dispute,” he said. “This is not a regional conflict. This is a battle between good and evil.”
Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., both pledged their support for additional aid to Israel, both in the form of money and military supplies.
Murphy said he’s already talked with diplomats and others about helping Israelis who want to flee the country. He also said he’s going to push for more funding for synagogues and Jewish community centers that want additional security.
“This has been a time of unprecedented anti-semetic attacks,” Murphy said, adding people need to be aware of domestic threats, too.
Mayor Shari Cantor said West Hartford will also provide additional support and resources to make sure Jewish institutions and residents locally are safe.
“We will remain vigilant in the days ahead,” she told the audience.
Others said they came to the rally to show their support for both Israel and Jews here in Connecticut.
“America and Israel are like (family),” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “If you attack one member of the family, you’re attacking our family. We’re not going to let that happen.”
State Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said he wanted to show his support as a Muslim for Israel and the Jewish community in Connecticut. He also made a plea for peace.
“I refuse to let Hamas and any organization or group kill our hopes of a shared future, where the children, great-grandchildren of muslims, Christians and Jews will be playing together and praying together in the Holy Land,” he said.
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford David Waren said he’s been touched by the support in recent days.
The federation has already raised more than $200,000 as part of an emergency fund. He also said he was happy to see the broad support at Monday’s rally.
“It means so much to have our elected officials from across the spectrum, our faith leaders stand for Jewish community,” Waren said.
Other Jewish attendees agreed they found solace in seeing people of other faiths attend the rally.
“I think it’s as much for us as it is for them (Israel),” Lisa Plavin, of Manchester, said about the rally. “I think we needed the comfort of being here with each other.”
Maytal Oskar, of Windsor, is Israeli and has also been spending the last few days in contact with family in Israel. She said it was meaningful to see the rest of the community support
“It’s been really tough and it’s very nice with the internet and social media and, kind of, that barrage of hate that we see everyday to see everybody coming together,” Oskar said.
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