The attack on Israel Saturday by Hamas militants has galvanized Jewish communities around the world — and in Minnesota.
On Tuesday night, a solidarity gathering in St. Louis Park drew thousands of people. Some of the state’s top elected officials turned up at Beth El Synagogue to show their support.
Lines of cars stretched for blocks. Outside the temple, hundreds of people stood in a queue by the door. Many latecomers wound up watching the service on their phones from the parking lot.
Ari Hillman of Hopkins was one of the 1,400 people who found a seat inside. He came to support family members who live in Israel, as well as friends in the military reserves who are being called back to duty. Hillman said he is concerned for his loved ones and innocent people on both sides of the conflict.
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“I think more people should realize that the civilians of every place, whether it be Israel or Palestine, care about each other,” he said. “They do not want war. People do not want bombings.”
Steve Hunegs, who leads the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, opened the gathering with a sobering fact about Saturday’s assault: “[This is the] greatest loss of life on a single day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Think about that for a second.” Hunegs said Israel is facing a long and brutal war, and American support is essential.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said even in a time of divided politics, bipartisan support for Israel remains strong. The DFLer called on her colleagues in Congress to provide additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems.
“These acts of terrorism are acts of cowardice. They are trying to instill fear. They are trying to make you turn away. They are trying to destroy Israel. We will not let that happen,” Klobuchar said to a standing ovation.
Hamas’ attack on Israel has deepened a political rift between the DFL and the Democratic Socialists of America. Several candidates aligned with the DSA are running for city council seats in Minneapolis and St. Paul. On Monday, the DSA released a statement of solidarity with Palestine in which the group called for an end to U.S. financial support for Israel and stated that “From the River, to the Sea, Palestine will be free!”
The Anti-Defamation League said that slogan has long been used by Hamas and other terrorist groups to call for the erasure of the Jewish state.
Though DFL Governor Tim Walz didn’t mention the Democratic Socialists by name, he said people who failed to find moral clarity after seeing images of the attack need to re-evaluate their positions.
“We’ve got people who still can’t find it in themselves to just clearly state the obvious of what’s happened here,” he said, “this terroristic attack by Hamas on the Jewish people.”
Beth El Senior Rabbi Alexander Davis called the attack a modern day pogrom, one that was timed for the conclusion of the High Holy Days.
“We sang in celebration of life, of learning, of new beginnings. We danced with the Torah, the tree of life, the Torah that teaches us to choose life, to cherish life, to value life. [The attackers] sang, and they danced, too,” he said. “They sang and danced after brutally slaughtering young people innocently celebrating Simchat Torah in the desert.”
Davis said supporters of Israel must steel themselves for more fighting and loss of life and the agony of waiting for word about the fate of hostages. He urged his congregation to do what’s most difficult — to fight and support Israel’s war effort without losing their humanity.